CAIRO -- After observing Egypt’s landmark presidential elections, the Carter Center’s monitoring mission raised concerns that “elements of martial law” obstructed voting and the democratic process.
The center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, said this week that election monitors were not allowed sufficient access to polling stations. In isolated incidents, international and local observers were intimidated by military personnel guarding the stations. Egyptian monitors were also granted their credentials later than foreign observers.
"I am deeply troubled by the undemocratic turn that Egypt's transition has taken," Carter said in a statement released by the center. "The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' new constitutional declaration, in which they carve out special privileges for the military and inject themselves into the constitution drafting process, violates their prior commitment to the Egyptian people to make a full transfer of power to an elected civilian government."
Although official results aren’t expected until Thursday at the earliest, the campaigns of both presidential candidates -- Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ahmed Shafik, a former prime minister in the government of deposed President Hosni Mubarak -- have claimed victory.
The Carter Center’s mission questioned the legal framework established by the Presidential Elections Committee, calling it “poorly defined.”
The center said the elections committee, which was given “excess powers” through a constitutional declaration, refused to reveal the list of voters, which raised questions of transparency. The mission also pointed out that women were still underrepresented in Egyptian political life and denied equal representation in the democratic process.
“Carter Center witnesses noted low female participation at campaign events,” the statement said. “This follows the lack of women presidential candidates and the dearth of women in electoral administration positions.”
Due to such constraints and the elections committee's refusal to allow media, domestic and international witnesses, access to the national vote aggregation during both rounds of the election, the Carter Center said it was unable to draw conclusions about the electoral process.
Shortly before elections last week, Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court, backed by the military, dissolved Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament, the only governmental body elected by the people, on the grounds that it had been elected under laws that the court had rendered unconstitutional. The parliamentary elections, however, were overseen by the ruling military council.
On Saturday night, as unofficial results began to show the Islamist Morsi as the projected winning candidate, the ruling military quickly released a constitutional declaration giving itself legislative powers and the right to declare war, as well as the responsibility of overseeing the drafting of the constitution.
“An unelected military body should not interfere in the constitution-drafting process," Carter said in the mission’s statement.
Many Egyptians as well as human rights advocates have labeled the army’s power grab as a coup. The ruling military council emphasized on Sunday that it would hand over power to civilian rule by the end of June.
-- Reem Abdellatif
Photo: Defaced posters of presidential candidates Ahmed Shafik and Amr Moussa in Cairo include writing in Arabic that reads "life has no value if the revolution's dreams did not come true, Mubarak is their idol." Credit: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press