2015

EPDE Annual Conference Took Place in Berlin, 14-15 December 2015

Germany

On 14 and 15 December 2015 a third Annual Conference of EPDE took place in Berlin. 20 top monitors from 14 EPDE member organizations participated in the conference. The election experts developed a strategy of election monitoring in the countries of the EU Eastern Partnership and in Russia for the coming years.

A special EPDE guest, Prof. Pippa Norris, a McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, presented the results of the research program "Electoral Integrity Project" which focuses on why election fails and what can be done to avoid it.

More information on the Election Intergrity Project is available here.

Armenia: Interviews with EPDE experts on the Technology of Stealing Votes [VIDEO]

Armenia

Interviews at CIvilNet television with EPDE experts: Lene Wetteland, Norwegian Helsinki Committee, Roman Udot, Movement Golos, Russia and Adam Busuleanu on the conduct of the Constitutional Referendum In Armenia. The experts present results and conclusions on the pre-referendum campaign and the voting day.

Lene Wetteland of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee and an expert with the European Platform for Democratic Elections was in Armenia to follow the referendum vote of December 6. She says the results of that referendum do not reflect the free will of the people and are not credible.

See the full interview here.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) participated in Armenia’s referendum with a mission of experts to oversee the vote on December 6. EPDE expert Roman Udot from Movement Golos Russia and Adam Busuleanu, EPDE Program Coordinator spoke with CivilNet about the violations and irregularities during the voting process.

See the full interview here.

Referendum assessed as illegitimate by Citizen Observers and EPDE

Armenia

 

Constitutional Referendum

Preliminary statement on the conduct of the Constitutional Referendum

Citizen Observer Initiative and European Platform for Democratic Elections

Republic of Armenia

December 6, 2016

Citizen Observer Initiative and the European Platform for Democratic Elections found an unprecedented number of violations on the December 6 Constitutional Reform.

The referendum campaign was marred by massive misuse of administrative resources to campaign in favor of the constitutional changes and influencing the voting and tabulation process via control of electoral administration on the territorial and local levels. Inaccuracy of voter lists remained the most crucial issue considering the confidentiality of voter participation that leaves room for later manipulations.

On the voting day, observers reported an unprecedented number of violations of the electoral law and international standards which had systemic character. Citizen observers and some of the international media reported intimidation and threats across the country. Numerous manipulations of the voter lists, violations during the voting and the vote count, as well as high number of cases of direct falsifications of results by electoral commissions influenced the final outcome of the referendum.

Due to the high number of electoral violations and crime, including intimidation of voters, falsification of protocols and numerous reports on ballot box stuffing, Citizen Observer Initiative and the European Platform for Democratic Elections believe that the Referendum results do not reflect the free will of Armenian citizens and should not be considered to be legitimate.

Citizen Observer Initiative and the EPDE observed the entire process of the preparation for the constitutional referendum. On the voting day, about 700 observers were deployed to 500 precincts in all regions of the country. The observers were accompanied by 700 journalists and EPDE experts. Their reports cover the proceedings of the entire voting day – the opening of the polling stations, the conduct of voting and the counting of votes. This information was recorded via SMS reporting and processed by the call center and analyzed by the core team based in Yerevan.

The referendum campaign       

The constitutional amendments and the referendum were pushed forward by the authorities very aggressively and hurriedly. No civic debate was ensured by the authorities who initiated the constitutional amendments. Immediately after approval of the draft amendments by the President of Armenia on August 21, the draft was submitted to the National Assembly and approved on October 5, 2015 without any possibility for the public comment. Instead, the entire state apparatus and the state budget employees were actively mobilized in the campaign supporting the constitutional changes.

Impact of the misuse of administrative resources

In many cases, the political diversity and balance were not ensured in the electoral commissions at territorial and local levels. According to the electoral code, the city and village council members cannot be appointed as members of the territorial and precinct electoral commissions. However, there were 203 council members appointed to PECs of which 83 were appointed by the TECs and 50 were appointed by the ruling Republican Party and were removed only after a report being published by an observer organization.  

Electoral Law does not provide for the possibility to vote outside the country which deprives a significant number of the citizens of Armenia of the right to take part in elections and referenda. At the same time, the authorities did not introduce an efficient verification system of voter lists despite the fact that this problem was addressed by numerous international and domestic observation missions in the past. This directly allows for manipulation of voter lists during the voting.

The authorities extensively used administrative resource during the campaign period with the campaign being led by the Prime-Minister with the involvement of The Minister of Territorial Administration and Emergency Situations, as well as all regional governors and local government.

The voting day

The voting took place in a tense atmosphere with domestic observers being threatened and targeted by PEC members in the majority of observed polling stations. Several cases of intimidation of the members of the Citizen Observer Initiative were reported during the entire voting day. There were about 150 cases, when the members of the PECs as well as proxies of the ruling party obstructed the work of observers, in particular when observers tried to observe the completion of voter registration in the voter lists.

Several cases of inaccuracies of voter lists were reported, i.e. dead voters still appeared on the voters list, large groups of people were registered at the same address. Obvious manipulations of the voter lists were reported, i.e. voters were unable to vote because somebody else had already voted instead of them, while others found out that somebody had voted for their absent or dead relatives.

Campaigning in favor of the constitutional changes and excessive instruction of voters in the polling stations were reported in several cases. Multiple voting was reported in 57 cases and organized transportation of voters in 20 cases. Instruction of voters in and outside of the polling stations was reported in 50 cases and violation of secrecy of vote in 51 cases. 14 cases of ballot box stuffing was also reported. In 46 cases people without authorization were identified in the polling stations. 5 cases of ballots or PEC accessories being taken out of the polling stations were observed.  There were reports on vote-buying and promises of money.

The vote counting was accompanied by several procedural violations which in many cases could significantly influence the outcome of the voting. In several cases, citizen observers and international media representatives were intimidated and hindered in carrying out their monitoring activities. In some polling stations the counting process was interrupted due to obstacles allegedly initiated by PEC members. Eleven cases of falsifications of the voting results were reported, i.e. when turning off the lights at the polling station was used to shift the ballots and change the results.

This statement as PDF (EN)

Referendum in Armenia: EPDE opens media center in Yerevan

Armenia

Yerevan, 1 December 2015: EPDE opens International Media Center in Yerevan, Armenia for the Constitutional Referendum scheduled on 6 December 2015. Domestic and international experts will provide exclusive information on the preparations for the referendum and the conduct of the voting day. Simultaneous English translation and live stream on the EPDE website will be provided during all press conferences.

