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Op-Ed

Egypt's President Should Dissolve Parliament

The Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation, December 7, 2010

Protestors clash with police in downtown Cairo.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's repressive governing party claims to have won 96 percent of the vote in Egypt's elections last week, which would leave the opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, without a single seat in parliament. Widespread fraud, intimidation, ballot stuffing, and violence that led to at least eight deaths were reported by domestic and international observers. The Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation released this statement.

Serious challenges now strongly surround the legitimacy of the People's Assembly if it is formed according to the announced results of the parliamentary elections held on November 28 and December 5.

The elections were full of widespread violations that brought Egypt at least 15 years back. The elections were held in a political environment characterized by restrictions on public freedoms in a manner that does not allow for free and fair elections. The most important features of this political environment were restrictions on civil society at large, including professional and labor unions; administrative and security harassment of civil society organizations; depriving of political and social movements from their right to peaceful assembly and protest and the use of excessive force to confront their activities; and restrictions on the margin of freedom allowed for press and satellite TV channels.

Transparency standards were overlooked at the largest scale. Rigging and forging the citizens' will has become the "law" regulating this election. This was further consolidated by the abolishment of judiciary supervision on elections, which was replaced by a high commission, the majority of which is formed by the ruling party, with limited powers. In addition, the Ministry of Interior maintained the most important powers in administering the electoral process, such as administering voters' rolls, supervising the candidate registration phase, setting and amending electoral constituencies, and supervising polling stations.

The electoral process witnessed blatant administrative and security interventions, restrictions on independent candidates during registration, and exclusions of a number of candidates in the final candidates list. In addition, both rounds of elections witnessed violence in the presence of security, which directly resulted in the death of a number of citizens, the exclusion of candidates and their representatives, and attacks and expulsion of civil society organizations' monitors, including those who have received official permits from the High Elections Commission.

As a result, polling stations and ballot counting premises have become breeding grounds for forging ballot cards and manipulation of the will of voters, whether for NDP candidates or even for some of those considered part of the official opposition. This was especially apparent during the second round, which saw the official withdrawal of AlWafd party and the Muslim Brotherhood in an act of protest against the rigging of the elections.

Undoubtedly the non-NDP women candidates running for quota seats have witnessed violence, administrative obstinacy, and security harassment, which led to the domination of the NDP in the representation of women in the parliament. This situation has contributed to the failure of the quota system, which is seen by many to only mean more seats for the NDP, as was the case in these elections. In addition, this has contributed to the failure of social acceptance of women as political actors. Since all the winners of quota seats are of the ruling party, their political discourse will not differ from that of the NDP and the whole situation limits political empowerment to women only affiliated to the ruling party.

Additionally, a large factor challenging the legitimacy of the People's Assembly lies in the fact that the High Elections Commission and the Ministry of Interior chose not to respect administrative court rulings pertaining to enrolling candidates excluded from the final candidates list. Both authorities have also ignored the High Administrative Court ruling that obliges the High Elections Commission to implement those court rulings, which in turn has annulled the elections.

We fear that continuing to ignore court rulings tightly linked to the electoral process and leaving the situation in the hands of an illegitimate parliament will directly affect the upcoming presidential elections and all legislations to be passed. Accordingly, the Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation calls upon the President to:

First: Use his constitutional powers according to Article 136 of the Constitution to dissolve the new parliament.

Second: Issue a decision in accordance with Article 147 of the Constitution to amend the law on the exercise of political rights before calling for new parliamentary elections. This is a necessary and urgent step towards reforming the electoral system and in ensuring minimum standards of transparency and fairness in general elections.

To reform the electoral process at minimum, the whole electoral process must be supervised by an independent and permanent judicial authority. Its members must be elected by members of courts' general assemblies.

This requires the abolishment of the domination of the Ministry of Interior in the administration of general elections. Its powers must be given to the independent judicial authority, which should be responsible for setting, revising and updating electoral rolls; receiving and examining candidate registration applications and their appeals; setting electoral constituencies and polling stations; and appointing supervisors for polling stations. In addition, the independent judicial authority should be responsible for setting regulations for electoral campaigning and for suitable legal mechanisms to ensure that they are met, and for the announcement of final elections results.

The establishment of a judicial police authority affiliated to the independent judicial authority is required to ensure the implementation of its decisions. The independent judicial authority should activate legal clauses criminalizing acts of thuggery and violence and ensuring that those committing electoral crimes, which have no statutory limitations, are brought to justice.

The law must have strict and obligatory regulations to respect State Council rulings regarding electoral appeals. The law particularly must stipulate that any appeals to halt implementation of these rulings should not be considered unless submitted to the appeals inspection chamber at the High Administrative Court.

The law must stipulate the right of civil society organizations to monitor all stages of elections. The law must guarantee all necessary conditions to empower these organizations to play its role. Electoral crimes must include depriving or hindering civil society organizations from monitoring elections.

Third: To establish an investigative body composed of independent actors with acknowledged moral status and respect among the Egyptian society to investigate the proceedings of the parliamentary elections and its preparation. The body should draw on the political, constitutional and legislative lessons of this political and moral electoral disaster to prevent further threats to the country's state of law, which could be on a path to anarchy.

Finally: The People's Assembly, soon after its members are elected, should immediately start procedures of constitutional amendments to give greater momentum for the reform of the electoral system and to ensure guarantees of fairness and equal opportunities in all general elections, including presidential elections.

Particularly, the parliament should look into revising Article 76 of the Constitution to put the supervision of presidential elections to the aforementioned independent and permanent judicial body, and revising Article 93 of the Constitution in a manner that would consolidate the role of the Court of Cassation in judging the integrity and fairness of the electoral process and in making the final ruling regarding the parliament's membership.

Opinions in this report reflect those of the Independent Coalition for Elections' Observation: the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, Nazra, and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

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