The School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP) hosted a panel discussion on monitoring the upcoming parliamentary discussions on Sunday Nov. 13, moderated Associate Dean of GAPP Laila El Baradei.
The panel present consisted of Judge Amir Ramzi, lawyer Negad El Borei, and Ghada Shahbandar, a board member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
Throughout the discussion, which was held in Arabic with simultaneous English translations made available to audience members, references were made back to the 2005 and 2010 elections in Egypt. Judge Amir Ramzi presented the fact that there was both rampant bribery and “thuggery” by the police during the previous elections under the Mubarak regime.
“The solution for all of these issues is that there has to be observation,” said Judge Ramzi who, alongside the other panel members, agreed that it is essential for citizens to take an active part in observing and monitoring the upcoming elections.
Ghada Shahbandar distinguished between what drove voters to the polls in the 2005 and 2010 elections and what is driving voters to participate in the November elections.
“People now want to participate. They want true representation of their views,” Shahbandar said.
However in the previous elections, the few voters who participated often came for money or food bribes in exchange for their votes. She also pointed out that during the upcoming elections, the voters have a range of new parties to choose from to uphold their rights, whereas the past elections were centered on only two parties: the National Democratic Party (NDP) and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Negad El Borei tackled the issue of international monitoring for Egyptians voting from abroad, and the fact that only a group of 17 observers from the Carter Center has been allowed by the Egyptian Supreme Council to monitor the elections. Borei also mentioned that the system of voting for Egyptian has not yet fully been established, thus there will no way to monitor the electoral process internationally.
“The government has a group of (expat) votes that they can do anything with,” claimed Borei.
“I want you to rest assured that judges supervise each ballot,” said Ramzi, confirming that there would be judges monitoring the November elections.
While a question was brought up concerning the accountability of the judges for the process, Judge Ramzi assured the audience that judicial supervision was the best option citing that judges would have no incentive to rule the country as members of the executive body would.
“Today I can rest assured that the police won’t intervene in the upcoming elections,” Borei said to the point of police involvement in elections. Police however, will act as a medium through which citizens can report instances of election fraud. Citizens can file a police report or talk to the judge in charge of oversight at the election site. Citizens can also report the possibility of corrupt judicial oversight to the head of the general committee.
Shahbandar also told the audience about opportunities to become a citizen monitor through training workshops offered by her NGO. The NGO has made available over 28 workshops in multiple governates to certify Egyptians to become citizen monitors at the polls on Election Day.
Nora Wahby, a graduate student at GAPP, was present at the discussion and has also trained to become a citizen monitor.
“The elections should not have happened right now,” Wahby said, “but it gives us (the citizens) a role to play.”
“It proved that the person who is going to be monitoring the elections is the Egyptian citizen,” said senior media student Hend Najeab.
“Be optimistic,” Shahbandar concluded about the upcoming elections and the future of Egyptian politics, “and don’t fear the battle.”