EU election observation missions announcing its preliminary findings of the Egyptians Presidential Elections (Photo courtesy of European Union in Egypt Facebook page)
A delegation of the European Parliament that observed Egypt's presidential election last week said the country's vote was held in a "democratic and free" environment, while another European Union mission said the electoral atmosphere fell short of freedom ideals.
MP Robert Goebbels, head of the six-member European Parliament monitoring delegation, told reporters on Thursday the Egyptian election was "free and democratic" but not necessarily fair.
Goebbels said in a news conference that self-censorship practiced by many media outlets, among other things, led to the support of a specific candidate, a reference to former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, who was declared the official winner on Tuesday night by the judicial body overseeing the election.
El-Sisi garnered approximately 97 percent of the valid votes. His sole rival, leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, gained a modest 3 percent, while 3.7 percent of the ballots were declared void.
Voting was scheduled to end on Tuesday but was extended for an extra day by authorities in a surprise move that sparked doubts over the integrity of the electoral process.
Speaking in the same conference were observers of the European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM), another body observing the vote on the ground in Egypt.
EOM Chief Observer Mario David said the vote extension was not unlawful, yet he said he hasn't seen such a decision before.
"We haven't witnessed any elections in which an extension for one day has taken place," he told Ahram Online, adding that the mission's purpose was "only to observe and not to give an assessment."
The mission has criticised the atmosphere in which the vote was held.
"The presidential election was administered in line with the law, in an environment falling short of constitutional principles," read a preliminary statement by the mission. "Freedoms of association, assembly and expression are areas of concern, including in the context of this election."
David said El-Sisi's crushing victory was expected, attributing Sabahi's loss to his small team of campaigners who were unable to reach out to all of the country's electorate.
David, who is also Portugal’s representative in the European Parliament, abstained from commenting on voter turnout.
"It's not up to us to judge if the turnout was high or low, we simply observe facts as an observation mission," he said.
He added that the media provided "fair" coverage space for both contenders.
Commenting on violations reported by Sabahi's official campaign – which included campaigning during voting hours at polling centres – David said they were illegal but did not affect the vote.
A final report about the mission's findings is planned to be issued in six weeks, David said.
*This story has been corrected to amend quotes attributed to the EOM chief observers.