Detailed schedule about the location and time will be announced soon.

For further information please contact:

Tsovinar Nazaryan, +374 91 520204, tsovinar.nazaryan@gmail.com.

Ukraine 2015 Local Elections: EPDE Experts Reports

Ukraine

During the Local Elections in Ukraine held on October 25 and November 15, 2015 20 EPDE experts and observers analyzed key issues of the election process. The project was founded by the European Union, the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Polish-German Cooperation Foundation.

Arkadii Lubarev from the Association Golos, Moscow, analyzed the implication of the new local election law adopted shortly before the elections. Steffen Halling from the Berlin based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) monitored the highly unpredictable outcome of the election campaign in the Donbass region controled by the Ukrainian government. Anton Shekhovtsov from the Legatum Institute (London) researched the quality and impartiality of the international election observation missions. Elena Nezhiradze (Tbilisi) analyzed the disputed voting oportunities for the Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine.

Additionally, 15 EPDE short-term observers from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Norway, Poland and Russia monitored the election day proceedings with the support of the civic observers from the Civic Network Opora and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine.

Expert analysis and assessments

Arkadii Lubarev from the Association GOLOS, Moscow, analysed the implication of the new local election law which was adopted shortly before elections without public debate. The expert criticize the complicated structure and implementation and does not recommend to apply this law for the future elections since it generates disputes as seen during city council elections in St Petersburg 2017-2011.

See here for a series of preliminary assessments and conclusions (in Russian, English version to be published by the end of November):

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 1: the electoral law and the electoral system: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/54651

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 2: The party system: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/54941

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 4: Registration of party lists and candidates: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/55021

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 5: Agitation campaign - general perspective: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/56111

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 6: Street campaign: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/56271

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 7: Voting preparation, voting, counting of votes: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/57201

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 8: Election results - parties breakdown: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/57261

Local elections in Ukraine-2015. Part 9: The election results -representation voters: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/57401

Other analysis will be available by the End of November

Individual reports of EPDE short-term observers

The reports were drafted in the framework of an EPDE expert mission and are available in Russian, English or Polish here.

The final report conducted by Promo-LEX you can find here.

 

Parliamentary Elections Marred by Political Imprisonment, Violations of Freedoms to Assembly, Association, and Expression

News

source: apa.az

EPDE carried out long-term observation of the November 1, 2015, Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan with support of more than 50 local long-term observers (LTOs) and local civil society activists in more than 80 election constituencies around the country.

EPDE notes with regret that the November 1, 2015, Parliamentary Elections were carried out amidst numerous incidents of political imprisonment and gross violations of freedoms to assembly, association, and expression. The nomination and registration stages of the elections were compromised by the exertion of pressure on candidates and their representatives during the signature collection process, along with the intimidation of voters, who were forced to withdraw their support signatures. Election campaigning was marred by restrictions on campaigning opportunities and the absence of TV debates and free air time, as well as by the abuse of administrative resources in favor of the ruling party and the candidates it supported. The main opposition parties refused to participate in the race due to the prevailing undemocratic conditions, thereby rendering the vote uncompetitive and the outcome a foregone conclusion.

The National Council, established by the main opposition parties, NGOs, and activists, decided to boycott the elections due to the undemocratic situation in the country. The ruling YAP party joined the race with 115 candidates, while the majority of the 769 competing candidates were self-nominated. The “Musavat” party and movement “Nida” announced their withdrawal from the race 4 days prior to Election Day, and the REAL movement stated that it would not recognize the results of the elections.

Despite the fact that OSCE-ODIHR could not organize a full-fledged election observation mission due to restrictions imposed by the government in Baku, several parliamentary delegations from different countries and international organizations observed the Election Day procedures, making positive assessments even before the voting process was completed. None of them conducted long-term monitoring, and thus violated international standards of election observation set in the United Nations’ “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation.”

The most prominent election observation group that made a biased statement attesting to the democratic conduct of the entire election process was the delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Jordi Xucla (ALDE, Spain). Some members of the PACE delegation, however, did not sign the statement, and three members of the delegation published a votum separatum, pointing out the failing preconditions to hold free and fair elections in Azerbaijan.

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

Whitewashing of Flawed Parliamentary Elections Through PACE and Other EOMs

Azerbaijan

Baku, November 5, 2015

EPDE expresses its concern over international election observation missions delegitimizing the institution of election observation as well as damaging the reputation of those parliaments and international institutions that they represent.

A significant number of international observation missions registered for the recent Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan have violated international standards of election observation. According to an EPDE survey of the work of international election observation missions during the Parliamentary elections on November 1, 2015, in Azerbaijan, none of the 40 officially registered international missions conducted a long-term election observation in the country. Only two missions made their election observation methods a matter of public record. On Election Day, 24 international election observers expressed in the media positive assessments of the electoral process before the closure of voting precincts. Among them was the head of the PACE delegation, Jordi Xucla, and delegation member Augustin Conde.

By conducting themselves in this way, the missions in question violated the central requirements of the United Nations “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation,” which state, in part, that an organization “…should not send an international election observation mission to a country under conditions that make it likely that its presence will be interpreted as giving legitimacy to a clearly undemocratic electoral process.” Neither did the missions fulfill the Declaration’s requirement that “international election observation missions must be of sufficient size to determine independently and impartially the character of election processes in a country and must be of sufficient duration to determine the character of all of the critical elements of the election process in the pre-election, election-day and post-election periods…”

In October 2015, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) decided not to send an observation mission to Azerbaijan after Baku required that ODIHR’s mission reduce its number of observers, which would have prevented ODIHR from conducting an UN-compliant election observation. The European Parliament also refrained from sending an official mission to Azerbaijan. PACE’s disputed decision to send a short-term election observation mission, however, opened an opportunity for Azerbaijan authorities to claim international endorsement of the country’s electoral process. The delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), lead by Jordi Xuclà (Spain, ALDE), issued a statement on November 2, signed by 16 out of 28 delegation members, attesting that Azerbaijan’s electoral process “…demonstrates another step forward taken by the Republic of Azerbaijan towards free, fair and democratic elections and that the results of this vote express the will of the Azerbaijani people.”

With reference to the mentioned violations of international standards of election observation, EPDE challenges this conclusion of the PACE EOM as ungrounded. EPDE draws attention to the votum separatum signed by 3 members of the PACE delegation which contests the official positive PACE assessment and points out the failing preconditions to hold democratic elections in Azerbaijan due to the ongoing abuse of human rights in the country.

