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EU observers in Cairo 'unaware' men and women vote separately

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-05-29

The head of the European observers’ mission overseeing Egypt’s presidential election made an embarrassing blunder when speaking to FRANCE 24 in Cairo, showing that he was unfamiliar with at least one key cultural practice in many Muslim countries.

Mario David told FRANCE 24 on Monday that he was concerned at the “striking disparity between men and women” – seemingly unaware that he was standing next to a men-only voting queue.

In Egypt, as in many other Arab countries, women and men queue to vote in separate lines.

“You look at all the people waiting in line here and you realise that there are hardly any women voting,” he said in the middle class Zamalek district of central Cairo, just two minutes drive from the Sofitel hotel where the observer mission was staying.

“Maybe it’s cultural, maybe the women will come later.”

Mario David talks to FRANCE 24

When the error was pointed out, David and his assistants seemed both surprised and embarrassed, asking FRANCE 24 to delete his comments.

On Wednesday, David admitted that while he had made a mistake, he claimed that “it doesn’t detract at all from our capability to fulfill our responsibilities”.

The same day, as it was announced that retired Egyptian general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had won a massive 92 percent of the vote, David told reporters that the election was carried out “within the boundaries of the law”, with only minor violations such as campaigning near polling centres.

He added that he was enthusiastic about a new electronic identification system being put in place to reduce election fraud.

But while the new system appeared to be working smoothly in upmarket Zamalek, it was notably absent from other polling stations visited by FRANCE 24.

Date created : 2014-05-29

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