Egypt will not allow international groups to monitor its upcoming parliamentary election, the country’s military rulers announced Wednesday, echoing ousted president Hosni Mubarak’s argument that foreign electoral oversight would be an affront to Egyptian sovereignty.
Maj. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, a spokesman for the ruling military supreme council, said during a news conference that only Egyptian monitoring groups would be allowed to watch the polls. Foreign monitors, he added, “would interfere with the sovereignty of Egypt.”
The United States and others in the international community have long pressed Egypt to allow foreign monitors into polling stations, a practice that has lent credibility to elections in nascent democracies such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ban on foreign monitors gave Mubarak’s National Democratic Party tremendous leeway to rig elections during the three decades that he ruled Egypt claiming to be a rightfully elected statesman.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was the latest U.S. official to publicly call for international observers in Egypt’s upcoming vote. After a meeting last month with Egypt’s de facto leader, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, McCain said the military leader was open to the suggestion.
The credibility of parliamentary elections expected to take place in the fall could cement or erode Egyptians’ faith in the prospect that democracy will take root in a nation scarred by decades of autocratic rule.
“Everyone expects that the next elections will be much freer and fairer than anything before,” a Western diplomat said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal Egyptian affairs. “Having international monitors would help certify that.”