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Carter Center Preliminary Statement on Egypt's Shura Council Election

CONTACTS: Atlanta, Deborah Hakes +1 404 420 5124; Cairo, Sanne van den Bergh +20 1060379961

Read the full preliminary statement (PDF):

In English


As Egypt's new parliament works to select a 100-member Constitutional Drafting Committee, the Carter Center's mission to witness the country's Shura elections urges Egypt's elected representatives to address the overwhelming lack of representation of women in the parliament by ensuring at least 30 percent of the committee is female.

"Of the 678 members elected to parliament, just 14 are women," said Carter Center Egypt Field Office Director Sanne van den Bergh. "These results raise great concerns that one of the most important voices of Egypt, and its revolution, will be lost in the constitutional process."

The Carter Center's witnessing mission detailed other recommendations and findings in its preliminary report on the Shura Council election, released today.

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.  In this environment, many of the same technical and operational shortcomings witnessed by the Carter Center mission during the People's Assembly election were again observed in the Shura Council election. While the Supreme Judicial Commission for Election (SJCE) introduced some welcome technical improvements to the electoral process, the atmosphere in which they were implemented and the associated low voter turnout made it difficult to assess their value.  As such, while the election results appear to have reflected the will of the voters that participated, the low level of voter turnout underscores the political uncertainties that surround Egypt's ongoing transition.

The Center deployed 30 witnesses representing 19 nationalities to 21 of Egypt's 27 governorates. The Carter Center mission to witness Egypt's Shura election was accredited by the SJCE. Across both phases of voting, these witnesses assessed and observed the administrative preparations, campaigning, voting, and counting, including the complaints and appeals processes. Carter Center witnesses met with government officials, political parties, candidates, and religious leaders, as well as representatives of civil society, academia, and the media.

The Center's principal findings and recommendations include:

  • Carter Center witnesses in Egypt observed low levels of participation among voters, political parties, candidates, media, and civil society organizations in the Shura Council election.
  • There was a general absence of official public information campaigns about the Shura Council election. Reiterating the Carter Center's previous recommendations during the People's Assembly election, the electoral authorities should take significant steps to improve voter education and information campaigns.
  • Carter Center witnesses reported an inconsistency in, and at times failure to comply with, the application of electoral procedures by presiding judges at polling stations.  This included, but was not limited to, failure to ink the fingers of voters, late opening, and early closing of polls.
  • The last-minute decision by the SJCE to remove from the ballot the numbers assigned to candidates in the individual candidate races had a negative impact on their campaign efforts and created difficulties for polling staff while conducting the vote count.
  • Egypt's election authority introduced several technical modifications for the Shura Council election including improved ballot boxes and related security materials. Carter Center witnesses reported that this new equipment improved accountability, transparency, and the secure storage of votes, especially overnight.
  • Carter Center witnesses observed that illicit campaigning during the pre-polling campaign-silence period, which had been a source of numerous complaints during the People's Assembly election, diminished in the course of the Shura Council election. There was an overall reduction in political campaigning. Nevertheless, illicit campaigning violations were still observed by Carter Center witnesses in several areas.
  • The procedure to count votes in polling rooms allowed for a more orderly and efficient counting process than occurred in the more centralized count centers used in the People's Assembly election.  However, Carter Center witnesses noted that this decentralization made it impossible for several parties and candidates with limited numbers of agents and representatives to monitor counting at all polling stations.
  • The Shura Council election demonstrated that further progress is required to ensure the timely release of detailed election results. The Carter Center noted that the SJCE failed to identify the gender of winning candidates, and in the case of the individual seats, the political affiliation of the winners. As a consequence, uncertainty and speculation arose over the results of the election.
  • The Carter Center remains deeply concerned about the serious under-representation of women in senior election administration positions as candidates and representatives, as well as the lack of an effective quota to achieve female representation. The Carter Center urges stakeholders, including the Constitutional Drafting Committee, to take definitive steps to improve women's participation and representation.  This could include introducing a minimum 30 percent quota to ensure effective representation of women in both houses of the legislature.
  • The election complaints process continued to be a significant concern. Carter Center witnesses noted a continued absence of a transparent, timely, and accountable process for stakeholders to submit their complaints.
  • Due to an increased sensitivity toward international NGOs, Carter Center witnesses in some cases experienced hostility and aggressiveness from party agents and representatives as well as more intensive questioning by election officials and security forces regarding their status and institutional affiliation.

The Carter Center also respectfully offers the following key recommendations for future elections:

Clearly define the role of the election management body (EMBs) in the complaints process and provide related training to electoral officials. The election commission should take the lead in ensuring that a record of all electoral complaints is maintained, preserved, and publicized so that complainants and others may learn of the result of their complaints, and so electoral authorities can identify issues and geographic areas that may require improvement in future electoral processes. Also, the process for electoral complaints should be clarified and a reasonable deadline for the resolution of disputes imposed.

Increase transparency and accountability measures. Election authorities must be proactive in building trust with their electoral stakeholders and the public to ensure transparency and accountability of the process. Specific measures should be considered, including amending the law regarding the secrecy of the SJCE's deliberations and publicly posting the official results outside polling stations at the end of the counting process.

The completion of the parliamentary elections is an important but insufficient 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 and should only be used in situations that threaten the security of the nation. The Emergency Law partially in effect in Egypt should be fully lifted.

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 therefore important that Egypt's new constitution protects the rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, provides for the clear separation of powers, and be endorsed 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 future elections a fully independent, permanent, and professional election management body be established, supported by a clear, consistent, and restructured legal framework.

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 Egypt's parliament.

Remove the farmer/worker quota. The use of occupational categories as the basis for candidate eligibility arbitrarily undermines the right to be elected. The Carter Center therefore recommends that this provision be removed for future elections.

The Carter Center's full statement on Egypt's Shura Council Election is available at in Arabic and English. A more detailed final report of the Carter Center's assessment and recommendations on the elections of both houses of Egypt's parliament will be published at the conclusion of the mission. The Center has assessed Egypt's elections based on the relevant parts of the national legal framework, and in accordance with the country's regional and international obligations for democratic elections. The Center conducts its election observation missions in accordance with the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.


"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.

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