Thursday, September 08, 2005


Egyptian Elections II

Gihan Shahine of al-Ahram Weekly writes on the situation of polling monitors in the Egyptian elections, who were at first banned by the government from entering polling places and then allowed (officially, but not necessarily in practice) in a last-minute decision.
Rights groups told Al-Ahram Weekly that only a few judges had actually received the commission's last-minute decision and that most monitors were blocked from entering polling stations in cities across the country including Cairo, Aswan, Minya and Qena.
There were numerous charges of fraud, including allegations of the government bussing civil servants to polling places, of the ruling National Democratic party (NDP) paying poor Egyptians to vote, of the indelible ink being diluted in some places so that it could be washed off allowing some people to cast multiple votes, and of people arriving at the polls only to find that a vote had already been cast in their names. Given these allegations and the refusal to allow monitors, there was obviously some displeasure with the process expressed.
Mohamed Zarie, director of the Egyptian Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP) and the coordinator of the National Campaign for the Monitoring of Elections (NCME), was equally sceptical. "There is no reason why the government should not allow local observers unless it is up to something," he said matter-of-factly. "The ruling National Democratic Party is seizing authority by force. These elections cannot be legitimate."
Brian Whitaker of the Guardian writes that the Mubarak machine "put on an overwhelming display of organisational strength" during yesterday's elections. This display included the following:
The president's National Democratic party had set up a "guidance" stall near the entrance which was decorated with pro-Mubarak posters. Staff checked voters' names before issuing them with a slip carrying the president's photograph and indicating where they should vote. A party official said the system, which had also been set up at other polling stations, was "to ease the flow of voters".
Ease them right into voting for Mubarak. Also, Whitaker writes:
Although Mr Mubarak is expected to win by a huge margin, initial reports from witnesses suggested the turnout was relatively low.
This sentence is misleading to me. I hardly think that turnout was low although Mubarak was expected to win big. I would argue that turnout was low because there seemed to be no chance of Mubarak being denied another term. Why bother voting when you know who is going to win? Voter apathy works the same everywhere -- the less one feels his or her vote will make a difference, the harder it is to motivate that person to vote.

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