Grave election violations were reported by observers during the two days of voting in Egypt’s final round run-off between Mohammed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq.
In the most notable case ‘pre-selected’ ballots were discovered in which Mohammed Morsi’s named was already chosen, without a registered voters name yet associated with the ballot. Counsellor Farouk Sultan, the head of the Supreme Elections Committee, addressed the allegations in a press conference on Saturday when he explained that several ballots had been discovered by judges observing the elections, where the ballots were already marked with votes even before the voters received them. The ballots were produced at the Al- Amireya printing house but it is unclear if the irregularity originated there or after they were delivered to polling stations.
Pre-selected ballots have been reported for both presidential candidates; Ahmed Shafiq and Mohamed Morsi, yet Morsi is so far taking most of the blame in this case. “We aren’t even party tothis conflict” Dr. Yasser Aly, spokesperson for Morsi’s campaign “the ballots are in the possession of the electoral committee. They should be the ones held responsible for such an error. Moreover, we asked for an immediate investigation regarding this incident for we would not benefit from it by any means.”
Aly stated that some of the ballots were problematic because of printing errors, such as a black line covering the entire ballot which may appear to be a pre-selection of a candidate. Aly maintains, however, that in such a case the electoral committee is still responsible, “the judge or the employees supervising the electoral process within the polling station should observe such a printing error and discard the ballot.”
In addition to the ballot controversy, Dalia Zeyada, member of “Horra W Nazeeha coalition”, which includes 48 observer associations and 7000 observers, said that the most prominent violation observed by the coalition was campaigning outside of polling stations. “Up until the Saturday night, the percentage of people violating the electoral silence and campaigning for their candidates was; 60% for Morsi and 40% for Shafiq.” Zeyada Said. “In some cases”, she described, “Martyrs’ pictures were used in campaigning, telling voters ‘vote for so and so for the blood of the martyrs’”.
However, Zeyada also stated that they observed some positive reactions, “It was the voters themselves who refused such techniques, preventing them from affecting their choices.”
Several voters told the Daily News Egypt that outside polling stations in Monofeya, they were verbally intimidated by Shafiq supporters, who vowed that all Muslim Brotherhood members shall be thrown back in prison if Shafiq wins the run-off round.
Counsellor Sultan corroborated the reports of campaigning outside of polling stations in his press conference. He stated that 48 case of violating the electoral silence had been officially recorded, and the details of the cases had been sent to the office of the Public Prosecutor.
Among the cases reported to the public prosecutor were five April 6 activists who were arrested on Saturday for carrying pictures of the victims of the January uprising against Mubarak outside polling stations. They were among those accused of campaigning for a candidate.
Several other violations have been reported as well, however they all lacked verification. Among them is news that three foreign journalists were arrested in Al-Sharqiya for attempting to take pictures and report on the elections without a press pass from the electoral committee, according to ONA news agency.
Commenting on the positions that observers found themselves in, human rights activist Ghada Shahbender said that she boycotted the electoral process in this run-off round of elections, both as an observer and as a voter. “I did not apply for a monitoring card that would only allow me to be in a polling station for 30 minutes” Shahbender explained, “I won’t be able to produce a full report about the elections unless I’m allowed to be there when the polling station opens, for at least two hours in the morning, a couple more hours during the night and when the stations close.”