07/21/2011, 00.00
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The military’s disturbing ‘no’ to international election observers

The vote could turn into a farce in order to maintain the status quo and favour the Muslim Brotherhood. Untrained staff from the courts and bureaucracy will monitor the vote. The Supreme Council’s new election law is unconvincing. Quotas for women are dropped.
Cairo (AsiaNews) – The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has approved a new law for Egypt’s first free elections. However, it said that it would not allow international observers to monitor the vote. Instead, Egyptian monitors drawn from the courts and government bureaucracy will observe the process to guarantee transparency. The military will guarantee its security.

A source told AsiaNews that this is the first step towards a return to the old status quo. “Without impartial control, it will be impossible to have real elections,” he said. “In acting this way, the military has lost all credibility.” For the source, the Council is setting the path for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is working with the old establishment to share the spoils of power.

“The Egyptian state does not have the means to supervise such a huge and complicated territory,” the source explained. “Often, those who should supervise bend to group and party interests.” Egypt is still far from being a real democracy.

“There is no real political life,” he stressed. “Everything is centred on the regime and sharing power.”

The new election law adopted yesterday sets up a 504-seat assembly. Half of the seats are set aside for workers and peasants. The quota for women introduced by the old regime is abolished. Seats will be assigned according to a mixed system: proportional representation with party lists and first past the post.

Voting will take place in three stages, 15 days apart. To give “more leeway to young people,” the minimum age to run goes from 30 to 25.

Secular-oriented parties and new groups born after Mubarak’s fall are not convinced by the new law.

For Fr Rafik Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Church, the proposed reforms have little appeal because they tend to favour voting based on tribal and social affiliations rather than political and democratic ideals.

“The vote is too complex,” he said. “Egyptians are simple people and the new law runs the risk of confusing voters, especially in more remote areas.”

The new law introduces few changes and maintains old divisions inherited from Nasser’s socialism.

“If we really want to change things, we need an open system, not one that is stuck with predetermined quotas that favour groups already in power.” (S.C.)
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