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Seychelles Sir James R. Mancham updates Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission

Seychelles Sir James R. Mancham updates Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission ( CAIRO, Egypt - HE Sir James R. Mancham, former President of Seychelles, was in Cairo, Egypt, to witness the Presidential Election along with other dignitaries. The election took place between May 22-23, 2012, and here, he recounts his experience in the form of a communication to His Excellency Jean Ping, Chairman of the African Union Commission:

On May 19, 2012 you wrote a letter to me inviting me to lead a group of observers which the African Union (AU) had decided to nominate to constitute an observers group to the Presidential Election of the Arab Republic of Egypt, which was to take place in Egypt on May 22-23, 2012.

I received an invitation while I was participating in a Think Tank conference, “Global Hotspots, Insiders Briefing,” at the Hoovers Institute of War Revolution and Peace of Stanford University in Palo Alto California, USA. Although I had programmed a visit to the United Arab Emirates subsequent to my visit to the USA, I decided to accept the invitation considering its importance not only for Egypt but also for Africa, the Middle East, and the world.

I was subsequently informed by the AU secretariat in Addis Ababa that the Egyptian authorities was not to extend an invitation for an AU Observers Group but instead had extended an invitation to two representatives of the AU to come to witness the elections.

I was then informed that after considering all relevant circumstances, Your Excellency had accepted the invitation of the Egyptian authorities and that Your Excellency had desired that I should lead a small group consisting of Ms. Shumbana Karume, Head of Democracy and Elections Assistance. and Mr. Conrad Mederic, Principal Counselor at the Seychelles High Commission in Pretoria, who himself had been cleared for the task of assisting me by the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I arrived in Cairo by Egyptian Airline flight from New York on Sunday, May 20, 2012 and was extended VIP Protocol courtesies by the Egyptian Authorities and was also welcomed to Egypt by representatives of the African Union duly credited to Egypt, namely Ambassador Muftah Zawam, Head of the AU Permanent Delegation to the League of Arab States, and Mr. Nadir Fathelalim, Senior Political Officer, and also a judge from the High Presidential Elections Committee of Elders, and also a representative from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

My group and myself were accommodated at the Grand Tiba Rosa Hotel where we were warmly received. We were impressed with the cordiality and friendly hospitality extended. We were also afforded security protection plus transport by the High Presidential Elections Commission.

While we were not able to meet with the candidates personally for time constraints, logistical and other understandable reasons, we nonetheless were given concrete appointments and sufficient time for meetings and discussions with the following: Ambassador Muftah Zawam, Head of the Au Permanent Delegation to the League of Arab States; Ambassador Soad Shalaby, Member of the Committee of Elders, COMESA; AlArham Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Dr. Amani Altaweel; Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, HE Mr. Mohammed Kamel Amr;
The National Council for Human Rights Council, Dr. Mohammed Fayeek; Mr. Raphael Lopez, Expert at the UN Mission Elections Team; and President of the Presidential Elections Committee (HPEC).

On Tuesday, May 22, a reception was hosted by the Presidential Elections Commission, which provided us with the opportunity of learning about the procedure in place for the election and providing us with the opportunity of questioning it. The opportunity was also provided for us to meet several members of other organizations who had sent witnesses/observers to the election. We met with Ms. Monique Leyenaar, Member of the Electoral Council of the Netherlands; Mr. Melle Bakker, Secretary-General of the Electoral Council of the Netherlands - representing the European Union; Ms. Suzuk Emil, Associate Professor of the Waseda University, Organization for Islamic Area Studies; Mr. Kazuyoshi Kuroda, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Egypt Office; Dr. Alok Shukla, Deputy Election Commissioner of the Election Department of the Government of Rajasthan; Mr. David Kerlake, Electoral Commissioner of Queensland, Australia; Mr. Cristian-Alexandru Leahu, Director of Permanent Electoral Authority, Department of Legislation and Parliament Liaison of Romania; Mr. Mehemt Kurtul, Member of the High Election Council of Turkey; and Ms. Halim Asaner, Member of the High Election Council of Turkey.

