The undersigned human rights organizations condemn the violations marring the collection of endorsements for candidates running the upcoming presidential elections, including violations at public notary offices, which have prevented citizens from issuing the required endorsement for their chosen candidates. Violations include violence and intimidation, and at times using unreasonable ruses against citizens. The organizations further condemn the arrest of supporters of candidates running against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and the use of state agencies and institutions to mobilize pro-Sisi crowds in front of public notary offices, in a scene indicating the electoral process’s utter lack freedom and integrity, reminiscent of the unfortunate scene during the presidential elections in 2018.
There have been numerous security violations against and restrictions on opposition candidates and their electoral campaigns during the stage of endorsement collection, from 25 September to 14 October. Egyptian security services, represented by the National Security Agency, in cooperation with the Supreme State Security Prosecution, arrested 128 members of the campaign of candidate Ahmed al-Tantawi. Security services further hacked al-Tantawi’s phone for the purpose of spying, according to Citizen Lab. Citizens seeking to endorse Ahmed al-Tantawi faced a spate of attacks and intimidation amid the unwillingness of security forces to uphold their duty to protect citizens. Candidate Gameela Ismail in a statement indicated that her supporters were prevented from registering their endorsements. The ban was not only a result of stalling and restrictions, Ismail explained, but further included harassment and violence against a woman citizen. Despite Sisi collecting his candidacy endorsements, amounting to one million and 130 thousand endorsements, public notary offices continued to shut their doors to citizens wishing to endorse his competitors, with the excuse of a ‘malfunction’ in the system.
Since last August, in tandem with the preparations for endorsement collection, media outlets circulated news and recorded clips about state security agencies, with the assistance of state administrative agencies, collecting national ID cards from state employees and members of government-aligned associations and unions, while threatening anyone who refused to hand over their ID card with arbitrary measures that amounted to administrative dismissal. This approach raises doubts about the purpose of collecting ID cards in relation to the coerced endorsement of the current president. Self-employed persons, owners of shops, cafes, and malls, vehicle drivers, and beneficiaries of solidarity programs such as the Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity) program, have been coerced or bribed into endorsing candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in exchange for sums of money, in-kind support, or a guarantee of the continuation of monthly benefits, in a shameful exploitation of citizens’ fears and economic needs.
The National Elections Authority has further committed a succession of serious violations during this initial stage of the electoral process. The Authority refused to acknowledge the occurrence of violations, or harassment related to the issuance of endorsements, and described the candidates’ complaints as false allegations. The Authority further prevented leaders from Ahmed al-Tantawi’s campaign from entering the Authority’s headquarters to submit complaints and videos indicating attacks on citizens and preventing them from issuing endorsements. This constitutes a failure in the work of the National Elections Authority, while taking into consideration that it is a non-independent body appointed by the current president, who is also one of the candidates.
The violations witnessed during first stage of the electoral process confirm that the upcoming presidential elections will not have the minimum standards of independence and integrity, as previously concluded by human rights organizations. The existing legislative and constitutional framework undermines the independence of state institutions concerned with guaranteeing the integrity of the electoral process, and subjects them to the control of the current president. The signatory organizations renew the demand for the initiation of a radical reform process to ensure the independence of state institutions. We further demand the immediate release of all those detained in relation to political cases, including those affiliated with the campaigns of opposition candidates. Citizens who have faced physical attacks while exercising their legitimate right to political participation are also entitled to compensation.
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Committee for Justice
El Nadeem Center
Sinai Foundation for Human Rights