Apart from the PACE delegation, several members of parliaments worldwide made generally positive assessments of the election process in Azerbaijan, which have to be criticized as ungrounded and biased for the same reasons. The parliament members in question are:

EPDE calls on the European Parliament and the National Parliaments of Italy, Bulgaria, Austria, Israel, the UK, France, Latvia, Estonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Australia to verify the impartiality of the respective deputies.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is a network of citizens’ election observation organizations throughout Europe. EPDE has been providing training and networking for independent citizens’ election observers since 2012.

EPDE’s partner organization in Azerbaijan, the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre, has been systematically hindered from conducting full-fledged election observation since the time of its critical reporting on the flawed Presidential elections in 2013. Since January 2014, Anar Mammadli, director of EMDS and board member of EPDE, has been imprisoned in Baku.

See the EPDE survey here: PDF (EN)

Competitive elections despite serious shortcomings and imperfect election legislation - EPDE Experts' Discussion after the Local elections in Kyiv 27 October 2015

Ukraine

On October 27 2015 EPDE hold an experts' discussion in Kyiv on specific problems of the recent local elections.

Arkadi Lubarev from GOLOS Moscow analysed the new law on local election in Ukraine. The law was adopted only shortly before the elections in a non-inclusive manner without broad public discussion. It is an almost literal copy of the law on local elections which was applied for the St.Petersburg city council elections 2007-2011. The law is not only complicated but even misleading for voters as it pretends to provide open lists whereas in reality the voters de facto have no opportunity to vote for single candidates on the party list. Arkadi Lubarev would not recommend to apply this law neither for the elections to the Verkhovna Rada nor to another local elections in Ukraine.

Steffen Hallig from the German think tank SWP reported on the conduct of elections in Eastern Ukraine. Compared to the last local elections in 2010 the 2015 elections took place in a more competitive way, no systematic election fraud was observed during election-day by local citizens’ observers. Of main concern was the fact that in a series of regions no elections could be hold and that the voter turnout was generally low. On the other hand the generally increased public awareness may contribute to a better control on reform processes in Eastern Ukraine.

Anton Shekhovtsov from Legatum Institute London researched on the conduct of election observation through “fake observers” – individuals or whole missions that do not adhere to international standards of election observation but aim to legitimise falsified elections. Whereas still during the referenda in the DNR, LNR and the Crimea several of such missions made politically motivated statements since 2014 these organisations have retired from the Ukrainian context. Still there is the danger that if ever elections will be hold in the Donbass in 2016 fake observation missions will appear there. International civil society and parliaments should develop mechanisms to detect and sanctions such activities.

Ol'ha Aivazovska, director of the civil network OPORA underpinned the need for a substantial reform of the law on local elections. The ca 1,5 mio IDPs in Ukraine should be granted the right to vote. She interprets the problems on election day in Krasnoarmeisk and Mariupol where elections were not held as the result of a lack of political will to conduct elections there.

EPDE will publish the final reports of the experts in November 2015.

EPDE expert evaluation of the parliamentary election in Poland, 25 October 2015

News

From 23 to 26 October 2015 the European Platform for Democratic Elections conducted its short-term election observation mission to the parliamentary election in Poland. EPDE observers note that the Electoral Code of the Republic of Poland does not provide civil independent domestic election observation. EPDE notes that the rights of the proxies and international observers are described insufficiently in the Electoral Code. In some of the polling stations members of election commissions were not aware of the rights of international observers. The Electoral Code does not provide for the right of proxies and international observers to conduct photo and video shooting at polling stations during voting and severely restricts usage of recorded materials before and after the voting process. A significant problem is the secrecy of voting. In a number of polling stations observers made remarks regarding the methods of the sealing of ballot boxes.
Please find the whole report here.

Invitation: EPDE expert discussion 27 October, 13.00, Kyiv

EPDE: Experts’ Discussion:

 Specific Problems of the Local Elections in Ukraine

Tuesday 27 October 2015, 13.00 – 14.30

Radisson Hotel, Yaroslaviv Val 22

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) in cooperation with OPORA and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine cordially invites to an experts’ discussion on specific problems of the process of local elections in Ukraine. Arkadi Lubarev describes the challenges connected with the implementation of the newly adopted law on local elections. The doubtful non-elections in Mariupol and Krasnoarmyisk raise concerns on the perspectives for conducting elections in Eastern Ukraine and will be analysed by Steffen Halling. Anton Shekhovtsov provides an overview of the work of international election observation missions in Ukraine with a focus on those missions that do not adhere to internationally binding norms and procedures (“fake observation”). Olga Ajvasovska will give an assessment of the quality of these elections according to the observation through the Ukrainian citizens’ election observers from OPORA.

 

Olga Aivazovska, Civil Network OPORA

Anton Shekhovtsov, Legatum Institute, London

Arkadi Lubarev, Association GOLOS Moscow

Steffen Halling, Foundation for Science and Politics, Berlin

Facilitation: Stefanie Schiffer, EPDE Berlin

 

The discussion will be held in English and Ukrainian languages. A lunch will be provided. We ask to register at zhovkivska@european-exchange.org

 

The event is financially supported by the

European Commission, Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit giz,

Foundation for German Polish Cooperation

 

EPDE observes local elections in Ukraine

Ukraine

A group of civic election observers from the EPDE member organizations from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Norway, Poland and Russia observe the local elections in Ukraine scheduled for 25 October 2015. The observation is supported by the European Union and the German-Polish Cooperation Foundation. The observation takes place in cooperation with the Ukrainian EPDE members from the Civic Network Opora and the Committe of Voters of Ukraine.

During the last days of election campaign, the group of observers held a number of briefings with Ukrainian election experts. During election day, the observers group will be deployed to Kyiv and other Ukrainian regions. A debriefing will take place on Monday, 26 October.

The group met also with other EPDE experts operating in the country. The have discussed the peculiarities of the Ukrainian election system, especially the implication of the new local election law, the lacking voting oportunities for so called internally isplaced persons, as well as the polling conditions in the eastern regions of Ukraine.

On 27 october, a lunch briefing with EPDE experts will take place in Hotel Radisson, Yaroslavi Val 22, Kyiv.

