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Referendum results garner international response - Daily News Egypt

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Referendum results garner international response

US, Transparency International urge voting oversight, while Arab League praises transparency

Head of Egypt's High Election Commission, Judge Nabil Salib (C) heads a press conference to announce the voting results of a referendum on January 18, 2014 in Cairo. Egyptian voters have approved a new constitution by 98.1 percent, Salib said, in what the government declared a popular endorsement of the army's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.      (AFP PHOTO MAHMOUD KHALED)
Head of Egypt’s High Election Commission, Judge Nabil Salib (C) heads a press conference to announce the voting results of a referendum on January 18, 2014 in Cairo.

United States Secretary of State John Kerry has urged that Egypt’s interim government practice transparency and restraint as its “turbulent experiment in participatory democracy” goes forward.

Following Saturday’s official referendum results, in which the constitution passed with 98.1% of the vote, Kerry issued an official statement highlighting “serious concern about the limits on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression in Egypt.”

Kerry stressed the need to allow international observers to monitor elections to build “confidence” in Egypt’s move toward democracy, citing reports by the Carter Centre and Democracy International, which expressed “serious concerns” about the political climate, which virtually guaranteed a Yes vote.

“As Egypt’s transition proceeds, the United States urges the interim Egyptian government to fully implement those rights and freedoms that are guaranteed in the new constitution for the benefit of the Egyptian people, and to take steps towards reconciliation,” said Kerry.

“Democracy is more than any one referendum or election.  It is about equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians, regardless of their gender, faith, ethnicity, or political affiliation.”

In a Sunday statement, Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Al-Araby praised Egypt’s referendum as a “fundamental pillar” toward the realisation of the roadmap set out after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

“The Arab League delegation, which participated in monitoring the referendum, has praised the efforts made by the Egyptian Supreme Election Committee, along with the military and police forces, that ensured the referendum was held in an atmosphere of tranquillity, freedom and transparency,” read the statement.  “Although there were some unfortunate clashes, they did not affect overall democratic referendum process.”

Eight observers from corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) monitored the referendum and the political climate in Egypt over a 10-day period and issued a preliminary report on Thursday.  Citing a crackdown on media, protestors, and the freedom to assemble, TI found that the “political context in the run-up to the referendum impaired conditions to hold free and fair referendum when compared with international standards.”  The report outlined 13 recommendations for future elections, with several urging campaign reform.

A total of 98.1% of voters, amounting to 19,985,389 citizens, approved the draft constitution, while only 1.9%, or 381,341 Egyptians, voted against it, according to the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC).  The announced turnout of 38.6%, or 20,613,677 voters, represented a slightly higher mark than the 32.9% of eligible voters who took part in the referendum on the 2012 constitution.

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  • Very important facts

    Here is the clarification of the Karthoum meeting from the
    Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA).

    Setting the record straight: the 3rd Tripartite Water
    Ministers’ meeting in Khartoum

    (MoFA) Jan 2014 – At the end of 2010, the Ethiopian
    Government commissioned the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam
    Project (GERDP). Construction is now well under way through a turn-key contract
    arrangement with an internationally renowned contractor.

    Egypt and Sudan, albeit in the absence of detailed
    information, have had concerns about the impact of the dam might have. So at
    the initiation and invitation of the Government of Ethiopia, the Ministers of
    Water Affairs of the three Eastern Nile Countries, Egypt,Ethiopia and the
    Sudan, agreed to establish an International Panel of Experts (IPoE) with the
    objective of building confidence about the GERDP among the three countries. It
    might be noted that this Ethiopian initiative to consult and share information
    with the two lower riparian states was unprecedented in the Nile basin or
    indeed in other international watercourses, in the absence of any specific
    agreement to determine the use of international watercourses.

    The IPoE was launched in mid-May 2012. After a year of
    deliberation that included a review of the study and design documents and
    project site visits, the IPoE produced its final report May 30, last year. It
    was a consensus report signed by the representatives of all the three countries
    and the four international experts. The IPoE’s Final Report reconfirmed
    Ethiopia’s assertion that the design and construction of the Grand Ethiopia
    Renaissance Dam has been properly based on international design criteria and
    standards, codes, guidelines and engineering practices. The Panel’s report also
    showed that the GERDP will not have a significant impact on the downstream
    countries and that it will in fact provide major benefits to all three countries.

