Saturday June 10th, 2023
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Watchdogs: Referendum Unfair

Both Democracy International and Transparency International have released preliminary reports criticising last week's referendum, addressing concerns at polling stations and beyond...

Staff Writer

So it's official - last week's referendum was a farce; at least that's the view taken independent observers charged with watching over last week's constitutional referendum poll. Just hours after the government released news of a landslide 98% ‘Yes’ vote victory - two key independent groups released statements addressing serious concerns. Democracy International, who've previously covered elections in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan deployed more than 80 observers across 23 governorates.

The group released a preliminary report in the hours after the polls closed citing “serious concerns about the political environment in which the referendum took place.” The report added: “The referendum took place against a backdrop of arrests and detention of dissenting voices. There was no real opportunity for those opposed to the government’s roadmap or the proposed constitution to dissent. This constrained campaign environment made a robust debate on the substance and merits of the constitution impossible.”

Meanwhile, the group also noted “specific concerns about the administration of the balloting in some locations, including the heavy presence of security forces inside polling places, problems with the layout of some polling places that could have jeopardised voters’ ability to cast a ballot in secret, and instances where campaign materials were prominently displayed inside or immediately outside polling locations.”

Transparency International also noted a litany of concerns regarding the supposedly democratic poll. The head of the group's international mission Kol Preap said: "Considering the particular dynamics and difficulties in post revolution Egypt, the legitimacy of the referendum is for Egyptian citizens to assess. The government is responding to a deep desire from the majority of the Egyptians to move toward a democratic path, peace and stability, but the current political context creates severe obstacles to advancing democracy.”  The group also slammed the government's behaviour in the run-up to the election. A statement added: "Transparency International voices concern that many of the government’s pre-election activities undermined a level playing field for the promotion of diverse views regarding the constitutional amendments.Government officials openly promoted a vote in favour of the amendments; private and public media provided one-sided coverage in favour of the draft constitution; and the government harassed, arrested, and prosecuted peaceful critics, closing democratic space to promote views and debate before the referendum."

However, neither group claim that there is any evidence that the list of problems affected the outcome of the vote but we will leave you to make up your own minds on this one.