Sara Hussein, AFP
Last updated: 26 May, 2012

Carter: Egypt polls “encouraging” despite constraints

Former US President Jimmy Carter, who is leading a delegation monitoring Egypt’s first post-revolt presidential election, said on Saturday the process was “encouraging” despite unprecedented constraints.

“I would say that these (elections) have been encouraging to me,” he told a news conference in Cairo, but added that his Carter Centre had “constraints placed on us as witnesses that have never been placed on us before.”

In a statement, his Centre said its delegation and campaign observers were not allowed to see the collation of counted votes at regional stations, “undermining the overall transparency of the process.”

“There is no way we can certify that the entire process was proper,” Carter told journalists.

Carter said it had been a “difficult decision” for him to accept restrictions, which included a limit on the length of time monitors could stay in polling stations.

“I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that this is a complete analysis of the entire process because we couldn’t do that,” he said.

In general, he told reporters, “there was no pattern reported… that showed that the procedure favoured a particular candidate,” describing any violations as “haphazard.”

In terms of irregularities, the Centre said it had observed instances in which the secrecy of the ballot was compromised in approximately one third of polling stations, due to the station layout, overcrowding or even voters themselves revealing their choices.

The Centre’s report said other violations included failure to check voters fingers for the indelible ink indicating they had already voted, and the late opening and early closure of some polling stations.

But Carter characterised the violations as relatively minor.

“There were many violations and I think that every one is serious, but collectively they did not affect the basic integrity of the election,” he said.

And he said aspects of the election had been impressive, including the “very well orchestrated” vote counting that took place at individual polling stations.

He was speaking after landmark presidential elections on May 23 and 24 to choose a successor for former president Hosni Mubarak who was ousted by a popular uprising in February last year.

The election seals a tumultuous military-led transition marked by political upheaval and bloodshed.

In January, Carter said he was “very pleased” with the parliamentary elections that saw Islamists dominate parliament for the first time, saying the process generally reflected the will of the people.