Waging Peace: Egypt
2012 Constitutional Referendum
The Carter Center maintained a core team in Egypt following the presidential election to follow political and electoral developments related to the constitution drafting process. The Center had intended to deploy long-term and short-term witnesses to observe the entire constitutional referendum process. However, The Carter Center was ultimately unable to deploy election witnesses due to the late release of regulations for accreditation of witnesses (not published until Dec. 9, less than one week prior to the start of referendum polling on Dec. 15). This restriction prevented the Center from conducting a comprehensive assessment of all aspects of the referendum process, consistent with its methodology for professional observation of elections. In place of a full observation mission, the Carter Center's core team in Cairo conducted a limited technical assessment of the process, which saw the referendum pass with 64 percent of voters in favor of the document, with 33 percent turnout nationwide.
People's Assembly Elections
The Carter Center arrived in Egypt in May 2011 to conduct an international election witnessing mission for Egypt's People's Assembly (lower house) elections. The Center was accredited by the Supreme Judicial Commission for Elections in November 2011 and deployed 40 witnesses. Across the three phases of voting from November 2011-January 2012, these witnesses assessed and observed the administrative preparations, campaigning, voting and counting, and complaints processes.
Egypt's People's Assembly elections enjoyed broad participation from voters and were a progressive step toward a democratic transition. While there were shortcomings in the legal framework, campaign violations, and weaknesses in the administration of the elections, the results appeared to be a broadly accurate expression of the will of voters. The People's Assembly was in session for less than five months when Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled to dissolve the body in June 2012, citing a provision in the electoral law that allowed political party members to run for seats against independent candidates.
Shura Council Elections
In January 2012, The Carter Center deployed 30 witnesses for the Shura Council (upper house) elections. The Center found the election characterized by a lack of interest, in contrast to the preceding People's Assembly election that captivated national and international attention. Uncertainty about the value and role of the Shura Council in conjunction with the pace and direction of the transition as a whole, contributed to the low level of engagement by voters, candidates, political parties, media, and civil society organizations.
Egypt's first presidential election in the post-Mubarak era also marked the first time in the country's history that the head of state was directly elected by the people in a competitive election.
The Carter Center was accredited in Egypt by the Presidential Election Commission on May 3, 2012. Accreditation badges, necessary for witnesses to observe the process, were not provided until May 16, less than seven days before the election.
In addition to the late accreditation that prevented assessment of critical pre-election phases including voter registration and campaigning, several additional restrictions were imposed on election witnesses by Egypt's electoral authorities. As a result, The Carter Center was able to conduct only a limited mission focusing on voting, counting, and vote tabulation and unable to reach a conclusion about the process as a whole. The Center's limited mission found that the polling process was peaceful and orderly and marked by a sense of hope in Egypt's struggle for democracy. At the same time, the Center also found that election authorities prohibited access to the final aggregation of national results, undermining the overall transparency of the process.
The political context surrounding the vote created significant cause for concern and cast uncertainty over the significance of the election itself.
The Center's witnesses assessed the conclusion of the vote tabulation and followed campaigning for the runoff election.
The Carter Center deployed another limited mission for the second round of the presidential election.