Cablegate: Osce: Hdim Election Issues

Published: Tue 27 Sep 2005 12:26 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.
1. (U) Summary. Election issues were the focus of
three early events at this year's Human Dimension
Implementation Meeting (HDIM)in Warsaw. During the
first HDIM Working Session, the clear fault line that
separates most NGOs and participating States, including
the United States, from Russia and Belarus re-emerged
on OSCE election activities. While all NATO and EU
members and NGOs defended existing OSCE election
commitments, observation and assessment methodology and
assistance, Russia and Belarus repeated their standard
accusations of double-standards and lack of
transparency. During this session, a U.S. NGO attacked
the United States on the issue of District of Columbia
voting rights. A side event organized by ODIHR's
Election Section showcased the activities of domestic,
non-partisan observer groups. A UK side event involved
a presentation of London's constructive response to the
findings of the ODIHR Election Assessment Mission (EAM)
that observed the UK's May general election. Ukrainian
and Kyrgyz NGOs blasted CIS election observation in
both the first Working Session and side event on
domestic observation. End Summary.
Working Session One
2. (U) Though the session was officially on democratic
institutions writ large, the statements by roughly 30
governments and NGOs focused overwhelmingly on election
issues. Head of ODIHR Election Section Gerald Mitchell
opened with an overview of ODIHR's previous year
election-related activities. Worth noting is that CIS
election officials visited ODIHR's Election Section in
November 2004. ODIHR reciprocated in June 2005. The
African Union also sent a delegation to ODIHR in July
2005. Mitchell said ODIHR will continue efforts to
enhance follow-up to its post-election recommendations,
but stressed that states themselves must lead in this
area. He noted that invitations to ODIHR for follow-up
visits are one example of how states can live up to
their commitment for post-election cooperation with
ODIHR. (Note: ODIHR officials have told USOSCE on a
number of occasions that the U.S. invitations to the
OSCE to conduct a follow-up visit after the 2004 U.S.
general election are an important precedent to convince
other countries to do so as well.)
3. (U) Timothy Cooper, Executive Director of the
Washington-based NGO Worldrights, blasted the USG on
the issue of DC voting rights. He termed DC residents
"subjects of an all-powerful State" and Washington "one
of the world's most undemocratic cities." He noted
that the OSCE Election Observer Mission (EOM) deployed
for the 2004 US general election found that the U.S.
should look to provide equal voter rights for DC
citizens. He also drew attention to the July 2005 OSCE
Parliamentary Assembly resolution calling on Congress
to address this issue. He stated that Worldrights has
turned to the OSCE because the USG refuses to take
action. Cooper recommended that OSCE participating
States pressure the United States in the Permanent
Council and that the Ministerial Council adopt a
decision on DC voting rights.
4. (U) Vice Chair of the US Election Assistance
Commission Paul DeGregorio, speaking on behalf of the
United States, emphasized USG confidence in OSCE
election work. He highlighted that the USG has
welcomed OSCE observation in the United States and
appreciates its recommendations. He shared that ODIHR
has accepted the USG's invitation to conduct a follow-
up visit and that we hope to receive an ODIHR
delegation later this year. DeGregorio outlined the
USG position on specific elections in the OSCE region
so far this year and the Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan
ballots coming up. He welcomed improvement in Albania
and Kyrgyzstan, but called for continuing efforts at
reform and cooperation with OSCE. (Note: Full text of
U.S. statement available from USOSCE.)
5. (U) Many speakers reviewed electoral issues and
problems in specific countries. The International
Helsinki Federation, the Macedonian NGO MOST, the
Serbian Center for Free Elections and Democracy
(CeSID), Albanian and Moldovan Helsinki Committees, a
Turkmen youth NGO and others expressed varying degrees
of criticism of ODIHR; called for international
engagement; and sometimes made concrete
recommendations. A Russian NGO expressed concern about
the recent restrictions placed on the rights of
domestic observer groups in that country. Albania and
Macedonia pledged to continue to improve their
electoral systems in cooperation with the OSCE.
6. (U) The U.S., EU, Germany, Norway, Albania,
Macedonia and Slovakia all defended OSCE election
observation and assistance. Switzerland expressed
frustration that, despite extended discussion, the OSCE
has not yet produced a package of new election
commitments (commonly referred to as Copenhagen Plus).
Slovakia was particularly clear in favor of preserving
ODIHR autonomy, ensuring that any consideration of
Copenhagen Plus does not undermine existing election
commitments and placing primary responsibility on the
relevant states themselves to address their under-
representation in OSCE election missions by seconding
observers. Switzerland and Norway emphasized the need
for more systematic follow-up to ODIHR recommendations.
They both proposed a process by which participating
States would formally explain in the Permanent Council
how they plan to respond to ODIHR reports.
