Egypt's judges voted Friday to supervise next Wednesday's presidential elections, overturning a decision earlier this year when they voted to boycott the polls fearing that they would be rigged.
Several judges disagreed with the decision. Judge Ashraf el-Baroudy said he did not want to supervise a "farce." He said as there will be no transparency, there should be no supervision. Dissenting judges referred to the conduct of the May 25 referendum, when Egyptians voted for a constitutional amendment that provided for multi-candidate elections for president. A judicial report into the referendum, published July 2, accused the government of fabricating the results and turnout figures.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif acknowledged this week that there had been scattered violence during the referendum and "a few incidents in tens of thousands of poll stations." But he insisted this happened despite the government's will. In May, the judges voted to boycott the presidential elections saying they did not wish to be a party to the electoral fraud that has characterized previous polls.
President Mubarak, who has been in power since 1981, has previously been elected in yes/no referendums in which he was the sole candidate, and official results gave him more than 90 percent of the "yes" vote. The May meeting was attended by about 2,500 judges whereas fewer than 1,000 judges took part in Friday's vote.
Judges have demanded the right to supervise what goes on outside and inside the polling stations. Past polls have been marred by reports of government supporters intimidating and blocking voters outside stations, and by allegations of ballot stuffing in the counting process.
Before the judges met, about 300 protesters from the reform group "Kifaya," the Arabic word for "enough," demonstrated outside the venue, urging the judges to take a strong stand. One of their banners said: "Oh, judges, rid us of despots." For the first time, the presidential polls on Sept. 7 will have more than one candidate. Ten names will be on the ballot. But Mubarak is widely expected to win, AP reports.