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…
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…
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…
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…
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.