Election Monitoring: Is there a turf war between OSCE structures?


The decision of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Mission monitoring the Armenian Presidential Election last week to issue a separate statement at a separate Press conference from the rest of the joint international monitoring effort raised speculation about differences in the conclusions of the two groups. Asked about this during their Press Conference, the representatives of OSCE/ODIHR downplayed the issue and presented it as more of a technical decision rather than a political one. But was it? A few days later at the General Assembly of the OSCE PA in Vienna it was announced that “a committee of parliamentarians headed by Francois-Xavier de Donnea (MP, Belgium) will have the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Assembly with the OSCE ODIHR regarding improved co-operation in future election observation missions.”

A statement on the OSCE PA website added: “The OSCE PA and the OSCE/ODIHR previously co-operated under a 1997 agreement that laid out the respective roles for the institutions and clarified that a parliamentarian appointed as special co-ordinator for the election observation mission would deliver the preliminary post-election statement on behalf of the OSCE. In December, after repeated challenges to that agreement that undermined appointed special co-ordinators, President Riccardo Migliori with support of the OSCE PA Bureau, declared the agreement no longer operable.”

There have been rumors for a number of years of problems between OSCE ODIHR and OSCE PA on election monitoring. For the sake of the credibility of the process this discussion now needs to be conducted with maximum transparency. More…

Armenia: Oh so diplomatic!

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian.

The Foreign Minister of Armenia, Edward Nalbandian led a chorus of criticism against views expressed by diplomats from EU member states ahead of the presidential elections. The diplomats, namely British Ambassador Katharine Leach and Polish Ambassador Zdzisław Raczyski’s had made mild criticisms and expressed hope for free and fair elections. Pro government politicians lined up to criticise the two Ambassadors and accusing them of interfering in internal affairs. The Foreign Minister then weighed in suggesting that the two Ambassadors had crossed the boundaries of diplomatic practise, with Nalbandian citing his experience as long time Armenian Ambassador to France to show how diplomacy should be done. Diplomatic circles in Yerevan are surprised by the audacity of this criticism given that Armenian diplomats in France, the United States and other countries are often involved in supporting candidates who are sympathetic to pro Armenian issues in the countries they are accredited to, whilst the Polish and British diplomats in Tbilisi were simply making comments about how the democratic process could be consolidated. More…

Armenia’s peculiar election.

electios13The OSCE/ODIHR Election Monitoring Mission issued an interim report on 7 February in which it described the first two weeks of the presidential Election Campaign in Armenia as “low-key and of limited visibility”. The Mission has strived to go through the motions of monitoring the campaign despite the somewhat bizarre circumstances that have surrounded this election.

One of the eight candidates in the election formally withdrew from the race on 8 February. The Central Elections Commission duly accepted his withdrawal and cancelled his candidature. Aram Harutyunyan call for the other six candidates challenging incumbent President Serzh Sargsyan to withdraw from the race has so far been unheeded. Another Presidential candidate Andreas Ghukasyan has been on hunger strike since the campaign started on 21 January. Speaking to journalists two weeks later Ghukasyan lambasted the OSCE/ODIHR Election Mission which he said was there to legitimise a fraudulent election. He accused the mission of misleading the Armenian people and called on them to pack up their bags and leave. More…

ODIHR flags up changes in constituency boundaries in Georgia as a priority.

Janez Lenarcic meeting Maia Panjikidze in Warsaw on 29January 2012.

Janez Lenarcic meeting Maia Panjikidze in Warsaw on 29 January 2013.

ODIHR Director Janez Lenarcic met in Warsaw last week with Maia Panjikidze, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, at ODIHR Headquarters. During the meeting issues related to the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election monitoring mission for the 2012 Parliamentary Elections were discussed.

ODIHR issued the final report of the Mission on 21 December. The report is largely technical and in some instances avoids dealing directly with some of the more difficult issues that overshadowed the 1 October elections in Georgia. The report however lists 26 recommendations, some of which it suggests to be implemented prior to the Autumn Presidential elections, and more long term calls for a comprehensive review of all electoral laws, and of the regulations concerning campaign funding.

The first priority recommendation in the report states:

“The OSCE/ODIHR reiterates its long-standing recommendation to address the disparity of the population size in the single mandate constituencies for parliamentary elections.” More…

PACE pre-electoral delegation concerned about a general lack of interest and trust in the election process ahead of Armenian Presidential Poll.

coeA delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has raised concerns ahead of the 18 February Presidential Elections in Armenia.

The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Yerevan last week at the invitation of the President of the National assembly of Armenia. The delegation of parliamentarians, headed by Karen Woldseth (Norway, EDG), and including Luca Volontè (Italy, EPP/CD), Stefan Schennach (Austria, Soc), and Mailis Reps (Estonia, ALDE) met with presidential candidates, including the incumbent President, leaders of factions in the Parliament, the Minister of Foreign affairs, the President of the National assembly, the chairman of the Central Electoral Commission, the Head of the National Police, the General Prosecutor, NGO and media representatives, the head of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and diplomats in Yerevan.

A full 22-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly will arrive in Yerevan in mid-February to observe the vote. The PACE delegation will present its findings and recommendations to the assembly during its april session in Strasbourg.

In statement posted on the Council of Europe website (www.coe.int) the delegation welcomed “the intention of the Armenian authorities to organise an election fully in line with international standards”. the statement adds: “however, a crucial matter of concern for the delegation is the continuing substantial inaccuracies in the voter list, since an accurate list is a prerequisite for any proper election. there is still confusion about the right to vote for Armenians living abroad. the delegation was also disappointed to note that previous recommendations on urgently dealing with these issues have not been implemented.   More…

“Developmental Observation,” a new yardstick for measuring democracy in election observation missions or a means of glossingover realities?

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…