Egyptian polls open amid accusation of election fraud

Middle East
on 14 Comments
red ink egypt
(Photo: David Degner)

Today red index fingers paint Egypt. They are symbolic marks for the post-Mubarak era changes, however as the indelible ink that stains voters’ skin at the polls wears off after 24 hours, so will the guises the elections as “fair.”

After ten days of demonstrations in Tahrir Square and major cities across Egypt, which killed 41 people and wounded thousands, the Egyptian government opened polls for the first day of three tiers of elections that will take place through March 2012. This last wave of mass dissidence in Egyptian cities also included a ninth bombing of a gas pipeline with Israel (the second bombing in the last two weeks). Some Egyptian groups are boycotting the elections, including the Democratic Coalition, who called the three-tiered process with reserved seats for independents in a third of the parliament as “independents and candidates from the old regime.”

The elections process is complicated. There are over 10,000 candidates from 50 political parties. The country is divided into three voting districts, with different polling dates, and voting takes place over a two-day period, with no international election monitors. Under Mubarak, international observers were deemed unconstitutional, and in 2007 a system of staining voter’s index fingers with a red indelible ink was implemented. The red is used in other countries, Iraq and India, and it’s use is to stop election fraud by ensuring voters only vote once. However, the ink wears away after 24 hours, and with two days of elections the major source of accountability is mute. The red ink is not only a symbol of change, but a symbol of no change; as it blends itself out of existence, so does the guise of fair elections, with social trust from the people, and political accountability from the parties.

In July, international observers were scheduled to bring delegations to monitor the elections, however the SCAF military government canceled the observers, and transferred the monitoring process to the SCAF controlled judiciary. Earlier this month, there was a brief possibility of a delegation from Occupy Wall St., where $29,000 was allocated to monitor elections, however the funds were rescinded following an open letter from Egyptian activist citing “confusion” over the move to monitor elections, and the rumors of U.S. government involvement in using the Occupy Wall St. movement to legitimize the elections of a “puppet parliament”.

The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikwan) and the Wafd Party also allege that widespread voter fraud took place in the first day of polling, where in previous elections the Muslim Brotherhood won 20% of the vote, this time, they have yet to win one seat. Abdel Galil el-Sharnoub from the Muslim Brotherhood said “the elections revealed the real intention of the regime – to unilaterally take over the Egyptian political arena.” The elections reveal that SCAF similar to Mubarak not only in brutal crackdowns, but in politics.
 

14 Responses

  1. Walid
    November 29, 2011, 7:57 am

    The military is not going anywhere and it’s not transferring power to anyone. Everything else is detail. When Mubarak was deposed, it was the military doing it. Now it’s surprise time for the Brothers that were tricked by both the military and the US.

    • Chaos4700
      November 29, 2011, 9:08 am

      I get the impression if the military keeps up with these shenanigans, the Egyptian people won’t merely keep protesting, they’ll escalate things. And of course so will the military, but sooner or later things are going to fall apart.

      And even if it doesn’t, the whole world situation at least gets one step closer to changing. Obama can whinge and make empty speeches days after the fact all he likes, but what’s going on in Egypt demonstrates how corrupt US hegemony is. The Egyptian military has so many resources because they get a massive stipend from Uncle Sam — just like the Israeli government, only not quite as exorbitant.

      • DBG
        November 29, 2011, 9:41 am

        A civil war in Egypt would look a lot different than a civil war in Libya.

      • Chaos4700
        November 30, 2011, 9:19 am

        Well, since I can’t comment about the topic, thanks to the moderators, let me just make a comment about how ridiculous “moderation” is becoming here. When one specific person is allowed to slander the WHOLE blog, everyone, as anti-Semites and whenever a particular person attempts to confront libel like that, it’s that person’s comments (guess who) that gets blocked?

        You know, this makes all the articles on the blog complaining about censorship promoted by the Zionist Lobby out to be hypocritical. We have plenty of censorship right here. We have a class structure on the blog, right here, where certain people have privileged access and can basically say whatever they want, and other people have to walk as if they’re trying to cross a minefield because if there is ANYTHING provocative in their post, its their post that gets banned, never mind that the post they are replying to is ten times as vile.

