Ukraine looks to have faced down both the Kremlin and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe over the issue of Russian election observers at its presidential election in March. The OSCE was forced to change stance after Ukraine adamantly refused to accept Russian observers of the March 31 vote, and its parliament on Feb. 7 passed a law banning them from being accredited to the OSCE mission. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced a day later that Russia had decided not to send its observers to Ukraine. And the OSCE, while expressing regret over the Ukrainian authorities’ position, also backed down.
For the first time in a Swedish election, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will be present in the country to oversee the vote, according to reports in Swedish media. “This is the first time we have had any form of mission or observation activity in Sweden for an election,” the organization’s spokesperson Thomas Rymer told Sveriges Radio. The decision was made following discussions with politicians, representatives of the Swedish media, and some of those involved in organizing the election.
International observers have delivered a damning verdict on the parliamentary election in Hungary, complaining of “intimidating and xenophobic rhetoric, media bias and opaque campaign financing”. The vote on Sunday delivered an overwhelming victory for Viktor Orbán, who will now serve a third consecutive term as prime minister. Orbán and his Fidesz party campaigned almost exclusively on a programme of keeping migrants out of the country. “Rhetoric was quite hostile and xenophobic and that’s a fact which we find regrettable in an electoral context,” said Douglas Wake, the head of the monitoring mission for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), at a briefing in Budapest on Monday. The observers found that the hostile campaign “limited space for substantive debate and diminished voters’ ability to make an informed choice”. They also noted that public television “clearly favoured the ruling coalition”.
Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement wants international observers to monitor next year’s national election campaign to help ward off “fake news”, party leader Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday. His comments came after the ruling Democratic Party (PD) accused 5-Star supporters of using interlinked internet accounts to spread misinformation and smear the center-left government. Di Maio, who was elected 5-Star leader in September, said his party was often misrepresented by the traditional media and said the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) should oversee the forthcoming election.
Germany: OSCE mulls monitoring German election, as far-right complains of ‘massive interference’ | The Local
The intergovernmental OSCE organization is considering whether to send a monitoring mission to the upcoming German election after speaking with each of the parties, Spiegel reports. Spiegel reported on Monday that the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is deciding whether to monitor the September 24th German national election. For the first time, delegates from the OSCE met with party leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party at their central headquarters, who provided documentation of “attacks, violence, obstructions, and criminal acts against AfD members through private and public positions” as well as “individual acts and in their alarming sum make up a massive interference in a democratic competition for votes in the parliamentary election campaign.”
International election monitors have criticized a Turkish referendum that has brought sweeping new powers to the presidency, saying the campaign was conducted on an “unlevel playing field” and that the vote count was marred by late procedural changes. Observers from the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) said in a joint statement on April 17 that the legal framework for the referendum “remained inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic referendum.” Turkey’s Central Election Committee (CEC) late on April 16 declared the “yes” camp as the winner with 51.3 percent of votes.
Up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated in Sunday’s Turkish referendum which ended in a tight ‘Yes’ vote for greater presidential powers, Alev Korun, an Austrian member of the Council of Europe observer mission, told ORF radio on Tuesday. The mission of observers from the 47-member Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights body, had already said the referendum was an uneven contest. Support for “Yes” dominated campaign coverage, and the arrests of journalists and closure of media outlets silenced other views, the monitors said. But Korun said there were questions about the actual voting as well.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has criticised Armenia’s weekend election, saying it had been tainted by instances of vote-buying and interference. President Serzh Sarksyan’s ruling Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) won Sunday’s elections, official results showed, laying the foundation for a new parliamentary system of government. The OSCE said in a statement the elections were well-administered and fundamental freedoms were generally respected. But, it added, they had been marked by organisational problems and undue interference in the process, mostly by party representatives. It also noted some pressure on civil servants as well as private sector employees.
Montenegrin officials blocked popular messaging services WhatsApp and Viber during the country’s parliamentary election, a ban that drew allegations of interference from opposition politicians and concern from European election watchers Monday. “Blocking such apps is unthinkable in any normal country,” said opposition party leader Ranko Krivokapic, who previously monitored voting for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “I have never heard of that happening anywhere ever in an election.” Authorities said they blocked Viber and WhatsApp for several hours during Sunday’s inconclusive election because “unlawful marketing” was being spread through the networks. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s long-ruling party won the most votes in the contest, but without enough support to govern alone. Both the opposition and the Democratic Party of Socialists will now have to try form a governing coalition with several small groups represented in the 81-seat parliament.
