Egypt elections corruption: Video footage of bribery ‘not enough to penalize candidates’ without formal reports
An Egyptian guard stand outside a polling location on December 1, 2015. (AFP/Mohamed El-Shahed)
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Despite video footage widely circulating of campaigners handing out electoral bribers, violators will not be penalised unless a report is filed to the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC), according to SEC spokesperson Omar Marwan.
During a Wednesday press conference, Marwan said: “Videos are not enough to penalise candidates or prove anything and will be considered as evidence only when official reports are filed to the committee.”
Two videos were published on Tuesday by Maat for Peace and Development’s observatory mission. One video showed money being given to voters after checking their “phosphoric ink on their fingers”.
In the second video in a polling station, a judge appears admonishing campaigners, and refusing to be offered a bribe. The judge banned them from the polling station for manipulating voters.
In reaction to Marwan’s statements, the director of Maat and coordinator of the largest local-international joint observatory mission, Ayman Okeil, criticised the SEC’s performance in countering candidates’ violations.
“What I do not understand is that as observers, we have fulfilled our roles, we cannot do more. The SEC and prosecution authorities must step up to their responsibilities,” Okeil told Daily News Egypt Wednesday.
He said they have filed at least 82 documented complaints addressed to the SEC and its president Judge Ayman Abbas. “Learning from the previous electoral phase where lack of evidence on violations seemed to be a problem, we have made efforts to prove them in picture and sound. What else can we do?”
Okeil further pointed out that citizens have turned to the NGO to complain as well. Maat published a new video Wednesday where a candidate said he was offered EGP 300 in exchange for his vote.
“My son was offered a bribe too and it was outrageous,” the man in the video said. “I wonder how much corruption there will be in the parliament if we have such candidates.”
“The SEC is unable to document violations or stop them; are we also supposed to refrain from exposing them? Or are we supposed to conduct investigations ourselves?” Okeil said.
Marwan said the SEC already referred “a number” of violation complaints to the prosecution authorities, or when possible, took immediate action to stop the violation, such as in the case of illegal banners.
The SEC has sub-committees in each governorate tasked with receiving electoral violations complaints. “Those who will file reports will be questioned in detail,” he claimed.
Some Egyptian voters might have “profited” from the elections, depending on their location. According to the importance of the constituency and the persistence of candidates, voters’ bribes ranged from EGP 20 to EGP 1,000, according to director of Maat’s parliamentary observatory Mohamed El-Shnentnawy.
“Bribing voters played a role because we have even seen voters intentionally postponing their participation to the latest scheduled hours of the elections, knowing their votes will be sold at higher prices,” El-Shnentnawy told Daily News Egypt Wednesday.
Maat said it deployed 1,034 observers in the second electoral phase where it covered 10 out of 13 governorates, visiting 3,987 out of 5,293 polling stations.
Maat is the local host of the international observation mission in Egypt, including the COMESA delegation, Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD), International Institute for Peace, and Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR).
By Amira El-Fekki