        While this blog emulates the dynamics of the Israel Lobby and its adjuncts, while there are similar hierarchies and economies of privilege, it will be COMPLETELY ineffective. And that’s why certain Zionist commentators get to run roughshod and hijack our comment sections, spam us with anti-Arab/anti-Muslim propaganda and squelch debate here, just like they squelch it everywhere else there is discourse on Palestinian rights that doesn’t only take place in Arabic.

  2. Justice Please
    November 29, 2011, 1:31 pm

    Vote fraud is always a possibility, sadly. The people need to make sure that their vote is counted correctly. That’s a lot harder than getting the right to vote in the first place.

  3. annie
    November 29, 2011, 1:56 pm

    over 10,000 candidates from 50 political parties.

    eee gads.

    thanks for a comprehensive article about a confusing election process that sounds ripe for fraud.

  4. annie
    November 29, 2011, 8:22 pm

    Egypt imports 21 tons of tear gas from the US, port staff refuses to sign for it

    a little present from the US to egypt (not the egyptians) on election day.

  5. ulindsey
    November 30, 2011, 3:13 am

    I’m a journalist based in Cairo and this post contains serious factual mistakes.

    “Some Egyptian groups are boycotting the elections, including the Democratic Coalition, who called the three-tiered process with reserved seats for independents in a third of the parliament as “independents and candidates from the old regime.”

    Seats were reserved for independents in an early draft of the electoral law — in the final draft, one third is simply reserved for individual candidates (belonging to a party or not), as opposed to 2/3 reserved for party lists. The Democratic Coalition, or Democratic Alliance, is the Muslim-Brotherhood-led list and most certainly did not boycott the elections.

    “…voting takes place over a two-day period, with no international election monitors. In July, international observers were scheduled to bring delegations to monitor the elections, however the SCAF military government canceled the observers, and transferred the monitoring process to the SCAF controlled judiciary.”

    NDI, The Carter Center and two other international organizations (I can’t remember the names) were allowed to observe the elections. Judicial supervision of elections is a long-standing tradition and viewed by many Egyptians as the main guarantee of electoral integrity — the return of judicial supervision was a demand of the Jan 25 revolution, was approved by popular referendum last March and was always part of the plan. The judges oversee the voting process and their presence bears no relation to international observers. There were hundreds if not thousands of domestic monitors.

    “The Muslim Brotherhood (Ikwan) and the Wafd Party also allege that widespread voter fraud took place in the first day of polling, where in previous elections the Muslim Brotherhood won 20% of the vote, this time, they have yet to win one seat.”

    I have seen no such allegations. There have been reports of irregularities, some violence, campaigning infractions and logistical shortcomings but most parties — and the Brotherhood in particular — have been very celebratory of the entire process. The Muslim Brothers haven’t won a seat — no one has won a seat — because the election results aren’t out yet (they are expected on Wednesday).

    It may that fraud took place during these elections. But we don’t know yet. This article presents incorrect information about the election process and the positions and statements of Egyptians parties.

    • James North
      November 30, 2011, 9:04 am

      ulindsey is entirely right. Thanks for the corrections.

    • Chaos4700
      November 30, 2011, 9:44 am

      Rock on, thanks for taking the time to contribute vital information like this to the blog.

  6. Walid
    November 30, 2011, 11:55 am

    From the London Evening Standard:

    Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood ‘trying to rig poll with gifts’
    Bel Trew
    30 Nov 2011

    The Muslim Brotherhood was today accused of attempting to rig Egypt’s election by handing out gifts and food at polling stations in a desperate attempt to win power.

    Witnesses told the Evening Standard that the Islamist party, which is expected to secure a large share of the votes, had a strong presence both inside and outside polling stations.

    Onlookers claimed some Brotherhood groups were allowed to set up tables with laptop computers in order to show “people how to vote”.