    The Panel did also recommend two further studies be carried
    out in the context of the Eastern Nile System. These were a water resource
    system/hydropower model and a trans-boundary environment and socio-economic
    impact study. It suggested these should be done through an agreed arrangement
    of the three countries, employing international consultants chosen through an
    international bidding process. The three states countries agreed to set up a
    mechanism to follow up implementation of the recommendations of the IPoE. They
    initiated a series of tripartite meetings. The first and second of these
    meetings took place in Khartoum on November 4 and on December 8/9 last year.

    The third meeting took place, again in Khartoum, January
    4-5, this year, and it was immediately after this that the Egyptian delegation
    embarked on a media campaign, releasing a distorted account of the
    deliberations and of the outcome of the meeting. We are therefore presenting
    the facts here with the aim of setting the record straight and providing the
    international community and the Egyptian people with a true and accurate
    account of the proceedings of the tripartite meeting. This can be corroborated
    by all who were present at the meeting.

    The third meeting was hosted by Sudan and the main item of
    the agenda was discussion of the remaining pending issues that had not been
    agreed in the two previous meetings. It should be mentioned that during the
    first meeting on November 4, all three parties submitted their respective
    proposals on the “Framework for Establishing a Committee of Experts for the
    Follow up on the Implementation of the Recommendations of the (IPoE) on GERDP”.
    The discussions during the first and second tripartite meeting focused mainly
    on the framework for the establishment of a committee of national experts, its
    composition and mandate. The parties agreed on setting up a national committee
    of experts, on the composition and number of delegates from each country, and
    on most of the mandates for the committee as proposed by the Ethiopian

    Outstanding issues postponed to the third meeting included
    the establishment and commissioning of a separate international panel of
    experts, principles of confidence building, and questions of data and information
    quality and validation.

    The matters discussed at the Third Tripartite Meeting
    focused mainly on two issues tabled by the Egyptian delegation. The first of
    these concerned the setting up of an international panel of experts. Egypt
    proposed that a new international panel of experts (IE) should be set up in
    parallel to the establishment of the committee of national experts and that
    this should start work at the same time with the committee of national experts.
    In the event that there were differences among members of the committee of
    national experts, the three Water Ministers should resolve the matter and if
    they failed, the differences should automatically be referred to the proposed
    IE, to provide a technical opinion for the ministers. In addition, the IE would
    also assist the committee of national experts. Egypt’s final point was that
    this international panel of experts should not be established by consensus.

    Ethiopia made it clear it did not see any justification for
    employing an additional international panel of experts in addition to the
    international consultants that would carry out the two studies recommended by
    the IPoE. However, for the sake of compromise and in the interest of promoting
    cooperation, the Ethiopian delegation agreed to the employment of an
    international panel of experts under certain conditions. The first was that the
    committee of national experts should prepare the procedures for the employment
    of the IE and the rules of procedure for its functioning. Secondly, that the IE
    should be engaged after the completion of the two studies. It also said that in
    the event of differences over issues raised in the final report of the two
    studies, the ministers should resolve them amicably and only if the ministers
    failed to do this to refer the matters to the IE to provide a technical
    opinion. The final point was that the IE should be chosen by consensus of the
    three ministers.

    The Egyptian delegation did not provide sufficient
    explanation or justification why an IE should be engaged in parallel to the
    establishment of the agreed committee of national experts. It argued that the
    IE could resolve differences among members of the committee of national experts
    and even suggested the IE could act as an adjudication body whose decision
    should be binding on the three countries. These arguments were found illogical
    and deemed unacceptable by the delegations of both Ethiopia and Sudan. Egypt
    then withdrew them and put forward the alternative that the role of the IE
    should be that of technical assistance for the committee of national experts,
    but the delegation failed to suggest any situation in which the IE could play
    such a role. Indeed, in a situation where the two studies recommended by the
    IPoE are going to be undertaken by international consultancy firms and the
    necessary follow up made by 12 national experts from Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan,
    the reason for Egypt’s insistence on employing additional international experts
    is not clear.

