Former US President Jimmy Carter was back in Egypt this week as part of the Carter Center’s witnessing mission of the Egyptian presidential election. This afternoon, he held a press conference to announce the center’s preliminary findings in the same room he announced those for the parliamentary elections back in January, an event I reported on for Global Post. Carter offered a stinging, if diplomatic, rebuke of the conditions observers were forced to operate under. The Carter Center only received formal approval from the Presidential Election Commission, the controversial body overseeing the election, to witness the elections on May 1 and was issued its credentials May 16, one week before the start of voting. Nor were the center’s observers allowed to freely roam; instead they were restricted to pre-selected polling sites for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. In addition, observers weren’t permitted access to the aggregation of the final national tallies. Carter said that of the 90 elections he’s observed, he’s never been subjected to such constraints. However, he decided to participate anyway given the stakes of the election and his longstanding relationship with Egypt. Still, he concluded that his team had found no evidence of systematic fraud in this week’s elections and expressed confidence that Egypt’s next president, set to be either the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi or former prime minister Ahmed Shafik, would move Egypt closer to fully-functioning democracy, though he declined to comment on any specific candidates.
Some other highlights from the presser:
On the peculiar circumstances of the election…“This is the first time I have participated in an election for president where there was no description of the future president’s duties.”
On allegations of fraud…“There was no pattern reported…that showed the procedure favored a particular candidate….There were many violations…but I think collectively they did not violate the basic integrity of the election.”
On whether he would give advice to the new Egyptian president…“I used to give advice to Anwar Sadat, advice that he didn’t always take. He had a mind of his own.”
On the future of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty…“My opinion is that the treaty will not be modified in any unilateral way.”