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More On International Election Monitoring

12th July 2010

Democratist replies to my earlier posting:

I have a number of points to make about the following statements you made in "International Election Monitoring: Keeping Democracy Honest?"
 
"The problem is that observers necessarily observe the observable, and only a tiny proportion of that."

What about LTOs and the Core Team? They are the field for two/three months and provide a lengthy reports on the political context - meeting all the key national and local politicians and bureaucrats - these will be factored into the "Preliminary statement" (on the day after E-Day) and the "final statement" that comes out a few weeks later.

Also - 10% coverage of all polling stations provides more than enough information to get a very good idea of what is going on - ask a statistician.

"It is not much use international observers dutifully watching voting and counting of an election where some candidates have been unfairly excluded and/or where the media coverage of the campaign has been skewed massively to favour one side (ie the ruling tendency)."

Yes it is - because we make it clear that this is what happened, and provide lots of evidence of how this was manifested on the ground. This can have important implications in the days following the election, precicisely because the OSCE has such a good reputation with the populations of these countries - and this can have a major effect on what happens there in the days immediatly following the election (e.g. Georgia 2003, and Ukraine 2004). Even Serbia in 2000 - although I suspect you know more about that one than me.

On the contrary, the very fact that international observers are observing such an election might be said to give its outcome a legitimacy it richly does not deserve.

Yes and in the past the OSCE has refused to observe for this very reason - e.g. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan several times.

"We make our first report of what is to be a long day. Then we move on, spending only 20 or 30 minutes at each polling station. At various intervals we must phone our LTO team and read out, question by question, our results. The tick-box approach is evidence of the EU’s lack of trust in our judgment. We are data collectors, not observers. It speaks of a bureaucracy keen on statistics that it can brandish scientifically."

Again STO work has to be seen in the context of extensive core team and LTO reporting.

"Even when an election is obviously unfair and international observers say so (as in Sudan this year), the self-proclaimed winner just brazens out the criticism and carries on regardless of EU hand-wringing"

The OSCE and EU are separate organizations - my piece was about the OSCE ODIHR  (I am not an especially big fan of the EU). Observation is certainly no panacea (but tell me what is?) But, even where where dictators just "brazen it out" the observation does at least have the effect that it adds to their bad press, and - as in the cases of Georgia 2003 and Ukraine 2004 (both observed by the OSCE) can contribute to their overthrow. Why do you think the Russians have been so petrified of "colour revolutions" since 2004? Why do you think they prevented the OSCE for observing their parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 amd 2008?

While I think that it would be great if the UK sent its own observation teams (although it would take a while to build up the same sort of credibility the OSCE has in the region), I think it is somewhat unlikely given that they aren't even willing to send 10% of OSCE observers at the moment (as they had usually done prior to 2008) - since, as you may have noticed, HMG is presently a bit skint...

Fair enough.

The OSCE 'space' differs from other international areas as its members have made all sorts of specific commitments to each other, including to take seriously OSCE election observation teams' findings. OSCE election observer teams who point to serious shortcomings therefore have a different sort of political weight.

Which indeed is one reason why Moscow and some other former Soviet area capitals manoeuvre to try to cut back OSCE activities and/or credibility.

And why Democratist is right to urge HM Government to keep paying its full share of the bill as a strategic investment. Even in these financially tricky times.

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