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Cablegate: Civil Society Monitors Criticize Conduct Of

VZCZCXYZ0009
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEGA #0924 0881447
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZUI RUEWMCE0627 0881433
O 291447Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0000
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS CAIRO 000924

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC STAFF FOR WATERS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EAID KDEM EG
SUBJECT: CIVIL SOCIETY MONITORS CRITICIZE CONDUCT OF

REFERENDUM

REF: A. CAIRO 866
B. CAIRO 870

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: AT LEAST FIVE GROUPS OF EGYPTIAN CIVIL
SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS MONITORED THE MARCH 26 REFERENDUM ON
EGYPT'S CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS. THEIR REPORTS, WHICH WERE
ISSUED THROUGHOUT THE DAY ON MARCH 26, AND SUMMARIZED IN
WRAP-UP PRESS RELEASES ISSUED OVER THE PAST FEW DAYS, PROVIDE
FURTHER EVIDENCE OF THE WIDESPREAD IRREGULARITIES THAT
CHARACTERIZED EGYPT'S MOST RECENT ELECTORAL PROCESS, AS WELL
AS THE GAP BETWEEN THE OFFICIAL AND INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENTS
OF VOTER TURNOUT. AN NDI MONITORING EXPERT IN CAIRO TOLD US
THAT THE FACT THAT EGYPTIAN MONITORS WERE ABLE TO ORGANIZE
AND ISSUES CRITICAL REPORTS ON THE REFERENDUM WAS ONE BRIGHT
SPOT IN AN OTHERWISE PROBLEMATIC PROCESS. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) THE MONITORS INCLUDED THE FOLLOWING GROUPS:

--THE INDEPENDENT COMMITTEE FOR DEMOCRACY SUPPORT, A
COALITION OF 12 NGOS, LED BY THE IBN KHALDUN CENTER (A MEPI
GRANTEE), WHICH DEPLOYED 300 OBSERVERS TO MONITORS THE POLLS
IN 24 OF EGYPT'S 27 GOVERNORATES.

--THE EGYPTIAN COALITION FOR DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT (ECDS), A
USAID-FUNDED COALITION OF NINE NGOS, LED THE NAQIB CENTER,
WHICH DEPLOYED 330 MONITORS IN 26 GOVERNORATES.

--THE EGYPTIAN ORGANIZATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (EOHR) DEPLOYED
AN UNPUBLICIZED NUMBER OF MONITORS IN CAIRO, ALEXANDRIA, AND
THE DELTA.

--THE EGYPTIAN ASSOCIATION FOR SUPPORTING DEMOCRACY (EASD), A
PAST MEPI GRANTEE AND CURRENT BENEFICIARY OF USAID FUNDING,
DEPLOYED AN UNPUBLICIZED NUMBER OF MONITORS ACROSS THE
COUNTRY.

--THE EGYPTIAN CENTER FOR WOMENS RIGHTS (ECWR) DEPLOYED A
SMALL NUMBER OF OBSERVERS IN THE GREATER CAIRO METROPOLITAN
AREA.

3. (SBU) ALL OF THE MONITORS IDENTIFIED THE FOLLOWING
PROBLEMS WITH THE REFERENDUM:

--LOW TURNOUT: INDEPENDENT MONITORS' ESTIMATES, BASED ON
EXITS POLLS AND OTHER INDEPENDENT ASSESSMENT OF VOTER DATA,
VARIED FROM A HIGH OF SEVEN PERCENT TURNOUT TO A LOW OF TWO
PERCENT. THESE ESTIMATES STAND IN STARK CONTRAST TO THE
OFFICIAL RESULTS OF 27.1 PERCENT TURNOUT.

--MISTAKES IN VOTER REGISTRATION LISTS: THERE WERE MULTIPLE
REPORTS OF INACCURACIES ON THE VOTER LISTS INCLUDING MISSING
NAMES AND REPEATED NAMES, AS WELL AS VOTERS WHO REPORTED
BEING ABLE TO VOTE SEVERAL TIMES AT DIFFERENT STATIONS.

--LACK OF INDEPENDENT SUPERVISION OF POLLING STATIONS: IN
MANY INSTANCES, RULING PARTY OFFICIALS APPEARED TO BE IN
CHARGE OF VOTING STATIONS, WITH THE TACIT OR EXPLICIT
APPROVAL OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS.

