We don't interfere, only observe: Head EU monitors in Egypt's presidential poll

Bassem Aly , Tuesday 27 May 2014

In an interview with Ahram Online, Mario David, chief observer of the European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM), elaborates on his team's role in Egypt's ongoing presidential elections

Mario David- Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission stands besides an EU banner after an interview with Ahram Online, 27 May 2014 (Photo: Bassem Aly)

Head of the EU's Election Observation Mission (EOM) Mario David, who is a member of the European Parliament from Portugal, said the team was deployed along Egypt's constituencies to observe the presidential electoral process since it opened on Monday morning.

"The whole mission covers 600 polling stations with 150 observers divided along 66 teams; all EU member-states joined the mission, plus Canada and Norway," he said.

David stated that he had personally visited 14 stations along the first voting day, Monday, while the mission's various teams visited 25 different governorates. They are scheduled to visit 26 of Egypt's governorates on Tuesday, the second and last day of voting.

He added that the mission possesses no figures pertaining to the distribution of votes between the two rival presidential candidates -- ex-army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahi. "We don't interfere in the process," David affirmed.

An invitation extended by Egypt

David pointed out that the interim Egyptian government and the Presidential Elections Commission (PEC) had invited the EU to observe the 2014 presidential polls.

Once the EU accepted the invitation, David said, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) describing "the scope of the mission and the rules by which we will operate" was signed between the two sides. 

He emphasised that the mission enjoys the full liberty to choose "where we go" and meet "whomever we want".

The head of the mission identified areas of assessment, such as the equitable access of all candidates to state resources and media, freedom of expression, assembly and association.

Along with an extensive list of other criteria, the mission also checks whether the legal framework is in line with regional and international standards for democratic elections and is applied impartially and inclusively by the election administration. 

Any problems?

According to David, another MOU had been signed concerning Egypt's responsibility for securing the mission.

A core team of 10 election analysts arrived in Cairo on 18 April to scrutinise the political, electoral and legal dimensions of the process. Another group of 30 long-term observers arrived on 25 April.

"This is exactly what we did before in elections in more than 100 countries around the world," argued David.

When asked about whether the EU will observe Egypt's next parliamentary elections, David said no talks had as yet been conducted on the issue.

"There has been good cooperation with the PEC," he accentuated, adding that the EU's EOM enjoys access to the complaints submitted to Egypt's electoral commission and that it has faced no security problems while entering or leaving polling stations.

If the voting process is extended by another day, said David, the EU team will carry on with its work, as it is scheduled to remain in Egypt for another two weeks, roughly until 16 June.

The customs issue

A shipment of communication equipment meant for use by the EU observers was only allowed entry to the country on 18 May, after it was held at Cairo airport for at least two weeks.

"Some of our communication material waited in customs longer than expected, and we couldn't deploy our mission," David said.

Before this matter was settled, the EU had announced it would no longer observe the presidential race due to the absence of certain conditions necessary for the job.

Anwar El-Asy, head of the PEC, met the head of the EU delegation to examine the observation procedures and determine what the commission or state apparatuses could do to facilitate the mission's task.

According to a press statement by the PEC, both parties affirmed their keenness for the delegation to continue with its mission.

David said the mission will issue a report on Thursday revealing the EOM's findings and conclusions regarding Egypt's 2014 presidential elections.

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