Virtual Parallels

International Observer Missions in 2013 Presidential Elections

International Observer Missions in 2013 Presidential Elections


 
Geopolitical Interests Distort the Purpose and Nature of Observer Missions
 
 
- How important and necessary is supervision of the elections in Armenia by international observers?
 
- The presence of international observers in the elections, I think, is important, provided that these missions remain true to their purpose and principles. Certainly, no murders occur when they exercise control, but they are constantly repeating the famous phrase of "a step forward towards democracy”:  it is just a slap in the face of our community, for though noticing violations, they, in the end, acknowledge the elections . They are not naive and understand what is happening. One does not have to drink the sea to understand that it is salty. To find out whether the violations affected the results or not, a small "sip" would suffice. Why do they do it this way? Because justice and legal requirements are opposed to the geo-political and so-called "Caviar” diplomacy. Armenia has a history of twenty years as an independent state. In 2001, it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and many other international agreements, under which we are obliged to hold fair and transparent elections. However, we have not yet achieved such success, we have had failures, and I think observation missions have also played a role in these failures. I am very sorry about this. OSCE, EU, and the Council of Europe are political bodies, and the final decisions come from political interests. In the presidential elections this year, their political interests made them recognize Serzh Sargsyan as the President of the RA.
 
- Immediately after independence all the elections (presidential, parliamentary) in the country began to be observed by the OSCE / ODIHR observer missions. After accession to the Council of Europe and joining the Eastern Partnership program the elections began also to be observed by the representatives of the CoE and the EU. There are observers from the CIS countries. Can you see any discrepancies in their reports?
 
- After the latest presidential elections held this year the unelected person was greeted in Brussels, Moscow and the United States. This means that the geopolitical interests have distorted the purpose and nature of the observer missions. Of course, the discrepancies in their reports and the details are secondary, but the opinion on the results of the election was the same. And if the results of a rigged election are believed as the same, it does not matter, who spoke harsher about the existing problems. Also judgments should not be made only based on the events of the day of voting. Prior to the election process, we repeatedly pointed at all the sores to be eliminated to all those structures you mentioned above. Not only the "Heritage" party, but also various social organizations and political forces spoke about them. We specifically pointed to all the problems to be solved by fair and transparent elections, and warned that the disregard of these shortcomings would create a favorable environment for the illegal activities of the authorities. Look, due to emigration the electoral lists in Armenia contain names of people currently not in the country. We have a strong suspicion that this fact is used to vote instead of the missing people. After the elections, the authorities are unwilling to publish the registers, referring to the requirement by the Venice Commission, which, by the way, came up with some other language. I mean that even before the elections they were aware of these issues and should not have judged only by impressions of the day.
 
- How reliable are the reports of international observers? How objectively do they reflect the reality? How would you describe the attitude towards them on the part of social and political forces in the country? Has it changed over the years?
 
- These delegations, of course, also have honest people whose principles are not negotiable. There were people publicly expressed their opinions upon return. But I repeat: the decisions of the international observation delegations are political. We, after all, can hope for international observers’ honesty, but we must be the ones to set our country right. At the time of the referendum on the independence of Armenia, our Electoral Code was not better, but then we were the bearers of this idea, and so those elections were fair. During the presidential election, I witnessed how the civil society rebelled unwilling to agree to the evaluation, given by the international observation mission. People openly declared that they did not recognize the fuzzy evaluation by the international missions. This protest, this energy of rebellion was very important. Politicians should not be constrained no to bring charges to various international institutions either. Ten people would not be killed in the center of Yerevan on March 1 (2008 – By Editor) but for the statements of international observers that the elections were fair. This is inexcusable, and I believe that this is their fault. Yes, the attitude to Observation Missions has definitely changed. It is clear to all and we very well understand that their principles of respect for human rights can be a bargaining chip. We are very well aware of it.
 
- Who needs these reports more - the country, the authorities, the opposition forces or European organizations? Do you accept the possibility of the non-recognition of a President’s authorities on the basis of an international observation mission report that evaluates the outcome of the elections as fraudulent?
 
- Reports are required in order for us to collate, compare and understand whether the elections correspond to the principles of the evaluating structures. They are needed, I assume, for comparison purposes only.
 
