By Agence France Presse (AFP)
Compiled by Daily Star staff
A coalition of 16 rights groups said Tuesday it expects Egypt’s parliamentary elections later this month to be rigged because of severe restrictions imposed by the authorities.
The Forum of Independent Human Rights NGOs warned in a report entitled “Rigging the 2010 Parliamentary Elections in Egypt” that the country’s Interior Ministry is continually cracking down, sometimes violently, on the media, people’s right to campaign and the right to assemble peacefully.
Elections in Egypt are routinely marred by fraud but authorities have pledged that the November 28 balloting will be fair – although they have rejected calls for allowing international observers to monitor the vote.
The authorities have also cracked down on the media and government critics in the run-up to the parliamentary elections, shutting down private television channels and arresting dozens of opposition members.
The outgoing Parliament is dominated by President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party and that is unlikely to change after this election.
“The coming elections will not meet the international standards for free and fair elections … [They] will be based on legislative and constitutional corruption,” said the report, which was posted on the website of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
It said the government continues to intimidate human rights organizations through indirect threats and harasses Arab and foreign activists while they are entering the country.
Egypt lacks the “necessary political will to organize free and fair parliamentary elections,” Forum said, describing an “unprecedented climate of intimidation created by the authorities within printed and visual media, especially in independent media.”
“This confirms that the forging of the will of the voters has started early for this election,” Forum concluded.
The report also expressed concern over restrictions on independent and opposition candidates such as those from the Muslim Brotherhood, and said some local monitors have even been prevented from entering candidate registration headquarters.
The United States and activists have urged the Egyptian government to allow a third party to oversee the election.
But Egypt routinely rejects observer missions, saying they infringe on the nation’s sovereignty.
Meanwhile, it was revealed Tuesday that Egypt’s ruling party will run about 800 candidates for only 508 seats in the polls, raising fears of a repeat of the last election’s violence as rivals within the same camp battle it out.
The official Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the National Democratic Party is to run 870 candidates in the November 28 election, while another government daily, Rose Al-Yussef, put the number at 790.
Under the headline “The NDP’s bomb,” an article in Rose Al-Yussef said the NDP’s list “was very astonishing” and questioned why the party chose to field three or four candidates for the same seat in some constituencies.
A senior party official told the paper that the NDP was pursuing a “different election tactic” from Egypt’s last parliamentary poll in 2005.
Fielding a large number of candidates was aimed at allowing voters a choice without driving them to vote outside the party, the paper said.
“The party wants to meet calls for change without losing any of its seasoned cadres,” Rose Al-Yussef said.
“The test will be the ballot box. If none of the experienced cadres are elected, it would be the choice of the people,” it said. – AP, AFP