National: OSCE rights group requests 500 international observers to monitor US presidential vote | Reuters
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe aims to send 500 international observers to observe November’s US presidential election, a tenfold increase from the number the group deployed in 2012. A coalition of more than 200 US civil rights groups urged the OSCE in a letter released on Tuesday to provide even more than the 500 observers the OSCE requested based on an assessment it conducted in May. The actual observers will be dispatched by the international security and rights organization’s 57 participating states. The letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said the OSCE’s role was “even more critical” in light of the US Justice Department’s July announcement, first reported by Reuters, that it would deploy election observers to far fewer polling sites this year than in previous elections. Civil rights advocates say voters are more likely to face racial bias at the polls in November than they have in 50 years, because of voting laws that several states passed after the US Supreme Court struck down part of the landmark anti-discrimination 1965 Voting Rights Act three years ago. Supporters of the laws say they are necessary to combat voter fraud.
The international election observation mission led by the OSCE and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE, on Monday declared that the elections in Serbia were generally conducted in accordance with the law, but admitted problematic issues at polling stations. “The design of the voting screens and the layout of the PSs [polling stations] did not ensure the secrecy of the vote, which is not in line with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards,” an official statement said. The OSCE/PACE mission said it had received reports about the intimidating presence of members of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, SNS, in and around some polling stations.
Poland consolidated its rightwing shift on Sunday as exit polls showed voters had handed an absolute majority in its parliamentary election to Law and Justice, a Eurosceptic party that is against immigration, wants family-focused welfare spending and has threatened to ban abortion and in-vitro fertilisation. The current ruling party, Civic Platform, conceded defeat following the first exit poll, published by Ipsos moments after polling stations closed at 9pm (8pm GMT), which gave the national conservative Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice party) 39.1% of the vote, putting it far ahead of Civic Platform on 23.4%. Jarosław Kaczyński, Law and Justice’s chairman and the twin brother of Poland’s late president Lech, immediately declared victory. Speaking to supporters at his party headquarters in central Warsaw, a triumphant Kaczynski said: “We will not kick those who have fallen… We need to show that Polish public life can be different.”
Jezowe, a five-hour bus ride from Warsaw, is officially designated an agricultural village. But it is one where the agriculture now tends to take place elsewhere. Jezowe’s fields lie mostly fallow; its workers now seek higher-paid jobs in wealthier European Union countries, harvesting grapes in France and cabbages in Germany. Among the village’s weathered wooden houses stand gaudy villas, paid for with euros earned abroad. “Disneyland,” says one resident, pointing to the turrets and gilded fences. The town’s public buildings, too, have been spruced up, mainly with injections of EU cash. A grant of 525,000 zloty ($140,000) paid for the renovation of the old parsonage, which now houses a museum devoted to carved figurines of Christ. In short, Jezowe has done well by the EU. Yet the village has long backed the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), a mildly Eurosceptic and socially conservative party that has been in opposition since 2007. The PiS candidate for president, Andrzej Duda, took a startling 92% of the vote here in an election in May; nationwide, he won with a more modest 52%.
An international observer mission has set down in Ottawa to monitor and report on the federal election — including whether controversial changes to Canada’s election law help or hurt the democratic process. The six-person mission, deployed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), is the first to monitor a Canadian election in nearly a decade. It was prompted by widespread concern inside Canada over recent changes introduced by the Conservative government’s controversial Fair Elections Act. “The legislative framework is a key part of any election process. It’s the rules of the game,” said mission leader Hannah Roberts, a British national who has monitored elections in 30 countries. “As we know, there have been some changes here in Canada, and there are different views about those changes. So our job is in part to come and look at that legal framework and be looking at how it works in practice, to see what issues come up.”
The Ukrainian parliament on Friday voted to call local elections across the country in October, but not in the rebel-occupied east. The Kiev government has had no control over parts of eastern Ukraine since separatist rebels began fighting government forces in April 2014, a conflict that has since claimed more than 6,400 lives. An armistice signed in February by Ukraine, Russia and the Russia-backed rebels called for local elections in eastern rebel-held areas as one step toward a comprehensive cease-fire, which has not been achieved yet. The bill passed Friday by the Rada said regional elections for mayors and local lawmakers will not be held in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia, or in rebel-held eastern districts because of the security situation and because Ukrainian officials simply have no access to those areas.
Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov cruised to a new five-year term Monday after facing a minimal challenge, prompting withering criticism from Western observers. The election commission in the tightly controlled Central Asian state said Karimov, 77, won more than 90 percent of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election to extend his 25 years in power, with voter turnout reaching 91 percent. None of the three challengers — all fielded by parties that are openly supportive of Karimov’s rule — troubled the incumbent, scoring in the single digits.
The vote monitoring arm of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections lacked real competition. In a statement on December 22, the head of the limited observation mission sent by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said freedom of expression and association are crucial to conducting free and fair elections. The December 21 elections “were competently administered but lacked genuine electoral competition and debate,” Daan Everts said. “More comprehensive steps are needed to provide voters with real electoral choices,” Everts said. Four parties, all of which support President Islam Karimov, competed for 135 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament. The remaining 15 seats will automatically go to the pro-government Ecological Movement.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) parliamentarians will travel to Turkey next week to observe the upcoming presidential elections and provide leadership for the OSCE’s short-term observer mission, the group announced on Tuesday. The OSCE delegation, which includes more than 20 parliamentarians from 15 participating OSCE states, will be led by Asa Lindestam, chair of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security. On Aug. 10, for the first time voters will go to polling stations to elect the next president by popular vote. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held for the two top candidates on Aug. 24.
On May 25th, election day in Ukraine, I was with ten other election observers in the town of Romny, one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, founded in 902 A.D., and with a storied history under various rulers including Catherine the Great. Today the town and its surrounding environs have a population of about 50,000. The city is in Ukraine’s northeast, about 60 miles or so from the Russian border, north of the fighting further south in Donetsk and Luhansk. Yet the tension in the air was palpable as we readied the ballot boxes for the country’s first post-Maidan election. I was there to make sure the polls were run according to law, that ballot boxes were not tampered with, that the counts were honest and legitimate, and that the districts were operating according to law. Very often with hand counting, elections are manipulated. My team and I were sponsored by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe both who had vested interests in making sure a smooth transition occurred to a new and legitimate Ukrainian government.
“AS I set off on a spring journey into the world, my mother embroidered my shirt with two colours: red for love and black for sorrow,” goes a popular Ukrainian song. On May 25th, as Ukrainians went to the polls to elect Petro Poroshenko as their new president, many sported the traditional shirts embroidered with red and black threads. Held in the middle of a war stoked by Russia’s Vladimir Putin, and three months after a revolution in Kiev’s Maidan that led to more than 100 deaths—and cost the country Crimea, which Mr Putin annexed—Ukraine’s presidential election was an act of defiance as much as an expression of political preferences.
The European Parliament elections and the vote for a new president in Ukraine dominate the agenda this week. Voters in The Netherlands and the UK begin the EP election process on Thursday (22 May), followed by the Czech Republic and Ireland on Friday, four more countries (Italy, Malta, Slovakia, and Lithuania) on Saturday and the rest on Sunday. The results are due at 11pm Brussels time on Sunday. The latest poll, by TNS, indicates the centre-right EPP will slightly increase its lead over the centre-left S&D and that the Liberal group will shrink. Polls also indicate that the number of populist, anti-EU MEPs of various stripes will grow, with the eurosceptic Ukip and the far-right National Front set to become the leading EU parties in the UK and France, respectively. Also on Sunday, Ukrainians will vote for their new president under the eyes of more than 1,000 OSCE monitors, the largest ever election mission by the Vienna-based multilateral body.
Kyiv’s acting President Oleksandr Turchynov has chaired Ukraine’s first round of talks as part of a Western-backed plan to avert the country’s disintegration. The EU says it hopes eastern Ukraine will be the next venue. OSCE-appointed mediator Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany said Wednesday’s talks were intended as an “inclusive” consultative process aimed at calming down the situation ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election due on May 25. Absent at Wednesday’s talks were pro-Russian gunmen who in recent weeks seized buildings and fought Kyiv government troops across eastern Ukraine, leading up to disputed independence referenda last Sunday.
Elections for the European Parliament, to be held later next month, will give EU citizens an opportunity to have an impact on EU policies in the next five years. Elections will be held in all 28 member-countries on May 22-25, and 751 MEPs will be elected for a term of five years.Croatian citizens will elect 11 MEPs, one less than has been the case so far because the number of MEPs will be reduced from 766 to 751. They will, however, elect them for the first time for a full, five-year term.In the May 22-25 elections, close to 400 million EU voters will for the first time elect indirectly, through the European Parliament, a new President of the European Commission. European political parties have for the first time nominated their candidates for EC President so as to attract voters and, by involving them more directly, strengthen the political legitimacy of the EP and the EC. When nominating candidates for the post of EC President, the European Council will for the first time have to take into account election results. MEPs will appoint the new EC President by an absolute majority vote based on the European Council’s nomination, EP Secretary-General Klaus Welle has said.
