NSF express concern over 'fairness' of Egypt constitutional poll

Ahram Online, Thursday 13 Dec 2012

Egypt's National Salvation Front (NSF) express worry over 'fairness of voting process' and call for a 'no' vote in controversial constitutional referendum

National Salvation
ElBaradei was flanked by former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa

In a new statement on Thursday, the National Salvation Front, a coalition of liberal, leftist, and nationalist opposition forces, announced it would continue calling on citizens to vote ‘no’ in the coming constitutional referendum, even if the group’s concern for their demanded conditions to be included in the voting process are not met.

On Wednesday, the front had stated conditions that must be granted in the new constitutional referendum in order to guarantee a fair poll. The conditions included: full judicial supervision, security of polling stations, national and international election monitors, an immediate vote-count after votes are cast, and a one day referendum poll.

"The front is of the opinion that holding the poll in two stages, [as decided by the presidency] spanning a whole week is against Law 73 of 1956. The law requires that if a referendum is to be held in more than one stage, then it must be conducted in two consecutive days," said the National Salvation Front statement.

"Holding the referendum in two stages may affect its outcome and opens the door for manipulating the will of voters, carrying out violent acts, and vote rigging if the results of the first stage are unsatisfactory for any party," it added.

The front, which is led by opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa, also expressed its concern towards the current boycott of the referendum poll by 90 per cent of the Judges Club members.

While the Administrative State Council Judges Club and the State Lawsuit Authority said they would supervise the referendum, the front said the split in the judges' position might compromise any guarantees for a judge to be present at every polling station and a full supervision by the judiciary.

"We regard this as a great deficiency in the conditions for the fairness of the voting process," the coalition asserted.

Additionally, the front said that the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), which has control on issuing permits for monitors and journalists, was censured by many rights and monitoring groups. These groups said that most of the independent members of the NCHR had quit and only "personalities representing one political current" remain, some of who had participated in the drafting process of the constitution.

However, the National Salvation Front stressed that it is sticking to its position and will continue calling for the postponement of the referendum on a draft constitution it does not view as consensual. "The front will hold on to its demand of postponing the referendum until the morning of Saturday, 15 December [when the poll is staged]," read the statement.

"If there is a determination to vote in the referendum and disregard the front's warnings, we are confident that millions of Egyptians gathering in the streets for weeks will respond to our calls to say 'no' to the dividing draft constitution. We guarantee that we will monitor the entire voting process," the statement concluded.

The coalition added that it would not recognize the result of the referendum if the conditions for an honest vote were not entirely met.

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