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MONITORING THE RUN-OFF OF THE SECOND PHASE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION
 1st PRESS STATEMENTINDEPENDENT COMMITTEE ON ELECTION MONITORING ICEM MONITORING THE RUN-OFF OF THE SECOND PHASE OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION An organized campaign of intimidation against ICEM observers orchestrated by NDP thugs Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005 11:00AM The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM), a coalition of sixteen NGOs
Saturday, November 26,2005 00:00
by (ICEM)

 1st PRESS STATEMENT
INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE ON ELECTION MONITORING
ICEM

MONITORING THE RUN-OFF OF THE SECOND PHASE
OF THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTION

An organized campaign of intimidation against ICEM observers orchestrated by NDP thugs

Saturday, Nov. 26, 2005 11:00AM

The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM), a coalition of sixteen NGOs led by the Ibn Khaldun Center is deploying a total of 5,000 observers to monitor the voting process for the Parliamentary Election. ICEM is aimed at providing for the integrity and the credibility of the election process. In the run-off of the second phase of the elections, ICEM is deploying 1500 observers to monitor the voting and counting procedures in 68 electoral districts where 242 candidates are competing for 121 seats.

PRE-ELECTION DAY ASSESSMENT

ICEM appreciates the new instruction from the Minister of Justice which states that the totals from each ballot box should be announced separately. New instructions also came from the Ministry of Interior to increase the security presence at polling stations in order to contain any potential violence. However, because these instructions were announced at such a late time, it remains to be seen whether or not and to what extent they will be implemented.

Nineteen Muslim Brotherhood supporters have, according to the reports, been arrested in the last 24 hours. ICEM concern remains that this type of action might affect credibility of government actions in awake of election day. Additionally, it can create an atmosphere of fear in which people feel less secured in their ability to express their opinions.

Several ICEM observers in Port Said, Qena, and Ismailya governorates were threatened prior to the Election-Day that they would be beaten if they continued to try to monitor.

Also, there has been legal confusion in districts of Alexandria and Fayoum concerning the legal disputes over re-election status based on the court rulings of the Administrative Judges. For example, in the Atsa district of Fayoum, polling stations are all closed and most of the judges are confused as to whether or not there will indeed be an election. ICEM maintains that the confusion on whether there should be run-offs or not is a severe impediment to having a regular and transparent election.

ELECTION DAY MONITORING: THE OPENING OF THE POLLS

Many reports have been received from observers being denied access to polling stations throughout Egypt. Authorities’ illegal actions in this regard continue to seriously undermine Egypt’s citizens’ rights to a fair and transparent process.

Observers Beaten and Denied Access to Polling Stations

ICEM has witnessed an organized targeting of its observers. Despite threats they received yesterday, several observers went ahead and continued their monitoring activities. There is now an organized campaign of intimidation against ICEM observers orchestrated by NDP thugs. In Ismailya, two ICEM observers, Osama Al-Alesh and Ashraf Abdallah, were severely beaten as they approached the polling station of Al-Abadeya School. As a result, they were hospitalized and are now receiving treatment in Al-Qantara Al-Aam hospital where authorities refuse allowing them to press charges against their aggressors.

In Qena, the government coordinator, Ahmed Fathi, has been beaten by thugs affiliated with NDP in Nagh Hammadi district.

In the Karfra Al-Zayed district of Gharbiya, two ICEM observers, Ahmed Mohammed Said and Mustafa Akar and, in the Tanta district, Hanni Gabala, were arrested even though they were in possession official ID cards from the Ministry of Justice accrediting them as observers.

ICEM strongly condemns these and all acts against its observers and views them as a violation of basic human rights. ICEM observers continue to carry out their work, which they consider a duty to Egypt and its citizens. ICEM calls on all the government authorities to enable and assist election monitors to perform their duties aimed at ensuring the fairness and freedom of the election.

Reported Arrests of Candidate Poll-Watchers and Supporters

In addition to the prior arrests made before Election Day, ICEM observers are reporting of several systematic arrests. Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Al-Wakeel in the Tanta district of Al-Gharbiya was arrested with 35 of his supporters. In the Abshway district of Fayoum, two candidate poll-watchers were arrested from polling stations 12 and 13 and their authorization letters were confiscated.

