CAIRO: Continued restrictions on fundamental freedoms for Egyptians have “prevented free political participation and severely comprised the broader electoral environment,” according to the preliminary findings of the U.S.-based Democracy International’s electoral mission to Egypt.
At the end of the three-day Egyptian presidential election Wednesday, the DI mission issued a statement Thursday to announce its evaluation of the overall process.
“Egypt’s repressive political environment made a genuinely democratic presidential election impossible,” said DI President Eric Bjornlund in the statement.
The statement pointed to the repression of citizens who saw the election as “not meaningful” and the results “predetermined.”
Regarding media coverage of the election process, DI said both state and private media outlets “strongly favored Abdel Fatah al-Sisi,” and contributed to a “relentless campaign to bolster turnout.”
DI was also concerned that many observers were denied access to polling stations.
Among other violations spotted during the election process, the DI mission reported a number of instances where police and military officials were illegally present inside the polling stations and said their presence intimidated voters, election officials, campaign representatives and observers.
The DI mission also expressed its concern about the decision issued Tuesday by the High Presidential Elections Committee (HPEC) to extend voting to a third day. DI called the decision unnecessary and said it harmed the credibility of the Egyptian political process.
They also criticized an HPEC decision to fine Egyptians 500 EGP ($71) if they abstain from voting. DI said this was an intimidation tactic to force high turnout.
Despite being critical of many areas of the election process, the DI pointed to an improvement made by HPEC in providing clear guidelines for voting and counting procedures, as well as a useful website with updated information.
The election authorities provided a better explanation and clear illustrated set of guidelines for voting and counting procedures as compared to the constitutional referendum, according to the DI’s statement.
The DI mission also advised the new government to use the forthcoming parliamentary elections as “an opportunity to actively encourage opposition parties and movements to freely engage in the political process.”
DI Director of Elections and Political Processes Dan Murphy told The Cairo Post Monday that DI had 86 accredited international observers in Egypt distributed across 25 governorates to monitor the 2014 presidential elections.