PRELIMINARY REPORT ON E-DAY VOTING AND COUNTING PROCESS FOR THE SECOND ROUND
|Friday, November 25,2005 00:00|
The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM), a coalition of sixteen NGOs led by the Ibn Khaldun Center is deploying a total of 5,000 observers to monitor the voting process for the Parliamentary election. ICEM is aimed at providing for the integrity and the credibility of the election process. In the second round of the elections, ICEM deployed 1500 observers to monitor the voting and counting procedures in 72 electoral districts of 9 governorates where more than 1700 candidates are competing for 144 seats.
Election Standards Progressively Deteriorating
All morning reports from field observers indicated a worsening of the situation, with respect to the levels of violence, the ability of observers to enter polling stations and the amount of cooperation from security forces. In general, there was less respect of the proper electoral procedures.
However, ICEM monitors did report some positive remarks such as the widespread use of indelible ink and transparent ballot boxes. Nevertheless, it remains that the electoral process has been marred by serious and widespread violations that have undermined the credibility and the integrity of the election. These violations included voter violence, intimidation, vote-buying, ballot stuffing, and inaccurate voters’ lists.
The Second round of elections was marked by a significantly higher level of violence than the previous round. This violence involved mainly supporters for NDP, but also opposition and independent candidates. ICEM received reports of violent incidents throughout Egypt. The reports, taken together, reveal a systematic and planned campaign of intimidation against opposition voters, in particular, Muslim Brotherhood supporters and candidates. In addition, there was little or no effective police intervention or prevention. The day’s incidents ranged from assault and battery to homicide.
ICEM condemns in the strongest possible terms this and all types of violence. Thus far, it has been the violence which has posed the greatest challenge to the fairness of the elections and it has severely impeded voters from freely expressing their will.
Authorities Continue to Ignore Requests for Establishing Transparent Processes
Despite the clamorous recommendations and demands from civil society, the Judges’ Club, and opposition parties to institute mechanisms which would ensure the transparency and credibility of the election results (and especially, that of the counting process), election authorities at all levels have ignored the obvious deficiencies and intentionally failed to provide any remedies.
Authorities’ Arbitrary Decisions Continued to Seriously Damage the Transparency of the Election
In this second phase of the elections, far more restrictions were imposed upon ICEM observers. In the vast majority of polling stations, ICEM observers were denied entry to observe the opening procedures. Authorities’ arbitrary decisions continue to seriously undermine Egypt’s citizens’ rights to a fair and transparent process.
In response to the repeated and flagrant violation of the law, and as a last recourse, ICEM will seek legal action against the authorities, including the polling and counting center supervisors who have clearly acted counter to the ruling of the Administrative Judiciary Court that allows NGOs to observe the voting and counting process (Case No. 2726/60; November 6, 2005).
Election Marred by Severe and Widespread Violations and Irregularities
The election has been marred by serious and widespread violations that have undermined the credibility and the integrity of the election. These violations include violence, voter intimidation, vote-buying, ballot stuffing, inaccurate voters’ lists, and the switching of ballot boxes. In addition, reports of arrests, beatings, shootings and arrests provide a truly unacceptable background for a democratic election.
Monitoring the Opening of the Polls
Polling Centers Late in Opening
Around 65% of the polling facilities observed by the ICEM observers did not opened on time. ICEM is not in a position to report on the opening procedures being as the majority of its observers were denied access to the polling stations. ICEM can, however, confirm that voting was delayed in the majority of polling stations because judges arrived late, as did supplies of indelible ink.
Two ICEM observers, Mahmoud Shehata and Mohamed Taha, were beaten in Ismalia by NDP supporters driving a vehicle with license plate 539630 registered in Assiut. This took place in district of Ismalia at the Zera’a School. Another ICEM observer, Abdullah Unis, was assaulted by a police officer in the Hadat region of Luxor at the Mubarak Preparatory School.
ICEM observers were also amongst those targeted for arrest. In the Derma district, three ICEM observers were arrested as they tried to perform monitoring activities. They were taken to the police station and interrogated for one hour even though they were in possession of official cards from the Ministry of Justice accrediting them as observers.
In Qontara Sharq district of Ismailya, two ICEM observers were held in custody at Al-Obur School for four hours until the voting had ended.
Monitoring the Voting Process
According to initial ICEM reports, a maximum of 17 % of registered voters turned out to vote at the polling stations observed by ICEM. Because ICEM’s activities were located primarily in hotly contested polling stations that could be expected to draw out more of the electorate, this estimate could possibly be biased in the upwards direction.
ICEM observers submitted reports of increased and systematic efforts to intimidate voters throughout Egypt. They reported that organized teams of thugs, primarily NDP supporters, were engaged in criminal activities such as threatening and preventing voters from accessing polling stations. Beginning in the early hours of the morning, ICEM received an overwhelming number of reports from Alexandria, Fayoum, Gharbaya, Port Said, and Qena.