For more information please contact EPDE coordinator in Kyiv: +380 95 59 53 717

Failing preconditions to hold free and fair parliamentary elections

Azerbaijan

Serious shortcomings of voters’ lists noted in the previous elections remain not-addressed. The CEC announced that there is a 1 622 111 less voters in the country than argued by the State Statistics Committee. Neither of the institutions provided explanation of discrepancy between numbers.  EMDS received credible allegations that voters providing signatures in favor of registration of opposition candidates faced wide-spread pressure and intimidation and in number of occasions withdrew their signatures.The organization also noted the unfair treatment of opposition candidates at the Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) and the CEC during the registration process, verification of signatures and documented discrimination against candidates. EMDS is also concerned about increasing amount of unfair investigation of complaints of candidates denied registration.

Results of the monitoring of the Presidential Elections

Belarus

October 12, the resulting press-conference of the campaign “"Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections"” regarding the presidential elections of October 11 was held in Minsk.

The press-conference was given by Chairman of the Republican human rights public association "Belarusian Helsinki Committee" Aleh Hulak and deputy chairman of the Human Rights Center "Viasna" Valianstin Stefanovich, who commented on the electoral process in terms of its compliance with the Belarusian legislation and international standards of free and democratic elections.

Human rights activist alianstin Stefanovich stated that the electoral process did not meet a number of key international standards for elections. This was due to the lack of equal access to the media for all candidates, the lack of impartiality of election commissions, use of administrative resources in favor of the incumbent, numerous facts of coercion of voters to participate in early voting, the closure of some election procedures for observers.

"Unfortunately, before the start of the election campaign, the recommendations of the OSCE, which were made as a result of past observations, were not considered by the Belarusian authorities and were not implemented in the national electoral legislation. This, in our opinion, had a negative impact on the elections. It can be said that we did not see anything new in the election process this year. With regard to early voting, we registered facts of coercion, and an active mobilization of the electorate at state enterprises and educational institutions.

The procedure of early voting has always deserved the most severe criticism of international and national observers. This year the authorities announced the record share of early votes – 36%. Our observers managed to register the overstatement of the real turnout during the early voting by the precinct election commissions in the amount of 6.2% for all five days of the early voting.

The early voting raises well deserved doubts in the safety of the ballots and ballot boxes, as far as after 7 p.m. observers cannot visually observe their safety. Thus, the whole procedure of early voting, which is provided by the legislation for exceptional cases, is used here as a mainstream rule.”

As noted by the chair of the Belarusin Helsinki Committee Aleh Hulak, the Central Election Commission did not heed the proposals of human rights activists, that's why the impeachment to the election results can be stated once again:

"The most problematic part, which provokes criticism related to the electoral process, is the vote counting. I should remind that at the very beginning, right after the announcement of the elections, we addressed the CEC with the proposals that it should take measures for increasing the trustworthiness of the elections and their transparency. First of all, it concerned the procedure of vote counting. However, the Central Election Commission replied that it was beyond its competence. Nevertheless, I should remind that the CEC has the right to take decisions that would be binding for other commission,” commented Mr. Hulak.

The human rights activist noted that observers of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" didn't register a single case when the counting was conducted in a transparent and accessible way.

"It is the fault solely of the election administration bodies, the Central Election Commission in the first place, that the results, voiced by it cannot be trusted again,” said Aleh Hulak.

In addition, A. Hulak noted that though some progress had been demonstrated in some spheres of the electoral progress, but its fundamentals had remained unchanged for years, being extremely important for the established system of the organization and holding of the elections, and neither the authorities nor the election authorities would conduct them in any other way.

“I would probably make no mistake by saying that for 15 years almost no members of the election commissions and executive committees who have been directly or indirectly involved in the electoral process, have been punished as a result of the complaints that filed by observes. Moreover, a principal assessment to the facts described in these complaints hasn't been given. The system that has been established over these 15 years simply lets people not to work. Some commissions even didn't care to make the number of the issued ballots and voters match in the final protocols, though these are the simplest things. Even these commissions were unable to do it, and what could be done if the vote counting was transparent?”

Let us remind that the monitoring of the elections of President of the Republic of Belarus was conducted by activists of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” within the framework of the campaign

Armenian Election Monitoring Groups protest against pushing forward constitutional reform by the presidential administration

Armenia

We urge the Armenian authorities not to appoint the constitutional referendum without a substantial public debate, as well as before establishing preconditions for transparent voting. We appeal to the international institutions who promotes democracy and human rights not to support the constitutional referendum in Armenia in the situation of the distrust towards the authorities or stay neutral towards the antidemocratic measures of the Armenian government. We regret the role of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe in the de facto promotion of the constitutional referendum which puts its professional reputation and impartiality into question.

Please find the whole text here.

Report on the results of monitoring of the first day of early voting by the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Belarus

The early voting started at the elections of President of the Republic of Belarus on October 6 in conformity with the Electoral Code of the Republic of Belarus. Forcing to voting took place at 10.6% of the polling stations. Non-members of precinct election commissions (PECs) interfered with the work of the commissions at 11.5% of the polling stations. At 2.5% of polling stations observers were deprived of the opportunity to monitor the sealing of the ballot boxes.  At 3.5% of polling stations obstacles were created for the independent observers who counted the electors who have cast their votes. At 1.2% of polling stations accreditation denials were issued to independent observers.

You can find the whole report here.

Civic observers protest against the intransparent pushing for constitutional reform in Armenia

Armenia

Armenian authorities push forward a referendum on comprehesive constitutional amendments changing the governance system from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary one. The changes would enable the incumbent president Serzh Sargsyan to stay in power after the expiration of his second and last term in office and to secure the monopoly power of his polical party. The civic election observers and human rigths groups of Armenia protest against the lack of transparency and public consensus on the planned changes as well as the hasty and aggresive way of pushing for the constitutional reform.

Analytical report on the results of weekly observation 28.09 -04.10 by the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Belarus

 

Observers in the region state that the electoral campaigning is almost invisible. There are very few printed agitation materials. The most noticeable event was the debate with the participation of three presidential candidates, broadcast on the national television. Observers note the the closed character of the electoral commissions, having to learn about many of their decisions already after their adoption. Refusals of the election commissions to provide observers with relevant information are registered all over the country.

You can find the whole report here.

Brief Summary on the Preparation Stage by the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections

Belarus

What are the main differences between the presidential campaign in the year 2015 and the previous presidential campaigns?

Despite the fact that the 2015 presidential elections overlap with and are in some ways influenced by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, they have features very similar to previous elections. The elections will not be free, considering their preparation by the electoral administration, which should ensure a high turnout and a definite result during early voting. The country has no political prisoners left, although political cases against civil activists continue to be made. In the legislative area and in ensuring transparency in the preparation and conduct of the elections, there are no positive changes. As always, independent observers are faced with the problem that much of the information they need is not available to them, in part because it is not submitted by electoral commissions. At this stage of the campaign, the authorities have refrained from direct reprisals against human rights activists; instead, they chose to control the amount of information provided to activists.

