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Egypt’s Military Leader Promises a Fair Election (NY) TIMES) By MAYY EL SHEIKH CAIRO, EGYPT 05/17/12)Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/world/middleeast/egypt-military-leader-tantawi-promises-fair-vote.html?_r=1&ref=middleeast&gwh=0B1B4104BB0C32C2FD709F6D83AEA928 NEW YORK TIMES NEW YORK TIMES Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
CAIRO — The leader of Egypt’s ruling military council promised on Wednesday to secure a fair vote in the presidential election beginning next week but also said the military would retain a “duty” to protect Egypt from domestic disturbances as well as to defend it against foreign threats.

The statements came amid growing concerns about the potential for voting fraud and the military’s willingness to shift to civilian control. Voting will begin on May 23, with a potential for a runoff in June. The leading candidates present voters with very different backgrounds as either Islamists jailed under President Hosni Mubarak or former officials who worked in his government.

“God willing, we’ll the cut the tongues of those who make false allegations against our troops and men, and we will not listen to what’s said, and it won’t affect our spirits,” the council’s leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said in a speech at a military training facility Wednesday morning.

In a heated parliamentary session Wednesday morning, several lawmakers from the dominant Islamist party warned of signs of fraud, contending that the names of people on the police force and in the army, who are legally forbidden to vote, had been included in electoral rolls.

Separately, the most respected international group monitoring the elections, the Carter Center, said Wednesday that Egyptian authorities were imposing restrictions that could impede the ability of outside monitors to evaluate the process.

Egypt invited many international groups to observe the parliamentary elections, and all pronounced them broadly credible. But on Wednesday, Sanne van den Bergh, the director of the Egypt operations of the Carter Center, based in Atlanta, said Egyptian authorities had so far invited only three groups, the Carter Center, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa and a network of Arab election monitors, Reuters reported. Ms. van den Bergh said that the authorities had not yet issued the required papers to allow the observers to track preliminary steps like candidate registration, and that officials had limited the access to each polling place to less than half an hour.

Many Egyptian observers say they also fear that the ruling generals are reluctant to submit to civilian control. Since the generals took over upon Mr. Mubarak’s ouster, they have sometimes tried to impose language on the new constitution that would protect the military’s power and autonomy even after the promised transfer to a civilian president.

As recently as two weeks ago, members of the military council suggested in a news conference that it might issue a new interim constitution until a deadlocked constitutional assembly could complete its work.

In his speech, Mr. Tantawi said the armed forces should not be duped into abdicating their duty to defend Egypt “from the inside” as well as from the outside, which he called the military’s “sacred mission.” (Copyright 2012 The New York Times Company 05/17/12)

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