The Elections Observation Missions of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (ODIHR) have become a regular feature of the electoral process on the European continent, and a model for others world-wide. The Missions, consisting of a core team and a handful of long term observers deploy a month ahead of the poll and are joined for election-day by several hundred short term observers and delegations from the Parliamentary Assemblies of the continent’s leading institutions. Whilst not perfect, the ODIHR model remains the best.
One feature that has often caused concern is the way that these missions report their findings. It has now been a long standing habit (it would be wrong to call it anything else), for the Election Observation Missions to issue two interim reports prior to election-day. They are often very technical in nature. On election day the Mission then joins up with the parliamentary delegations from the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, sometimes the NATO PA and until recently with the OSCE’s own Parliamentary Assembly, for the day-after Press Conference, usually held at 3.00 or 4.00 in the afternoon. This has traditionally been the most high profile part of the process. The atmosphere is usually highly charged, the journalists coming from overseas to cover the election would still be around, and everybody is waiting for the key phrase or phrases which would indicate that the election has been deemed free and/or fair, although in recent years the wording has become increasingly more ambiguous. The Parliamentarians then leave as quickly as they had arrived, and the ODIHR mission lingers on in-country for a while to observe the post-election environment. Rarely, as was the case in Armenia after the 2008 Presidential election and again this month, it issues a third interim report. The Mission then departs and two months after the Mission issues a final report.
Many feel that these habits are due for review. ODIHR, in an effort one suspects to insulate itself from the pressures of its political masters – the OSCE member states represented by the Permanent Council in Vienna, increasingly depicts its work and its reports as “technical”, checking performance against compliance. They may very well be, but there is no denying that the consequences of the reports are political, and the way that ODIHR is communicating its findings is, in that sense, not very efficient. More…
Karina Gould has been reading a paper proposing a new approach to election monitoring. She sees value in the arguments but warns about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
“A more sophisticated and perhaps fairer way of observing elections is also to take into account the direction of political developments,” notes a recent paper released by the Caspian Information Centre (CiC), a privately funded research group based in London dedicated to the study of the Caspian region, in a critique of the electoral observation regime currently in place.
The paper, titled “Oh Dear, ODIHR! Why the OSCE’s Election Monitors Don’t Always Get It Right”, takes aim at the contemporary framework and tools to assess democratisation, particularly with regard to Azerbaijan. The authors of the paper suggest that instead of focusing on the “gold standard” of elections – a standard most “established” democracies such as the United States and Great Britain would not meet – it might actually be more useful to implement what is referred to as “Developmental Observation”. This technique “assumes that what is important is the way things are moving, rather than how they appear in a snapshot.” More…
The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Mission for the Georgian Parliamentary Elections has published its first interim report covering the period from 22 August to 5 September 2012.
The report has been characterised by some following the Georgian election process as a bland and expensive non-event since it waffles through the main issues that have been at the centre of the Georgian Electoral process. A team of several dozen core and so called ”long term” members of the mission deployed at the end of August, months after the election campaign had started in earnest. The report makes no attempt to capture the many controversies that have dominated the process so far. The core and “long term” observers are due to be joined for elections day by 350 short term observers deployed from the OSCE member states.
A second report is due shortly before the day of the elections.
The ODIHR EOM to Georgia first interim report is available here.
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has announced that a delegation headed by its President Riccardo Migliori, will visit Tbilisi on 20 August on a pre-election fact-finding mission. He will be accompanied by the Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Tonino Picula, who will head of election observation mission of the Assembly in Georgia in October and by Assembly Secretary General Spencer Oliver.
Picula, who served as the foreign minister of Croatia from 2004 to 2008, has extensive international election observation experience. He has previously led the OSCE election observation missions to Russia in 2012, Kazakhstan in 2011 and Moldova in 2010.
There is already a lot of confusion in the Georgian media about the different roles of the OSCE PA and ODIHR in the election observation process and very little sign that these roles are being properly explained. ODIHR which is supposed to provide long-term observation and deploy hundreds of observers is normally the main instrument of monitoring. The Parliamentary assembly provides the political clout for the OSCE monitoring effort. In theory! In practise the process does not always work so seamlessly.
The Armenian Centre for Electoral Systems (AC ES) monitored the elections in Nagorno-Karabakh held on 19 July. AC ES Director, Atom Mkhitaryan, shares his impressions of the process. More…
The Irish Chairmanship of the OSCE and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR)will be hosting a meeting in Vienna on 12-13 July to discuss democratic elections and elections observation.
This Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) will provide a platform to discuss best practices in follow-up and implementation of the OSCE commitments on democratic elections and explore strategies and key issues in election observation. The SHDM will also address such election related matters as universal and equal suffrage rights, legal framework, media, campaign financing, and gender.
The meeting cannot be more timely for the countries of the South Caucasus in the middle of a crucial cycle of elections. More…