 

How do you evaluate the process of preparing for the elections?

The procedure for verifying signature lists for the nomination of presidential candidates was closed to observers; consequently, it is impossible to say whether the registration complies with the letter of the law. There is reason to suspect that not all the registered candidates actually collected the necessary hundred thousand signatures they needed, and that some were registered because their participation in the elections is part of the political power play.

 

Taking into account the fact that opposition and independent organizations could only hardly affect the work of the election commission during the previous elections, will members of the opposition and independent NGOs be represented in electoral commissions during this elections?

As in previous election campaigns, the opposition cannot effectively monitor the work of election commissions at all levels. In the 153 territorial election commissions, only 10 out of 1,916 members are representatives of the opposition. In the precinct election commissions, only 31 of 66,941 members are from the opposition (0.046%). There are five times fewer opposition representatives in election commissions this year than in the previous presidential election.

Most of the committee members traditionally represent labor groups loyal to the regime, or are representatives of the five main pro-government social organizations (Belarusian Republican Youth Union, “Belaya Rus,” Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions, Union of Women, and Belarusian Public Association of Veterans). Members of these organizations make up 38.8% of regional election commission members.

 

How do you estimate the current conditions for independent observation of the presidential elections?

Generally, the activities of the commissions and the bodies forming the commissions are not transparent to observers. The role of observers is limited to simply attending commission meetings.

 

How can you characterize the election campaign in the media and on the streets?

The 2015 elections are characterized by the low level of campaigning activity of the candidates. The campaign in favor of the incumbent president is de facto financed by state funds, using state television and local print media. Representatives of executive authorities are focused on organizing voter turnout and early voting. The only visual indicator that there are elections going on are posters reminding voters of the upcoming election date. From the date of candidate registration, the election campaign has been characterized by an absence of negative attacks on alternative candidates.

 

Increasing Harassment of EPDE Members - Results of the EPDE side event on the HDIM of ODIHR on the 25th of September, Warsaw

EPDE

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is alarmed about the increasing harassment of citizens' election observers in the ODIHR region. EPDE members in Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and Belarus are affected by intimidation of staff members, criminal persecution, non-registration of the organisations or of labelling of the organisation as "foreign agents". Authoritarian regimes "copy and paste" laws to restrict the watchdog function of independent election observers. EPDE has organised a discussion on the Human Dimension Meeting of ODIHR in Warsaw 25 September 2015.

You may find the conclusions of the discussion here.

Shameful statement of PACE pre-electoral mission raises concern about impartiality of PACE delegates

Azerbaijan

 

On 21 and 22 September a PACE delegation consisting of the delegates Jordi Xuclà, Aleksandar Nikoloski, Egemen Bagis and Agustín Conde visited Azerbaijan for a pre-electoral mission ahead of the Parliamentary elections on 1 November 2015. While Azerbaijan holds today 80 political prisoners, among them Anar Mammadli, director of the independent election observation organisation EMDS and board member of EPDE, the PACE statement does not mention the critical human rights situation in the country, does not comment on the total extinction of free and independent mass media in the country, does not mention the repression against independent election observers and does not see the point to critically assess the assurement of the Azerbaijani authorities "that all necessary measures will be undertaken to guarantee the transparency of the electoral process". The pre-electoral statement of those PACE delegates raises serious doubts on the professionality if not the impartiality of the participating PACE delegates.

 

Read the PACE statement here.

Citizens’ election observation under pressure - Challenges for international institutions and civil society

EPDE

EPDE will hold side event "Citizens' election observation under pressure" on "Human Dimension Meeting" of ODIHR on Friday, 25th of September 2015 in Warsaw, Hotel Bristol. The topic of the event is the increasing political, legal and administrative pressure against independent citizens' observers in OSCE countries. Examples from Russian Federation, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Belarus will be presented and discussed. How international institutions and international civil society can react? How can we defend a global liberal civil society? These and further issues will be discussed during the event.

You can find the full program of the discussion here.

Statement on the Results of Civic Election Observation

Russia

On September 13, 2015, more than ten thousand elections took place in Russia, including the elections of 21 governors, 11 deputies of regional parliaments, and elections of representative bodies of 25 regional capitals. The 2015 local elections are the last full-scale dress rehearsal of the Russian electoral system—in preparing, organizing, and conducting an Election Day—before the upcoming 2016 national elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

Representatives of the “Golos” movement conducted public monitoring procedures for voting, counting of votes at polling stations, and tabulation at higher election commissions for elections in 26 regions: Astrakhan, Vladimir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kaluga, Kirov, Kostroma, Kurgan, Leningrad, Lipetsk, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Orel, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Tver, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk Region, the Republic of Bashkortostan, Mari El, Tatarstan, and Krasnodar regions. “Golos” received additional information from the election regions through other channels as well, including a hotline (8 800 333-33-50), a “Map of Violations” (www.kartanarusheniy.org), and our media partners.

Among the most common violations on Election Day were:restrictions of observers’ rights, the rights of commission members, and the rights of media representatives, as well as violations related to early voting, voting by absentee ballots, voting outside the polling station, forcing people to vote, and violation of vote secrecy. On Election Day, “Golos” reported various instances of such violations in publications, press releases from regional branches, and via the regular video feed of the call center and the press center.

FInd the full report here.

Golos Report on the Final Stage of Agitation

Russia

General Conclusion


This report finds that a number of election commissions organizing the elections are arbitrary and biased when it comes to governing the campaign activities of election participants. The election commissions show favor and indulgence towards the administrative ruling party candidates, and prejudice towards the opposition representatives.

Use of administrative resources has long been an integral part of the Russian election process. Those endowed with administrative authority use their official positions to benefit some candidates and parties, while putting pressure on the others.

There are numerous instances of officials on duty campaigning in support of certain candidates and parties, and of ceremonial activities performed by administrative candidates under the pretext of executing their professional duties, as well as instances of using budget funds and other public resources for election campaigning purposes, and putting pressure on the administratively dependent voters.

In the case of the abuse of power resources, we are talking about politically motivated and biased actions of the judicial and law enforcement system against certain candidates, even against entire electoral associations (party members, staff election headquarters, etc.). Unfortunately, there were reports of such incidents occurring during the current elections.