Among the Egyptian personalities present at the reception were Mr .Ahmed Amin Sultan, Head of Elections Observation Section from the League of Arab States; Dr. Farek Mohammed Abed El-Kader, Counselor at the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court.

This election is certainly the most important development in Egypt since the time of the pharaohs. The country so far has been ruled by monarchs and leaders mostly of military background who were not directly elected by the people. It is obvious to any analyst that the challenges of organizing an election in which over 50 million voters were entitled to vote over a vast territory posed immense logistical and organizational problems. It is accepted that while on the one side there is a very significant nucleus of intellectuals and highly-educated and competent people, there is also a very significant level of illiteracy in the nation.

Following discussions with members of the AU Permanent Mission to the League of Arab States in Egypt, it was manifestly clear that our comments would have to be limited to the greater picture of this event. As we would have had no time to venture out of Cairo left alone to cover several thousand polling stations of the election in progress under the procedures adopted.

On polling day, we visited, in the company of Mr. Nadir Fathelalim, Senior Political Officer of the AU Office in Egypt, several polling stations, which were of considerable distance apart. We, however, spent sufficient time in there to acquire a general impression of the election precinct in progress under the procedures adopted.

There were long queues of voters coming to cast their votes in front of all polling stations we visited. It was obvious that everything was developing in an orderly manner and that the people were enthusiastic about participating in the election of the first Head of State in Egyptian history through direct votes.

Against the background of my personal previous experience with elections acquired by following elections in the United Kingdom and in the Republic of Seychelles, I am of the firm opinion that while it is possible to query certain aspects of the procedures adopted and certain irregularities which could be pinpointed, the overall impression was one of transparency, fair play, and considerable level of commitment on the part of the organizers to ensure that it was seen to be so.

I was able to follow various commentaries and comments, which came across the French and English channels of Nile TV. The nature of interviews and comments impressed me, in so far as it reflected a multiple of views with respect to the election and the future which the people of Egypt is looking for. Also, I made it a point to read as much material about the election published in English and French that was available, including an important debate on issues between two important contenders for the presidency election. Obviously, while debates can lead into providing more awareness as to the ongoing process, there is no doubt that it can also lead to confusion in the minds of the people. This, of course, is a characteristic of democratic governance within the most matured democratic nations. It was, therefore, not unexpected that some people appeared in a reflective mood although the general image was one of positive participation in the process.

We were given the opportunity of meeting with former US President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center, who was accompanied by several of his close collaborators including John B. Hardman, President and CEO of the Carter Center; David Caroll, Director; and Avery Davis Roberts, Assistant Director of the Carter Center. Also present were EISA (Electoral Institute of Sustainable Democracy) led by the former President of Mauritius, Mr. Cassam Uteem; the Arab Elections Network; EU; and League of Arab States. Following a roundtable exchange of views, we agreed that we more or less shared the same sentiments concerning the election we had witnessed. While several suggestions can be made for improvement for future election, in considering the characteristics of elections prevailing within the context of matured democracies, the election was conducted in a fair and transparent way and should be recognized as so.

Against the background of this conclusion, I should record my congratulations to the High Presidential Elections Committee for the task achieved through difficult and challenging circumstances. I would like to express my appreciation to Ambassador Mufta Zawam, Head of AU Permanent Delegation to the League of Arab States, and his team for the generosity of their hospitality. We would like to thank all the people of Egypt with whom we came into contact who have made our task an honor, a pleasure, and privilege.

PHOTO (L to R): Former President Cassam Uteem leading a delegation from EISA, the Electoral Institute of Sustainable Democracy; Former US President Jimmy Carter of the Carter Center; Former President James R. Mancham representing the African Union; and Mr. John B. Hardman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Carter Center


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