By Sarah Carr
CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak should dissolve the People’s Assembly (PA), a coalition of NGOs said Monday.
“Serious challenges now strongly surround the legitimacy of the People’s Assembly if it is formed according to the announced results of the parliamentary elections held on Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 2010,” the Independent Coalition for Elections Observation (ICEO) said.
Restrictions on public freedoms and the media, administrative and security harassment of civil society organizations, limitations on the right to protest, and the use of excessive force against demonstrators were, according to the ICEO, some of the “widespread violations” that set “Egypt 15 years back.”
In 2007, constitutional changes were implemented which abolished the judicial supervision of elections and replaced them with a high commission that possessed limited powers. This change “consolidated” vote rigging and forgery practices, the ICEO stated.
The ICEO is comprised of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Nazra for Feminist Studies, and the Egyptian Association for Community Participation and Enhancement
Polling and ballot counting stations were “breeding grounds” for violations following the denied entry of candidates and their representatives, as well as the expulsion of — and attacks against — election monitors representing civil society organizations, the NGOs said.
“This was especially apparent during the second round, which saw the official withdrawal of Al-Wafd party and the Muslim Brotherhood in an act of protest against the rigging of the elections,” the ICEO statement reads.
The ICEO maintained that “violence, administrative obstinacy, and security harassment” led to the ruling National Democratic Party’s (NDP) total domination of the 64 quota seats set aside for female PA candidates.
“This situation has contributed to the failure of the quota system, which is seen by many to only mean more seats for the NDP,” said the ICEO. “In addition, this has contributed to the failure of the social acceptance of women as political actors. Since all the winners of the quota seats are of the ruling party, their political discourse will not differ from that of the NDP, and the whole situation limits political empowerment to women affiliated [with the NDP].”
European Union (EU) High Representative Catherine Ashton meanwhile stated that measures taken by the Egyptian government and the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) to increase transparency in the elections process were “insufficient,” and that she was “concerned” by reports of “irregularities.”
“I encourage the Egyptian authorities to respond to these concerns. The EU will continue to call on the Egyptian government to permit domestic and international monitors to observe future elections.”
Spokesperson for the US Department of State Megan Mattson said that Egyptians can only gain full confidence in their country’s electoral process “when the government is able to address existing laws and [can] ensure full and transparent access for independent civil society monitors and candidate representatives.”
Mattson did not specifically mention any fraud or any of the other voting infractions that the Egyptian government has been accused of perpetrating.
“We hope that all necessary improvements will be made swiftly to ensure that future elections are free and fair,” Mattson added.
Mattson also noted that the SEC in Egypt now has the “responsibility to undertake investigations into alleged election violations,” and that the courts have received complaints. –Additional reporting by AP