2016

Parliamentary Elections in Georgia 2016: FInal Report

Georgia

 

The parliamentary elections held in Georgia on 8 October 2016, with repeat voting in a few precincts on 22 October and a second round of voting in a number of single-candidate constituencies on 30 October, were generally in line with international standards. However, the authorities need to investigate and address the serious shortcomings described in this report and by other observer missions.

Overall, our observers assessed the elections, the campaign environment and the electoral framework favourably. A statistical analysis of the bulk of the results of the first round of the elections also suggests that there were no serious irregularities that may have significantly influenced the outcome of the elections.

There were important improvements in the electoral framework prior to the elections. Amendments to the election law addressed the problem of wide discrepancies in size between electoral districts and ensured that the vote was more equal this time than previously. However, the parliament did not adopt a proposal for securing gender balance nor forcefully address the issue of minority representation.

24 of the 150 members of the new parliament are women, while 11 are from ethnic minorities. There are 16 per cent of women in Parliament, which is significantly lower than the UN representation target of 30 per cent. While ethnic minorities constitute around 16 per cent of the population, 7 per cent of MPs come from ethnic minorities.

During the campaign, a number of statements and initiatives in support of “traditional values”, including a proposal to introduce a gender-specific definition of marriage in the Constitution, contributed to a climate of hostility toward the LGBTI community. There was a spike in the number of hate crimes following the elections. The Georgian authorities need to confront this issue buy investigating crimes and refraining form rhetoric and acts that contribute to a climate of hostility and discrimination.

According to the election law, repeat voting is only held with respect to candidates elected by majority vote in single-member constituencies. However, the annulment of results in some polling stations may also have had consequences for the election of candidates by proportional representation through nationwide party lists, as several parties were close to the election threshold of five percent. A few votes more or less may have had significant consequences.

The current electoral system enables groups and individuals to influence the outcome of elections by intrusive acts, such as attacking polling stations to disrupt the vote. Moreover, our statistical analysis shows that the ruling party received a suspiciously high number of votes in approximately 185 polling stations: Too few to influence the general outcome of the elections, but enough to possibly have prevented smaller parties from reaching the election threshold.

Incidents of violence and intimidation of voters in some electoral districts marred the overall impression of the elections. The presence of unauthorized individuals out- and sometimes inside polling stations contributed to a climate of surveillance and pressure in certain electoral districts (according to our observers this was in particular the case in Western Georgia). There were also instances where a disproportionately high number of ballots were declared invalid during the vote count in polling stations where votes for opposition candidates and parties were voided because they were not properly stamped and signed by the Precinct Election Commission.

The attack on our observers in Jikhashkari village (at polling station No. 79 in Zugdidi electoral district No. 76) during the first round of the elections is of particular concern. This attack was linked to an attack on the polling station, which appeared to be a professionally executed attempt at disrupting the vote in a contested district (former first lady Sandra Roelofs was running for the main opposition party). Our observers were attacked because they filmed this incident; the perpetrators seized the mobile phones of our observers and destroyed video recordings of their own actions.

What was most worrying about the attack, however, was that police officials who were present in- and outside the polling station did not intervene to safeguard the voting process or protect our observers. This created the impression that the attack took place with the tacit approval of law enforcement authorities. The incident is reminiscent of similar, incidents that have taken place during previous elections, although those often have been more violent in nature.

The overall assessment of the parliamentary elections will also depend on how the relevant electoral bodies deal with the numerous complaints filed during the elections.

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

EPDE board member Lilia Shibanova prevented from leaving the Russian Federation

Russia

source: dw.de

 

Lilia Shibanova, the founder of the Russian election observation network "Association GOLOS" and a board member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is currently being prevented from leaving the Russian Federation. While entering the Russian Federation in November 2016, she was a subject of a strict border control. The passport of Lilia Shibanova was apparently invalidated.

Her attempts to obtain a new international passport have failed so far. The EPDE is seriously concerned about the impediment on the right of Ms Shibanova to free travel. The EPDE also strongly condemns the ungrounded accusations of alleged document falsification by Ms Shibanova in some Russian mass media.

The EPDE calls upon the Russian authorities to clarify the situation around the travel documents of Ms Shibanova and to assist her in obtaining valid travel documents. We also call on the government in Russia to refute the slanderous media allegations of document falsification by Ms Shibanova.

Lilia Shibanova is a resident in Lithuania since 2013 where she is working as an election expert. Since December 2015 Lilia Shibanova is board member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections.

