By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: The Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring elections stated Tuesday that it will refrain from monitoring the elections if the government refuses to allow the supervision of civil society organizations or if the elections lack transparency.
The coalition, which consists of 123 different human rights and development organizations, stated in a press conference on Tuesday that it is going to file a request to the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) on Thursday to be authorized to monitor elections.
“Monitoring the elections’ transparency is not only the responsibility of the government or civil society organizations; it’s the responsibility of every Egyptian citizen,” said Kamel Abbas, the general coordinator of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers Services.
“If the [government] refuses our request … voting members of the coalition will monitor the elections as voting citizens, and will record and write reports regarding any violations that might occur,” said Hafez Abu Saeda, president of the Egyptian Organization of Human Rights.
Abu Seda added that if this attempt fails, the coalition will be forced to announce its withdrawal from monitoring the elections due to the lack of transparency.
“In this case, we can’t mislead the people,” Abu Saeda said. “They have the right to know that the elections are rigged and lack transparency.”
The panelists stated that the SEC has already enforced “too many” restrictions on human rights organizations desiring to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled to take place on Nov. 28.
Any human rights organization that wants to register for monitoring the elections needs to be registered with the Ministry of Social Solidarity and must prove that it specializes in politics and supervising elections, according to Abu Saeda.
The coalition’s panelists stated that violations had already been detected before the elections have even begun, including how the constituencies have been divided and how the electoral lists of registered voters have been drafted.
“According to the law, the SEC is supposed to be responsible for … the electoral process from A to Z,” Abu Saeda said. “Yet we found that the Ministry of Interior is the one that divided the constituencies and drafted the electoral lists.”
The panelists also criticized the government’s crackdown on the media — from shutting down several religious channels to revoking the licenses of satellite television uplinks, ordering companies to reapply for them.
This decision will force satellite TV stations that want to hold live broadcasts of the elections or conduct live interviews with analysts to utilize the services of government-owned Media Productions City, according to Sameh Ahmed, the leader of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.
Ahmed said that his institute, along with the United Journalists Foundation, will monitor the state and independent media during the elections to evaluate the objectivity of the media. Reports revealing their findings will be issued as quickly as possible.
“We have information that certain satellite channels on Nilesat are prepared to give air time to any candidate that pays [them the most],” Ahmed said. “We want to follow up on this and monitor it.”
Abu Saeda said that the current political situation in Egypt isn’t promising, “But I still have hope that the promises [of free and fair elections made by] President [Hosni] Mubarak and the Prime Minister [Ahmed Nazif] … are true.”