With the approach of Election Day, there is predictably an increase in cases of hindrance of lawful election campaigning activities of certain candidates and parties. As a rule, the targets are opposition parties and candidates who are perceived to be serious competitors to the authorities. Unfortunately, in these situations the police is often sluggish or simply does nothing, despite the fact that these incidents are often severe and even criminal in nature, such as threats made on the lives and wellbeing of campaign participants and employees of election headquarters.

Also reported are cases of obstruction of public campaign events—actions which are instigated by the authorities, occur in agreement with them, and with the assistance of state and municipal institutions and enterprises.

There were reported offenses related to the lack of output data on the campaign materials, improper placement of election campaign information, involvement of children in election campaigning, and vote buying. As a rule, a wide variety of election participants are involved in electoral law violations of this kind.

In the campaign stage of the elections, there are markedly more cases of hidden campaigning and voter recruitment: under the guise of informing the public about the candidates’ professional performances, administrative candidates engage in pre-election campaigning. There are also instances of negative campaigning when distributed materials have a clearly negative slant.

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

Local elections in Russia, 13.09.2015: Golos Report on the Agitation

Russia

Summary

In the process of registration, candidates and parties must pass a “signature filter,” i.e. they must collect a certain number of signatures to qualify for registration. Refusals to register a candidate or party occur for other reasons as well, and these can impact even candidates and parties exempt from signature collection. Election participants often find their nomination and registration obstructed by election commissions organizing the elections as well as by local administrations.

Pubic administrative resources are used massively and widely at the pre-election campaign stage. These resources are used not just to benefit individual candidates and parties, but to ensure election turnout and put pressure on other election participants.

A characteristic feature of this stage of the elections are violations of street and outdoor campaigning rules, which are linked to the increase in activity of election candidates and parties on the eve of the final campaign. Rather than being the work of one specific party or candidate, such violations are often committed by different election participants and, as a rule, are curtailed by law enforcement agencies.

There are, however, increasingly more cases being reported of hindrance of lawful campaign activities, and law enforcement agencies do not always intervene to prevent such acts—which have now become habitual for the pre-election period in Russia.

Notable in the current election are documented cases of vote buying, which have been observed not just in the municipal elections, where this type of violation is not uncommon, but also in the regional election campaigns of governors and legislatures.

See the full report in English here: PDF (EN)

See the full report in Russian here: PDF (RU)

 

GOLOS analyses unlawful foreign campaign financing

Russia

Election Campaign Financing for the Election of the Heads of Subjects of the Russian Federation

The results of the study clearly show that the system of election fund financing for gubernatorial candidates is sorely in need of transparency. Financing mechanisms used by parties and candidates prevent voters from gaining full access to information about the behind-the-scenes sponsors of individuals vying for positions of power.

Firstly, such obfuscatory mechanisms allow candidates with administrative resources to use the budget and public funds for their campaigns. This violates the principle of the political neutrality of the state as well as the principle of the equality of candidates, and, as a result, distorts competition in elections.

Secondly, the financial transparency problems that we observed allow many candidates and parties to illegally receive funds from abroad. In fact, last year some regions were already governed by “foreign agents.” Judging by this year’s continuing trend, the number of re-elected governors with foreign donors will increase after Election Day on September 13. The biggest beneficiaries of foreign funds are the candidates nominated by the ruling “United Russia” party and the ruling party itself.

Unfortunately, we could not establish the point of origin for a large portion of the donations. In particular, the real owners of closed joint stock companies are virtually unknown. Moreover, funds close to political parties that accumulate a significant portion of financial resources are not obligated to disclose information to voters about the real donors.

Donations by individual persons often perform the function of hiding the identities of the real sponsors: in the information published by the election commission there are no donor names, and the data that can be obtained from the parties’ financial statements shows that funds often comes from people whose financial situation makes it impossible for them to donate such large sums of money.


The findings of the study suggest the following recommendations:

  • It is necessary to make changes to Russian electoral law, specifically in order to close the loophole enabling the financing of election funds by companies with foreign ownership or companies belonging to the Russian Federation, to the subjects of the Federation, or to municipalities.
  • When publishing data on the legal entities making campaign donations, the true owners of the companies must be disclosed. This same principle should apply to closed joint-stock companies.
  • When publishing information on the sources of election fund financing, it is imperative to indicate the individual tax number of the legal entity. Accidentally identical company names might otherwise hinder the work of establishing the identities of the real sponsors.

 

Golos and EPDE protest against continuing persecution of civic election observers in the run-up of Local Elections 2015

On July 27, the Ministry of Justice included the Interregional Public Foundation for Civil Society Development “Golos-Ural” in the registry of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent. “Golos-Ural” is part of a regional network of organizations operating under the auspices (as participants) of the Movement for the Defense of Voters’Rights “Golos.”

During an unscheduled inspection of documents, the Chelyabinsk Region Agency of the Ministry of Justice established the “fact of compliance of that organization with features of a non-profit organization acting as a foreign agent.” The organization is charged with receiving foreign funding—although, in fact, it had not. Chair of the Foundation Board, Yuriy Gurman, stated: “They attributed to [foreign] funding some carryover from 2012 and a trip with my daughter and colleagues to St. Petersburg in July 2014, paid from my personal account.” A travel company made the payments using a Lithuanian payment system.

During its entire history, “Golos-Ural” has received no foreign funding. After the “Foreign Agents” law came into effect, the Foundation’s members decided to abstain from any form of funding from abroad. From 2010 to 2013, “Golos-Ural” was a partner in projects that received grants from the President of the Russian Federation, and in 2013 and 2014 the Foundation itself received two grants—in the amounts of seven and five million rubles—from the President of the Russian Federation.

The “Golos” movement unites observers and experts who work during elections at all levels and monitor compliance with or violations of citizen rights at all stages of the electoral process. Yuriy Gurman described the report about adding “Golos-Ural” to the registry of foreign agents as “targeted pressure on an organization dedicated to independent public election observation.”

Co-chair of the “Golos” movement, Grigori Melkonjanc, believes that an unscheduled inspection of “Golos-Ural” happened “before and because of the elections” scheduled for Election Day on September 13, 2015.

According to the amendments to the electoral law, introduced at the end of last year, organizations included in the registry of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent have no right to observe the elections. Even if lawyers successfully appeal the decision of the Ministry of Justice in court and secure the Foundation’s removal from the registry, the removal would take effect only after Election Day in September. Regardless, “Golos-Ural” will go to court to appeal the decision, and, without waiting for the court’s verdict, will submit to the Department of Justice a statement of withdrawal from the registry.

