Egypt groups seek poll monitors

Egyptian rights groups say they have recruited thousands of people to monitor the November parliamentary elections and aim to field more than in last month’s presidential polls, when they said abuse was rife.

Last month's presidential polls were said to be rife with abuse
Last month's presidential polls were said to be rife with abuse

Several rights groups said on Monday that abuses observed in the 7 September presidential race such as ballot stuffing and intimidation were not enough to alter the result, which gave President Hosni Mubarak an overwhelming 89% of votes on a low turnout.

But activists added that the parliamentary race, which will be held in three stages starting on 9 November, would be more competitive and the outcome less certain, which could encourage abuses such as vote-buying, which were limited in the presidential polls.

Mubarak’s National Democratic Party (NDP) has more than 85% of parliament’s 444 seats. Analysts say an opposition alliance, which includes the popular but banned Muslim Brotherhood, may strengthen the opposition challenge.


Competitive election


“It will be a very competitive election,” said Ahmed Samih, a representative of the National Campaign for Monitoring Elections (NCEM), one of several coalitions of rights groups which will field election monitors.


Activists say vote-buying may becommon in the November vote

Activists say vote-buying may be
common in the November vote

“Society became more active after the presidential election,” he said. Like other groups, he said, his group had received more offers to help with monitoring than in September.


He said the NCEM, which sent out about 500 monitors in the presidential race, had already recruited a further 1000 for the parliamentary polls and aimed to have 4000 when polls opened.

The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) said its coalition of rights groups would field 1400 monitors in November compared with 1000 in the presidential polls and the Independent Commission for Election Monitoring said it would have 4000 compared with 2200 in the September race.

More helpers


Shayfeencom, a group which mobilised members of the public to watch the presidential vote, said it had enlisted 1400 helpers compared with 700 in September.


Shayfeencom founding member Ghada Shahbender said the November polls could see different kinds of abuses from the September vote.


“Society became more active after the presidential election”

Ahmed Samih,
National Campaign for Monitoring Elections representative

“The violations are of a different type. Normally the reports on previous parliamentary elections indicate that there are more outbreaks of violence, intimidation and bribery, but we do not build up expectations,” she said.


Rights activists said vote-buying could be more common than in September.


Activists said one technique for buying votes in the past involved voters being given an already marked ballot paper, illegally obtained outside the polling station, and then returning after voting with the unmarked one obtained inside.

NDP committed


NDP officials say they are committed to free and fair elections.


Unlike in the presidential polls, there has been little talk so far about foreign monitoring.


The United States, Egypt‘s biggest aid donor, called for foreigners to monitor the September vote but Egypt said it saw no need.


There was little sign of pressure, beyond Washington‘s public statements, to make Egypt change its mind.

Source : Reuters

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