    Voting laws passed after the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s regime in February outlaw bribes or campaigning inside or near polling stations.

    Today voting continued with turnout again reported to be high. Student Mariam, who would not give her full name for fear of reprisals said: “I wanted to boycott the elections, as the parliament will have no power and because of what happened in Tahrir, but if we don’t vote the Muslim Brotherhood will win the majority.”

    But there is growing support for the Muslim Brotherhood with many claiming the party is the best option to bring order to Egypt.

    “The Freedom and Justice Party (Muslim Brotherhood) are the most organised party right now,” said Hossam, 39, an insurance broker who went to a Catholic school in Cairo.

    “They have a religious view but they are the only ones who have a good plan for the country.” The outcome of the election will indicate whether Egypt will remain secular or move down an Islamic path as have other countries swept up in the Arab Spring.

    Zeinab Saad, 50, said: “I am voting for this country’s sake. We want a new beginning. Its a great thing to feel like your vote matters.”
    The complicated voting process is staggered over the next six weeks across 27 provinces, divided into thirds with run-offs held a week after the first round in each location.

    Voters have to pick two individuals and one alliance or party slate – a system that has left many of the 50 million eligible voters puzzled and apparently undecided.

    • Chaos4700
      November 30, 2011, 10:53 pm

      I think it’s pretty laughable that giving out aid during a time of crisis is considered “trying to rig the polls” by British media. I’m pretty sure in order to “rig the polls,” you have to be sticking your hand in the ballot box.

      I have to say, I’m very disappointed by the distinct anti-Middle Eastern bent that the UK seems to be taking at the moment. To be blunt, it looks an awful lot like Brits are being tugged by a leash that goes straight to the White House. Again.

  7. Walid
    December 1, 2011, 12:52 am

    The Brothers are on their way to winning big. Smart campaigners and appearing to be the only ones with any sense organization in these elections.

    From AP:

    The fundamentalist Brotherhood was emerging as the biggest winner in partial results Wednesday from the first voting this week in Egypt’s landmark election in which voters turned out in unexpected droves.

    That strength is not necessarily testimony to widespread Egyptian support for its Islamist ideology. More crucial were two other major factors: the Brotherhood’s history of helping the poor and a highly disciplined organization of activists, who on the two days of voting seemed to be everywhere.

    Outside polling stations around the country, Brotherhood activists were set up with laptop computers in booths, helping voters find their district and voter numbers — which they wrote on cards advertising the party’s candidates. Elsewhere, they posted activists outside to wave banners, pass out flyers or simply chat up voters waiting in line.

    And in a marked change from previous elections, when Brotherhood members running as independents touted their Islamic credentials, this time their campaign focused on promises to improve services, to appeal to poor voters.

    For decades, the Mubarak regime suppressed the Brotherhood, which was banned but still established a vast network of activists and charities offering free food and medical services. It transformed this into a potent campaign machine, holding rallies and wallpapering neighborhoods with banners for its Freedom and Justice Party. After voting closed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on Tuesday night, Brothers even lined up to protect the road while ballot boxes were moved to the counting center.

    During the voting Monday and Tuesday, many parties violated a legal ban on campaigning during elections, but the Brotherhood’s operation was by far the slickest and most widespread. The campaigning at the polls is particularly effective because so many parties are new and most Egyptians know almost nothing about them.

    Abdel-Hamid, the first time voter, said he received the flyer telling him how to vote from “the guys with the computer.”

    They sat across the street in front of a huge Freedom and Justice Party banner, punching voters’ ID numbers into their computer to get their voter numbers and make sure they were in the right place.

    … The election is likely to be the best indicator of Egyptians’ political sentiments after decades of elections under Mubarak that were so rigged that few people even bothered to vote. The parliament it seats will play a role in determining if Egypt’s new government remains secular or moves in a profoundly Islamist direction.

    The Obama administration on Wednesday hailed the vote as Egypt’s freest and fairest ever. This week’s voting took place in nine of Egypt’s 27 provinces, including the capital Cairo. In subsequent rounds, other provinces will take their turn in a process that will last till March.

