9.10.2005

Preliminary Report on Election Day Voting and Counting Process

INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE FOR ELECTION MONITORING

Preliminary Report on Election Day Voting and Counting Process

Thursday, September 8, 2005 2PM

Introduction

Free, fair and transparent elections are the basis for any meaningful democracy. The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM) recruited, trained and deployed a total of 2,200 observers to observe the voting process with the aim of providing the integrity and credibility of the election process. ICEM is a coalition of 12 Egyptian NGOs, coming together to monitor Egypt’s elections.

In general, ICEM is pleased with the relative absence of violence during the voting process, and welcomes and highly appreciates the cooperation offered by state security services throughout the day to ensure the safety and security of election monitors. ICEM also realizes the value of Egypt’s first competitive Presidential election.

ICEM also welcomes and praises the Presidential Election Committee’s decision to allow NGO monitors to monitor from inside the polling station. ICEM views that this decision will set a new standard in ensuring the transparency and the integrity of the electoral processes in Egypt. Unfortunately, this decision was not executed by the judges and the election officials at the majority of polling stations. ICEM observers also reported that candidate agents were also denied access to the polls in a significant number of the polling stations.

Election Day Monitoring: Voting Process

All ICEM observers continued to monitor the voting process throughout Egypt until the end of the voting process at 10 PM and have reported their findings. The vast majority of ICEM monitors were denied access inside the polling stations and only a handful of NGO observers were allowed to observe the count.

Low Voter Turnout a Major Concern

Based on ICEM observers’ findings on the ground, no more than 18% of voters showed up at polling centers that have been observed by ICEM by 10pm last evening. This number also includes people that might not have been eligible to vote, eligible voters that showed up but were not able to cast their vote due to inaccuracy of the voters’ lists. Due to the fact that ICEM observers were denied access to the polls, ICEM cannot determine a more precise voter turnout, but logically the voter turnout would be even less. ICEM finds this voter apathy a major concern.

Electoral Process Violations

Voting Process

ICEM observers continued to report violations, similar to those cited in previous statements.

In general, observers throughout Egypt reported incidents of fierce campaigning mainly for the incumbent Mubarak and in a consistent manner inside the polling stations. Particularly concerning are reports from Mynia and Kafr-Sheikh when election officials at the polling centers partook in the campaigning by publicly supporting Mubarak, which is viewed as influencing voters choice at the voting premises. In the Beni Sueif polling center of Taha El-Bisha, observers reported that security officials violated the secrecy of voting and intimidated individuals who voted against Mubarak. At the same location, security officials destroyed ballots that were not in favor of Mubarak, and then themselves filled out and cast a number of ballots in favor of Mubarak. In a few cases, campaign materials supporting Nour and Gomaa were also reported.

Throughout Egypt, monitors also observed unofficial voting cards being handed to voters by NDP with the name of the voter and marked for Mubarak. This card then facilitated their access to the polls and was used as a ballot in a number of cases reported in Port Said and Beheira.

Election monitors throughout Egypt also reported on irregularities and inaccuracies with the voters’ lists allowing for both the ineligible voters to cast a vote and denying the right to vote for eligible voters. ICEM views these irregularities as a serious incident that undermines the freedom of voters and the electoral process as such. In Sohag, Assuit and Alexandria observers consistently reported on incidents where people were allowed to vote without proper identification. In the same cities, a significant number of multiple voting cases have also been reported. Particularly concerning reports have been received from the El-Seka-El-Hadid in Cairo when non-NDP voters’ names on the voter lists have been altered.

In Bahira, observers recorded that the voter lists contain names of children and deceased. In the Assuit governorate, observers reported “family” voting, where men were allowed to vote for their wives at the polling center in Reneiem, in polling stations #3 and #4. In Ezbekiyya, Cairo, observers reported that NDP activists were giving voters 50LE to 100LE and then accompanying them inside the polling station to ensure they voted for Mubarak. ICEM observers have audio and visual recording of this violation. In the same region, several government employees told ICEM observers that they were intimidated by NDP activists, and that if they do not vote for Mubarak they will face repercussions in terms of their employment. These voters were also accompanied by NDP activists inside the polling station. In Nasr City and Kafr al-Sheikh, observers reported that voting booths did not provide for the secrecy of the vote. In these locations, judges told voters that they need to see for whom the voters are voting. ICEM views all reports about the violation of voting secrecy as a serious violation that undermines the entire election process.

Election monitors continued to report that a significant number of polling stations throughout Egypt remained unequipped with the proper phosphoric ink. Instead a number of the polling stations used ink that was easily removable. ICEM’s concern remains that this provided opportunities for people to cast their ballots more then once, thus seriously damaging the integrity of the election.

Observers deployed particularly in rural areas reported that judges were not assigned to a number of polling stations. These observers also reported a level of disorganization and lack of order at the polling stations.

ICEM election monitors reported that in all but a few of the polling centers were not at all identified as polling facilities.

Counting Process

All but a handful of ICEM observers were denied access from monitoring the counting of the votes. As such, ICEM has no reports on the counting process. Nevertheless, elections are about winning and the count of the votes therefore constitutes for the very essence of having elections in the first place. Furthermore, denial to monitor the count of the votes seriously undermines any meaningful monitoring of the voting process. Therefore, ICEM views that no election can be called free, fair and transparent if voters have been denied the right to monitor and scrutinize the process by which their vote is being allocated.

Preliminary Conclusions

ICEM will be releasing a final report on the election process that will include ICEM findings on the voter registration process, campaign period, media conduct and Election Day in the next few days. Based on the comprehensive monitoring of the Election-Day in more then 2,000 different polling facilities throughout Egypt, ICEM has reached the following conclusions.

- Election administration authorities have failed to install the necessary legal provisions that would ensure the independence and integrity of the electoral process and set a clear division of roles an responsibilities between the election administration, judiciary, government. As such, the electoral process remains vulnerable and easily breached and manipulated by the very same stakeholders of the election outcome.

- Election administration authorities intentionally failed to clarify the electoral process for voters. As such, the election was conducted in an environment of general confusion about the process and the responsibilities of the election administration, courts and government. To this regard, the election administration failed to conduct any meaningful voter education initiatives. The voter apathy characterizing the election is a major concern. Democracy strives on the principles of citizen participation.

- By allowing NGOs to monitor the voting from inside the polling stations, election administration authorities made important progress that allowing for the transparency and integrity of the electoral process. It is unfortunate that NGO observers were not able to take the advantage of this decision, due to the fact that it was issued on the Election Day itself. Moreover, election officials remained uninformed about this development throughout most of the day. Nevertheless, this decision falls short of accomplishing its goal if it is not followed by a similar decision to allow NGOs to observe the count. 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 insists that election administration authorities continue with the progress made and allow NGOs to monitor this essential moment during any electoral process.

ICEM (Independent Committee for Election Monitoring)

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