The Practice of Bringing to Justice Members of Election Commissions for Electoral Violations

Conclusions and Recommendations
Administrative penalties that may be levied on members of election commissions are relatively minor in comparison to the severity of their transgressions. Often, holding commission members administratively responsible is indicative of efforts to conceal more serious violations of electoral laws, such as falsification of electoral documents and ballot rigging.
Most of the information presented in the report on the criminal prosecution of commission members is linked to the falsification of election documents in order to increase voter turnout. Requests to increase turnout either come directly from the administration or are encouraged by the practice of rewarding (by means of bonuses) those election commissions that reported the highest voter turnout. Some of the cases presented in the report reference certain “unidentified persons” who, according to trial verdict reports, involved commission members in a crime or organized criminal groups together with commission members.
In cases where perpetrators were prosecuted, they received the most lenient punishment possible. In none of the cases did the perpetrators receive actual jail sentences.
It should also be noted that criminal and administrative cases were brought against commission members only in a small number of instances that offer a reason to suspect that an offense or a crime had been committed. In many cases, refusals to bring charges, or terminations of legal proceedings initiated by prosecutors, are surprising, especially where there is substantial video and physical evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and where obvious investigative actions are not being pursued by the prosecution.
The lack of penalties for massive-scale electoral law and citizen electoral rights violations helps to spread such violations further. Easy avoidance of punishment, as well as the relative lightness of punitive measures, are causes of widespread violations during elections in Russia.
We regret to conclude that judicial and law enforcement systems, and the state in general, underestimate and belittle the high degree of social danger resulting from crimes committed around elections. Election commissions of different levels show a lack of independence in decision making, and commission members act on informal instructions and recommendations that have nothing to do with the current electoral law.

These findings allow “Golos” to offer the following recommendations:
To public authorities vested with the legislative initiative:
• It is necessary to increase fines for administrative offenses related to electoral law violations and to deprive perpetrators of said offenses from the right to work in election commissions of all levels for a period of 5 years.
To election commissions at various levels:
• Do not act on recommendations and informal orders that do not comply with the current electoral law;
• Ensure greater protection of commission members in case of their persecution for refusing to commit illegal acts.
To state judicial and law enforcement bodies:
• Take measures to identify and punish instigators and organizers of crimes committed by election commission members and related to ballot rigging and election results;
• Investigate more conscientiously violations and crimes, based on clear evidence and testimony equality.

 

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

See the charts of court cases: external link (RU)

Nomination of Candidates and Registration of Party Lists fot the Local Elections

Russia

As part of this study, the following characteristics and patterns were determined to be typical for the stage of nominating candidates and party lists in the observed regional and local election campaigns for September 13, 2015:

• Insufficient information transparency and insufficient service ability of election commissions;

• Discriminatory signature collection in support of candidate nominations;

• Campaigning before the start of the official nomination process and under the guise of informing the public about the official candidates’ performance;

•Unequal access to the media and negative campaigning.

The work of a number of election commissions that organize regional and local elections contains serious flaws in terms of transparency and ensuring proper nomination of candidates and party lists.
Signature collection in support of nominations for different elections is clearly discriminatory, making the elections non-competitive and casting doubt on their legitimacy. Moreover, this issue concerns signature collection from deputies for the municipal elections of regional governors as well as from general voters in elections for regional and municipal representative bodies.

Observed election campaigns, in fact, often go beyond election campaign protocols regulated by the election legislation. Campaigning in support of the administrations’ candidates and the party in power, “United Russia,” is often presented as objective news coverage of the candidates’ official performance. Such campaigning often involves the use of service or employment status advantages and entails skewed media coverage in favor of certain candidates and political parties.

Negative campaigning against independent candidates and opposition parties exacerbates the issue of unequal access to media outlets.

See the full report here (PDF EN)

Local Election in Russia, 13.09.2015: Golos' Report No.1

Russia

 

Analytical Report №1.
Local Elections on September 13, 2015
Russian Federation

 

The Interregional Public Foundation for Civil Society Development “Golos-Ural,” a subsection of the Movement for the Defence of Voters' Rights “Golos” (hereinafter referred to as “Golos”) conducts a long-term election observation program for the elections scheduled in the Russian Federation for September 13, 2015. “Golos” is monitoring the regional and municipal election campaigns in 21 regions: Vladimir, Voronezh, Ivanovo, Irkutsk, Kaliningrad, Kaluga, Kostroma, Kurgan, Leningrad, Lipetsk, Nizhnyi Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Oryol, Rostov, Ryazan, Samara, Tomsk, Chelyabinsk, Krasnodar Territory, the Republic of Mari El, and the Republic of Tatarstan.

Golos monitors:

  • 10 out of 21 elections for federal region heads;
  • 8 out of 11 elections for federal representative bodies;
  • 14 out of 25 elections for representative bodies of the regional capitals (including Samara and Makhachkala).

 

In addition, Golos analyses information from other regions by using the "Map of Violations,” an information resource available at www.kartanarusheniy.org.

 

“Golos” is planning to release weekly analytical reports on long-term election monitoring and the election campaign for the upcoming one-day voting on September 13.

 

1. Executive Summary

“Golos” draws public attention to deviations from the principles and standards of democratic elections, primarily evident in the manipulation of electoral law for political reasons shortly before the elections and in the creation of unequal conditions for access to administrative resources, designed to favor certain candidates and parties.

 

Of particular concern are incidents of pressure and intimidation of observers: mass removal of public observers under various pretexts from the voting premises, and beatings of observers. “Golos” activists suffer systematic persecution.

 

While monitoring the preparation and appointment processes of the election campaign for the 13 September 2015 election at its initial stage we have identified the following trends and patterns:

-          Instability of regional legislation regarding the organization of the electoral process and the local government; the changes occur on a regular basis and are manipulative in nature.

-          Absence of legal guarantees securing public election observation;

-          Failure to comply with the presumption of equality of candidates and political parties;

-          Instability of regional and organizational election commissions;

-          Growing popularity and increasing importance of early voting (primaries); the primaries are not legally defined and are not governed by the laws on elections and political parties.

