By Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: Less than 48 hours before the much anticipated People’s Assembly elections, governmental and non-governmental organizations alike are taking last minute action before Egyptians cast their ballots this Sunday.
The Administrative Court cancelled the Sunday elections in 24 districts after its orders to reinstate opposition and independent candidates were ignored by officials. These include 12 districts in the Nile Delta governorates, 10 districts in Alexandria, and two in Upper Egypt.
Refuting allegations that the judges designated to monitor the elections were handpicked by the government, head of the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) Judge Sayed Abdel Aziz stated that judges were chosen according to the order in which each applied for election monitoring. Abdel Aziz added that they have not denied any applicants over reasons related to politics or security.
The Administrative Court ruled last week that the SEC can increase the number of judges that will monitor the elections at supplementary polling stations. Currently, there are 2,287 judges and judicial staff that have been assigned to monitor the Nov. 28 elections.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) released a statement expressing its deep concern over the preparatory stages of the parliamentary elections.
“The EMHRN is mainly concerned that, although the elections will be held on Nov. 28, there is as of yet no definitive list with the numbers and names of the candidates due to the continuing confusion caused by a high number of electoral appeals,” EMHRN stated in a press release. “This may lead to incidences of violence resulting from the competition between candidates.”
The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), which was a member of the Egyptian Coalition for Monitoring the Legislative Elections of 2010, said it has been denied permission to monitor the parliamentary elections by the SEC.
Director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, Hafez Abu Saeda, said Wednesday that 1,116 volunteers from his organization applied to monitor, but the committee has so far approved only 69 for all of Egypt.
Abu Saeda has mobilized 120 Egyptian NGOs and trained volunteers to try to monitor the vote.
On the other hand, Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) said it is working on increasing public access to information and encouraging political participation in the upcoming People’s Assembly elections. The SIS said it will assist international media outlets that have taken an interest in covering Egypt’s parliamentary elections.
“[The SIS] is committed to fulfilling its dual mandate of empowering voters with the information they need [in order] to exercise their civic rights, and to assisting [the] international media [in maximizing] the transparency and awareness of Egypt’s electoral process,” said SIS Chairman Ismail Khairat in a statement to the press.
The Ministry of Information said 498 international press members were given accreditation cards by the SEC to cover Election Day; they will be allowed to enter polling stations and gatherings held by the general district committee, and the ballot-counting committee.
Released under the supervision of the SEC, SIS has published a Voter Guide in an attempt to empower citizens to exercise their right to vote. The guide provides objective, non-partisan information about voter eligibility and registration procedures, where and when to vote, voter rights and responsibilities, as well as a detailed description of the voting process itself, according to the statement.
The Voter Guide will be distributed inside numerous government-owned, independently-owned, and opposition party-owned newspapers in the days leading to the elections, including Al-Ahram, Al Masry Al Youm, Al-Wafd and El-Fagr.
A digital copy of the Voter Guide can be accessed by visiting the SEC’s official website, http://www.elections.gov.eg.
Furthermore, the SIS said it has also distributed 55,000 “How to Cast Your Ballot” posters through governmental authorities which will be placed inside polling stations on election day. –Additional reporting by Agencies