Polling Centers Late in Opening

Around two thirds of the polling facilities observed by the ICEM observers did not open on time. ICEM is not in a position to report on the opening procedures as the majority of its observers were denied access to the polling stations. ICEM can, however, confirm that voting was delayed in the majority of polling stations because judges arrived late, as did supplies of indelible ink. For instance, at 11:00 the polling station Al-Tarbiya Al-Fikria School was still not open.

Violence

In the Tanta District of Gharbiya, there have been several incidents of fights breaking out between supporters of the NDP candidate Ahmed Shoubir and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. Both sides fired gunshots into the air and resorted to the use of knives. The gravity of the situation required that the security forces cordon off the area and halt the voting process to re-establish order. This occurred at polling stations like Said Al-Erian School and Al-Shaheed Al-Naggar preparatory school where the police forces used tear gas. Similar brawls were reported between the supporters of the independent candidate Ismail Al-Banna and the supporters of NDP candidate Moamen Othman in the Mahala district.

Apart from the violence that broke out between supporters of different candidates there was also violence targeting voters in particular. There were organized groups of the thugs using force to intimidate and prevent voters, mainly those whose external appearance suggested possible Muslim Brotherhood sympathies, from voting. This has been repeated throughout Egypt; In Qena and Ismailya and Beharya.

Inaccurate Voters’ Lists

Inaccurate voting lists have continued to be a common occurrence in this round of the elections. Numerous reports indicate that voter lists had been altered, showing discrepancies between the first round of the second phase and this run-off election.

In Beharya, a large crowd gathered as a result of the alteration of voter lists. Dozens of disenfranchised voters gathered in front of Abu Al-Khawy School in protest of voter list alteration. Security forces used live bullets in order to disperse the crowd.

Campaigning

ICEM observers report fierce campaigning in the close vicinity of the polling centers by all party and independent candidates. Likewise, NDP, opposition, independent candidate supporters and thugs remained present at the majority of the polling facilities and were intimidating voters. This form of illegal campaigning is one of the factors that continue to incite violence.

Independent Committee for
Election Monitoring
ICEM

 

INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE ON ELECTION MONITORING
ICEM

Monitoring the Run-off of the Second Phase of the Parliamentary Election

Preliminary Report

The Independent Committee for Election Monitoring (ICEM), a coalition of sixteen NGOs led by the Ibn Khaldun Center is deploying a total of 5,000 observers to monitor the voting process for the Parliamentary Election. ICEM is aimed at providing for the integrity and the credibility of the election process. In the run-off of the second phase of the elections, ICEM deployed 1500 observers to monitor the voting and counting procedures in 65 electoral districts after postponing elections for three days based on a court ruling.

Massive Disenfranchisement

As a result of the new instructions from the Minister of the Interior, ICEM did in fact witness a stronger security presence at the polling sites. However, rather than having the desirable effect of facilitating the voting process, it was instead utilized to advantage the NDP. This occurred at a large number of the polling stations in districts where Muslim Brotherhood candidates were running. In many cases, the problems began when massive security forces in front of the polling stations effectively cordoned off the polling station to potential voters. In other cases, though, government officials were present at the entrance denying access to anyone they suspected might be a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Some concerned judges, unable to change the exterior situation, and as a last recourse in an effort to avoid a grotesque bias in the voting turnout, chose to close the polling stations altogether. This happened notably in Behayra (Kafr Al-Dawar district), Alexandria (Al-Aamreya district), Gharbiya (Tanta district), and Fayoum (Ebshway district).

As a result of this concerted and organized effort to prevent Muslim Brotherhood supporters from voting, large Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations were staged throughout the day. These led to numerous arrests and presented the police with the opportunity to use force in order to contain the crowd.

ICEM believes that the required role of the security forces should be limited to ensuring the safety of the voting process and not interfering in favor of or against any of the parties involved.

In addition, the electoral process has been marred by other serious and widespread violations that have undermined the credibility and the integrity of the election. These violations include vote-buying and inaccurate voters’ lists.