    The second issue tabled by Egypt referred to “principles for
    confidence building.” The principles referred to issues that contradict the
    Nile Basin Cooperative Framework Agreement (CFA) which Ethiopia has recently
    ratified and which has also been signed by six other upper Nile riparian
    countries. Ethiopia declined to discuss these so-called “confidence building
    principles” as they were irrelevant to the agreed agenda of the meeting and to
    the mandate of the delegations present. The delegations of Ethiopia and Sudan
    repeatedly explained to the Egyptian delegation that the mandate and the agenda
    of the Third Tripartite Meeting was to establish appropriate mechanisms to
    follow-up the implementation of the IPoE report and to resolve issues that had
    not been agreed at the two earlier meetings. They also made it clear that
    confidence building measures should be expressed in action and not in
    meaningless phrases that had nothing to do with the issues at hand.

    The Ethiopian delegation underlined the fact that the
    Ethiopian Government had made an unprecedented move in opening up the GERD
    project, in providing over 150 study and design documents for the two
    downstream countries and providing opportunities of project site visits. The
    Government had also shown its commitment to openness by accepting the report of
    the IPoE and in implementing the recommendations related to dam engineering and
    safety in a timely manner as well as agreeing to jointly conduct the two studies
    recommended by the IPoE. All these are very practical confidence building
    measures. Anything similar on the part of Egypt has been lacking. A recent
    publication of ‘Egypt Independent’ contains numerous deliberate distortions of
    what actually transpired during the 3rd meeting. It is regrettable and
    counterproductive for the Egyptian delegation to accuse Ethiopia of being
    “intransigent” or to make saber-rattling statements such as “all options are
    open”, talk of “escalatory measure” and threaten “[we] will not return to the
    negotiating table”. The comments also include in accurate and unsubstantiated
    assertions including: “the inadequacy of the technical studies carried out on
    GERDP”; “the risks to the resources of the Ethiopian people”; and “the Ethiopian
    government is facing problems financing the dam.”

    The reports of those present at the Third Tripartite Meeting
    make it very clear who were actually being uncompromising and blocking the
    progress of the consultations by submitting unreasonable proposals. The
    meetings, of course, involve three countries, but the Egyptian delegation has
    also distorted the situation to suggest the differences were between Egypt and
    Ethiopia alone. As a matter of fact, in almost all the issues under discussion
    Ethiopia and Sudan had almost identical stances. They, together, appealed to
    Egypt to bring the discussions to an end and move forward to the main task of
    conducting the two recommended studies. Inevitably, one must wonder if there is
    a hidden agenda behind Egypt’s apparent determination to focus on two
    non-issues that have little to do with the main task of implementing the two
    studies recommended by the IPoE.

    Ethiopia had been confident the empty rhetoric of the past
    government of Egypt would not be repeated but it seems the attitude implied in
    the phrase “all options are open” may still be the table. Egypt must denounce
    the option of conflict once and for all, and concentrate on promoting peace and
    cooperation. The self righteous attitude of some Egyptian authorities in
    attempting to remind the Ethiopian people of the risks involved in
    self-financing the project can only be described as disappointing. Equally,
    negative, and inaccurate, have been suggestions as some have asserted that the
    timing of the commissioning of the GERDP related to the turmoil in Egypt. There
    was no connection.

    The contrast with Sudan is striking. Ethiopia fully
    acknowledges and appreciates the positive role that the Government and people
    of Sudan have played since the commissioning of the GERDP. It also appreciates
    the hospitality and kindness of Sudan in hosting all three Tripartite Meetings
    and the genuine effort and commitment of past and current Sudanese Ministers of
    Water Resources and Electricity in working for the success of these meetings.
    It should be added that the Third Tripartite Ministerial meeting held in
    Khartoum was concluded by agreeing to continue the consultations in order to
    finalize the setting up of a mechanism for the follow-up of the implementation
    of the recommendations of the IPoE. Ethiopia is committed to the success of
    these consultations.

    The GERDP is a flagship project of the Government and people
    of Ethiopia. The project is based on detailed studies by internationally
    renowned consultants and the decision to commission the construction of the
    project was made after fully ascertaining the project’s technical and
    socio-economic viability. The People and Government of Ethiopia are financing
    the GERDP. The GERDP will be completed as planned and no one should be under
    any illusion that the resolve of the Ethiopian people will weaken or change.

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