--ILLEGAL GET-OUT-THE VOTE OPERATIONS: MONITORS REPORTED
MULTIPLE INSTANCES OF NDP OFFICIALS USING VEHICLES REGISTERED
WITH THE GOE OR WITH REGISTERED NGOS TO PROVIDE MASS
TRANSPORT OF VOTERS TO THE POLLS. (UNDER EGYPTIAN LAW, IT IS
ILLEGAL FOR POLITICAL PARTIES TO USE RESOURCES BELONGING TO
THE GOVERNMENT OR NGOS TO FACILITATE VOTING.)

--DENIAL OF ACCESS BY MONITORS TO POLLING STATIONS AND/OR
VOTE COUNTING: DESPITE THE GOE'S ASSURANCES THAT CIVIL
SOCIETY MONITORS WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO POLLING STATIONS, THERE
WERE NUMEROUS INSTANCES OF LOCAL AUTHORITIES DENYING ACCESS
TO THE POLLS BY MONITORS.

--REPORTS OF VOTE BUYING: THERE WERE SCATTERED REPORTS OF
NDP OFFICIALS OFFERING MODEST INDUCEMENTS (LE 20 (ABOUT
$3.50), TICKETS TO SOCCER GAMES, OR SMALL PORTIONS OF MEAT)
TO VOTERS TO VOTE YES. (COMMENT: THE REPORTS OF VOTE BUYING
WERE RELATIVELY RARE COMPARED TO THE 2005 PARLIAMENTARY
ELECTIONS, WHEN CONTENDING CANDIDATES OFTEN FOUND THEMSELVES
IN BIDDING WARS TO SECURE VOTES. THE OPPOSITION BOYCOTT OF
THE REFERENDUM LIKELY LED TO LOWER INCIDENTS OF VOTE BUYING,
BUT ALSO CONTRIBUTED TO THE LOW TURNOUT. END COMMENT.)

--LATE OPENINGS AND EARLY CLOSINGS OF VOTING STATIONS: THE
VOTERS' LIMITED ENTHUSIASM FOR PARTICIPATING IN THE
REFERENDUM SEEMS ALSO TO HAVE EXTENDED TO MANY OF THE POLL
WORKERS. THERE WERE MULTIPLE REPORTS OF POLLING STATIONS
REFERENDUM

THAT DID NOT ADHERE TO THE OFFICIAL OPENING AND CLOSING TIMES.

--INTIMIDATION OF PROSPECTIVE VOTERS: THERE WERE SCATTERED
REPORTS OF NDP OFFICIALS TELLING VOTERS THAT A FAILURE TO
VOTE COULD RESULT IN PENALTIES INCLUDING FINES.

4. (SBU) AN EXPATRIATE MONITORING AND OBSERVATION EXPERT
(PROTECT) WORKING FOR THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE--WHO
PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN SUPPORTING CIVIL SOCIETY MONITORING OF
THE 2005 ELECTIONS, BUT WAS PROHIBITED FROM ASSISTING THE
2007 REFERENDUM MONITORS, DUE TO THE GOE'S RESTRICTIONS ON
NDI--OFFERED THE FOLLOWING ASSESSMENT. THE EXPERT OPINED
THAT, DESPITE THE LIMITED PREPARATION TIME, THE ABSENCE OF
OUTSIDE TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, AND LIMITED DONOR FUNDING, THE
REFERENDUM MONITORING WAS EVIDENCE OF A "GROWING ABILITY BY
CIVIL SOCIETY" TO PLAY A ROLE IN EGYPT'S POLITICAL PROCESSES.
HE CHARACTERIZED THEIR WATCHDOG ROLE AS "THE ONLY SUCCESS
STORY FOR EGYPT'S REFERENDUM." DESPITE THE VARIOUS FACTORS
THAT WORKED AGAINST THE MONITORS, THE NDI EXPERT CREDITED THE
MONITORS WITH "CLEARLY PORTRAYING THE LEVEL OF MANIPULATION
AND TRANSGRESSIONS IN THE REFERENDUM, WHICH IS STRONG
INDICATOR OF HOW BAD EGYPTIAN ELECTORAL PROCESSES REALLY ARE."
RICCIARDONE

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