CAIRO: Following in the foot steps of politically active organizations, public university students decided to form a group to monitor last week’s student union elections and have issued a report documenting their observing.
All of the major student groups participated in this joint committee including the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Wafd Party, the Democratic Front Party, Al Ghad Party, Al Nassery Party and the socialist students.
With the help of the Egyptian Association for Supporting Democracy and the Egyptian Center for Development and Democratic Studies, the student committee issued the elections report.
Student unions in public universities have always been at the core of the country’s political scene. Opposition groups accuse the government of allowing only students affiliated with the National Democratic Party (NDP) and others approved by state security to reach the union.
Civil Society organizations say that university administration and state security appoint students of their choice every year, while harassing students who are affiliated with political opposition groups.
Last week’s student union elections were marred with clashes between students and uniformed and plainclothes security forces.
University administration insists that the group of students elected to the union were chosen correctly but civil society has denounced the results, claiming that the process was rigged, a belief that has triggered a number of protests and sit-ins.
The report was critical of the administration at different universities. It detailed violations that started with election announcement and accepting application to the voting process.
The report said that the administration crossed out names of independent students from the candidates’ lists. The report noted that the administration has deliberately made some students ineligible for nomination by putting them under investigation with the possibility of facing disciplinary measures. Nominees are required to have a “good conduct record.
Students affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) are reportedly at the center of this discrimination.
Ali El-Sayed El-Deeb, professor in the Faculty of Commerce, disagrees. “The brotherhood students are not singled out by the faculty’s administration or the security, he told Daily News Egypt. “The problem is that the Brotherhood insists on doing activities in an illegitimate way,
In Cairo University, 140 students have been investigated so far, according to the report.
Shedding light on the election process itself, observers said the government intentionally planned to not give independent students enough time to prepare and apply for the student union.
Although the 1979 students’ regulations stipulate that the elections process starts around the end of November, students were taken by surprise when the announcement for nominations was posted on Oct. 16, the day after Eid Al-Fitr vacation.
Accepting applications was limited to this day. The report said that some faculties started accepting applications after 11 am, which further limited the time students had to submit their applications.
Moreover, some faculties refused to accept applications from students who were previously under disciplinary punishments or under investigation. This move was meant to limit the number of Brotherhood candidates, the report claimed. The MB students said some of them couldn’t run in the elections on the grounds that they were detained before for political reasons.
Some faculties were even less fortunate. According to the report, the faculty of engineering at Ain Shams University did not even announce that they were accepting applications.
Other faculties only accepted applications from students who were in last year’s Student Union, according to the report.
Those who were able to hand in their applications faced other obstacles, the report continued.
The administration placed a new condition for student applications: They had to submit a statement from the Students Affairs’ office proving that they take part in university activities. First year students had to get this paper from their high school.
Some students claim the administration of applying this condition to deter “unwanted students. They say this makes it easier to remove students they do not approve of since the paper is issued by the administration itself.
Making it to the preliminary list announced on Oct. 21 wasn’t the end of the road. The report said Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Hussein, a fourth year faculty of commerce student at Ain Shams University, and three others were detained after campaigning for his candidacy.
By the time the final list of candidates was released on Oct. 22, more than 300 names were crossed out in Cairo University alone, according to the report. Only 139 students of these students are affiliated with the MB. The rest are independents.
With all these names crossed out, the remaining number of candidates was less than the number of seats in the union in most faculties. Since there weren’t enough students running in the final round, candidates won the seats without elections.
Opposition students claim this is a game to legitimize the appointment of certain students to the student union.
However, El Deeb insists that the students who submitted all the necessary paperwork were not crossed out. “We only removed students who didn’t submit the papers proving that they are active inside the university, El Deeb explained.
On the other hand, crossed out MB students insist that they provided all the papers that were asked of them.
The faculty of law was one of the very few faculties where students were able to vote. The polls opened at 10 am closed at noon, only to reopen from 2:30 to 3 pm.
The report also denounced the security’s reaction to peaceful student demonstrations which took place last week to protest the crossing out of independent and affiliated students.
In Ain Shams University a group of students organized a sit-in to protest the crossing out. The report said the students had to face thugs in the process. The Muslim Brotherhood said security forces facilitated the entrance of the thugs to the university campus.
A number of brotherhood students were detained and several were injured. A photographer from Al Dostour daily newspaper was injured and hospitalized after security forces beat him and took his camera’s memory card.