Judges reject Egypt referendum

Egypt's judges have vowed to boycott the supervision of future polls after rejecting the results of a referendum that approved a series of changes to the constitution.

Judges reject Egypt referendum

Egypt'sjudges have vowed to boycott the supervision of future polls after rejectingthe results of a referendum that approved a series of changes to theconstitution.

"The judges wash their hands of the referendum results," Ahmed Sabr,a spokesman for the body that represents the country's judges, said.

"We will no longer be a fig leaf to cover somethingshameful."

The changes, which will help the government exclude religious parties from thepolitical system, were backed by 75.9 per cent of people who voted but humanrights groups estimated that turnout was less than 10 per cent.

TheEgyptian justice ministry said 27.1 per cent of registered voters took part.

Judicial supervision

Before it was amended the constitution stipulated that elections had to besupervised by judges, but Sabr said their task was made impossible by the numberof polling stations and official interference.

"The head of the high election committee [the justice minister] issuedinstructions forbidding judges from touring the polling stations," hesaid.

Sabralso cited cases in which polling stations observed by judges to have emptyballot boxes would suddenly be filled with votes when they returned an hourlater.

Judicialoversight of elections has been reduced by the reforms.

Independent human rights groups and opposition parties also denounced theresults of the referendum.

Hafez Abu Seada, the head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, saidthe official tally of "yes" votes might be correct but the turnoutwas suspect.

"Our organisation observed the referendum and our estimate for the peoplewho voted ... is around 5 per cent for the whole day. So I doubt this is a truestatistic," he told Reuters news agency.

'Flagrant forgery'

The Hesham Mubarak Law Centre, an independent groupco-ordinating observers, accused the ruling party of inflating thenumber of "yes" voters and forcing independent monitors out ofpolling stations.

"Flagrant forgery was the main headline of the last hours of thisreferendum," the organisation said in a statement.

Al Jazeera reporters were outside polling stations all day and saw few peoplevoting, and Reuters described the turnout as a "trickle".

All major opposition groups including the Muslim Brotherhood, which wonone-fifth of the seats in parliament standing as independents in 2005elections, told their supporters to boycott the referendum.

Mohamed Habib, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood said the governmenthad made up the results.

"It is 100 per cent forged... They are lying," he told Reuters newsagency.

Ballot confusion

Ayman Mohyeldin, an Al Jazeera correspondent, said he spoke to voters who did not understand whythey were voting and even found people who voted though theywere ineligible to vote.

Mohyeldinalso said government employees were taken en masse by busesto polling stations.

AmalOweid, an Egyptian he spoke with, said: "I am here to vote for HosniMubarak ... I am here to vote for him as president."

Shedid not know how to read or write and did not know what was on the ballot.

Oweidsaid: "A guy came with me and he said mark here and I marked on the greencircle ... I didn't know what the ballot said."

Mohyeldinreported that he was able to cast a ballot without providing appropriateEgyptian identification.

Hesaid: "I came to the polling station [and] presented a press ID issued bythe ministry of information that clearly stated that I am an American citizenworking for Al Jazeera.

"Iwas handed a ballot and allowed to vote. At no time did I mislead authoritiesabout my nationality or my identity."

There is no guarantee that theballot will be tallied but the incident highlights major loopholes in thevoting system, Mohyeldin said.

'Hard work' ahead

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, welcomed the result in a brief televisedaddress.


"The constitutional reform we have achieved is not the end of the road.These constitutional changes have opened the door to a long road of hardwork," he said.

AmnestyInternational describes the changes as the greatest erosion of humanrights in 26 years.

HumanRights Watch said the amendments "effectively remove basic protectionsagainst violations of Egyptians' rights to privacy, individual freedom,security of person and home and due process".

As well asbanning politcal parties based on religion, a number of so-calledanti-terror laws among the amendments will give police greater powers ofarrest and surveillance - which critics say will turn the country into a policestate.

Under the amended constitution, Mubarak and the rulingparty could dissolve the existing parliament and hold new elections under a newvoting system which would make it more difficult for the Brotherhood to winseats.

Source:Agencies

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16
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