Press Release

April 9, 1997

CHRLA's local government elections roundup

Regrettably, CHRLA has to announce that the local government elections held on April 7, 1997 have been further evidence of the ruling National Democratic Party, the NDP's desire to achieve complete monopoly of power over all representative institutions. The NDP has shown no consideration for rules or guarantees to ensure proper voting, canvassing, and respect for the will of voters, who should be able to express their opinions in honest and neutral elections, committed to securing an equal chance to each citizen wishing to stand.

It is regrettable that the authorities should have seen fit to rig these elections and disregard the serious violations committed by the NDP's nominees and their supporters, despite the absence of real competition. Over half the seats were uncontested and therefore already won by NDP nominees prior to the elections, while hundreds of independents were pressurized into waiving their rights as candidates. In addition, several security raids with the intention of excluding Islamist candidates and their supporters from participation have been carried out by the authorities over the past few months.

The Center observed, through reports and complaints submitted to its headquarters and subsidiary offices, that the government and its party have stuck to the same mechanisms and methods used during the 1995 People's Assembly general elections, in which the votes were rigged by:

Depriving independent and opposition candidates, their attorneys, and their representatives from being present during voting and counting.

Excluding full judicial supervision of subsidiary polling.

Overlooking the blatant violations committed by the government's nominees and members of the NDP present at polling stations, such as filling in ballots on behalf of voters, assaulting rival candidates, preventing other candidates and their representatives from witnessing such violations by having them detained.

Compounding the violations was the difficulty in reporting the violations to polling station chairpersons.

Violations reported to the Center included several incidents where ballot boxes were found full of ready-marked slips before the voting process had even started, while in other occurrences voters were prevented from submitting their votes in some polling stations without any reasonable explanation.

Here are some of the most important incidents which were reported to us:

Karmouz constituency in Alexandria.

The information received at CHRLA's Alexandria office indicated that the authorities had intentionally delayed giving the nominees of Tagammu Party, the Liberal Party, and independent candidates their special permits, which were supposed to be accredited and given the official stamp in the police station. These documents were not handed to candidates until 2:30 a.m., just a few hours before voting began.

According to our information the candidates' representatives were barred from a number of polling stations: at the polling station in Gheit al-'Enab preparatory school Liberal Party nominee Fathiya Helal reported that a police officer prevented her representative from attending. At Ibrahim Najeeb al-Kay school Nasr Yunis, brother of the candidate Fathi Yunis, was arrested and was not released until noon. Tagammu Party nominee Hussein Kased Karim has confirmed that ballot boxes at the same school were secretly stuffed with voting slips before voting started.

Candidate Hassan Jaber confirmed in an official complaint to the attorney-general that nominees of the National Party were present inside polling stations before the commencement of voting, which led him to announce his withdrawal at 8:30 a.m. in protest against the rigging of his supporters' votes, being barred from the polling station, and the destruction of representatives' special permits. Police officers at Karmouz police station detained him on an accusation of distributing pamphlets, which in fact were nothing more than copies of his withdrawal declaration. The Center's lawyers in Alexandria have filed a complaint calling for investigations into these incidents.

The nominees in Karmouz constituency were unable to report to the chairperson of the general election committee their objections to the violations committed because they had not been able to meet him, and because he was not present for vote counting. Eleven opposition and independent candidates declared their withdrawal at 1:00 p.m. after proving unable to stop violations or even report them.

Muharram Bec and Ghourbal constituency in Alexandria:

According to our information, an NDP member of the People's Assembly toured the polling stations at 7:00 a.m. in the company of a police officer and a group of soldiers, where they filled out voting slips in favor of NDP nominees. According to the same sources the independent candidate and lawyer Khalil Salah al-Din was assaulted when he protested against these practices.

Tagammu Party nominee Hisham Jala submitted a complaint to the attorney-general confirming that his representatives had been evicted from polling stations, and that 100 voting slips had already been inserted into ballot boxes by 8:00 a.m., the time voting was due to start. He also confirmed that candidates were not allowed to present their complaints in official reports to the chairpersons of subsidiary polling stations. The complainant has contested and claimed the rigging of the elections in at least 55 election boxes, and he has observed that voting slips in several boxes bore the same handwriting and were all filled in similar fashion, moreover, some of them were photocopied and did not have any official stamp.

According to the complainant some committee chairpersons were filling out voting slips themselves and were marking the names of voters on voting lists.

Al-Muntazah constituency in Alexandria:

Complaints to the Center's office in Alexandria indicated that forgery was used extensively in a number of polling stations. In this respect representatives of independent and opposition candidates were not allowed to enter polling stations at Malek Hefni school, Mahmud Wasfi school, and 'Omar Makram school before 11:00 a.m., while NDP nominees were allowed to in fill out voting slips before them. Violence was used against some independent candidates, and according to the complaints children were used to vote at Sidi Beshr school. The supervisors in different polling stations refused to accept complaints and to report them.

The Center received a complaint from Ahmad 'Awad, the representative of the independent candidate Ibrahim 'Abd al-Malak, that a state security officer had evicted him from the medical center polling station in Mandara, and had tampered with voters' lists.

