US-based Democracy International (DI) released yesterday its preliminary report on Egypt’s referendum, which criticised both the political climate of the referendum and the actual undertaking of the vote.
Monitors at DI international expressed “serious concerns” about the political climate, which virtually guaranteed a Yes vote. “There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent,” the statement noted, citing “a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices”.
Furthermore, DI cited various concerns at the polling stations. The organisation reported a heavy presence of security forces inside polling stations and an inability to vote in private, while also noting a heavy presence of pro-constitution messages both inside and outside of polling stations.
DI’s report said that it appeared like voters were able to express their voice freely; however, security forces, who are very supportive of the constitution, could possibly be seen as a way to strong-arm indecisive voters into a Yes vote.
There was no evidence to suggest that these issues created a substantially different outcome for the vote, but the report warns that these problems “could affect the integrity or the credibility of more closely contested electoral processes in the future”.
“But the post-referendum period offers an opportunity to promote broader political participation,” said said Eric Bjornlund, Democracy International’s president and head of the observation mission in Egypt. “The process of preparing for upcoming elections is an opportunity to reorient Egypt toward effective, democratic institutions that are broadly viewed as legitimate across the society,” the statement concluded.
DI posted 80 international observers in 23 of Egypt’s 27 governorates. Numerous arrests of both civilians and media personnel who expressed opposition to the constitution were made before and during the referendum.
Presidential elections are expected to take place in March, according to Reuters.