CAIRO: It is unfair that abstainers be called people or citizens and they are a burden on society, head of the Judges Club Judge Ahmed El-Zend said in a Tuesday press release.
“Those who boycott their country are not ineligible to live on its lands,” Zend added.
Former Deputy Head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Tahani Al-Gibali described those who boycott the elections are “conspirators.”
“If those who voted in the presidential elections are 20 million, that would be enough for legitimacy. We would not want the other five million to be involved because they are conspirators,” Gibali said in an interview with Dream channel Tuesday.
One of the most prominent Egyptian actors Mohamed Sobbhi said that those who boycotted the elections are “traitors.”
The High Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) will put into force the articles of presidential electoral law, which stipulated a 500 EGP ($71) fine on those who abstain from voting, a commission official Tariq Shebl said Tuesday on CBC channel.
Shebl said that boycotters who have an excuse for not voting would be exempted from the fine. He said the money collected would be given to the Ministry of Finance.
This statement has been criticized by many, saying that it is a personal freedom whether to vote or not, claiming that the government feared a low voter turnout and were trying to “force” citizens to participate.
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) lawyer Ali Atef told The Cairo Post that it is a legal issue to impose a fine, it is included in law several years ago but it cannot be applied, saying that it is difficult to apply it due to the current circumstances.
During former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, it was really difficult to get the voting serial number, the regime was directing people, and people were afraid to participate so they were not able to apply the fine since the voting cards were frauds in most elections, Atef said.
“There had not been awareness campaigns for the people and no one was able to practice his democratic right,” Atef said.
“Voting should not be obligatory, I will not force people [to vote] during difficult situations and now the circumstances have not changed much, people are concerned as still the security stance is not stable,” he added.
The media is showing that everything is fine but there are some problems in some polling stations; there is difficulty in transportation and people are not used to democracy yet, even after the January 25 Revolution in 2011, according to Atef.
He said fining those who did not vote is “threatening language,” which is difficult to apply on all the people. The only thing that can be done is that each polling station supervisor may give the list of those who did not vote to the public prosecutor. But even then, they would not be able to impose the fine because there are “millions” who did not vote: “About half of the registered Egyptian voters or maybe more did not vote.”
“The decision of imposing 500 EGP fine on abstainers contradicts with the freedom of opinion and expression,” Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights member Adel Ramadan told The Cairo Post.
“’Expressing an opinion’ in the voting process is obvious in its name; it is called expressing of opinion, so a citizen should not be forced to express another opinion and they also have the right to abstain from expressing that opinion,” Ramadan said.
“Boycotting the elections is a political stance, no one should force a citizen to express their opinion according to the government’s commands since boycotting is a form of practicing political rights,” Ramdan added.
There is an article for the law itself that those who do not vote may pay a fine but there “is uncertainty in the article’s constitutionality.”