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Transparency International makes tough recommendations after Egypt poll

Civil society organisation puts forward a list of recommendations to shore up Egypt's electoral process after its team observed the country's constitution poll

Ayat El-Tawy, Thursday 16 Jan 2014
Vote counting
Vote counting of Egypt's constitutional referendum (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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Berlin-based Transparency International (TI), which fielded an eight-member mission to observe Egypt's two-day constitution referendum, has advised the Egyptian government to create a "level playing field and secure impartiality" and "secure access to media for all views" in order to ensure a free and fair voting process.

In a statement it issued on Thursday, TI cited allegations of a crackdown on campaigning against the charter and one-sided media coverage in favour of the document.

The global anti-corruption group proposed a dozen recommendations to bolster electoral transparency in Egypt a day after the referendum closed.

“The [Egyptian] government is responding to a deep desire from the majority of Egyptians to move toward a democratic path, peace and stability, but the current political context creates severe obstacles to advancing democracy,” said Kol Preap, the head of Transparency International's observer mission.

“The presence of TI observers for this monitoring mission should not imply endorsement or denial of such legitimacy,” he added.

TI's observers met numerous state officials, political activists, civil society campaigners and fellow observers to monitor and assess the referendum's legal and technical process across 15 governorates.

The group noted, "Politically motivated violence, intimidation and repression from state and non-state actors limited and conditioned citizen’s political and electoral participation."

"The government, in cooperation with civil society, should develop a more peaceful and democratic space to promote views and debate."

The organisation, which monitors corporate and political corruption, urged legislation on the public and private financing of politics in Egypt to ensure transparency and secure "the health and benefits of democracy for future elections."

The report said political party-affiliated poll watchers, rights campaigners and TI observers faced undue restrictions and were denied access to monitor the voting process on 14-15 January.

"Greater access to all stages and instances of the counting process to parties, media and civil society would build more confidence in the accuracy of the results and the respect for the popular will," stated the report.

"Creating conditions for independent counts would greatly enhance the trust in the electoral system."

The vote, the first poll since the July 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, and the sixth national vote since the 2011 uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, has been billed by authorities as the first milestone towards democracy.

It will pave the way for a presidential vote and parliamentary polls to follow by the summer.

Preliminary results show that Egyptians overwhelmingly approved the new charter, with an approval rate exceeding 90 percent, state news agency MENA and government officials said.

The report quoted officials as saying that little time and civic education was made available to Egyptians to learn and debate the draft document.

It also suggested increasing the number of polling stations to reduce queues, and limiting polling to one day to ease concerns about the overnight custody of ballot boxes.

Improving the quality of the indelible ink, into which voters dip their fingers to ensure non-duplicate voting, is vital to guarantee individuals' solitary vote through multiple-day elections, the report added.

Based on findings by the TI teams, the capabilities and technical support of the electoral panel officials should be upgraded for future voting.

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