In the run up to the presidential elections in Egypt, much was said and written on the number of voters, government interference, the candidates, and other familiar matters. For the most part, the comments reflected a lack of preparedness for the election as information on the poll was scare; what is an election without accurate statistics but a cart with no horse unable to move forward?
This lack of information is a major unforgivable defect in spite of the ruling party’s best efforts to organize fair and free elections. Because of the reliance on old, manually gather statistics to compile electoral lists, judging whether the elections were success is not possible.
Instead of applying pressure in its bid to change the political landscape in the Arab world, organizations should start by conducting a population census, which will provide information on the number of people, households and other details. Only then, can elections be conducted in a proper manner and managed to everyone’s satisfaction.
In a country like Egypt where over 70 million people live, information gathering will never be easily achieved. A long and expensive process, it nevertheless is crucial on a number of levels: election, security, politics and the economy.
In yesterday’s elections, neither President Hosni Mubarak, the leading candidate, nor the opposition can be certain of the results. If the ruling party states the results are fair or if the losing candidates claim they are fake, how can they possibly manually compare voting registration cards?
Conducting elections in Egypt, given its large population and the lack of resources was bound to be difficult. The focus amongst civil society groups on scrutinizing the vote to ensure fair elections was misguided, given the poll’s lack of crucial electronically stored information on all those who would cast their votes, to allow the truth to emerge in any subsequent dispute.
Those who believe the government and its National Democratic Party are not dedicated to maintaining computer records and obtaining accurate demographic information are wrong, as it is the first loser. Complicated and lengthy procedures currently needed to register voters only serve to turn citizens away, especially government supporters. Members of the opposition are usually eager to take part in elections under any circumstances and despite complicated procedures as they seek to implement change; they are not deterred by long queues or adverse weather conditions.
Exhaustive voter registration and a census of the population will allow the government to reach out to its people, understand and meet their demands, and therefore, receive their votes.