Egyptian polls open amid accusation of election fraud

Middle East
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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of a delegation from Occupy Wall St., where $29,000 was allocated to monitor elections, however the funds were rescinded following an open letter from Egyptian activist citing “confusion” over the move to monitor elections, and the rumors of U.S. government involvement in using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.

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