The Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) issued a decree Sunday to regulate Egyptian and international NGOs who will be monitoring the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The decree agreed on 17 December states that NGOs working in the fields of elections, human rights, and democracy promotion will be allowed to monitor the upcoming elections. This will occur after they meet the criteria listed in the decree and obtaining the commission’s authorisation.
NGOs that will be allowed to monitor the elections must have a “good reputation, be credible for neutrality and transparency and also have previous experience in observing elections”, according to the SEC’s decree.
Representatives of Egyptian organisations that will monitor the elections have to be registered on the voters’ database and should have “no previous conviction for a felony or a crime related to honesty and honour”.
Organisations will be allowed to monitor all procedures for listing candidates, distributing electoral propaganda, casting votes, counting votes and declaring results.
A sub-committee of SEC will be formed to receive and examine applications of the NGOs before the commission decides on rejecting or accepting applications.
A number of international organisations and bodies monitored the presidential elections last May, including European Union, African Union, Arab League, Global Network for Rights and Development and the Carter Centre. The last deployed an “expert mission” to observe the broader context surrounding the presidential elections in Egypt, “including the ongoing legal and political context”, according to a statement released by the centre in April.
The US organisation, however, closed its Cairo office in October, announcing it will not deploy an observation mission to assess Egypt’s next parliamentary elections.
The Carter Centre said their decision reflects their assessment that the “political environment is deeply polarised and that political space has narrowed for Egyptian political parties, civil society, and the media”.
The SEC’s decree allows NGO representatives to stay inside polling stations for a maximum of 30 minutes, a regulation which Magdi Abdle Hamid, head of the Egyptian Association for Community participation which monitored the last presidential elections, thinks should be amended.
Abdel Hamid said: “Observers have the right to stay inside polling stations without time limits as long as they don’t obstruct the voting process.”
He added that he met with the HEC’s spokesperson Medhat Idris who promised improved relations with NGOs and civil society and the facilitation of their work, expecting the commission to “fulfil their promises.”