Egypt's legislative elections were marred by vote buying, rigging and violence, said the Egyptian Alliance for Monitoring the Elections 2010, in a noon press conference Wednesday.
According to the Alliance, which is made up of 123 local NGOs, the group’s 1000 monitors witnessed a variety of incidents that revealed the elections as far from transparent.
In many instances, representatives of candidates were either not given permits — or not allowed — to enter polling stations to observe the process. In other cases, voter lists included the names of dead people. The faking of voting cards to favour the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was witnessed by many monitors, the Alliance said.
The Alliance also added that the elections witnessed a high level of violence and thuggery, including the use of guns, knives and sticks. The violence resulted in the deaths of 16 and the injury of many more, including the stabbing of Ramdan Sobhy, a candidate in Monifeya.
Additionally, several members of the media were arrested or had their equipment confiscated.
“We had said that the incidents of violence were much less than in 2005,” Hafez Abu Saada, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), which leads the Alliance, said. “But now we confirm that they are much more.” The Alliance also showed photos of injured voters and let the audience listen to phone calls of people alleging violations across the country.
Abu Saada began by saying that the press conference was not the Alliance’s last word on the elections, which would come after the runoffs that are scheduled for Sunday. He added that the Alliance press conference was important it coming one day after the Higher Elections Committee (HEC) released the official results of the election, with a statement insisting that it dealt with all complaints from voters and candidates.
“We have proof that the HEC's report needs to be revised,” Abu Saada said. ‘We are objective; we are neither for or against any political movement.”
Despite the fact that Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif yesterday congratulated the HEC for “fulfilling its duty,” Abu Saada insists that the HEC's performance was far from perfect. He said that the committee, made up of four judges, did not live up to Article 88 of the Egyptian Constitution that stipulates that parliamentary elections should enjoy judicial oversight.
"With all due respect to these four judges, they did not provide the proper judicial representation that the constitution lays out," Abu Saada said.
Abu Saada also criticised the HEC for ignoring many court orders in favour of independent or opposition candidates, including the order to register 400 candidates. He also said that the HEC did not have a proper mechanism for receiving and dealing with complaints submitted by candidates, and simply transferred them to the public prosecutor. He added that the HEC should have stopped the elections — or refrained from announcing the results — in the constituencies that saw widespread complaints.
"It is part of the committee's duty to investigate these complaints, but they didn't," Abu Saada said.
Abu Saada also questioned the HEC's estimation that there was a 35 per cent turnout rate. "From the accounts we got from our monitors, and witnesses at the polling stations, it seems that the number did not exceed 15 per cent at most," said Abu Saada.
Abu Saada also slammed the HEC for not allowing civil society groups to monitor the elections. According to the Alliance, they had asked for 1113 permits but received only 166 three days before the elections and then 300 more on the day of the elections. However, despite that, these permits were only for the first stage of the elections and do not allow monitors to participate in the vote counting process or in the runoffs.
"On the other hand, all 800 candidates from the NDP got their permits," said Abu Saada.
Kamal Abbas of the Centre for Trade Union and Workers' Services, one of the organisations that is part of the Alliance, then produced a bag filled with stamped voting cards and official records, gathered by the Alliance's monitors from polling stations.
"Look at this bag," says Abbas. "They say 'Show us your proof,' well here it is. This is the official record of the vote count from Sammanoud constituency. These official records should have been sealed in an envelope," said Abbas.
Ahmed Sameeh, a member of Andalus, added that the contradicting results prove that the elections were rigged, saying that the Alliance found a huge discrepancy between the numbers of votes and the number of voters, especially in women's quota seats. In several cases, the number of votes for professional seats exceeded the number of votes for workers and farmers seats, which is not possible as voters are allowed to vote only once for the former and twice for the latter.
'It is obvious that the numbers are not adding up and someone just added and subtracted to get the results they wanted," Sameeh said.
Nehad Abu Kommsan, head of the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights, spoke of the problems that women faced in the elections. She said that all female candidates faced harassment from police officers and supporters of the NDP.
"They purposefully attacked women just because they were women," said Abu Kommsan. “[Women] faced all sorts of abuse, including verbal abuse and inappropriate touching," she continued. Abu Kommsan added that of the 50 females who won in the first round, all are from the NDP. She also said that vote buyers heavily targeted women, with the price of votes ranging from LE20 to LE100.
Abu Saada, rounded off the conference by listing the Alliance’s demands. “We demand that the HEC looks at all complaints and revises the official record,” he said “We also want them to revise the contradictory results and investigate complaints of violence.”