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Letter from Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian Democracy Support Network 26 August 2005 Dear Friend,   Acting as the secretariat for the newly-created Egyptian Democracy Support Network (EDSN), the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies will issue weekly updates on the Egyptian political scene—particularly the government’s behavior— in relation to political reform, democratization and other issues touching on civil liberties and human rights.*    The events of recent weeks amount to a serious affront to Egyptian civil society and call to question any potential degree of fairness or transparency in the upcoming presidential elections.  Three election monitoring coalitions, composed of 34 local Egyptian NGOs, have been training domestic monitors for the upcoming presidential elections.  These coalitions have, however, encountered repeated efforts to restrict their work.   Al Ahram, the most widely circulated newspaper in Egypt which is, however, one of four dailies that are state-controlled, refused to run an advertisement paid for by the Egyptian Independent Committee for Monitoring the Election (EICME).  The advertisement, later published in an independent daily, requested domestic monitoring volunteers.    Then, roughly a week after announcing that international observers will not be allowed, Mamdouh Maray, the High Commissioner of the Presidential Election Commission (PEC) also stated on August 16th that domestic monitors will be prohibited from entering polling stations on election day.  The PEC has not taken kindly to domestic monitoring efforts since they began to gather steam, refusing to respond to the NGOs’ requests for coordination or even to allow representatives of the NGOs to enter the PEC’s premises.   In response to this statement, the three domestic monitoring coalitions created a joint press release and filed a legal suit with the Egyptian Administrative Court against Mamdouh Maray and the PEC.  In the meantime, the EICME and its counterparts are continuing their trainings of domestic monitors and intend to be a presence at polling stations on September 7th even if they are relegated to monitoring voter turnout or conducting exit polls outside the actual stations.                   The Egyptian Judges’ Club, a professional association of judges which acts as a de facto trade union, issued on August 17th its own report on the performance of the PEC with 17 complaints and 10 recommendations to rectify the electoral process.  One of the Club’s major recommendations was that civil society actors be present as election monitors.  This request was reiterated today by Ahmed Mekky, Deputy Chairman of the Court of Cassation.  Al Masry Al Yom reports that Ahmed Mekky has been appointed by the Judges’ Club to issue a new report which will inform the Club’s September 2nd vote on whether or not to ask judges to abstain from supervising the upcoming election.    Under Egyptian election law, the judiciary is responsible for monitoring the election.  Numbering only 8,000, however; the judges cannot possibly cover all 13,000 polling stations.  It is therefore, highly important that their call for help from civil society be heeded and not denied by the PEC.  The Judges’ Club itself has threatened to abstain from monitoring the elections at all if the judiciary is not granted full independence from the executive branch.  Currently, the Ministry of Justice controls judges' salaries, bonuses, and promotions.  They have also demanded full jurisdiction over the election process. In other news, a report was issued by the civil society coalition which has been monitoring the media since the presidential campaign began.  The report, published August 24th in Al Masry Al Yom, concluded that during the first week of the campaign, the four state-controlled newspapers (Al Ahram, Al Akbar, Al Gomhoreya, and Al Roza el-Yusef) dedicated 85% of their coverage to a single candidate, Hosni Mubarak, and less than 15% to the other 9 candidates combined.     Best, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian Democracy Support Network   *The EDSN was formerly known as the Egyptian Democracy Task Force.  A new mission statement for this broad Network of domestic and international organizations dedicated to promoting democracy in Egypt, is available on request and will soon be posted on the Ibn Khaldun Center’s website,

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