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Cairo, 16 October 2015: Up to 50 COMESA Election Observers from 14 Member States have been deployed in Egypt to observe the country's election that begun Sunday 18 October 2015.

The observers include senior officials drawn from ministries of foreign affairs civil society organizations, election management bodies, Cairo based diplomats and staff from the COMESA Secretariat.

Hon. Felix Mutati, a Member of the COMESA Committee of Elders is the leader of the team. Prior to the start of the voting, Hon Mutati who hails from Zambia and the COMESA team held meeting with various government and elections officials including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs His Excellency Ambassador Hamdy Loza and the Head of the High Electoral Committee in Egypt Judge Ayman Abbas.

The Minister welcomed the team to Egypt and urged them to cover as much ground as possible and also share their findings on the election process with his government. He described the elections as crucial for the people of Egypt as they go through the transition period which is expected to cement the progress achieved since the Presidential elections 18 months ago.

“The brotherly bond between Egypt and COMESA has been in existence for a very long time,” Ambassador Loza told the team. “We have always enjoyed support from COMESA and this strengthens us as we continue to make progress at different levels.”

Hon. Mutati said COMESA has always dedicated itself to support Egypt especially at crucial times such as the election process. The team will observe the concluding stages of the pre-election activities, voting, vote counting and declaration of the results and the immediate post-election period.

First phase of elections begins Sunday

The first phase of the parliamentary elections in Egypt will take place on 18 and 19 October 2015 which will cover the upper part of the country in towns such as Alexandria, Red Sea, Beheira and Matrouh among others.

Voters in Egypt and those residing in the diaspora are also expected to vote for their preferred candidates in a system referred to as Out-of-country voting. Under this system, 226 candidates will be voted into office. The run-off for the first phase will take place October 26-27 in the diaspora and 27-28 October for the in-country run off.

Egypt has 92 political parties with 62 of them taking part in the elections. Voter verification has been done. The Egyptian diaspora will vote from the various embassies in their respective countries of residence.

Hon. Mutati commended the High Electoral Committee for their commitment to the election process. He said the COMESA Observer team would be deployed as widely as possible in order to have a balanced and objective view of the whole election process.

According to the new Constitution, the Parliament or House of Representatives must have no fewer than 450 members elected by direct secret ballot. The full House of Representatives will have a total of 568 members.

Out of the 568 seats, 448 seats will be elected through individual candidates competing in majoritarian elections in single and multi-member districts. In Egypt, this component of the electoral system is known as the “individual system.” Elsewhere, the system is often called a “two-round system” for single member districts, and “block vote” for multi-member districts.

COMESA/GNRD Deploys Joint Election observers

Meanwhile, COMESA has partnered with the Norwegian based human rights organization, the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) to observe the first phase of the parliamentary elections in Egypt.

The two organizations are also jointly working with the International Institute for Peace and Human Rights (IIPJHR) from Geneva Switzerland and a local Egyptian organization Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights. This is the first time for COMESA and GNRD to partner with the local, regional and international organizations.

“This is a unique collaboration and first of its kind. We as a mission are here to monitor and follow up all stages of the electoral process, in addition to monitoring the social and political contexts in which the electoral process is carried through,” a statement released by the joint mission read in part.

The combined observer missions comprises 300 observers that will cover all the governorates which are taking part in this first phase of the elections.

Prior to deployment, the teams held consultations with different stakeholders in Egypt ranging from the civil society, media, academicians, the High Electoral Commission, representatives of contesting candidates and the government. The objective was to come up with a comprehensive assessment of the electoral process both in terms of legislation, practices and procedures. They will deploy short and long term observation missiosn for the second phase of the elections set for 22-23 November 2015.

The GNRD team is led its president Dr Loui Deeb.