26 December 2012

Egypt: Nation's Constitution Passes

As Egypt struggles to set up a new political system, a new body has assumed law making powers. The upper house of parliament, the Shura Council, has ... ( Resource: Egypt's Parliament Sets Agenda Ahead of Polls )

press release

The Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi signed a decree Tuesday night that put the new constitution into effect after the Supreme Election Commission announced the official results of the referendum held over the past two weekends. It said the constitution has passed with a 63.8 percent "Yes" and 36.2 percent "No". Turnout of 32.9 percent of Egypt's nearly 52 million registered voters was lower than most other elections since the uprising nearly two years ago that ousted authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak. Morsi is expected to call for a new election of parliament's lawmaking lower house within two months.

The civil society organizations in Egypt observed the referendum and submitted many complaints regarding electoral violations to the Supreme Election Commission. The CSOs also filed lawsuits for abolishing declaration of the referendum results, but it is clear that the commission did not care about the CSOs complaints and declared the results. CSOs submitted many electoral complaints related to electoral bribery, late opening of the polling stations, absence of juridical supervision, revolving doors, banning observers of CSOs from entering many polling stations etc. when the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) analyzed the reactions of the Supreme Election Commission, it found the following:

- The Supreme Election Commission stated that it has updated the voter database on November 30, 2012, which added 385960 voters to the voter lists, but the observers of EOHR found many problems in the voter lists. For example, the name of the late voter Nemat Tofils Kaldas, who died in 2010, was found in the voter lists of the referendum of 2012, under no. 3394.

- The head of the Supreme Election Commission declared full judiciary supervision on the referendum without any major administrative or logistic problems, but EOHR observers documented merging many polling stations to each other to face the lack of supervision judges. The number of voters was between 4000 and 6000 in each polling station, although the electoral experts stated that only 1500 voters, maximum, can vote in a single polling station. The head of the Supreme Election Commission said that only judges were supervising the referendum, but the observers of EOHR witnessed absence of many judges. For example, according to the observer of EOHR, the supervisor of the polling station no. 2 in Abu Al Hol Kawmia Primary School was a legal researcher at the Administrative Prosecution Office, not a judge. The Supreme Election Commission should have investigated the electoral complaints and abolished the results of the polling stations that had not been supervised by judges, in order not to affect fairness and transparency of the referendum.

- The head of the Supreme Election Commission did not comment on the documented electoral fraud incidents.

- The head of the Supreme Election Commission declared that 40000 of the media specialists and observers, who were given observation accreditations during the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2011/2012, were allowed in the polling stations, in addition to agreement of the Supreme Election Commission and the National Council for Human Rights on issuing new accreditations for referendum observation. According to EOHR observers, they were banned from entering, for instance, the polling stations no. 33 and 34 in Sanafir Basic Education School in Kalyoubia. Also how the National Council for Human Rights observes the referendum on the draft constitution when the head of the council is the head of the National Constituent Assembly that prepared the draft. EOHR also noticed that the observers of the National Council for Human Rights are members of Freedom and Justice Political Party.

- The head of the Supreme Election Commission ignored the electoral complaints related to freezing the voting process for hours in many polling stations, banning some voters from voting, electoral bribery, group voting, unstamped ballots, non-existence of curtains or phosphoric ink and campaigning materials on fences of polling centers.

To sum-up, EOHR stated that the Supreme Election Commission should have investigated the electoral complaints submitted by the independent civil society organizations that observed many elections before and after the Egyptian revolution. These organizations are truly highly qualified and experienced enough to do that job in a good way and their findings should have been taken into account. The Supreme Election Commission should have waited until the end of the investigations on the submitted electoral complaints before declaration of the results in order not to affect fairness and transparency of the referendum. The results should have reflected the real well of the Egyptian people concerning the constitution that will systematize the political life and lead Egypt to speedy democratic transformation, social justice and freedom after the revolution.

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