Rights groups: Egypt prevents most vote monitoring

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The Egyptian government is withholding permits from two coalitions of non-governmental organisations wanting to monitor Sunday’s parliamentary election, rights groups said.

The government has already refused to let international monitors observe the polls and this, together with tight restrictions on candidates, make it most unlikely the November 28 election will be free and fair, they said.
“The government has rejected calls for international observers, insisting that Egyptian civil society organizations will ensure transparency,” Human Rights Watch said in a report, reuters reports.

Just days before the vote, the two main coalitions of Egyptian NGOs have received none of the 2,200 poll-monitoring permits they had requested, the group said.

On Tuesday the government reiterated that it would not allow international observers to scrutinize the vote, despite calls for it to relax media coverage and allow poll monitoring. It insists it can ensure a free and fair poll.

Human Rights Watch said that, as of Wednesday, one of Egypt’s two main coalitions of NGOs had received no reply to its request for 1,113 monitoring permits.
“Another coalition including the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Nazra has received no response to its request for 1,116 permits,” Human Rights Watch said.

Separately, a statement from seven Egyptian NGOs said they would monitor the election even if the government-appointed High Elections Commission refused their requests for accreditation by the November 25 deadline.

The government has given the organisations “a paltry number of licences, far fewer than asked for,” they said. Even then, monitors must get permission from the heads of local election committees before entering polling and counting stations, the groups said.

Human Rights Watch said a combination of restrictive laws, intimidation and arbitrary arrests was making it extremely difficult for citizens to have a free choice.
“Repression by the government makes free and fair elections extremely unlikely this weekend,” Human Rights Watch’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Joe Stork said.

Rights groups and analysts point to arrests of members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, which controls a fifth of the seats in the present parliament by running candidates as independents, making it easily the largest opposition bloc.

Hundreds of its members have been detained in the last few weeks, and it expects to lose many of its seats this time.



Diplomats say the political system stacks the cards in favour of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and note that a committee whose approval is needed to set up a political party is headed by the NDP’s secretary-general, Safwat Sherif.