Egypt lets rights groups monitor vote

Egyptian rights groups will be allowed to monitor the parliamentary elections that begin in November, including watching vote counting, the committee overseeing the polls has said.

    President Hosni Mubarak won a fifth term with 89% of the vote

    Egyptian groups also monitored the September presidential polls and catalogued a list of irregularities and abuses, such as voter intimidation and ballot stuffing.

    But rights groups said the abuses were not enough to alter the result.

    President Hosni Mubarak won a fifth six-year term with 89% of the vote in September.

    Analysts say Mubarak's ruling party will face tougher competition in the parliamentary polls, and rights groups say this could encourage more abuses such as vote buying.
    An alliance of opposition groups has called for foreign monitoring.

    No foreigners

    When the United States made a similar call for the presidential election, the government said it saw no need for outside monitoring.

    The election committee, headed by Justice Minister Mahmud Abu al-Lail, said it would allow "Egyptian national societies and institutions" to apply to monitor the polls, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported on Monday.

    Monitors will visit polling stations
    during voting and counting

    The rights groups were being allowed to monitor to achieve "the highest degree of neutrality and transparency", MENA said, adding that they "would be allowed to visit polling stations during voting and counting".

    Monitors would not be allowed to be members of political parties, it said.

    The government has pledged it will ensure a fair vote for the 444 parliamentary seats.

    Three stages

    Voting will be held in three stages starting in November and lasting until early December.

    Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party has more than 85% of the seats in the current parliament.

    Egyptian rights groups say that they have recruited thousands of monitors for the parliamentary polls and that they will set up telephone hotlines to receive complaints during voting.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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