Egypt: Results Assessment Report First Phase of Monitoring the Draft Constitution 2012 Referendum 'Partners in Homeland Campaign'

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By the end of the second phase of monitoring the Referendum on the new Draft Constitution that took place yesterday in seventeen governorates, the process had been completed. According to the HEC decision, final results will be announced on Monday (tomorrow).

Due to the heated political conflict and violence between proponents and opponents of the Constitution, the Higher Electoral Commission (HEC) adopted several mechanisms in an effort to streamline and ensure success of the voting process as follows:

  • Applying two phases; each phase would cover a set of governorates representing the 50% of the electorate base.
  • Providing complete judiciary supervision.
  • Preventing voters from casting their votes in constituencies other than theirs.
  • Mandating the Egyptian Army to assist the Ministry of Interior in securing the Referendum process, maintaining security and protecting vital facilities until results are announced. In addition, granting the Armed Forces capacity of judiciary officers and relevant competencies.

The society experienced continuous controversy and heated debates among multiple parties around validity of the first phase's procedures and the indicated results of 56.3% and 43.7% approval and disapproval respectively. In this context, some of the political forces and civil society organizations requested for a complete run off of the first phase specially in response to announcing different voting results than how it appeared on real ground. But their attitude was exaggerated.

In this regard, EASD underscores the following:

  • EASD deployed 850 observers distributed over 15% of total polling stations during the first phase of the Referendum. In the second phase, it deployed 1200 observers covering 18% of total polling stations in the seventeen governorates. Total number of observers amounted to 2050.
  • EASD applied to the National Council for Human Rights to obtain the required permits, however, it maintains some reservations on the recent positions of the Council. In this regard, it aimed at securing its observers' right to perform their duty, citizens' right for a fair and just referendum, and the right of the Egyptian public opinion to be informed about developments of the voting process. In addition, it asked its observers to carry permits issued by the HEC during the last parliamentarian and presidential elections.
  • EASD submitted complete applications supported with necessary documents to the National Council for Human Rights to obtain 2057 monitoring permits. Indeed, it obtained the number of permits applied for.
  • EASD expressed strong reservation on the Council's action as it issued about 40 thousand monitoring permits for irrelevant organizations. In addition, that Council failed to apply clear criteria and rules that would ensure organizations' impartiality, as well as failure to confirm that the monitors in question received proper relevant training and knowledge.
  • EASD and its monitors had been committed to the international principles and rules related to the monitoring process. It also applied optimal level of methodology, objectivity and impartiality, regardless that the observers are citizens who have their own intellectual and political positions vis-a-vis one of the determinant national issues. In this context, EASD aimed at defending, maintaining legitimacy and strengthening values of the monitoring process in Egypt.

During the two days of the Referendum, EASD published releases and news updates of monitoring activities by means of a clear and transparent approach. Reports were published on the website: www.egyelections.org and social communication networks (Twitter @egelection - Facebook: www.facebook.com/egEASD).

In addition, it submitted official reports to HEC through the National Council for Human Rights regarding the violations. In turn, the Council delivered the reports officially to HEC for investigation purposes. EASD is awaiting investigation results before taking any legal action thereto.

According to monitoring results covering the voting process as well as first and second vote count, noting that EADS undertook monitoring an average of (16.5%) of total polling stations in both phases, EADS announces the following:

  • Violations occurred during the referendum had not been planned by any of the multiple parties involved in the process.
  • Administrative and security agencies in charge of supervising and securing the voting process refrained from intervening and directing the voting process.
  • The overall violations will not diminish the credibility of the voting process.

EASD is calling upon the HEC to set up a judiciary committee to conduct urgent investigations on the submitted reports, announce investigation results to the public opinion and introduce the involved parties to a fair trial.

EASD realizes that our homeland is undergoing a difficult phase coupled with sever political conflict around the Draft Constitution and Referendum, in addition to the societal heat up due to absence of national reconciliation around our determinative issues. Therefore, it calls upon all societal, political and intellectual parties to accept the results, and respect voters' will, whatever the results are.

