Cairo, Egypt – IRI witnesses to the second phase of Egyptian people’s assembly elections on December 14 and 15, 2011, noted another positive step taken by the Egyptian people in their historic transition to democracy.
While there remain administrative and procedural challenges, IRI believes electoral officials and authorities were intent to execute their responsibilities in good faith and in accordance with electoral laws and official regulations. Building on lessons learned from the first phase of voting IRI commends the efforts of the Higher Electoral Commission (HEC) and other government bodies to improve the overall administration of the electoral process.
Delays in the opening of polling stations remained a notable occurrence but were somewhat less pronounced in the second phase. IRI witnessed improvements in ballot delivery to polling stations, but this logistical hurdle continued in some areas thereby preventing a timely opening. Other notable factors which resulted in delayed openings were the insufficient amount of required candidate representatives as well as late arrival of some judges. IRI believes further improvements in these areas would result in a greater percentage of polling stations opening on-time during the third phase of voting.
A notable improvement during the second phase was an active effort on the part of HEC and security officials to more effectively enforce the no campaign rule outside and inside polling stations. Campaigning by parties and candidate representatives in violation of Egypt’s 48-hour silence period was less intense than experienced during the first phase. The vicinities outside most polling centers, however, were still covered in campaign banners and posters, and campaign literature could be seen strewn on the ground in the immediate area of most polling centers.
Also present during the second phase was the continued use of computer kiosks by some political parties to help voters identify their polling station. The HEC and other electoral authorities are encouraged to take necessary measures to prevent this activity from occurring in violation of electoral rules during the third phase.
The transport of ballots and vote tabulation at central counting centers continues to be the most challenging aspect of the electoral process thus far. As in the first round, IRI witnessed several counting centers overrun with ballot boxes. At some locations, candidate and party representatives were prevented from entering and witnessing the tabulation process due to large crowds congregating outside counting centers. The burden and complexity of transporting hundreds of ballot boxes to a single location for counting creates opportunity for electoral irregularities. Steps should be taken to ensure the sorting of ballots and counting of votes is done in a more orderly fashion as it will lend increased transparency to the elections process overall.
The Institute deployed a 15-member delegation that included delegates experienced in elections observation and the Middle East region. IRI delegates were David Schenker, Aufzien Fellow and Director of the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Jake Hale, founder of CS Advisors. IRI staff members were led by Thomas Garrett, Vice President for Programs at IRI and Sam LaHood, IRI’s Resident Country Director in Egypt.
Upon arrival, IRI delegates and staff were informed about Egypt’s political landscape and provided and overview of the electoral law and polling process. They were also briefed on the rights and responsibilities of international witnesses which are being allowed for the first time by Egyptian authorities.
Delegate teams were deployed throughout the country where they observed polling stations and identified and evaluated strengths and weaknesses in Egypt’s elections system, including campaign regulations, the balloting process, vote tabulation and reporting.
IRI also observed the first phase of Egypt’s elections held on November 28-29, 2011 and will observe the third phase scheduled for January 3-4, 2012. Since 1983, IRI has monitored more than 135 elections in more than 44 countries.Top