Egypt International Election Observation Mission
Democracy International is currently implementing a two-year project to observe the ongoing electoral processes in Egypt. The upcoming parliamentary elections represent the culmination of Egypt’s post-transition roadmap after the constitutional referendum in January 2014 and the Presidential election in May 2014. At the invitation of the Egyptian election commission, DI conducted comprehensive international observation missions for the January 2014 Constitutional Referendum and May 2014 Presidential Elections. In January 2015, the High Election Commission invited DI to observe the upcoming parliamentary elections, which are scheduled to begin in late March and continue through early May.
DI has deployed a small technical team to observe the parliamentary elections. This team will include American, Egyptian, and third country technical experts who will assess the electoral environment and political context including the campaign environment, the legal structure, civil engagement, and political party and individual candidate participation. DI expects to release a statement at the conclusion of the electoral process.
This effort will follow DI’s previous observations of Egypt’s May 2014 presidential election and January 2014 constitutional referendum. DI’s observation mission for the presidential elections concluded that although Egypt’s constitution guarantees freedom of speech and association, continued suppression of political dissent and restrictions on fundamental freedoms prevented free political participation and severely compromised the broader electoral environment. This environment made a genuinely democratic presidential election impossible. DI deployed six teams of medium-term observers who together covered 18 governorates and more than 80 short-term observers to 25 governorates to observe the two days of voting. During the second day of voting, Egyptian officials abruptly announced that they were adding a third day of voting in an effort to increase underwhelming voter turnout. DI criticized this decision as “just the latest in a series of unusual steps that have seriously harmed the credibility of the process.” On May 29, the day after balloting was completed, DI issued a preliminary postelection statement that urged the new president and government to “seek opportunities to engage [their] opponents in dialogue, including those currently excluded from the political sphere” and “to embrace political inclusion and to reorient the country toward broad respect for human rights and effective, democratic institutions that are viewed across the society as legitimate.” DI issued a comprehensive final report on the presidential election process in July. DI’s observation received wide coverage in local and international media, including in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy Magazine, the Cairo Post, NPR, Al Jazeera, the Economist, the Guardian, and Reuters; many articles were reprinted in hundreds of newspapers around the world.
Previously, in January 2014, DI organized an international observation of the constitutional referendum in Egypt. DI found that although the actual administration of the process on the referendum days appeared to allow those citizens who participated to express their will, the restrictive political climate in Egypt impaired the referendum process. DI’s report on the referendum discusses the narrowing political space and limits on free expression. For the referendum, DI recruited, accredited, and deployed more than 80 short-term election observers to observe the two days of voting. DI’s observers deployed in teams of two to 23 of Egypt’s 27 governorates to observe all stages of the voting process, from the opening of the polling station on the first day of voting through the counting of ballots on the second day. Following the observation mission, DI issued a preliminary statement and an observation report that found that the restrictive political climate impaired the referendum process in Egypt.
For both the referendum and the presidential election, DI used innovative observation techniques, including a cloud-based data collection system on Google tablets that tracked map and time data and allowed flexibility and real-time data analysis not possible with paper observer forms.
DI is a signatory to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers, which provide, among other things, that election observers must be independent and impartial, uphold the values of democratic government, and respect the national sovereignty of the host country. In accordance with these principles, DI observes all phases of the election process, including the legal context and the political environment for the election and the procedures for the balloting and counting on the election days.