The Carter Center, co-founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, announced Wednesday that it has closed its Egypt field office and will not deploy an observation mission to assess Egypt’s next parliamentary elections, according to a press release.
The centre called for “stronger protection for democratic rights and freedoms”, in Egypt and said their decsion reflects their assessment of Egypt’s political environment as one of “deep polarisation”.
“The current environment in Egypt is not conducive to genuine democratic elections and civic participation,” the former US president said. “I hope that Egyptian authorities will reverse recent steps that limit the rights of association and assembly and restrict operations of Egyptian civil society groups.”
In their statement, the centre advised the Egyptian government to “end the crackdown on dissidents, journalists, and opposition groups…including the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters”. They added that the Protest Law should be lifted and “opposition parties should be able to participate openly and peacefully in political affairs”.
They also condemned Egyptian authorities’ policies towards civil society groups, saying that the recently announced registration should be rescinded, while “the Mubarak-era NGO law and the more restrictive recent draft, which violate Egyptian citizens’ constitutional right to form associations, should be replaced quickly.”
The Carter Center, which claims to “wage peace, fight disease, and build hope”, opened its office in Egypt in 2011 following the 25 January Revolution “to establish a presence in Egypt to try to support a democratic transition”.
The American organisation sent up large observation missions to overlook a series of elections taking place between late 2011 and early 2014, including three rounds of elections for the People’s Assembly, two rounds for the Shura Council, the presidential elections and their run-offs.
The centre said in its statements that during its three years of operations, the role of election observation and the conditions required to conduct work were often “misunderstood”.
“In light of these uncertainties, and in the political context of narrowed space and polarization, the Center has decided to close its office and end operations in Egypt,” the statement read.
Since the military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, a number of human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, criticised Egypt’s for its crackdown on human rights.
The Egyptian authorities have arrested and killed thousands of people over the past three years.