- Do you accept the possibility of the non-recognition of a President’s authorities on the basis of an international observation mission report that evaluates the outcome of the elections as fraudulent?
 
- I do not know whether the election results may be non-recognized on the basis of an evaluation by an international mission, but when there is no fair judicial system, then yes, we need objective and  professional opinion, and a body of evidence provided by a structure, as well as facts and proofs collected by witnesses that will be specifically by the signals and stimuli to the further steps.

 
Reports by International Observers Cause Headaches for the Authorities
 
 
- How important and necessary is supervision of the elections in Azerbaijan by international observers?
 
- This is an important factor. In a country like Azerbaijan, which is experiencing a crisis in the system of elections, it is necessary to observe both on local and international levels. Holding elections in accordance with international standards, forming the executive and the legislature power based on the people’s will – these processes must be monitored by the international community.
 
The opinion of international observers, judging on the normal pre-election situation to ensure free and fair elections, as well as to provide equal opportunity to all parties, is important.
 
- Immediately after independence all the elections (presidential, parliamentary) in the country began to be observed by the OSCE / ODIHR observer missions. After accession to the Council of Europe and joining the Eastern Partnership program the elections began also to be observed by the representatives of the CoE and the EU. There are observers from the CIS countries. Can you see any discrepancies in their reports?
 
- Of course, there are considerable differences. Azerbaijan acceded to various OSCE documents (Copenhagen, Vienna), has pledged to hold elections in accordance with the OSCE standards. Joining the Council of Europe and by accession to the Eastern Partnership Program, Azerbaijan has also committed to holding free and fair elections. However, in the democratic world, the OSCE has gained a reputation of a professional and categorical structure to ensure the improvement of the electoral system and the election monitoring. The OSCE sends to a long-term election observation mission. The Council of Europe and the EU sent their representatives, i.e. deputies, to observe the voting process. These structures give only a general evaluation to the elections, or rather the voting process. On the other hand, because of the political nature and orientation of these structures, their observation may be biased.
 
Reports of observers from the CIS, in general, are far from being professional, and are compiled on the basis of personal relations with the leaders of the country. In addition, this structure does not include any democratic countries, these are countries with no properly established electoral system s, their statements cannot be regarded as professional.
 
It would be totally wrong to draw parallels between the OSCE/ODIHR reports and those of the other three structures. At least, because the OSCE election monitors the elections on an ongoing basis and cooperates with the authorities of Azerbaijan for the improvement of the electoral system.
 
- How reliable are the reports of international observers? How objectively do they reflect the reality? How would you describe the attitude towards them on the part of social and political forces in the country? Has it changed over the years?
 
- Only the ODIHR report of those by international organizations can be relied on and trusted. At least because during the election campaign, they delegated several missions to the country on a long term basis. ODIHR observed the election situation in the country, preparing progress reports and only after that did they submit their final conclusion. For this reason, the OSCE ODIHR report can be considered more objective. The Azerbaijani authorities have criticized and found faults with any structure that criticized election results. The opposition, though criticizing the ODIHR opinion in different time- periods, still relies on its reports.
 
The opposition and the civil society of Azerbaijan indicate that ODIHR should prepare a more stringent report and proceed with a variety of sanctions against the officials in Azerbaijan, whose names often appear as responsible or involved in the falsification of the election results.
 
- Who needs these reports more - the country, the authorities, the opposition forces or European organizations?
 
- The country needs objective reports on its elections, at least because people do not have to have an illusion of the involvement of international organizations in election falsifications. The reports by international organizations will be voice their protests in the democratic world. Opposition is necessary so that they can show to the world that the loss in the election is the result of a lack of real competition, as well as mass ballot rigging. Thus, the opposition does not lose his electorate.
 
The European structures need it in order to show the real reasons for the impossibility of a peaceful change of power in Azerbaijan and to make the necessary conclusions. The authorities do not need this at all, for this causes extra headache for them.
 
- Do you accept the possibility of the non-recognition of a President’s authorities on the basis of an international observation mission report that evaluates the outcome of the elections as fraudulent?
 
- I do not expect such a report. In our capacity as an NGO that monitors elections and political processes, we closely cooperate with international organizations. So far there has been nothing that could point to radical measures of non-recognition of the presidential authorities. At least too many steps need to be undertaken before that very step.

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