Banning elections

December 2nd, 2010 by Editor

Banning elections
By Hafez Abu Seada——————————————————————————–

As expected, the Egyptian legislative elections brought about little or no change. The National Democratic Party (NDP) cut deals with the opposition parties, ceding a few seats to each to shut them up, while totally excluding the Muslim Brotherhood. The Wafd, Tagammu, the Nasserists, and other minor parties, all agreed to the arrangement.

Those who didn’t agree were forcibly kept out of the picture. Anyone who posed a serious challenge to the ruling party, whether from the Brotherhood or the independents, was banned from running. Either their application forms were turned down, or they had their names struck off the lists on a variety of pretexts.

Even NDP members wishing to run as independents had trouble doing so. The NDP had the bright idea of getting its members to sign power of attorney abdicating their right to submit or withdraw candidacy. A few members saw through the gimmick and waited till the last moment to file their candidacy papers, thus giving little time to the leaders to pull their applications.

But this didn’t work either, for the election officials refused to take their papers. Some of the independents have contested their cases with the administrative courts, but to no avail. By that time, election officials were refusing to implement any orders from the administrative courts. About 400 rulings were turned down — a practice meant to exclude Brotherhood members as well as independent candidates from the NDP itself.

And forget monitoring. First, international monitoring has been dismissed as an assault on national sovereignty; then every obstacle was placed before local monitoring. Much lip service has been paid to the role of civil society in monitoring, but in practice no organisation worth its salt was allowed to take part in monitoring. Either its representatives were denied passes to the polling stations, or they were denied entry on arrival.

Media coverage was restricted for both local and international journalists, and photographers were denied access to the polling stations.

The ban on competition is a ban on elections themselves. The ban on transparency only rubs salt in the wound. We need a new constitution, one that makes elections fair and free, transparent and competitive.

This week’s Soapbox speaker is president of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. 
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