Statements on the importance of genuine, competitive elections, the need for election observation and follow up were presented last week on behalf of the United States by Patrick Merloe, NDI’s director of electoral programs, at the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland.
The gathering, which brings together hundreds of government representatives, human rights activists and international experts, is considered the most important human rights event of the year in the OSCE region. Merloe was a public member of the U.S. delegation, which was led by Ambassador David Johnson.
Merloe presented the two statements on Sept. 30. The first noted that “free and fair elections are a necessary part of a healthy democracy” but added that “technically well-run polling does not mean that the election process is democratic." He emphasized that “a genuine electoral process also requires an open pre-election environment in which citizens can participate fully, political parties can operate freely, independent media can flourish, and an independent judicial system operates effectively.” The statement assessed the character of recent elections in several OSCE countries, including negative elections in Belarus, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and generally positive elections in Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Macedonia.
The second statement addressed the importance of the overall election environment in determining whether an election meets OSCE standards and concluded by stressing that, "The United States supports OSCE election observation. ... We also believe that follow-up to recommendations made by the observer mission is very important."
Merloe also responded to a question from the chairman of Russia's Central Election Commission, who was speaking for the Russian delegation, about why observers are needed. "The Copenhagen Document [which contains OSCE commitments on democratic elections] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provide a clear answer,” Merloe said. “They both say that the authority of government derives from the will of the people expressed in genuine elections. So, citizens, in effect, own elections, because that is where sovereignty truly resides. Citizens have the right to know that their elections are genuine. Hence, domestic observers are needed."
- Merloe's full statements to the OSCE»
- Independent monitors conclude Kyrgyzstan parliamentary elections were democratic and transparent»
- Election stories unfold on a map»
Published Oct. 5, 2011