Abdallah Diop during the interview with Egypt Today
CAIRO – 28 March 2018: The 2018 presidential election kicked-off on Monday, March 26, and will continue through Wednesday. In the build-up to the presidential election Egypt has welcomed many foreign delegates to oversee the election process.
Egypt Today has met with Abdallah Diop, head of the African Union Election Observation Mission, who spoke about the purpose of the mission and the voting process on the first day.
How do you think the electoral process has been conducted thus far?
You must remember that it’s just the first day. What we have here is a short-term observation; this mission is quite limited, but we are observing the voting process and the counting of the votes. I am leading the African Union observation team, which consists of around 40 observers covering 12 governorates. Our first impressions are that the elections are taking place in a peaceful environment. There has been a widespread deployment of security forces, who have successfully managed to keep order. While observing the voting process we saw young and old people queuing and casting their vote peacefully. I can say that so far we haven’t seen any specific irregularities in the electoral process.
You oversaw the last election in 2014. What's the difference between the last election and this current one?
This election is yet to be completed, and it is difficult to compare. What we can say is that last time African Union observers oversaw the election in Egypt, we made a recommendation to bring together the three electoral bodies into over overriding body. We now have the National Election Authority, so we will see how successful there are in running the electoral process, but overall I think that this is the biggest change between this presidential election, and the last.
How cooperative are the Egyptian authorities in facilitating the entry and work of the election observers?
Firstly, we have to say that Egypt is a member of the African Union and that we are here at the invitation of the Egyptian government. Since we arrived we have been received at the Foreign Ministry by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hamdy Lousa, in addition to the Chairperson of the National Election Authority. As far as the candidates are concerned, we have met with President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s campaign, and have met with Moussa Mostafa Moussa himself.
At all levels I think that we are getting the maximum cooperation from the Egyptian authorities, and our team has the authorization and accreditation necessary to permit full access to centers involved in the electoral process. I really have to thank the Egyptian government for the level of cooperation they have provided, and we hope that will open the way for us, when we make our assessment and recommendations, to get the full attention of the Egyptian government.
How do you see the participation rate of voters?
I do not yet have the figures, but I think that the level of participation have been good from what we have seen. The electoral process is taking place over three days and thus it is difficult to day, but people are going out and voting and there is no particular restriction to voters. We have seen that everyone who has wanted to vote was allowed to cast their vote with a free mind.
What are the main factors that your final assessment is based on?
We must ensure that we are conducting an impartial and neutral assessment, and that we are not involved in the process. We want to be as impartial as possible and give the most accurate image of the election we can.
Are assessment is based on three factors. Firstly, we look at Egyptian standards which are founded upon Egyptian laws and thus govern the electoral process. Hence, we must make sure that the election is being conducted according to Egyptian laws themselves. Secondly, we must also look at the standards of the African Union. We have an African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, and must make sure that the election is taking place according to these standards. There are also internationally recognized standards that we must follow, which focus on vote counting, electoral transparency and the credibility of the process.
Are there any recommendations that your report will include?
We’ll give our assessment of the process, and if we think its necessary we may also make some recommendations.
There are standards that we use to make the assessment, but what we are doing will take into account the face that Egypt is a member of the African Union. We want to show the solidarity of the continent because we think that the success of the electoral process in Egypt will enhance both peace and stability across the African continent. We have to be very sensitive to the development of this country, and how it can affect the entire continent.
How do you see Egypt's relationship with African countries after 2014?
Since the presidency of Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt has been very much involved in African issues. All Egyptian presidents have been engaged in African affairs in a different manner, so allow me not to provide any specific comparison, or appreciation, between different presidents. Egypt has a great African foreign policy, and is contributing to the stability and prosperity of the continent; something which is most important to us.
Is there a specific time when you will issue your report about the election?
Hopefully within 48 hours following the closing of the polls. It will probably be on March 30.
President Sisi seeks to approach and reach-out to Africa. How do you see his initiatives?
As you know I am from Mali and just three months ago I was Foreign Minister of Mali. We have an excellent collaboration with Egypt, and Egypt has also been helping to support Mali in its security and the fight against terrorism, to provide one example. I am sure that Egypt is also involved with many other African countries on economic and development issues. We hope that peace will be maintained in Egypt so that Egypt can continue to play the historic role it has across Africa; Egypt is a driving engine of the continent. If Egypt is feeling well, we’ll all feel well. If Egypt is not feeling well, it will create problems for the continent.
What's your expectation for Egypt’s future?
Egypt is an ancient country, and has an ancient civilization. It has experienced many challenges and difficulties, however the Egyptian people have always had the intelligence to overcome these challenges. I’m very hopeful, even in spite of the difficult security and development issues facing the country. The Egyptian people will find their way to solve them, and will find themselves in a more prosperous and stable country, able to contribute to peace and stability in Africa, the Arab world, and the whole world. I’m hopeful about the future of Egypt.