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Violations reported during first day of Egypt’s referendum

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Most reported violations involve attempts to influence voters’ decisions

An Egyptian man shouts at a soldier who stands guard at the entrance of a polling center during the vote on a new constitution on January 14, 2014 in Cairo.  (AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

An Egyptian man shouts at a soldier who stands guard at the entrance of a polling center during the vote on a new constitution on January 14, 2014 in Cairo.
(AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI)

Non-Governmental Organisations overseeing Egypt’s constitutional referendum reported violations during the first day of the referendum on Tuesday.

Elections watchdog Shayfeencom said in an early report on the referendum that it had received 42 complaints regarding violations from the governorates of Cairo, Giza, the Red Sea, Port Said and Beheira. Most of the complaints involved illegal campaigning to influence voters’ decisions. Shayfeencom said it observed a number of media outlets influencing voters’ decisions within the polling stations.

The Egyptian Coalition to Observe the Elections (ECOE) also reported several incidents nationwide of attempting to influence voters’ decisions in both directions. The coalition, which comprises around 128 civil society organisations including the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, reported incidents when Muslim Brotherhood supporters were encouraging voters to boycott the referendum.

The Anti-Coup Alliance had announced it will boycott the constitutional referendum. The alliance, also known as the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy, comprises of a group of political movements which support the “legitimacy” of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood.

Shayfeencom also reported other violations on Tuesday including preventing voters from accessing polling stations, preventing observers from carrying out their duties, the absence of the special ink voters must dip their fingers into to validate the voting process and the absence of stamps on ballots.

“We have observed a lack of systematic intervention by the authorities to stop the violations,” Shayfeencom said in its statement.

The ECOE reported incidents when groups of voters were transported to their polling stations and prompted to vote Yes. The voting process also temporarily stopped in certain polling stations, the coalition reported.

Observers working with the coalition also reported that some voters could not find their names documented in their allocated polling stations. Al-Tayar Al-Sha’aby (Popular Current) said that its founder, Hamdeen Sabahy, did not find his name on the voters’ list at his polling station. The former presidential candidate said he had voted in the same polling station, located in the Mohandessin neighbourhood, several times during the previous referendums and elections that took place since the 2011 uprising.

The ECOE reported that some polling stations were not active before 11am, even though the voting process was scheduled to begin at 9am. The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) said that in the event where there were delays at polling stations, backup heads for the polling stations were “immediately” sent to fix the problem.

The Commission said at least eight new polling stations were added to accommodate voters who live outside their governorates so that they can vote in polling stations outside of their electoral districts. It said that the turn-out rate at the aforementioned polling stations was high, prompting the Commission to increase their number.

The SEC denied that the referendum has been extended until Thursday, stressing that the voting process is scheduled to end on Wednesday night, as per interim President Adly Mansour’s initial decision. It also denied that judges were excluded from overseeing the voting process in certain polling stations.

“Some judges were replaced due to their exhaustion,” the commission said in the second statement it released on Tuesday.

The SEC assigned 13,867 judges to oversee the referendum process at nearly 30,000 sub-polling stations, reported state-run MENA.

A spokesperson at the Ministry of Social Solidarity has stated that 40 national and seven international NGOs would take part in monitoring the referendum. The spokesperson said that 40 of 67 local NGOs that applied were accepted. Foreign NGOs must be vetted by the SEC.

Shayfeencom announced Monday in a statement that the Commission rejected more than 60% of the organisation’s requests for observers’ permits.


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