 

Read the full report here

Russia: EPDE strongly protests against house searches at EPDE member organization GOLOS

Moscow,7 July 2015: On Tuesday morning, 7 July at 6.30 house searches have been conducted at the private flats of Grigori Melkonjanc, deputy director of the EPDE member organization GOLOS, Roman Udot, senior expert of the organization and Tatiana Troinova, director of the inter-regional foundation GOLOS. Documents and technical devices have been confiscated. Later the day the search has been continued at the office of GOLOS in Moscow city. The search was conducted by the Samara department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and officially stands in connection with the long-lasting prosecution of the southern Russian Samara branch of GOLOS.

Already in February 2015 Ludmila Kuzmina, the head of the Samara branch of GOLOS was charged with tax evasion. Tax authorities claimed that Ludmila Kuzmina should have paid taxes in the amount of 2 million Rubles (approx. 40.000 $) for a donation for the work of the regional GOLOS branch in the years 2010-2012. GOLOS declared that time these claims unlawful and has filed legal complaints. Grigori Melkonjanc, deputy director of GOLOS Moscow interprets the new searches in Moscow as an attempt to hinder the observation of the upcoming local elections in September 2015. “They don’t want us to observe on 13 September” he declared via Twitter.

Independent citizens’ election observation as conducted by EPDE member organization GOLOS is a basic right of voters to exert control over election processes. Through membership with the Council of Europe and the OSCE the Russian Federation has committed itself to guarantee these basic rights of its citizens. EPDE strongly protests the ongoing intimidation of independent citizens’ election observers in the Russian Federation through house searches, confiscation of private property, undue tax charges and legal persecution in the framework of a manipulated NGO legislation. We call on the Russian Federation to adhere to its constitutional and international commitments and to guarantee unhindered election observation of the upcoming local elections through independent citizens’ election observers.

Lithuanian IESC with EPDE and Promo-Lex observed local elections in Moldova, June 2015

Expert Assessment of Short-term Election Observation Mission to 14 June 2015 Local Elections in Moldova carried out by the International Elections Study Center (IESC) in cooperation with EPDE and Promo-Lex

General information on observation

On 12 June 2015, the International Elections Study Center (IESC) in partnership with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and Moldavian NGO Promo-Lex deployed an international expert mission to Local Elections in Moldova that were held on June 14, 2015. The mission was composed of 20 experts, who observed the election processes on the Election Day at more than 100 polling stations located in different regions of the Republic of Moldova. Due to the limited observation timeframe, this report encompasses mostly just some aspects of the electoral legislation and procedures, as well as their application on the Polling Day.

Observation results

Local Elections in Moldova were held in the competitive environment, as there were numerous observers certified by the candidates present at polling stations.

Observers have noted a general improvement of the electronic registration and the Internet, compared with the Parliamentary Elections in 2014. However some voters were missing in the electronic register, though they did not change their place of residence. Nevertheless, as a result of changed boundaries of some PECs, voters did not know which one to go to for voting. It should be also noted, that there was insufficient number of signs for PECs.

Read the full report here

Armenian constitutional amendments raise civil society concerns

 

STATEMENT OF ARMENIAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS

ON CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS

INITIATED BY PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF ARMENIA

 

Yerevan, June 5, 2015: On September 4 2013, the President of Armenia Serj Sargsyan issued a decree to establish a Specialized Commission on Constitutional Reforms under the President’s office to draft amendments to the Armenian Constitution. This decision was the second in the chain of unexpected unilateral decisions started a day before, on September 3, 2013, with S. Sargsyan’s announcement to join the Customs Union. Before, there have not been any expert debates or public discussions in Armenia on the need for constitutional changes. Instead, legal experts and human rights groups continuously have raised the concern of poor enforcement and gross violations of the Constitution by the state authorities.

 

On April 10 2014, the Specialized Commission on Constitutional Reforms presented a Draft Concept Paper on the Constitutional Reforms of the Republic of Armenia, which proposed some changes related to human rights, local governance, judiciary, etc. Most importantly, the concept paper proposed a transitioning of the governance system from a semi-presidential to a parliamentary one, where the national elections will be held for the National Assembly only and the MPs will elect a president.

 

On September 11 2014, the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued an opinion on the mentioned concept paper. Along with analyzing and recommending to improve some of the proposed amendments, it stressed that the choice of the governance system in favor of a parliamentary one “also contain a political element and will have to be debated extensively in the country. In any case, a comprehensive constitutional reform can be carried out only on the basis of broad consensus within society.” The need for a large consensus within society in respect of constitutional changes was also stressed by Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe during her visit to Armenia on April 13-15 2015.

 

Read the full statement here.

 

Bashir Suleimanli released after a presidential pardon in Azerbaijan

Bashir Suleimanli, deputy director of EMDS Baku has been released after a presidential pardon in Azerbaijan. We are glad for Bashir and his family!
Anar Mamadli and more than 100 other political prisoners still remain under custody.

Please find more information here and here

EPDE observed Estonian parliamentary elections on 1 March 2015

Vote counting, 2015 Estonian parliamentary elections, Tallinn

EPDE together with observers from the Association Golos, Russia, observed the parliamentary elections in Estonia held on 1 March 2015. The observers group have been deployed to Tallinn and to the northern regions of the country. They met with the National Election Committee, the ODIHR expert mission, other election observation missions and the representatives of the civil society.

 

The mission consisted of 12 members from the EPDE participating states stayed in Estonia from 25 February till 3 March 2015. It visited around 50 polling stations in the regions of Tallinn and Narva. The observation was focused on the election day proceedings, electronic voting and the national minority issues.

Freedom for political prisoners in Azerbaijan – no preferential treatment for Ilham Aliev

Foto: Franziska Senkel, Berlin

EPDE demands an immediate release of Anar Mammadli, Chairman of the independent Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS) and the Board member of EPDE, as well as a release of almost 100 other political prisoners in Azerbaijan.

 

Anar Mammadli and his deputy Bashir Suleimanli were detained in Baku after publishing a critical report exposing fraud in the October 2013 presidential election. In May 2014 they were sentenced to 5.5 and 3.5 years of imprisonment accordingly. EPDE strongly condemns such political persecution of independent election monitoring. Azerbaijan is clearly violating its international obligations towards the OSCE and the Council of Europe. EPDE calls upon the international community and the German Chancellor in particular, to take all necessary steps to ensure fulfillment and further control of Azerbaijan’s commitments with the Charter of Paris and the European Convention on Human Rights.

 

EPDE Berlin, 20.01.2015

 

Interviews with Lilia Shibanova, GOLOS Association Russia and Alex Beliacki, HR Centre Viasna, Belarus can be arranged through EPDE Secretariat.

Contact Stefanie Schiffer 01719945540.