CONCLUSIONS

 Electoral Process Further Deteriorates

ICEM preliminary findings suggest a further degradation of the election due to planned violence, biases of the security forces and massive disenfranchisement of the opposition, primarily Muslim Brotherhood. Today’s irregularities and misconduct has been clearly planned and directed towards obstructing opposition voters from freely casting their ballot.

 Authorities Fail to Establish a Transparent Processes

In spite of the new instruction from the Minister of Justice stating that the totals from each ballot box should be announced separately in order facilitate the scrutiny of the results, election authorities have, in most of cases, ignored the directives. This is perhaps a consequence of the fact that these instructions were announced at such a late time.

 ICEM Observers Targeted for Harassment, Assault, Intimidation

In this second phase of the elections, ICEM witnessed organized campaigns of violence directed at its observers on the part of NDP thugs. ICEM strongly condemns these and all acts against its observers and considers them to be a violation of basic human rights. ICEM observers continue to carry out their work, which they consider a duty to Egypt and its citizens. ICEM calls on all the government authorities to enable and assist election monitors to perform their duties aimed at ensuring the fairness and freedom of the election.

Also is second round of elections, observers have seen a narrowing of their field of operations. At the vast majority of polling stations, ICEM observers were prevented from monitoring the voting and only 6.4% of monitors were granted access to observe the counting. The level of restrictions currently placed on observers is unacceptable and calls into question the legitimacy of the results.


 
PRE-ELECTION DAY ASSESSMENT

Nineteen Muslim Brotherhood supporters were, according to the reports, arrested in the 24 hours leading up to the election. ICEM’s concern remains that this type of action might affect credibility of government actions in the wake of Election Day. Additionally, it can create an atmosphere of fear in which citizens feel less secure to voice their political will.

Several ICEM observers in Port Said, Qena, and Ismailya governorates were threatened prior to the Election-Day that they would be beaten if they continued to try to monitor.

Also, there has been legal confusion in districts of Alexandria and Fayoum concerning the legal disputes over re-election status based on the court rulings of the Administrative Judges in the Atsa district of Fayoum, Mancheya district in Alexandria, Al-Qanater district Al-Qolubiya. ICEM maintains that the confusion as to whether there should be run-offs or not is a severe impediment to having a regular and transparent election. These disputes should have been resolved in a more timely fashion in order to give all parties involved proper time to prepare.

ELECTION DAY MONITORING: THE OPENING OF THE POLLS

Numerous reports were received from observers being denied access to polling stations throughout Egypt.

Observers Beaten and Arrested

In Ismailya, two ICEM observers, Osama Al-Alesh and Ashraf Abdallah, were severely beaten as they approached the polling station of Al-Abadeya School. As a result, they were hospitalized in Al-Qantara Al-Aam hospital where authorities refused to allow them to press charges against their aggressors.

In Qena, the government coordinator, Ahmed Fathi, was beaten by thugs affiliated with the NDP in Nagh Hammadi district.

In the Karfra Al-Zayed district of Gharbiya, two ICEM observers, Ahmed Mohammed Said and Mustafa Akar and, in the Tanta district, Hanni Gabala, were arrested even though they were in possession official ID cards from the Ministry of Justice accrediting them as observers.

In the Tanta district of Gharbiya, the commanding police officer Mohamed Abu Zeid arrested three ICEM observers even though they had official cards from the Ministry of Justice accrediting them as observers.

Polling Centers Late in Opening

Around two thirds of the polling facilities observed by the ICEM observers did not open on time. ICEM is not in a position to report on the opening procedures as the great majority of its observers were denied access to the polling stations. ICEM can, however, confirm that voting was delayed in the majority of polling stations because judges arrived late, as did supplies of indelible ink. For instance, at 11:00 am the polling station Al-Tarbiya Al-Fikria School was still not open.

ELECTION DAY MONITORING: THE VOTING PROCESS AND THE CLOSING OF THE POLLS

Unfortunately, most of ICEM’s monitors continued to be denied access to the counting centers even though many of them have official permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. ICEM urges the relevant authorities to comply with the law and allow monitors to observe the counting of the ballots. ICEM believes that no election can be called free, fair and transparent if voters have been denied the right to monitor and scrutinize the process by which their vote is transformed into real political representation.

