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…

ODIHR Election Reports: too soon, too late, or both?

OSCE_ODIHR_logo_Album_110612The 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…

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…

Georgia’s State Audit Service widens investigations into companies associated with the opposition, amid warnings from the EU and the OSCE. 1

CEW Editorial writer Karina Gould follows the latest moves by Georgia’s State Audit Service against the Georgian Dream Coalition.

On the heels of the property seizure and fines levied against Georgian Dream leader, Bidzina Ivanishvili, this week witnessed a continuation of the State Audit Service’s (SAS) investigation into campaign and party financing in Georgia. More…

EU-Georgia Parliamentary Committee flags up important issues connected with the forthcoming elections.

The EU flag flies outside the building of the Georgian Parliament in Tbilisi.

The 14th EU-Georgia Parliamentary Co-operation Committee met in Tbilisi on 2-3 May 2012 under the Chairmanship of David Darchiashvili, representing the Georgian Parliament and Milan Cabrnoch representing the European Parliament. The meeting approved a document entitled “Final Statement and Recommendations, pursuant to Article 89 of the EU-Georgia Partnership and Cooperation Agreement” which includes 37 articles covering a range of issues. More…

Interview: EVGENI KIRILOV MEP “The European Parliament expects the three South Caucasus countries to ensure free fair and transparent elections.”

Caucasus Elections Watch has interviewed Evgeni Kirilov MEP, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on developing a strategy for the South Caucasus and asked him for his views on the current election trends in the South Caucasus.

CEW:  This month we have seen the start of an election cycle in the South Caucasus, with important elections in all the three countries scheduled over the next two years. What are the expectations of the European Parliament from this process?

E. Kirilov: The European Parliament has always followed very closely the democratisation processes in all the three South Caucasus countries. A special focus is given particularly on the electoral process as a corner-stone of any functioning democratic system. Therefore the European Parliament expects from its three partners in the region to continue with the democratic reforms and to ensure that the forthcoming important elections in the next three years will respond to the European standards and will be free, fair and transparent. More…