Federal Elections in USA: Expert trip by EPDE and the Russian GOLOS

USA

 

EPDE together with election experts from its Russian member organization Golos observe the US election campaign. They conduct a range of meetings with regional election monitors, NGOs, media representatives and campaign staff of different candidates. During the last week of the election campaign, they observe the early voting proceedings. On election day, the EPDE experts will observe the election day proceedings in several polling stations in Marryland.

Here you will find updated news and reports by the EPDE observers:

 

Alexander Kynev, Golos and EPDE analyst, analytical report, 15.11.2016: How American federalism ensures free elections

 

Dmitry Oreshkin, wyborcza.pl, 14.11.2016: Elections in the USA. Will Putin recruit Trump?

 

Sergey Parkhomenko, Echo Moskvy, 11.11.2016. Please find the link to the radio programm here (Russian).

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, novayagazeta.tu, 9.11.2016: "Why Trump? How electoral science explains a new episode of the conservative renaissance - this time in the US" (Russian).

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, salt.zone, 9.11.2016: "Golos expert on close attention of Russian people to the US elections". Please find this article in English here.

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, bankfax.ru, 9.11.2016:  "Donald Trump is like Zhirinovsky, but more successful" (Russian).

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, salt.zone, 8.11.2016: "Trump" as Russian national idea" (Russian). Please also find this article in English as PDF here.

 

Dmitry Oreshkin, Echo Moskvy, 8.11.2016:"What is usefull to know about the elections in USA-2"  (Russian). Please find this article in English here.

 

Dmitry Oreshkin, Echo Moskvy, 7.11.2016:"What is usefull to know about the elections in USA" (Russian).

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, altapress.ru, 7.11.2016:"Rewarded by Trump's appreciation" (Russian).

 

Sergey Parkhomenko, Echo Moskvy, 4.11.2016. Please find the link to the radio programm here (Russian).

 

EPDE monitors the polling in majoritarian districts in Georgia

Georgia

 

On 30 October 2016, second round of the parliamentary elections is being held in Georgia. In the most majoritarian districts, candidates did not reach the minimum of 50% + 1 vote in the first round. EPDE observes the voting in those majoritarian districts where the seond round is necessary to elect members of the new parliament. 20 observers from eight countries are deployed throughout the country.

Violence marred an overall orderly Election Day in Georgia

Georgia

 

Joint Preliminary Statement on the first round of the Parliamentary Elections in the Republic of Georgia on 8 October 2016

(Berlin, Brussels, Oslo and Tbilisi, 9 October 2016) The joint international election observation mission of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee (NHC), European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), International Elections Study Center (IESC) and International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR) and was established in Georgia on 12 September. On Election Day, the Mission deployed 36 international observers who visited more than 200 polling stations across the country. This preliminary statement summarizes our findings. Additionally, the statistical analysis provides an overview of the distribution of votes between the main parties and indicates some cases which could be worth further investigation. The Mission’s final report will be published after the run-off election.

Georgia has a mixed electoral system. 73 seats parliament are elected by a majority vote in single-member constituencies, and another 77 seats are distributed according to a nationwide proportional representation system. The elections on 8 October constituted the first round of the Parliamentary Elections. A run-off election in the single-member constituencies where no candidate secured more than half of the votes will be held before 2 November.

The election code had been amended according to advise from the Council of Europe Venice Commission and a decision by Georgia’s Constitutional Court in 2015. Under the current law, the size of the single-member constituencies cannot deviate by more than 15 percent from the average in terms of number of voters. While this improvement is welcome, the Mission regrets that other legislative initiatives have been rejected. In particular, the Parliament of Georgia once again struck out a provision for securing at least 30% representation of each gender in electoral party lists. The new Parliament is thus likely to have an even lower representation of women than the incumbent (in which there are 18 women out of 150 MPs).

In general, with regard to both legislation and implementation, the elections on 8 October confirmed the trend in which Georgia’s recent elections have been more in line with international standards than what was previously the case. The joint mission appreciates the efforts of the central election Commission to register, accredit and share information with our observers. In general, election commissions worked effectively during Election Day and allowed voters to express their preferences freely. However, especially during the vote count, procedural irregularities caused tension in several polling stations.

While voting was orderly in most cases, the situation deteriorated shortly before the closing of the polls when groups of unidentified persons started gathering around precincts. Three incidents observed by the Mission marred Election Day. Just before closing polling station no. 53 in Zugdidi region was surrounded by aggressive voters who started to fight. As a result, the polling station was closed a few hours later. In the same region in the polling station no. 79 in Jikhashkari village, the count was disrupted by unidentified men who physically attacked our observers and stole their phones. One observer was injured. The police were present in and around the polling station, but did not intervene in order to protect our observers and their property. The observers who came to the police in order to file the complaints, were questioned for 10 hours without reasonable explanation.

