Egypt's government to restrict NGO vote monitoring

Salah Nasrawi
3 Min Read

CAIRO: Egypt’s government is seeking to severely restrict the work of non-governmental organizations, including preventing them from monitoring elections, three dozen NGOs said Monday.

Draft legislation to curtail local NGOs will be brought before parliament in the coming months, the groups said in a letter of protest. An official at the government ministry responsible for overseeing the work of NGOs confirmed there was new legislation but refused to discuss its contents because it has yet to be sent to parliament.

The 36 groups that protested the draft say it is intended to prevent the monitoring of a parliamentary election to be held by the end of the year and a presidential election next year.

In a separate step, 100 opposition lawmakers introduced a bill of their own aimed at allowing free and transparent elections, but this stands virtually no chance of clearing a parliament firmly under the control of President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party.

Opposition to Mubarak’s nearly three decades of unchallenged leadership was stirred recently by the return to Egypt of Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former chief of the UN’s nuclear monitoring agency, which is headquartered in Vienna. Since his return earlier this year, ElBaradei has spoken forcefully for constitutional changes to make Egypt’s elections freer and fairer.

He is forming a coalition to press for the reforms, without which it is unlikely he could run against Mubarak.

The government’s legislation would penalize any NGO or advocacy group working without a government permit, the protest letter said. About 25,000 such groups would have to join a government-controlled federation that would vet their licenses and watch over their activities and funding.

“This will hijack the organizations’ free will and subjugate it to the will of the government, said Bahey El-Din Hassan of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and a signatory of the statement.

The opposition’s draft legislation calls for electronic voter registration and election monitoring by the judiciary. Egypt currently has no independent election monitoring. It would also bar children of the head of state and other senior government officials from running for the presidency.

Mubarak is believed to be grooming his younger son, Gamal, to succeed him.

Mubarak, who is still in Berlin recuperating from surgery, has not said if he will run for re-election next year, but some leaders of the ruling National Democratic Party have suggested he will.

The 2005 presidential election was the first to allow multiple candidates, but tough requirements limit who can run.

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