Egypt Elections: Round 3

الثلاثاء, 21 فبراير 2012


There were four of us assigned as a team to the Matrouh governorate, west of Cairo. We took the overnight bus across the Libyan desert to Marsa Matrouh, the capital of the Matrouh governorate. 

On our walk to find breakfast, political candidates' faces cluttered the streets on make-shift billboards and banners that hung across the streets. Every car had at least 1 campaign poster glued to the hood, trunk and or side of it. We met up with our local guide, and walked to our first polling centre. It was a school, as were many others we visited.  Because of our late night arrival, we were not present for the 7am opening of a polling centre.

There was a tank parked beside the entrance, and military personnel in numbers. I could see probably 6 at the gate, another 12 within view. The majority were armed with assault rifles, some equipped with bayonettes others simply with batons. Our local guide took our International Witness ID cards to the military guard at the gate to negotiate our passage. In some cases, the military personnel took not only our ID cards but our passports and mobile phone numbers, too. We had varying degrees of success gaining access to the polling centres. At some there was no trouble getting in, at others we were granted entrance reluctantly, and at one polling centre we did not get in at all.

We followed a military man inside to the legna, the actual polling station. Again, our local guide negotiated our passage inside, this time with the presiding judge. We saw how the legna is set up and witnessed the election process. A day beforehand, we had all attended an orientation by Democracy Reporting International and been given a detailed checklist on things to watch for regarding the polling stations' opening, the voting process, the closing of the polls, transportation of ballots and ballot counting. In our training, it was stressed that we point out our observations to each other so there was consensus about what we witnessed and ultimately reported.

As I alluded to earlier, we did not see the opening of the polls in the Matrouh governorate. Nor did we see the polls close. This was due to our local guide's timetable more than anything. Moreover, we did not witness the ballot counting as it was moved at the last minute from a location within the Marsa Matrouh city limits to a military arena inconveniently located outside of the city, and a fair walk across the desert sand from the highway. On the overnight bus back to Cairo, we passed a spot on the highway where cars were parked and there were groups of people camped out for a quite a distance on the boulevard that separated east from west traffic.

Within the Matrouh governorate, we were able to witness the elections at a handful of polling centres in Marsa Matrouh as well as in Siwa, an oasis town a few hours south. We had I think what all of us considered more success gaining access to the polling centres in Siwa. Our observations throughout the Matrouh governorate as well as in Gharabayya, where my team was for the run-off elections were similar. Given the guidelines on electoral process provided to us by Democracy Reporting International, and in no particular order of importance, the following gives an example of some of the things we saw and reported back on:

  • Police/military personnel inside and outside polling stations;

  • Campaign leaflets handed out on election days;

  • Campaign posters glued to outside walls of polling stations;

  • Campaign activity taking place in the vicinity of polling station;

  • Voter intimidation – our local guide was being denied access to his own polling station to vote;

  • Unauthorized persons loitering/having tea in polling station;

  • Candidate's agents were present inside polling station;

  • The presiding judge was absent;

  • A couple ballot boxes were not sealed properly;

  • Women wearing the nicob did not have their identity matched to their identification card;

  • Voters' fingers were not checked for ink stain prior to voting;

  • Voters' fingers not inked after voting;

  • Voting screens/booths positioned open to the polling station rather than providing secrecy;

  • Voters marked ballots on tables outside of voting screen/booth;

  • Polling Committee members took ballots from voters and looked at them before placing them in the ballot box; and

  • Voters asked Polling Committee members who they should vote for.


In some cases, polling centres had segregated line ups and legnas, and that there seemed to be a very high voter turn out among women. In addition, some polling centre venues were multi-floored with stair-only access prohibiting the participation of the elderly and disabled.



يوميات الإنتخابات
Egypt Elections: Round 3 الثلاثاء, 21 فبراير 2012
النشرة الدورية
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