Egyptian elections on schedule; Security remains a problem
A general view shows Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square as Egyptian riot policeman try to disperse protesters on November 20, 2011.
Parliamentary elections will take place on Nov. 28 as scheduled, member of the ruling military council General Mohsen El-Fangary said following a violent crackdown on a Tahrir sit-in and two days of clashes with the police.
“Egyptians will not be distracted,” he told the press at the Cabinet of Ministers. “Egyptians are fully aware and highly cultured, and will be able to determine the good [candidate] from the bad one,” said El-Fangary, also the vice president of the Fund for the Revolution Martyrs and Injured.
The crackdown, during which the protesters said police deliberately shot at faces and upper body as it did back in January, refueled concerns about the ability of the government to secure the elections.
A security vacuum that saw increased reports of crime over the past few months, had been the center of many debates about securing the elections and the integrity of the process.
As the clashes continued for the second day on Sunday, the concerns increased, especially as several candidates said they are putting their electoral campaigns on hold.
El Fangary explained that there is ongoing coordination between the military and the Ministry of Interior to secure the elections and the streets in general.
He called on people to make a sound choice in the elections that will “take Egypt to safety”.
The elections will take place as scheduled for the sake of the country’s stability, he said, adding that the thousands in Tahrir Square don’t represent the 80 million that make Egypt’s population.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had on Saturday called on the protesters to leave the square.
Following the clashes, the cabinet said in a statement: “We are at a turning point, steps away form the legislative elections, which is the most important claim to the revolution.
Several parliamentary candidates denounced the violence, but insisted that elections remain the only solution.
Candidates Amr Hamzawy, George Ishaq and Mahmoud Salem are among many who announced the suspension of their electoral campaigns.
“It’s crucial for the elections to take place as scheduled as it’s the only guarantee to the handing over of power and having a civil state,” Hamzawy said.
Others, however, remained skeptical, casting doubt on the government’s readiness to organize the elections.
“They keep calling for a calm and secure atmosphere for the elections then the security vacuum and the violence that happened yesterday is their responsibility,” said Karima El-Hifnawy, member of the Kefaya Movement and the National Association for Change, who is contesting the elections as part of the electoral list, the Revolution Continues.
“If the presence of the popular powers on the streets rises and continues then the elections can not take place as scheduled,” she added.
Ingy Hamdy, spokesperson of April 6 Youth Movement, said that the Minister of Interior (MOI) has the answer to whether the elections could be held on schedule or not.
“[The MOI] proved that it is incapable of providing security in the regular circumstances,” she pointed out.
“We’ll do our part through the people’s supervision of the elections and by participating, but the MOI has to secure the electoral process,” Hamdy added.
Rawy Tweig, member of the political bureau of the Free Egyptians Party, echoed the same sentiment. "There's no way we can go ahead with the elections, while there's all this chaos and violence in Tahrir Square," he said.
The Egyptian bloc, lead by the Free Egyptian, is yet to meet on Monday to decide on its stance. But according to Tweig, it’ll most probably be similar to the party’s.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which leads the other main electoral coalition, the Democratic Alliance, also said it would continue its work on the elections but had a different interpretation of the events.
FJP’s Ahmed Abou Baraka said the situation in Tahrir Square had nothing to do with the elections, stressing that the elections would go ahead as planned.
"These clashes could've been provoked in order to postpone the elections, but the Egyptian people are smart and won't be fooled," he said.
Both parties maintained that they wouldn't participate in the sit-in while condemning the violence used by the security forces, stressing the people's right to hold peaceful protests.
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