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Wed 20 Jun 2012 10:13 AM

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Carter Center cannot say if Egypt vote fair

Election monitor says not given sufficient access, accuses military of hampering move to democracy

Carter Center cannot say if Egypt vote fair
The Carter Center said it had been unable to monitor the vote properly (Getty Images)

A US election monitoring group said on Tuesday it was unable to say if Egypt's presidential election was free and fair as it had not been given sufficient access, accusing the military leadership of hampering a transition to democracy.

The Carter Center said it had been unable to monitor the vote properly and that a "return of elements of martial law" meant it was "now unclear whether a truly democratic transition remains under way in Egypt".

Supporters of both presidential candidates - the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsy and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik - say their man won last weekend's run-off. Official results are not expected until Thursday.

"We cannot provide a comprehensive assessment of the integrity of the elections due to the limited nature of the mission," the Carter Center's field office director, Sanne van den Bergh, told Reuters.

The group complained of late accreditation to monitor the vote, limits on the amount of time it was allowed to stay in polling stations and said it was denied access to the central count.

"The restrictions are contrary to the core principles of credible and effective election observation and the Carter Center will not witness future elections in such circumstances," the group said in a statement.

Beyond the election itself, the group said a court's decision to dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament and a decree from the ruling military council limiting the future president's powers increased the risk that Egypt was not becoming the democracy that many had hoped for.

"Ultimately, a truly democratic transition requires not just elections, but the full transfer of power to those elected civilian institutions," the group said in a statement.

Washington has said it is "deeply concerned about the new amendments to the constitutional declaration" and urged the military to make a full handover of power to a civilian government.

The Carter Center observed broad issues of inconsistent polling and counting procedures, for example fingers being inked incorrectly or judges calling different shots in their determination of ballot validity when counting votes.

The group said voter lists should be made available to the public.

"They must open up the voter list for public scrutiny so that it builds up confidence in the process," Van den Bergh said. "Without that, it creates unnecessary suspicions and tension."