ICEM believes that the failure of the authorities to investigate past actions of violence and intimidation has encouraged this escalating criminal activity. ICEM calls upon the authorities to investigate these offenses and bring the perpetrators to justice.
In Alexandria, there was a string of violent occurrences. In the Mancheya district, a demonstration by supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mahmoud Atteya who were denied access to the polling station were attacked by security forces and provocateurs, resulting in four hospitalizations and one fatality. In the same district, thugs armed with knives and clubs overran at least five polling stations. The Palestine School, Qasm Amin Preparatory School, Al Aymiraya Prep School and several others were among these polling stations. Also, Saif Al-Qaberi, an NDP candidate running in the Mancheya district, was stabbed by a group of thugs. In Al-Montaza district, groups of thugs destroyed six cars, randomly attacked bystanders, and killed one taxi driver. And finally, a group of Muslim Brotherhood supporters broke into the Magri Gergis Church in Al-Amareya district, setting fire to the establishment.
In the Qaabuty district of Port Said, a group of toughs assaulted Muslim Brotherhood voters with knives in the Ahad, Tabooty and Saad Zaghloul schools. And in the first district, Ibrahim Saad, a man with history of violent crime, assaulted women and children with a knife and injured a veiled Muslim Brotherhood supporter. In the second district of the same governorate, the police withdrew all of their forces which gave thugs the opportunity to assault opposition supporters, leaving the opposition candidate Mohammed Al-Nazmy injured. There were also reports of a roaming group of thugs, traveling in an organized fashion from polling station to polling station, with the intention of threatening and intimidating voters. This happened without intervention from the police.
In the Koos district of Qenaa, there were gunshots directed at supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidate Hisham Al-Qafty from the supporters of NDP candidate Mohammed Mahmoud Aly. Nine injuries were reported, including one child.
In the Damanhoor district of Beharya, fights occurred between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Gamal Hishmat and the NDP candidate Mustafa El-Faqy. There was one fatality and seven injuries. In the Aboreesh district, fights have also taken place. Police fired gunshots and used tear gas in their attempts to disperse the crowd. In Etay El-Baroud district, supporters of the NDP candidate, Hussein El-Sayrafy, assaulted the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Al-Gazzar in front of the Iqlisheen polling station. This resulted in one death and several injuries among the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate.
In the first district of Ismailia, a demonstration by Muslim Brotherhood supporters was severely repressed by police officers who shot into the crowd. There were also ruffians present who assaulted the demonstrators with knives and clubs. Also in the first district, a Muslim Brotherhood Candidate Mohamed Hussein Ali was beaten by thugs who were moving from one polling station to the next. They were driving a red truck registered in Giza with license plate number 40474. In the third district, in polling stations 80 and 81, the police assaulted voters and monitors. The police were also responsible for closing the polling stations two hours ahead of the scheduled closing time.
In the Tanta district of Gharbiya, supporters of the NDP candidate Ahmed Shoubir beat the Muslim Brotherhood candidate at the Said Al- Erian School which initiated a broader fight. Police then closed the polling station for three hours. In the Berma district, a fight between supporters of competing NDP candidates Hamdi El-Konayisi and Mohammad Al-Halougi broke out. In the same district, at Al-Tarbia Al-Fikria School, massive disputes erupted between NDP and Muslim Brotherhood supporters following the decision of the judge to expel all poll-watchers.
In the Barma district of Al Gharbaya, there was a quarrel between supporters of NDP candidate Mohamed Alougy and those of the independent candidate Ismail Asharqawy. In the Al Mahalla district, a quarrel erupted between supporters of the NDP candidate Samir Aissa and those of the independent candidate Ismail Al-Banna. Several supporters of the independent candidate were severely injured and rushed to the hospital.
ICEM observers reported of systematic arrests in upper Eygpt, particularly poll-watchers and candidate supporters of Muslim Brotherhood candidates. Over 50 supporters and poll-watchers were arrested in Qena and Fayoum.
In the Tanta District of Gharbiya, at the Sayeda Khadeega School, four Muslim Brotherhood supporters were arrested as a consequence of a phone call made directly from the NDP candidate, Ahmed Shoubir. Another twenty-five were arrested in front of polling station number 21.
Also in Gharbiya, the wife of a Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mahmoud Koleeb, and a number of his supporters were arrested and detained for the entire day.
In the Koseya district of Qanaa, two poll-watchers for the Muslim Brotherhood candidate were arrested at the polling station.
Inaccurate Voters’ Lists
Inaccurate voting lists have continued to be a common occurrence in this round of the elections. Numerous reports indicated that voters’ lists had been altered. There were also complaints from candidates themselves that the voters’ lists used on Election Day did not correspond with the official lists they had received prior to the elections. For example, in the Kafre Al-Zayat district, polling station number 69 at the Dabakhshat School, the voters’ list was entirely different. The end result was that not one single person was able to vote there.