A complaint submitted to the Center by the independent candidates Muhammad Fou'ad Isma'il and Ibrahim 'Abd al-Razek Ibrahim described how they had been surprised to discover ballot boxes full of voting slips before any voter had been allowed into the Ashahid Isma'il Fahmi school polling station. The two complainants said that committee supervisors refused to include these incidents in their official reports; furthermore the complainants were unable to meet the chair of the general committee. Officials in Muntazah police station refused to issue any records substantiating the incidents. The Center's lawyers have submitted a memorandum to the chief justice of Alexandria court of first instance, who has already referred the matter to the chairperson of the competent committee in the constituency.

Imbaba constituency in Giza:

Reports to the Center showed that most polling stations were not staffed with secretaries, which was rectified by charging some representatives of NDP nominees with secretarial duties. This significantly violated guarantees of neutrality, a prerequisite in persons in charge of voting procedures. On the other hand, representatives of independent, Tagammu party and Liberal party nominees were prevented from touring the polling stations, despite holding permits empowering them to do so, which made it all the more easy to rig votes and voting slips, especially in women's election committees at Taha Hussein school.

Legal procedures stipulating that records must be issued committing the names of representatives to writing before the commencement of voting were violated. These omissions were not rectified until long after voting began. Attempts of Tagammu Party nominee 'Adel Muhyi to include this in an official record failed and his request was denied.

Observers confirmed that there was intensive police presence in the election committees in violation of the law in this regard, and that NDP nominee representatives were openly falsifying voting forms with the police looking on.

In the absence of secretarial assistance to the chairs of subsidiary polling stations in Tahrir school, it was discovered that 265 voting slips had been lost from ballot box no. 59. Tagammu nominee Hussein Bayoumi was able to register this incident officially. The chair of the general committee discounted all the votes in this box during counting of votes. A number of candidates challenged the authenticity of votes in boxes 57 and 58 because the chief officer at Imbaba police station closed the poll at 4:30 p.m. and evicted all nominees and representatives. Nevertheless, the chair of the general committee has not excluded these two challenged boxes. Counting started without candidates' supervision, and the committee chairperson declared that results would be announced through the governor of Giza.

Observers reported that at Mounira police station polling station some voting slips had already been inserted in the boxes before voting started.

Sharabeya constituency in Cairo:

Police prevented representatives and representatives of independent candidates from entering polling stations at Izbat Belal. Additionally, candidate Saad Hagras Mourtada was assaulted and officials in Sharabeya police station refused to record the incident.

Observers indicated that central security forces besieged the counting room and prevented nominees and their representatives from entering, allowing only those who belonged to the NDP.

Medinat al-Herafeyin in Cairo:

Two candidates, Dr. Seif Al-Nasr and 'Adel Moussa, were assaulted at 'Ammar Ibn Yaser school in Medinat al-Herafeyin, and were prevented from entering the polling station after being threatened by force. They were later allowed to enter after recourse to the police, but they were assaulted again and consequently advised by police to stay away from the polling station

in order to avoid further attacks.

Medinat al-Salam constituency:

A fight premeditated by NDP nominees took place at 'Othman Ibn 'Affan polling station, leading the police to evict all representatives, which allowed NDP nominees to fill in all ballots in their favor. In a women's polling station at Fatima al-Zahr' school a representative of candidate 'Abd al-'Aziz Jouda was assaulted.

The constituency's general committee chairperson discovered during vote-counting at Suzanne Mubarak school that the number of marked voting slips inside the ballot boxes exceeded the total number of voters according to the lists in subsidiary polling stations. Consequently, he summoned the people in charge of the various subsidiary polling stations.

Medinat al-Nahda constituency in Cairo:

Reports indicate that nominees and their representatives were assaulted and evicted. They were also told that the results were a foregone conclusion and had already been made public.

Awsim constituency in Giza:

Independent and opposition candidates announced their withdrawal 11:30 a.m. in protest against falsification practices and filling in voting slips in favor of NDP nominees, especially in Cairo school polling station, where all representatives were evicted except NDP representatives. Candidates filed a memorandum to the general committee chairperson and issued an administrative record of the incidents (No. 291/1997 Awsim).

In conclusion, CHRLA views the facts reported to it so far as mere pointers to the mechanisms used by the government and its nominees to trample on the rights of citizens trying to participate in the administration of Egypt's public affairs, which violate the Constitution, the law, and international human rights instruments. CHRLA also warns that the dogged insistence of the government and its party in sacrificing real guarantees of political participation will lead the country to further political violence, as long as the government insists on forfeiting the mechanisms of peaceful circulation of authority.

The Center reaffirms that citizens cannot be granted the right to political participation except through a comprehensive program of political reform, based on the following:

Granting absolute freedom in forming political parties and associations, in addition to removing all legal limitations on the freedoms of opinion, expression, and peaceful assembly.

Abolishing the Emergency Law.

Subjugating the administration of public elections to complete judicial supervision.

Imposing severe punishment to the extent of hard labor for any form of forgery or rigging of the voters' will, and abolishing Article 50 of the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights, which stipulates that criminal charges against those who commit such offenses should be dropped six months from the day the results are declared or from the date of the last investigation procedure. The Center believes that by maintaining this article all transgressors are reassured that they can commit their crimes with impunity.

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