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US Admin's Bizarre Comments on Egyptian Elections

Letter to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice about Department of State Comments on Egyptian Elections

December 2, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Rice,

We are writing to express our astonishment at the statements yesterday by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack regarding state-inspired violence and irregularities in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mr. McCormack’s statements, including his assertion that the State Department has “not received, at this point, any indication that the Egyptian Government isn’t interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections,” are utterly disconnected from the reality of what is happening in Egypt today. They make a mockery of the policies you and President Bush have articulated on numerous occasions this year regarding the importance of respect for democratic freedoms in the Middle East generally and in Egypt in particular.

We have received numerous reports from Egyptian human rights groups that have been monitoring the three rounds of elections that began on November 9 concerning serious irregularities in the voting, including consistent and credible reports of ballot-stuffing, vote-buying, and the like. Increasingly, during the second and third rounds of mid-November and this week, we have received reports of violence by security forces and by partisans of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) to intimidate supporters or presumed supporters of independent and opposition party candidates and to prevent them from casting ballots against the ruling party. Since voting began the government has arrested more than 1600 political activists, mainly supporters of independent candidates associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Violence associated with the elections has resulted in at least three deaths, including one person who was killed yesterday when police reportedly opened fire on a crowd outside a polling station in the Nile Delta town of Baltim, north of Cairo.

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These reports are readily available to the administration as well. U.S. Embassy staff who monitored some of the polling stations told us privately that they witnessed such irregularities themselves, and presumably their reports have reached the State Department. In any event, Egyptian, Arab, and international media have provided detailed reporting on such incidents. The accounts of election violence and other state efforts to ensure the ruling party’s continued monopoly on power, in other words, are available to anyone with even a passing interest in developments in Egypt. Presumably even Mr. McCormack has read, for instance, about men with machetes and knives chasing voters away from polling stations as police stood by.

Indeed, these media reports were the basis for the reporters’ persistent efforts to get the Department on the record regarding the administration’s response to these incidents. Just as persistently, Mr. McCormack asserted again and again, against all evidence to the contrary, that the administration is “sure” that the Egyptian government wants “an environment where everybody can express their peaceful free will through the ballot box.” As Mr. McCormack is not a spokesman for the Egyptian government, it is hard to see why he or anyone in the administration would speak with such certainty of that government’s good intentions. We trust you will agree that the Egyptian government should be judged by its actions, not by statements it may have made to the United States.

When you were last in Egypt, you rightly said: “We are all concerned for the future of Egypt’s reforms when peaceful supporters of democracy – men and women – are not free from violence. . . . Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.” The administration’s failure to criticize the Mubarak government’s subsequent conduct in these elections – and, indeed, the Department Spokesman’s effort to shield that government from criticism – badly serves those many Egyptians who have voted or attempted to vote in the face of this pattern of violence, intimidation, and fraud. In addition, it badly undermines the administration’s credibility, including your own, when it speaks of its commitment to democratic freedoms in Egypt and the region.


Tom Malinowski
Washington Advocacy Director

Joe Stork
Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa Division

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