    Partial results reported by judges overseeing the count showed the Brotherhood leading, though the extent of their win was not clear. The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice party is likely to win a strong plurality — and some of its leaders Wednesday claimed it captured half the first round vote.

    Mustafa Mohammed Khalifa, a 28-year-old voter in the village of Elwan in central Egypt, said little distinguished the parties in the eyes of his poor farming community, where most people live on government-subsidized bread and suffer from poor sanitation, roads, schools and hospitals. But all knew the Brotherhood’s reputation for providing charity.

    “The Muslim Brotherhood never helped here, but at least we know them,” he said. “They aren’t extreme liberals or extreme conservatives.”

    Many criticized the Brotherhood’s tactics, though few deny they gave them an edge at the polls.

    “They outspent, outworked and politically outclassed the other political parties by a huge factor,” said Elijah Zarwan, a political analyst who specializes in Egypt.

    …”They’re not playing it fair,” said Carmen George, a Coptic Christian who pointed to Brotherhood activists outside her polling station in the Cairo neighborhood of Nasr City.

    “It’s not guiding (voters). It’s manipulating them,” she said.

    The Brotherhood operation in the neighborhood showed the blurriness of the line between campaigning and “assisting voters.” Its activists sat behind a sign reading “Information” while female volunteers chatted up voters near the entrance.

    None wore party logos, leading some voters to think they were from the state election commission.

    While most voters merely needed help getting their numbers, one volunteer told an undecided voter to choose the scale, the soccer goal and the crocodile — the campaign symbols of the party and its two local candidates. The symbols, on campaign literature and the ballot, are to help illiterate people recognize their choices.

    Nearby, Brotherhood volunteer Siham Sobhi wore a badge reading “information committee.”

    “I ask people who they want to vote for and if they say they don’t know, I tell them I am with Freedom and Justice,” she said. “I don’t tell them how to vote, but I describe my position.”

    Full article
    link to news.yahoo.com

  8. Walid
    December 1, 2011, 3:31 am

    To get back to what Allison wrote, she wasn’t totally wrong since 60 days ago, the Democratic Coalition that included the Muslim Brotherhood and 25 other Islamist groupies had effectively threatened to boycott the elections if SCAF didn’t reconsider its new electoral law that had been tailored to pave the way back into Parliament for the former Mubarak people after the dissolution of Mubarak’s party. This made Allison’s information dated but still correct if we go back in time.

    As to her story about there being no monitors, again it was a matter of mistakes in the dates of the news. In fact, the SCAF was categorically refusing monitors, like in the days of Mubarak, under the same guise that this infringed on Egypt’s sovereignty and it was only late in the game that international observers were accepted by SCAF on the condition that they be called “observers” and not “monitors”. Holland had already allocated 300.000 Euros to cover the cost of the monitoring process. US groups approved to participate were from the International Republican Institute (I.R.I.), National Democratic Institute (N.D.I.) and the Carter Organization. There were also Danish, Polish, Turkish, and South African organizations as well as AI and some Egyptian groups.

    11 days before the lections, 10,000 judges were still undecided on whether or not to participate in watching over the elections and because of threats received, they took out special life and accident insurance policies to cover them during the elections.

    Allison’s information was factual but outdated; it would have helped to have ulindsay mention this little detail.

    A bit of insight from Wiki on the problems of forming new political parties brought up by SCAF:

    “… On March 28, 2011, the Council introduced the Political Party Law which eases restrictions on the legal establishment of new political parties in Egypt. The legislation has still however been criticized as discriminatory. Under the law new parties are now required to have at least 5000 members from at least ten of Egypt’s provinces. Originally new parties were only required to have 1000 members. This would make it harder for new parties to form before parliamentary elections scheduled for September 2011. And new party leaders are required to raise at least LE1 million to publish the names of the founding members in two widely-circulated dailies, seen as favoring wealthier interests. Also no parties are able to form on the basis of religion or class, ruling out the formation of Islamic and labor parties.

    link to en.wikipedia.org

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