CAIRO – Former President Jimmy Carter said Saturday that monitors noted violations during Egypt's presidential elections but that the vote was generally acceptable and the irregularities won't impact the final results.
The Atlanta-based Carter Center had 102 monitors at polling centers across Egypt for the landmark vote — the first since longtime leader Hosni Mubarak's ouster last year in a mass uprising. Preliminary results showed a tight race at the top between the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate, Mohammed Morsi, and Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq. The top two finishers will advance to the June 16-17 runoff.
Carter said his group was not able to monitor the entire process because authorities only granted his mission's observers permits a week before the race. The Carter Center said in a statement that the observers were not able to witness the aggregation of the ballots, which "severely undermines the overall transparency of the election results."
The third place finisher, Hamdeen Sabahi, has demanded a recount, citing violations that he has yet to disclose.
Carter said the violations — such as a lack of privacy for voters and the observers' lack of access to the final vote counting — won't affect the ultimate results.
"I don't think the mistakes and errors and improprieties that we have witnessed in the last few days will have a negative impact on the runoff," he told reporters. However, he stressed that his center is only able to make a "limited" judgment on the elections because of the limits on their mission.
He said he believed the restraints were in place because the election commission's decisions are final and cannot be contested by any higher court, leaving it in charge of making final calls about the process.
"It was not restrictive to distort the outcome of the elections, I don't think," Carter told The Associated Press.
He said he was hesitant about accepting the mission because of the limits placed on it, but in the end decided to go ahead with it because he personally has been "deeply involved" in the Egyptian transition process from the outset. The Carter Center also monitored Egypt's parliamentary elections, which stretched from last November to February 2012.
He said the presidential election was a "great step forward" from those earlier votes, which were largely viewed as free.
Carter said the final announcement of the two contenders for the runoffs have not yet been officially announced.
He said whoever the candidates are, they will seek to accommodate the demands of the revolutionary groups and other groups who didn't vote for them, including Christians.
"That is part of the democratic process," he said. "The oppressive military regimes are over for ever, I hope. The people have an unimpeded right to chose their own leaders in a democratic process. I think human rights in the future will be honored much more closely than ever before. So I think democracy has come to Egypt even though they are some difficulties in the transition process. I think they will be overcome."