Human Rights groups highlight referendum violations
Egyptian Human Rights groups have already issued their reports on numerous types of violations during the March 26 referendum on constitutional amendments including the requisite half a kilo of meat offered to voters in some constituencies.
According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), members of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) were offering “half a kilo of meat for each vote in El-Gazar Kafer, Banha and Qalubeya, to increase the number of voters at the referendum.
A monitor from the ECWR who asked for her name be withheld told The Daily Star Egypt: “I was one of the people who were monitoring the referendum, and all what we reported was witnessed by us, she said.
The ECWR member added “Participation was very low, and in my opinion the turnout was between 5-7 percent as civil society groups have estimated.
Egyptian Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei announced the referendum results Tuesday. The official figures stated that the constitutional amendments were passed by 75.9 percent and that 27.1 percent of Egypt’s 35 million registered voters took to the polls.
Speaking about the referendum, the ECWR member said “I saw this as a disgrace. I personally managed to vote three times in three different locations.
According to the ECWR, these were tactics initiated by the NDP. A report they issued stated “three of ECWR s poll monitors for today s referendum on amendments to34 articles of the Egyptian constitution, reported that voters were allowed to enter only on the condition that they vote YES to the amendments.
The report continued “In El-Sanya School for girls in El Sayida Zeynab (District 12) there were youth in front from the NDP checking if people entering the polling places were voting yes and mobilizing women to vote in more than one polling place [for people who live outside of their district], without identity cards or using the ink.
After voters had cast their ballot, they were required to dip their finger in a special ink to prevent multiple voting. At least one citizen who voted in the referendum confirmed to the Daily Star Egypt that they also did not use the ink after voting.
However, an official from the government affiliated National Council for Human Rights who asked for his name to be withheld cast doubt on these allegations which he described as “low and naïve .
The official also told The Daily Star Egypt “What is being brought up in the struggle between the government and opposition has reached strange levels. When it has come to talk of half a kilo of meat, then we have reached a level that has lowered us.
While admitting that voter turnout was not as desired, the official also laid into opposition claims of how low the turnout was.
“Some Human Rights groups claimed turnout was 2 percent. To whose benefit do they say this? Why bring our society down to this level? he said.
However he added “We do have a problem of turnout, which means we have a decrease of political participation [in the country]. The council monitors saw a turnout of 10-15 percent but no less than that . and the official council report stated that turnout was about a quarter [of registered voters].
Unlike what was previously thought, there were not judges supervising every ballot box. A judge was assigned to every polling station, but not all ballot boxes within the station would be monitored by them.
Additionally, the judges had orders from the Justice Ministry not to leave their selected posts within the stations and therefore could not monitor the other boxes. This reporter cast his ballot in the presence of two school teachers and no judges.
The Judges Club released a statement distancing Egypt’s judges from the results of the referendum.
Human Rights groups have recorded a number of different violations that took place during the referendum, including the fact that certain NGOs were actively campaigning for the NDP in the process and shuttling people to the voting stations.
The NDP has advocated a revamp of the country’s electoral process saying the current format is no longer feasible.
Head of the Policies Committee in the NDP Gamal Mubarak had previously stated while defending the proposed amendment of article 88 which governs electoral law that the number of judges does not cover the number of ballot boxes and because of that elections could take months to be completed.
“These are some of the practical reasons, Muabrak said, “the process of holding elections must change.