Further, EASD stresses the importance of engaging into serious, free and unconditional national dialogue about all disputant issues. It also underscores rejecting exclusion, domination or arrogance approaches, in addition to commitment to legitimacy, democratic rules, mutual acceptance of the other, stopping exchanging hatred and inciting campaigns in order to build a modern national state that would accommodate everybody.

In the final report, EADS introduces the most important general indicators of the referendum monitoring process:

1. Position of Governmental Agencies in Charge of Managing the Electoral Process:

We can say that the government bodies in charge of the Referendum management and supervision were impartial, except for some individual cases. In this regard, EASD observers noted errors by some sub-committee heads, such as attempting to influence some voters toward a certain choice, or preventing observers from performing their monitoring role during the voting and counting processes. In other cases, committee heads allowed non entitled persons into the committee who sometimes assumed committee head duties. This casts doubt about the committee heads who might not be holding judge's capacity.

2. Governmental Agencies in Charge of Securing the Electoral Process:

EASD applauds the Ministry of Interior and Armed Forces cooperation for protecting, securing polling station in addition to streamlining the voting process, in spite of the huge crowds. However, observers monitored security members inside the polling stations which contradicts legal rules regulating the electoral process in terms of persons who are entitled access inside the polling stations. In other cases, Police and Armed Forces officers prevented EASD observers from performing their duties which is an unacceptable intervention.

3. State Facilities Were Not Used for Campaigning:

EASD affirms that the State had been keen to refrain from using public facilities to encourage the public for supporting the Referendum. It was very clear that State utilities and bodies had not been used for persuading voters, transporting and mobilizing supporters of the Constitution.

4. Persisting Logistical Deficiencies at the High Electoral Commission (HEC)

The HEC logistic arrangements of the committees in a number of governorates are still unsatisfactory; a matter we have repeatedly mentioned during previous elections. Nevertheless, nothing has changed in this referendum, such as the late opening of some polling stations which have become a common practice due to the late arrival of judges, the repeated complaints of extremely inadequate installations to receive the voters in the designated polling stations, lack of areas suitable to ensure voting confidentiality in some committees, failure to use phosphoric ink or the use of easily removable ink, and premature closure of some committees contrary to the HEC's decision to extend the voting time until 11pm.

5. Lack of Cooperation by the Supervising Committee with local NGOs

A most prominent negative aspect was the lack of cooperation between the supervising committee and local NGOs. There was no communication mechanism between the operation center of the HEC and that of the NGOs with permits, so as to exchange information, and receive complaints and statements issued by NGO field observers, ensuring speedy intervention to address and contain violations.

6. Observer Permit Crisis

The supervising committee utterly failed to organize local observation on the voting process. Having issued a decision to allow local NGOs to observe the referendum with permits issued during previous parliamentary and presidential elections, the supervising committee reassigned the observation task to the National Council of Human Rights which issued 45,000 permits to NGOs and centers that have no previous experience in observation, are newly engaged in legal work, and tend to have a partisan or political background.

As opposed to previous practice, the permits or authorization issued by the NCHR did not include any documented information on the observers, or the NGOs or institutions they represent.

Therefore, the EASD requests the establishment of an independent and permanent commission to manage all electoral events, with an annual budget and administrative body and technical secretariat, so as to enhance its performance and grant it further organizational capacity to manage the various aspects of the electoral events, and to strengthen its relationship and interactivity with the NGOs and their field observers.

7. Decline in Voter Turnout

Compared to previous parliamentary and presidential elections, the turnout in the referendum declined to 31% of the total electorate. The opposition maintained the call for boycotting the referendum, until the eve of the referendum, where they decided to participate and vote against the constitution, opting for the legitimate use of ballot boxes.

In addition to the communal and political division, absence of national consensus regarding the constitution - with the ensuing political debates, fierce popular mobilization conflicts over the last days between supporters and opponents, which claimed tens of victims and casualties from both sides, as well as the sharp division amongst judges with regard to supervising the referendum process, and the exchange of besieging various establishments - such as the Presidential Palace, the Constitutional Court, the Tahrir Administrative Compound, and the Media Production City. As such, the participation rate might have been affected, especially under the current economic deterioration.

