Back in an embrace? The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly says it is back working with ODIHR on election monitoring.

Francois-Xavier de Donnea presenting a report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of the OSCE at the Bureau of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Copenhagen on 15 April 2013. Picture courtesy of the OSCE PA

Francois-Xavier de Donnea presenting a report of the
Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of
the OSCE at the Bureau of the OSCE Parliamentary
Assembly in Copenhagen on 15 April 2013.
Picture courtesy of the OSCE PA

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Bureau on Monday (15 April) decided to reactivate the 16-year-old agreement that guides election observation by the OSCE.

A statement on the OSCE PA website said that “four months after declaring the 1997 Co-operation Agreement no longer operable, the Assembly today reactivated the agreement and said it needed to be applied to ensure that the OSCE speaks with one voice in assessing elections among its 57 participating States.

The OSCE PA’s leadership accepted the recommendation of the Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Reform of the OSCE, led by Francois- Xavier de Donnea (Belgium), that the 1997 agreement be applied to the upcoming election observations in Bulgaria and Albania. The committee has worked since February toward improving co-operation in election observation. The Assembly will evaluate the experiences of those election observation missions at the Annual Session in July in Istanbul.” More…

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

news_from_copenhagen

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…

If Brezhnev could accept the Helsinki Final Act of 1975, it should not be so difficult for Armenia and Azerbaijan to do so too.

Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev signing the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975. The Act made the subject of human rights a matter of legitimate concern to all.

Soviet Leader Leonid Brezhnev signing the Helsinki Final Act in August 1975. The Act made the subject of human rights a matter of legitimate concern to all.

Over the last few weeks it has become common to hear officials in Azerbaijan, and to a lesser extent in Armenia, complaining that the European Union is interfering in the internal affairs of their countries. This happens whenever EU officials or diplomats raise issues connected with human rights, rule of law and free elections. The chorus started first with some pro government journalists and commentators, but by last week senior officials in the two countries had joined the fray.

These officials clearly do not understand the processes that have been going on in Europe in the last forty years. The historic Helsinki Final Act adopted by all the European states (with the exception of Albania) in 1975 laid the foundation of a new European order which recognised the indivisibility of security and that human rights on the continent were not simply an internal matter but a matter of legitimate concern for all. 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…

Azerbaijani and Armenian political parties discover their “Asian side”.

Whilst Armenia and Azerbaijan emphatically insist that they are European countries representatives of some of their leading political parties last week participated in the 7th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) which was hosted in Baku by Azerbaijan’s ruling party YAP and was attended by a number of other Azerbaijani parties, both pro government and opposition, as well as by the leader of Armenia’s Heritage Party, and Presidential candidate, Raffi Hovhanessian.

The participation of Armenian and Azerbaijani political parties in this event has caused some amused bewilderment since both countries, as well as their political elites, have for the last two decades since they attained their independence, insisted very emphatically that they were European countries, and both countries are now full members of the Council of Europe.

Unlike Turkey and Russia, whose geography puts them part in Europe and part in Asia, Armenia and Azerbaijan have traditionally been categorised in either one or the other. Whilst some still put them as Asian countries, since their admission to the Council of Europe in the late 1990s they are generally defined as European. Political observers question if ICAPP was worth paying the prize of opening once more the discussion on this issue. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have in recent years been criticised in European political frameworks for their human rights record, and their democratic credentials questioned. More…

PACE report adds to mixed reviews of Armenian Parliamentary Elections.

On May 24, Baroness Emma Nicholson, Chairperson of the ad hoc committee for the Observation of the 6 May Parliamentary Elections in Armenia, presented the findings of the mission to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) in Tirana.

Noting the electoral campaign was “vibrant, competitive, and largely peaceful”, the report highlights several issues observed leading up to and during the election, notably the general distrust of the election process as a whole. Issues raised include: inaccuracies in the voter lists, voter intimidation, voting and vote counting procedures, as well as the issuance of passports to facilitate fraud, vote buying and deficiencies in complaint and appeal mechanisms.

The International Electoral Observation Mission (IEOM), composed of observers from PACE, the European Parliament, OSCE/ODIHR and OSCE/PA, visited 1,000 out of 1,982 polling stations in and around Yerevan, Armavir, Ejmiatsin, Aragatsotn, Shirak, Vanadzor, Ararat and Vayotz Dzor on 6 May 2012. More…