Judges may boycot elections

Egypt’s judges are considering boycotting the runoffs of the third and final phase of the month-long legislative elections, to protest violations and violence that marred the polling.

“Many of our colleagues, who were assaulted by police and thugs and witnessed the security closure of villages and blocking voting, call for boycotting the runoffs,” Ahmed Mekki, deputy chief of the Court of Cassation, told Al Jazeera TV Channel on Friday, December 2.

He said the Judges Union, the umbrella of Egyptian judges, will meet on Sunday, December 4, to discuss the case and take a decision.

The third round of parliamentary elections turned bloody Thursday, December 1, after security forces killed one citizen and wounded more than seventy others and blocked thousands of voters from casting their ballot.

Voters of all ages and sexes were seen in many villages climbing over walls with rickety wooden ladders to enter polling stations whose main entrances were blocked off by phalanxes of riot police.

The two previous rounds of voting saw the officially banned but tolerated Muslim Brotherhood secure 79 seats in the new parliament.

The ruling National Democratic Party’s dominance in parliament is not at risk, but the seemingly inexorable rise of the Brotherhood has thrown the issue of their legalization as a party wide open.

Protecting Ballots

Egyptian judges had threatened Thursday to walk out “in case the intimidation of voters continued.”

Five judges supervising polling stations in Dakahlia constituency carried ballots boxes to Al-Manzallah Police Station.

They asked the police chief to officially document that security forces prevented voters from casting ballots and recognize the results of counting votes, a judiciary source told IslamOnline.net on condition of anonymity.

However, the chief refused to write the report, he noted, adding that the judges then carried the boxes to the general vote-counting committee.

They were surprised that the head of the committee asked them to leave after taking the boxes in violation of the law, which stipulates that judges supervising the polling stations must attend the vote-counting process.

Future Boycott

Mekki said judges would debate during a meeting of the union’s general assembly on December 16 their position vis-à-vis future elections.

“There is a consensus among judges to give up judiciary supervision on any future elections until the government meets their demands to ensure free and fair elections,” he added.

The government should shield judges who supervise the elections and guarantee their safety against assaults, Mekki said.

“The ministers of justice and interior shouldn’t be the party to select the judges supervising elections.”

He stressed that unless these demands are met the judges would not supervise the voting.

“If we fail to stop falsification, then at least we should preserve the people’s trust in the judiciary authority.”

Judges have mounted an unprecedented challenge against the state, securing more guarantees of transparency and publicly denouncing irregularities in the previous rounds.

Last week, the Judges Union pressed for army protection to shield its members against attacks by thugs in the current parliamentary elections.