Two foreign election observer and support missions have pulled staff out of Afghanistan after a Taliban attack on a hotel in Kabul, in a move that could undermine confidence in the outcome of next month’s vote. The presidential election on 5 April could mark the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Many fear a repeat of the widespread fraud that discredited the poll in 2009 when about 20% of votes were thrown out. “It’s really bad news,” said Jandad Spingar, director at the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the largest Afghan monitoring group. “Having international observers in the election is really, really important … [to] give legitimacy to the process.”
The administration of Crimea has not sent an official invitation to the OSCE to monitor the referendum in Crimea, Rustam Temirgaliyev, deputy prime minister of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, told Interfax. “We are really ready to accept monitors from the OSCE, but not as military advisers, let alone the NATO countries, but real monitors. A verbal invitation was indeed made by Prime Minister Sergei Aksyonov, but no official invitation was sent,” he said. The administration of Crimea has invited representatives of the Russian Central Elections Commission and monitors from the CIS countries, he said. “We are open to various international organizations, but only if they are ready to send monitors, not saboteurs, military experts and advisers. We don’t need the help of such ‘specialists’,” he said.
National elections in Ukraine are scheduled for 25 May. If these go ahead – and in the changing situation in Ukraine nothing is certain – they will be bitterly fought and there will be a significant risk of outside interference. All this applies in spades to Crimea, where a referendum is due around 30 March – brought forward yesterday from 25 May – to determine the status of the peninsula. Yesterday Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, said it had agreed that legitimate, democratic elections in Ukraine were “now impossible”. The organisation for monitoring the quality of elections in Europe is the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – both Russia and Ukraine are members; the institution that deals with elections, human rights and democratisation is the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), which is part of it.
The opposition Socialist Party has called on the government to request the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to send observers to ensure the transparency of Hungary’s general and European Parliamentary elections next spring. Socialist lawmaker Tibor Szanyi said his party suspected that the ruling Fidesz party was “ready to perpetrate election fraud in all 11,000 constituencies nationwide”. Szanyi insisted that at least 1,000 OSCE observers would be needed, one for every 10 polling stations.
Roberto Gualtieri said on Tuesday that the vote count for polling stations in the four municipalities in northern Kosovo and Metohija has not begun yet. Gualtieri is chief observer of the EU Election Observation Mission. The election materials are in Priština, and our job is to monitor and analyze the process. In relation to that, the Central Electoral Commission should assess the situation and deliver a decision, Gualtieri said at a press conference. The EU Election Observation Mission condemns the attacks on the three polling stations in northern Kosovska Mitrovica, Gualtieri said, underlining that the attempts at sabotage failed. The EU mission assessed positively the electoral process in Kosovo, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) offered key assistance to the process, despite great challenges, he said.
2013 is the second General Election year this will be done. Their presence is by official invitation from the Government of Norway. It is also based on the findings and conclusions of a Needs Assessment Mission (NAM), conducted between 4 to 6 June. The OSCE/ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights)-deployed Election Assessment Mission (EAM) is headed by American Peter Eicher. Other foreign core team members are election analyst Goran Petrov (former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), and Lisa Klein, a legal and campaign finance analyst from the UK. Sweden’s David Bismark, a new voting technologies analyist, and Yuri Ozerov (procurement and contracting officer, Russia), make up the final two foreign NAM team members. In particular, the election observers will investigate aspects related to the Internet voting pilot project.
Bulgaria: Elections competitive and well run, but trust in process is lacking, international observers say | Panorama
Bulgaria’s early parliamentary elections on 12 May were held in a competitive environment, fundamental freedoms were respected, and the administration of elections was well managed, although the campaign was overshadowed by a number of incidents that diminished trust in state institutions and the process was negatively affected by pervasive allegations of vote-buying, international observers said in a statement today, according to the OSCE PA. The campaign was competitive and generally free of violence, and the caretaker government undertook several measures to hold genuine elections. Cases of pre-election wiretapping and concerns over last-minute incidents related to ballot security, however, weakened public confidence in the process. The campaign was at times negative, with some parties using inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric. Allegations of vote-buying continued, negatively affecting the campaign environment, the international observers noted.