Parliamentary candidates took advantage of the Eid Al-Adha holiday and the preparations for the start of the new school term to launch their campaigns for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The move by the candidates was in violation of the laws set by the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), which scheduled the official start date for campaigning for 29 September.
According to a report issued Monday by the International-Local Mission of the NGO Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights to observe elections, many candidates took the opportunity to distribute “meat and other presents to residents in their electoral constituencies”.
Maat’s mission, covering 164 electoral constituencies in 17 governorates across Egypt, gave examples of violations in the Cairo electoral district of Azbakeya and Qasr Al-Nil, where a candidate named Mohamed Al-Massoud distributed free meat.
In another reported incident in Port Said, candidate Sherif Hegazy established a sales outlet where 1 kg of meat cost EGP 18, in comparison to its regular market price of nearly EGP 70.
In the three days of the Eid Al-Adha holiday, from 24 to 27 September, candidates took the opportunity to use celebratory promotional posters. Furthermore, and ahead of the new academic term which kicked off on Monday, several candidates distributed free school materials, including notebooks on which their pictures were printed.
The official SEC spokesperson, Omar Marwan, told the press that he had received several complaints regarding ‘early campaigning’, including notification of candidates appearing on TV channels.
Electoral campaigns were supposedly frozen on 16 September, one day before the voting began for Egyptians abroad.
Meanwhile, according to the SEC, over 17,000 permits were issued to local observers, with nearly 700 issued to international organisations, in addition to almost 4,000 to media outlets.
Maat’s mission includes representatives from the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), which observed the previous presidential elections in May 2014.
In statements to Daily News Egypt in mid-September, COMESA Representative Odette Mutanjoha said COMESA, which is made up of 19 African states including Egypt, was invited by Egypt to observe the elections.
“We are deploying 56 people, coming from different member countries, which include government officials, representative of elections bodies and civil society, as the mission is headed by Chairman of Elders Felix Mutati of the Republic of Zambia,” Mutanjoha said.
She added that they would be partnering with other organisations, as they cannot cover a large country like Egypt alone.
“However, we will be observing as an independent organisation, and we will issue our own report,” she stated.
For his part, Maat Director Ayman Okeil said the joint mission includes 500 international observers, 74 translators, and 2,015 local observers, covering 80% of Egypt’s electoral constituencies.
In previous statements to Daily News Egypt, Okeil said: “What we observed is that potential parliamentary candidates, regardless of how likely they are going to be accepted, are practicing electoral advertisement and acting as MPs in their electoral constituencies.”
“They are buying votes by exploiting people’s needs, they are using worship places to promote themselves, that is why both candidates and voters’ awareness needs to be raised, in order to guarantee elections’ transparency, our ultimate goal,” Okeil added,
On a different note, the SEC delayed the announcement of candidates to Tuesday rather than the initial date of Monday, as the court is finalising appeals cases against candidates.