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Africa

Youth movement to protect Egypt’s presidential polls against fraud

media Volunteers from the Qestas organisation meet to discuss monitoring the … Daniel Dinnan

A key Egyptian youth movement is readying itself to protect Egypt’s presidential polls from electoral fraud with a 10,000-strong team of election observers. Members of the 6th April group, which played a key role in Egypt’s so-called Arab Spring, will be monitoring the ballot this week under the auspices of an aligned non-governmental civil society organisation.

“The fraud will be intentional for several reasons,” says Amr Abdel Hakim, the founder of the Qestas NGO, speaking from a disused building in the Qasr al-Einy district of Cairo.

During an animated meeting on Monday night Abdel Hakim addresses volunteers who have received two days of intensive observation training. On Wednesday and Thursday they will be visiting polling stations armed with checklists to record possible irregularities.

Report Daniel Finnan in Cairo 22/05/2012 Listen

The youth monitoring teams, 90 per cent of which have been drawn from the 6th April movement, will be active in 15 of Egypt’s regional administrations. They will collate their findings via call centres which will tabulate any problems they have identified.

Abdel Hakim says they have gained experience from Egypt’s parliamentary elections. But this time, the stakes are much higher.

“These elections are about choosing a president, which is about choosing a whole system,” he says, visibly sweating after an intense hour-long meeting with anxious volunteers. “We’ll have the Islamists from one side, the military council from another - with revolutionary forces taking a different approach,” he adds.

After the political work of the 6th April group, the Qestas group, sees it as their job to protect the gains made since the fall of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

But even obtaining the necessary approval to get observation status was an uphill struggle.

Dossier: Revolution in Egypt

Abdel Hakim explains that they were originally refused observation status by Egypt’s electoral commission. However, after some gentle persuasion via reports carried in local media about the denial, the commission gave the go-ahead and issued official electoral monitoring status.

For the 6th April movement the development of the Qestas monitoring mission marks an important step forward in their role in Egypt’s political transformation.

During the uprising last year, their base in Qasr al-Einy was just a shell of a building, without electricity and fixed lighting. Slowly but surely over the last year the large abandoned house has seen the installation of power, light fixtures and even a television.

Adel Samakia, in charge of recruitment for the 6th of April movement, sees the group’s role as helping to protect against undemocratic forces.

“We do not trust the SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces),” Samakia says, in perfect English. He is concerned about the long-term effects of the former regime on the country’s first presidential elections since Mubarak’s departure.

Who's who in 2012 Egyptian presidential election

“Disorganised chaos,” is how Samakia chooses to describe the preparations for the landmark polls. “As Egyptians it is our first time to elect someone. You know how Mubarak has corrupted everything,” he adds, pointing to the importance of making the electoral process accountable.

Qestas will be one of 55 domestic electoral observation centres reporting on Egypt’s 23-24 May polls, according to the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper. Qestas’ monitoring will feed into work undertaken by Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights.
 

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