8. Slow Voting Procedures

The slow voting procedures were a most salient aspect characterizing the two-day referendum, as exhausted voters were crammed in solid lines for long hours due to committees merging, failure to hang voter lists, and creation of some arguments and scuffles inside the committee to disrupt voting. Further, it is worth mentioning that the referendum was carried out for one day in each governorate, whereas the previous presidential elections were carried out in two days, which is the main reason for the crowding situation.

9. Checked Ballot and Manipulation in some Committees

During the second round, the EASD observers noted several gross violations representing grave breaches of internationally recognized rules and principles on free, fair, and honest elections. Ballot papers were checked and manipulated in some committees, which was documented in many reports.

The EASD requests the HEC to undertake speedy investigations on the violations we have reported through the NCHR, announce the outcomes of these investigations, commit the perpetrators to immediate trial, and cancel the results of the relevant committees.

10. Sectarian-based Voting

In both rounds of the referendum, a few days prior to the voting day, there were forms of religious campaigning mobilization via mosques and churches, which again emerged amongst the supporters and opponents. A sectarian trend in the voting process was obvious through our field observers' monitoring activities.

Religious polarization and campaigning prior to and during the voting process were represented by the application and support of Sharia; as opposed to a polarization to address Islamic expansion and Copt protection in Egypt.

11. The Phenomenon of Electoral Violence

As previously emphasized, political fanaticism is still one of the most prominent scenes in the Egyptian elections. This was also apparent in the second round, where our observers noted many arguments and scuffles between supporters and opponents, which brought back to our minds the violent electoral scenes before the Revolution, where tens of casualties and hundreds of injuries were resulting from any electoral process with the presence of real competition. In this context, the EASD stresses upon this dangerous phenomenon which would jeopardize any forthcoming electoral events, and requires the implementation of legal provisions in this regard.

12. Exchange of Anti-Media Campaigning

The EASD warns against the continual use of modern media and social communication websites by those supporters and opponents who are promoting rumors that aim to influence somehow the voters' will and choices, and foment political fanaticism, hostile communities, and religious sectarianism; all of which threatens social peace in the country.

13. Updated Electoral Lists

From the first moment, the HEC supervising the referendum has declared an increase in the electorate from 50 million in the last presidential elections to 51 million and 330,000 voters in this present referendum. The HEC relied upon the updated records of the Civil Affairs Authority.

14. Vote Counting Procedures

Most sub-committee heads complied with the HEC decision to allow observers to attend the vote count. The EASD observers noted that some sub-committee heads began the vote count whilst voting was still proceeding, in contravention with the legal regulations governing the vote count procedures. Security forces were seen by the committees, however, and no incidents showed their interference in the vote count.

15- Precipitation to Announce the Results

In the first round of the referendum, both opponents and supporters sought to confirm their victory once the voting was completed, based upon their representatives present in the sub-committees. A few hours after the vote count, the National Salvation Front (NSF) announced the result of 66% opponents to the constitution; whereas "Misr 25″ - a channel reflecting the opinions of the Muslim Brotherhood - announced the results of those supporting the constitution.

This represents a serious breach of the electoral process, undermining the credibility of the official results to be announced by the HEC, casting doubts on the results, and negatively affecting community acceptance of these results.

Remarks and Recommendations

In conclusion, the EASD stresses upon a set of remarks and recommendations in order to support democratic development, mainly:

• To carry out immediate investigations by the HEC regarding the complaints received, through a judicial committee; announce the outcomes of such investigations; commit the perpetrators to a fair trial; and cancel the results of the committees affected by manipulation of ballot papers or that were prematurely closed.

• To review the legal rules governing the electoral process with the aim to address legislative shortcomings that impede the application of deterrents and effective punishments for those who commit legal violations.

• To establish an independent and permanent commission to manage all electoral events, with an annual budget, an administrative body and a technical secretariat, so as to enhance the said commission's performance and provide it with further organizational capacity to manage the various activities of the electoral events and to strengthen its relationship and interactivity with the NGOs and their field observers.

In this scope, the EASD affirms that compliance with impartial and transparent standards will endorse the referendum's credibility and contribute to the acceptance of its results, while failing to punish transgressors will undermine the voting credibility of any upcoming elections.

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