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CONTACT: In Cairo, Deborah Hakes +20 1060379961 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Egypt's People's Assembly elections enjoyed broad participation from voters and are 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 appear to be a broadly accurate expression of the will of the voters. However, the ultimate success of Egypt's transition will depend on the earliest possible handover of power to a civilian government that is accountable to the Egyptian people. The inclusive drafting of a new constitution that protects fundamental rights and freedoms and ensures full civilian authority over the military will establish the foundations of a democratic Egypt.
Since the departure of President Mubarak in February 2011, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has assumed interim executive and legislative authority in Egypt. In the months following, the relationship between the SCAF and many of Egypt's citizens has deteriorated, at times escalating to violence. The excessive use of force by the security apparatus, the continuation of the Emergency Law, the use of military tribunals for trying civilian suspects, and the crackdown on civil society organizations has created an atmosphere of distrust. Further, the SCAF's lack of transparent behavior has created sense of uncertainty about their commitment to full civilian leadership. It is in this context that the People's Assembly elections have taken place.
Principal Findings of the Carter Center's Witnessing Mission:
The Carter Center mission to witness Egypt's parliamentary elections is accredited by the Supreme Judicial Commission for Elections (SJCE). The Carter Center deployed 40 witnesses from 24 countries to all of Egypt's 27 governorates. Across the three phases of voting, these witnesses assessed and observed the administrative preparations, campaigning, voting and counting, and complaints processes. Carter Center witnesses met with government officials, political parties and candidates, and religious leaders, as well as representatives of civil society, academia, and media. Carter Center witnesses continue to assess the conclusion of counting and vote tabulation and will remain in Egypt to observe the post-election environment and the upcoming Shura Council (Upper House) elections.
This is an executive summary of the Carter Center's principal findings on all three phases of the People's Assembly Elections. A more detailed report is forthcoming and will be available on the Center's website, www.cartercenter.org. A more detailed final report of the Center's assessment and recommendations will be published at the conclusion of the mission.
The Center assesses the elections in Egypt based on the legal framework for elections, Egypt's obligations for democratic elections contained in regional and international agreements, and in accordance with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.
The principal findings and recommendations of the mission to date include the following:
The Carter Center's mission respectfully offers the following key recommendations for future elections:
Clarify the process for electoral complaints and impose a reasonable deadline for the resolution of disputes: Egypt has all the tools necessary to establish a credible and expeditious election complaints process. The Carter Center recommends that steps be taken to clarify the process for accessible and timely resolution of electoral disputes.
Complete the procedural framework for elections and train election officials: Election day and counting processes were inconsistent because of the lack of a clear and complete procedural framework and inadequate training for election officials. This should be rectified by the timely publication of full procedures and training of election officials.
Conduct civic and voter education: An electorate that is informed about its rights and the steps necessary to exercise them is vital to the democratic health of a nation. The deficiency of voter information campaigns was notable. The Carter Center therefore recommends that the SJCE be given a clear mandate for voter education that is established in the law, and that they fulfill that responsibility.
Increase transparency and accountability measures: Election authorities must be proactive in building trust with their electoral stakeholders and the public. This responsibility is amplified in the context of political transitions. A commitment to transparency and accountability at all levels of the administration is essential. Specific measures that should be considered include amending the law regarding the secrecy of the SJCE's deliberations and, publicly posting count results outside polling stations during the Shura Council elections.
Enforce campaign finance regulations: Campaign finance regulations do not include any reporting requirements for parties or candidates, or explicit enforcement mechanisms against violators. The Carter Center recommends that parties and candidates be required to fully and accurately disclose campaign expenditures and donations to a regulatory body with the capacity and authority to investigate and prosecute allegations of campaign finance violations.
Completing the Democratic Transition
The People's Assembly elections are one step in Egypt's democratic transition. Maintaining the momentum of the transition to full democratic rule necessitates further key steps, including the following:
Lift the Emergency Law and end use of military trials for civilian suspects: Emergency laws are special measures that must be continuously justified. They should only be used in situations that threaten the security of the nation. When introduced, they should be limited in duration and geographic scope. The Emergency Law and the use of military trials for civilian suspects are not appropriate in the current climate in Egypt and should be ended.
Ensure the parliament has exclusive authority to select the constitutional committee: The newly elected membership of the People's Assembly and Shura Council will bear responsibility for selecting the 100 members of the constitutional committee. The exclusive authority of the parliament, as elected representatives of the people, should be respected.
Conduct an inclusive constitutional drafting process that takes into account the views of the full political spectrum of Egyptian society: It is important that the constitutional committee selected by the parliament be representative of Egyptian society. In particular, there should be a minimum of 30 percent women included in the committee, and quotas for other vulnerable groups considered.
Protect democratic principles, fundamental rights and freedoms in the constitution: Constitutions, once adopted, are difficult to change. It is important that Egypt's new constitution protects the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians; that it provides for the clear separation of powers; and that national ownership of the constitution is secured through a credible and genuine referendum.
In reference to post-transitional elections, The Carter Center stresses the following recommendations:
Establish an independent election commission: The Carter Center recommends that for post-transition elections, a permanent, fully independent, and professional election management body be established. A clear, consistent, and restructured legal framework is necessary to support such a body. Both of these goals should be achieved through a consultative process.
Redesign the women's quota: In accordance with international obligations, it is essential to ensure that women are able to participate in public affairs and contribute to public debate. The Center recommends that a minimum 30 percent quota be introduced to ensure the effective representation of women in both houses of parliament.
Remove farmer/worker quota: The use of occupational categories as the basis for candidate eligibility arbitrarily undermines the right to be elected. The Carter Center recommends that this provision of the constitution be reconsidered.
"Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope." A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 70 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; improving mental health care; and teaching farmers in developing nations to increase crop production. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.