Historic Election in Egypt?

Egyptians go to the polls on September 7th to elect a president from among ten contenders, including the incumbent of 24 years, Hosni Mubarak. While few doubt the outcome will be his re-election, many are intensely following the process.

Some 6000 domestic election monitors have been training for the event, while hundreds of foreign reporters are converging on the country this week. Although all the formal trappings of a true electoral contest are in place, important aspects of authenticity are glaringly absent.

Despite promises to the contrary, this is far from a level playing field. Mubarak still commands disproportionate assets: name recognition, a virtual monopoly on state-controlled electronic media and some 85% of the print media. One week before the poll, some opposition candidates have yet to air even one campaign ad on Egyptian television. All members of the presidential election commission are Mubarak appointees, and the new election rules eliminated any independent challengers.

Since the year 2000, Egypt’s 8000 judges must supervise and certify election results, by ruling of the High Court. This was a major step toward fairer elections, as the judges’ professional union has remained fairly independent over the past half-century of executive power grabs.