7. (U) The Committee of Voters of Ukraine (on behalf of
the Ukrainian NGO Coalition "Clean Elections") and the
Kyrgyz Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society
challenged non-OSCE election observation organizations,
including the CIS, to be more transparent. They
demanded that such groups publish methodologies;
provide the makeup of their delegations; explain their
financing; share geographic deployment plans; etc. A
Kyrgyz NGO urged its Government to end participation in
CIS election observation.
8. (U) Russia and Belarus were the sole critics of OSCE
election work, mostly repeating well-worn contentions.
Russia argued that the OSCE needed to improve its
criteria for assessing elections and devise a
methodology that would preclude application of "double-
standards." Trying to sound constructive, Russia
stated that election observation should serve to assess
progress; encourage states; and offer assistance so
that democracy is improved. How the OSCE announces its
findings should be reconsidered and geographic
diversity of election observers enhanced. Russia
supports the Chair's efforts to follow-up on the
election discussion in OSCE as outlined in its July
letter to ODIHR (Ref A).
9. (SBU) Belarus argued that certain participating
States want to continue to use OSCE election
observation "for their own ends." Existing OSCE
election commitments are "general." More detailed
standards are needed to put observation on "firmer
footing." A comparative analysis of the election
systems of the participating States would be a good
basis for developing those standards. In light of the
increasing application of new technologies, isn't ODIHR
methodology "archaic?" Belarus stated that the focus
of OSCE observation should be on making recommendations
for improvement. It would therefore make more sense
for the OSCE to send small expert teams as its standard
observation tool, rather than the current larger EOMs
it most typically deploys. Traditional OSCE EOMs
should only be organized when a participating State
requests one. (Note: This proposal is Belarus'
latest, if transparent, suggestion designed to subvert
OSCE election work.)
Side Event on Domestic Observation
10. (U) Mitchell introduced the side event on "15 Years
of Domestic Observation in the OSCE Region" by
highlighting the steady growth of domestic non-partisan
observer groups since their rights were first
acknowledged in the 1990 Copenhagen Document. He
commented on ODIHR's extra-budgetary project to build
the capacity of such groups, which allows ODIHR to
bring domestic observer groups and ODIHR together to
exchange experiences; allowed the publication by ODIHR
of a handbook on guidelines for domestic, non-partisan
observation; and enables the participation of such
groups in relevant OSCE conferences, like the HDIM.
Mitchell indicated that ODIHR would continue to monitor
the treatment of domestic observers as part of its
activities and wants to investigate ways in which ODIHR
might be able to help build such groups capacity for
post-election follow-up.
11. (U) The four panelists were Edil Baisalov of the
Kyrgyz Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society; Enira
Bronitskaya of the Belarusian Civil Initiative
"Partnership;" Lilia Shibanova of the Russian
Association of Non-profit Organizations in Defense of
Voters' Rights - VOICE; and a representative of the
Croatian GONG organization. All four reviewed the
election-related and other civic activities of their
organizations as well as challenges specific to their
countries. The particularly well-spoken Baisalov also
attacked the "hypocrisy" of CIS election observation
missions, which he termed "low-level acting." He noted
that the CIS claims its methodology is based on the
OSCE's, but then trashed the OSCE's approach. He
commented on the lack of transparency in CIS election
observation and the fact that the vast majority of CIS
observers come from one particular country (i.e.,
Russia). He reiterated his NGO's call to the Kyrgyz
Government not to participate in CIS election
UK Side Event
12. (U) The Foreign Office-organized side event, which
a UK diplomat told USOSCE was directly copied from the
U.S. side event at the April Supplementary Human
Dimension Meeting on elections (Ref B), demonstrated
the UK's commitment to leading by example in the area
of follow-up to ODIHR recommendations. Representatives
of the Department of Constitutional Affairs, Electoral
Commission and Manchester City Council provided
overviews of the various actors in the UK system. The
Constitutional Affairs Department and Electoral
Commission had each produced point-by-point responses
to the findings of the ODIHR EAM that deployed for the
May UK general election. Panelist and ODIHR Election
Adviser Vadim Zhdanovich, who served on the EAM,
complimented the UK's example of post-election
cooperation with ODIHR. UK officials explained that
the restrictions on international and domestic observer
access to parts of the electoral process should be
eliminated in a general election reform bill before
Parliament. (Note: If the UK does lift the
restrictions on observers in order to come into
compliance with its OSCE commitments, this will further
highlight the continuing problems of observer access in
the United States.)
13. (SBU) On elections, the HDIM served its purpose
admirably of allowing NGOs and states to hold
governments accountable to their human dimension
commitments. The valid NGO criticism of CIS election
activities expressed the view of probably all NATO and
EU members, which have so far refrained from
embarrassing Russia on this issue at the PC.
Mitchell's highlighting of the value of follow-up
invitations shows the importance of the U.S. continuing
to lead by example when it comes to cooperation with
ODIHR. The professionalism and dedication of the
domestic observer groups at the ODIHR side event should
also encourage the USG to continue to support ODIHR's
extra-budgetary project on capacity-building for them.
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