Voter Turnout

According to initial ICEM reports, an estimated 18% of registered voters turned out to vote at the polling stations observed by ICEM. ICEM believes that the rapid escalation of violence and the organized disenfranchisement of large segments of the population are directly responsible for the dramatic drop in voter turnout over the course of these elections.

ELECTORAL VIOLATIONS AND IRREGULARITIES

Violence

ICEM received numerous other reports of violence spreading, almost exclusively in the districts where Muslim Brotherhood candidates were seeking seats.

In the Tanta District of Gharbiya, there were several incidents of fights breaking out between supporters of the NDP candidate Ahmed Shoubir and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate. Both sides fired gunshots into the air and resorted to the use of knives. The gravity of the situation required that the security forces cordon off the area and halt the voting process to re-establish order. This occurred at polling stations like Said Al-Erian School and Al-Shaheed Al-Naggar preparatory school where the police forces used tear gas. Similar brawls were reported between the supporters of the independent candidate Ismail Al-Banna and the supporters of NDP candidate Moamen Othman in the Mahala district.

Apart from the violence that broke out between supporters of different candidates there was also violence targeting voters in particular. There were organized groups of the thugs using force to intimidate and prevent voters, mainly those whose external appearance suggested possible Muslim Brotherhood sympathies, from voting. This has been repeated throughout Egypt; In Qena and Ismailya and Beharya.

In Al-Mahala Kubra district of Gharbiya, the NDP candidate supporters used live ammunition to intimidate voters and prevent them from approaching the polling stations. In the Zifta district, several fights broke out amongst the supporters of the NDP candidate Abdel Al-Ahad Gamal and the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Walid Al-Shetaami. In the Tanta district, police used tear gas to disperse angry crowds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters who were protesting their disenfranchisement. In the same district, in the Gafriya School polling station, fights erupted between the NDP and Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police arrested some of the provocateurs responsible for the incident.

In the Rashid district of Behayra, thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters of Abdel Hamid Zahgloul marched in the streets protesting the fact that they were barred from entering the polling stations. In the district of Kom Hamada, thugs broke into polling stations 11 and 12 where they destroyed the ballot boxes and assaulted the judges and candidate poll-watchers present. This was also repeated in the Al-Khawy polling station in Wad El-Natroun district where eight ballot boxes, numbers 55 – 62, were also destroyed.

In Suez, at the Samir Baroudi School, voters were being assaulted by organized groups of thugs. This same group also detained a group of women for several hours, neither allowing them into the polling station nor letting them leave the premises. In front of Salah Nessim School, some quarrels occurred between police and NDP supporters.

In the third district of Port Said, supporters of the independent but government-backed candidate Said Metwally used excessive violence against the supporters of Al-Wafd party candidate Mohamed Sherdi.

In the Nagh Hammadi district of Qena, several shootings have been reported between supporters of Fathi Al-Qandeel and Abdel Raheem Al-Ghoul.

Numerous Arrests Made

Authorities continued to arrest people on Election Day. According to ICEM reports, these mass arrests appear to be systematic in nature, and politically motivated.

Notably, Muslim Brotherhood candidates were among those arrested. In the Ebshway district of Fayoum, Abdel Rahman Hassan Abdel Rahman and roughly 100 of his supporters were arrested and taken into custody at the Ebshway police precinct. In the Tanta district of Al-Gharbiya, Mohammed Al-Wakeel was arrested along with 35 of his supporters. In the first district of Port Said, Ahmed El-Kholani and number were arrested as they were making rounds, checking the polling stations. In Wadi Al-Natroun district of Behayra, Mohamed Shetat and a group of his supporters were arrested while demonstrating in the streets to protest their unlawful disenfranchisement.

In the Abshway district of Fayoum, two candidate poll-watchers were arrested from polling stations 12 and 13 and their authorization letters were confiscated.

In the Ghorbal district of Alexandria, in front of Al-Salam School polling station, as a result of a demonstration by Muslim Brotherhood supporters, approximately 200 people were arrested, including 50 women.

In the Qous district of Qena, 20 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Hisham Ahmed were arrested.

In Bassioun district of Gharbiya, 5 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were arrested. 