Illegal Campaigning and Other Violations
ICEM observers report fierce campaigning in the close vicinity of the polling centers by all party and independent candidates. Likewise, NDP, opposition, independent candidate supporters and thugs remained present at the majority of the polling facilities and were intimidating voters. This form of illegal campaigning is one of the factors that continue to incite violence.
Al-Kerya Church campaigned for Mahmoud Sobhy in the first district of Port Said. In return, Mohmoud Sobry made a donation to the church in the amount of L.E. 100,000. This is clearly in violation of the law which forbids government of religious institutions to be involved in any way with electoral campaigning.
In the Tanta district of Gharbiya, supporters of NDP candidate Ahmed Shoubir publicly distributed gifts and food to voters both inside and outside the polling station.
ICEM observers regularly reported incidents where Muslim Brotherhood supporters were denied access to polling stations.
Instances of multiple and group voting were regularly reported from Fayoum, Beharya, and Gharbiya.
In the Berma district of Beharya, at Al-Wahda Baytareya polling station, voting was been conducted without any ID, either personal or electoral.
Lastly, many polling stations were closed periodically throughout the day, and without justifiable reason. For example, this happened in Bandar Al-Fayoum district at polling stations number 44 and 10.
Monitoring the Counting Process
ICEM fielded 250 monitors to all the counting centers in an effort to provide credibility to the election results. Unfortunately, once again the vast majority of these monitors were denied access to the counting centers, even though many of them had official permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. In total, despite the fact that only 12 monitors out of 250 were allowed to monitor counting, they witnessed serious violations during the counting of the ballots.
These few observers who were able to monitor the counting process again witnessed severe deficiencies in the process, reporting that the counting was conducted in an inconsistent manner within a chaotic environment where scores of ballot boxes were counted simultaneously. Furthermore, individual ballot box results were not announced to anyone present. Instead they were secretly tabulated away from the supervision of any monitors, including candidate poll-watchers. The opacity of this action is antithetical to the idea of transparency in every respect. Additionally, even after the votes had been counted secretly, authorities still failed to provide any breakdown of the district results by polling station. Within the context of such observed violations of the counting process, the credibility of the election outcome was seriously undermined.
ICEM views that no election can be called free, fair and transparent if voters have been denied the right to monitor and scrutinize the entire process by which their vote is transformed into real political representation. NGOs’ right to monitor the count of the votes is critical to having an election that could be called free, fair and transparent. Thus, ICEM urges election administration authorities to continue to make progress towards transparent elections and to allow NGOs to monitor this essential moment during the electoral process. ICEM maintains that the authorities’ refusal to allow adequate numbers of NGO observers to witness the count of the votes seriously undermines any meaningful monitoring of the voting process and demonstrates a failure to meet the acceptable criteria constituting any free and fair electoral process.
The Specifics of Counting Transgressions and Irregularities
In addition to NGO observers’ inability to monitor the counting of the votes, many candidate poll-watchers were also denied access to the counting centers. Moreover, in a number of cases candidate poll-watchers were denied access or delayed entrance to the counting centers. In all cases, no more than two poll-watchers per candidate were allowed observe the counting process, rendering it impossible to keep track of the more than one hundred ballot boxes on average being counted in each counting center.
Moreover, the transport of the ballot boxes from the polling center to the counting center was not subjected to any kind of independent monitoring. This obviously breached the transparency of the entire process.
In the Bastion district of Gharbaya, the police officer charged with transporting the ballot box from the polling station at the to the counting center vanished with the ballot box and arrived more than thirty minutes late to the counting center.
In the Mahal Al-Kobra of Gharbaya, the judge supervising the counting center halted the counting process for over two hours in order to expel all poll-watchers and monitors from the building. Once the counting center was cleared of all independent observers, the counting continued in secret until results were announced.
In the Ebshway district of Fayoum, the counting process which was supposed to have taken place at the major polling center of Bandar Ebshway was, at the last minute, transferred to a subsidiary station in Yusef Sadik, the stronghold of NDP candidate Yusef Wali, Minister of Agriculture.
In the Urba’ine and Ganayan districts of Port Said, ballot boxes from polling stations 71 and 73 were stolen during transport, destroyed and their remnants left in the street.
In the Nakhamady district of Qena the appointed counting center had space for no more than 60 ballot boxes although space for more than 160 was needed. As a result, many ballot boxes were counted in bathrooms and other rooms inaccessible to independent observation.
In the Damanhour district of Al Bahera, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Gamal Hashmat and his supporters staged a sit-in demanding a recount after the NDP candidate was declared winner in spite of preliminary results to the contrary as claimed by the Muslim Brotherhood poll-watchers. Following these developments, the supervising judge overrode his first decision and announced that there will be a run-off election.