Brussels – Egypt will witness its first elections after the revolution on November 28th. The elected representatives will participate in choosing a constituent assembly of one hundred members who shall be in charge of drafting Egypt’s new constitution.
By Amir Elshenawy
Despite the significance of Egypt’s coming elections, Egyptian authorities, represented in the government and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), made a decision not to involve international monitoring. On July 6 2011, Mr. Marc Franco, Head of EU Delegation to Egypt, announced that Egyptian authorities refused the presence of international monitoring on the parliamentary elections. He added “The elections are committed to be done in a democratic and fair atmosphere and under the supervision of judicial authorities.”
Although Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on elections is already known since July 6, the EU has not announced yet an official response to that decision. The critical question is how the EU will respond to such a decision which makes it hard to guarantee that elections are free and fair, one of the main conditions the EU listed in its new Neighborhood policy to keep its support to neighbor countries.
Free and fair elections … Hard to guarantee
Having free and fair elections is hard to guarantee, according to Nejad Elborai, Chairman of Egyptian United Group of Law, because they are going to be held within unstable circumstances. Elborai also adds the current indicators refer to no change coming in the horizon regarding the issue of observing elections.
“Egypt’s civil society organizations (CSO) will monitor the coming elections in the same way they did before in 2000, 2005 and 2010’s elections,” Elborai expects.
Elborai adds there are severe restrictions on the way CSOs work beside accusations of them receiving funds from foreign institutions. That is in addition to serious threats to CSOs’ members’ lives and being put in front of military trials.
Ahmed Sameh, Director of Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies in Cairo, shares Elborai’s same fears, and he adds “All the recipes are available to create chaos, starting from absence of security, week government logistics to the coming elections and smuggling of arms from Libya.”
A claim to protect sovereignty
The United Group of Law and Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies are two of six organizations that signed a statement on July 24th 2011 condemning SCAF’s refusal to international monitoring and saying that step is a continuation of the approach followed by the executives during Mubarak regime.
Elborai described Egyptian authorities’ refusal to have international monitoring on the elections as an escape coming out of its fear to be internationally questioned about the expected violations within the electoral process.
While Sameh states that the first objective of institutions to monitor the elections, whether they are national or international, is to ensure the integrity of the electoral process and whether the elections were conducted in the framework of a democratic tradition or modern democratic transition.
“If Egypt wants to have free and fair elections, authorities there should have nothing to fear about sending observers to Egypt,” says Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, Member of the EU Working Group on the Middle East.
The above-mentioned two organizations draws attention in the statement that there is a deliberate confusion of the concept of international monitoring of elections and promoting it as a violation of national sovereignty.
“Egyptian authorities still follow the same Mubarak’s rhetoric in dealing with international monitoring and frame it in the public sphere as a foreign interference in Egypt’s national sovereignty,” Elborai affirms.
He adds international monitoring is a usual action the state calls for to ensure the neutrality and impartiality of the electoral process and confirmation of democracy, not constituting a loss of the concept of sovereignty, as some claim.
EU and a state of silence
The EU has not declared any official response yet regarding Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on the coming elections, the decision that goes back to last July.
“I am not quite sure how the EU will respond regarding that issue,” says Triantaphyllides, and he adds there are various actions might be taken but decisions have to be made first after discussions, which have not been taken place yet regarding that issue.
Triantaphyllides adds if a country accepts to have financial aids from EU and it does not allow the observers to go and monitor the elections, then these financial aids might be reduced or cut off, but he asserts that no decision has been taken yet in Egypt’s case.
While Elborai surprisingly wonders how the USA and EU have not taken any steps on the ground regarding Egyptian authorities’ decision to prevent international monitoring on the coming elections, and he also deeply condemns what he calls ‘EU’s shameful silence’ regarding this issue.
“Decision-makers in the USA and EU are a group of liars. All what they said and still saying about supporting democracy is a big lie. They have not taken any real steps that prove their good intentions. All is what they are seeking is their own interests,” says Elboraic.
Elborai adds the EU is supporting the SCAF like it supported Mubarak for 30 years, and he also states the EU’s decision-makers wrongly believe that the SCAF will serve their own interests, while they are creating a new dictator right now.
EU and supporting democracy in Egypt
Under the title “A New Response to a Changing Neighborhood,” the EU released new policies in dealing with its neighbors in the East and South of the EU on May 25th, 2011. According to the new plan, “EU support to its neighbors is conditional. It will depend on progress in building and consolidating democracy and respect for the rule of law. The more and the faster a country progresses in its internal reforms, the more support it will get from the EU”.
Marisa Matias, Vice-Chair of EU Delegation for relations with the Mashreq countries including Egypt, declares that it is strange and not acceptable to concentrate only 11.1% of allocations to Egypt in supporting reforms in the areas of democracy and human rights, and she believes that area deserves much more money than other areas and it should be the first priority. She also adds that the EU has built its partnership with Egypt since Mubarak’s days until now upon economic orientation, not a political one.
“European neighborhood policy with Arab Spring countries needs an immediate change because it used to seek stability in these countries and close the eyes to oppression of peoples by totalitarian regimes, and it is still doing so,” stresses Matias.
Similar to Matias, Triantaphyllides believes one of the mistakes the EU made because it was following the United States’ policies was that it supported Arab totalitarian regimes for the sake of stability. He adds the EU policymakers used to say they support Mubarak’s regime because it has managed to build stable governments that were able to prevent violence and wars in the area.