Other Violations

ICEM observers report fierce campaigning in the close vicinity of the polling centers by all party and independent candidates. Likewise, NDP, opposition, independent candidate supporters and thugs remained present at the majority of the polling facilities and were intimidating voters. This form of illegal campaigning is one of the factors that continue to incite violence.

ICEM observers also reported that many opposition and Muslim Brotherhood candidate poll-watchers were denied access to the polling-stations.

There were also numerous reports of public vote-buying. For example in the Abu Al-Matameyar district of Al-Behayra vote-buying occurred in favor of the NPD candidate Hamdi Qoraytam. In Suez, in the Arbayeen district of Suez, the NDP candidate Ramdan Abu Al-Hassan was offering potential voters 20 pounds and a meal. In the Qutor district of Gharbiya, the poll-watchers of the NDP candidate Said Ateya were also seeking to purchase votes.

In Bandar Al-Fayoum district, there are reports of multiple voting by people who used chemicals to remove the indelible ink.

Inaccurate voting lists have continued to be a common occurrence in this round of the elections. Many reports indicated that voters’ lists had been altered

In the first district of Qena, at Al-Halafaweya Bahary School, voting was being conducted without proper identification. The secrecy of the ballot was also violated.

Election Day Monitoring: The Counting Process

Unfortunately, the vast majority of monitors were again denied access to the counting centers, even though many of them had official permission from the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. In total, only 16 monitors out of 250 were allowed to monitor counting. Nevertheless, they witnessed serious violations during the counting of the votes.

ICEM considers that the authorities’ arbitrary decisions to deny monitors access is illegal, it is also a decision that undermines the overall transparency, integrity and the credibility of the entire electoral process.

Though ICEM lauds the new instructions from the Minister of Justice stating that the totals from each ballot box should be announced separately, most election authorities at all levels have ignored the obvious instructions. In only two districts, the Karmouz District of Alexanderia and the Damanhour district of Behayra did the polling center’s supervisors manage to apply the new instruction of the Minister of Justice.

Also, the few observers who were able to monitor the counting process again witnessed severe deficiencies in the process, reporting that the counting was conducted in an inconsistent manner within a chaotic environment where scores of ballot boxes were counted simultaneously. Furthermore, individual ballot box results were not announced to anyone present, instead they were secretly tabulated away from the supervision of any monitors, including candidate poll-watchers. The opacity of this action is antithetical to the idea of transparency in every respect.

NGOs’ right to monitor the count of the votes is critical to having an election that could be called free, fair and transparent. Thus, ICEM urges election administration authorities to continue to make progress towards transparent elections and to allow NGOs to monitor this essential moment during the electoral process. ICEM maintains that the authorities’ refusal to allow adequate numbers of NGO observers to witness the count of the votes seriously undermines any meaningful monitoring of the voting process and demonstrates a failure to meet the standard criteria constituting any free and fair electoral process.

The Specifics of Counting Transgressions and Irregularities

In the First district of Ismailia, two ICEM observers were assaulted by NDP supporters after the announcement that the NDP candidate had been defeated the Wafd candidate in that district.

In the Zifta district of Gharbaya, there should have been a total of 150 ballot boxes counted. Upon finishing the counting of ballots, the supervising judge realized that he had in fact counted the contents of 151 boxes. Ballot box number 76 was counted twice and each time, it contained dramatically different results, leading to the conclusion that the box—after being counted for a first time—was stuffed and returned to the judge for a second counting. Rather than throwing out the results of the second counting, the supervising judge let the results stand, citing the fact that the extra box had no impact on the final outcome as the NDP candidate Abdel Wahid Gamal Eddin won in a land slide.

In the Santa district of Gharbaya, a police line was established that kept poll watchers and monitors no less than ten meters away from the ballot boxes and counting process. This seriously restricted the ability of independent monitors to verify the votes and results being recorded from each ballot box.

In Kafr El-Zayat and Mahal El-Kobra districts of Gharbaya, ICEM observers reported of rumors during the day that the electricity would be cut off during the counting process. The electricity did indeed go out for roughly two hours during counting procedures. Counting was suspended during this time, thought it is impossible to know what occurred during the power outage.


 


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