In the village Kizil-Ajlo in Marneuli district, polling station 48 was forced to close after a physical altercation between aggressive unidentified persons and PEC members and other authorized persons, including police. Our observers were initially denied entrance to the polling station, but finally allowed to observe the count. The vote count at this polling station was carried out with numerous violations.

The observation mission would like to remind Georgian authorities that the participation in the electoral process of international election observers is enshrined both in Georgia’s election code and in politically binding international documents such as the OSCE Copenhagen Document. The Georgian government consequently has an obligation to protect accredited international observers. We therefore request that Georgian authorities investigate the incident in Jikhashkari swiftly and effectively, in order to identify and punish the perpetrators and restore the stolen property (which included footage of the incidents and other materials related to the election observation) to our observers.

According to the CEC all precinct election commissions (PECs) were trained and observers overall assessed their performance positively. However, in some cases, the opening of polling stations was delayed due to lacking of procedural knowledge of the PEC troika. The inking procedure, which should prevent multiple voting, was not followed systematically. Especially in minority populated areas several procedural shortcomings were observed.  In many cases unauthorized persons or groups of persons, mostly identified as proxies of candidates and parties, were seen in the vicinity of the polling stations, and sometimes inside the stations. Some of them took a leading position in the commission work.

In many cases, observers reported breaches of procedure during the count. In some cases ballots were sorted silently, the signatures of the voters who cast the ballot were not counted before the votes, proxies of parties and candidates interfered with the process. In a few cases, apparently invalid ballots were counted as valid in favor of the ruling party.

Some polling stations were not up to standard: small and poorly equipped premises were reported from all monitored regions. Some were overcrowded, which caused chaos inside and outside the polling station. In a majority of polling stations there was no proper access for disabled persons.

While most of these irregularities would not seriously influence the result, the Mission recommends that there should be repeat elections in the polling stations nos. 79 in the Zugdidi district and 48 in Marneuli, according to art 125, section 15 of the election law, as the disturbances there place the validity of the ballot in question.

Repeat voting will only occur in the majority vote, according to the law, but the annulment of results in some polling stations may also have consequences for the proportional list election, as several parties were close to the threshold of five percent. A few votes could have had large consequences. Therefore it is our recommendation that the law is amended in order to have repeat voting also on the proportional lists when precinct results are annulled. The current situation gives power to groups and individuals who would like to influence election by intrusive acts.

The overall assessment of these elections will also be shaped by the way in which the relevant electoral bodies deal with the many complaints made during Election Day.

Fake Observers Praise Primaries in Occupied Territories in Eastern Ukraine

Ukraine

Jaroslav Borka, MP Czech Republic, Communist Party

 

The internationally unrecognized “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republics” (“DPR”/”LPR”) held so-called “primaries” on October 2, 2016. “Primaries” are meant to pre-select possible candidates for the local elections in the occupied Donetsk and Luhansk regions. By conducting primaries, “LPR” and “DPR” intend to prepare candidates for the local elections scheduled in the both entities on November 6, 2016.

The announcement of these local elections is not agreed within the ongoing international Minsk negotiations and holding them on November 6, 2016 would be a clear breach of the Minsk agreement. According to the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), these primaries are „a bit pointless at a time when future electoral modalities are still under negotiation and it remains unclear what type of election political entities and candidates will even stand for“. IFES assesses “…these primaries widely as a political provocation or protest in relation to the peace process”. (IFES Ukraine Info email 3.10.2016).

On this background it is remarkable that approx.  30 international observers made public statements on the high quality of the “primaries” in the Luhansk and Doneck regions to the local and Russian newspapers. Among them were five members of right and left wing factions of the following national and regional European parliaments:
- Jaroslav Borka (Czech Republic, MP, Communist Party)
- Maurizio Marrone (Italy, Member of Regional Council, Fratelli d'Italia/Alleanza Nazionale)
- Zdeněk Ondráček (Czech Republic, MP, Communist Party)
- Thomas Rudy (Germany, Member of regional Parliament Thüringen, Alternative für Deutschland)
- Udo Stein (Germany, Member of regional Parliament Baden Württemberg, Alternative für Deutschland)

Having entered the self-declared republics via the Russian Federation would mean a breach of Ukrainian law and an illegal crossing of the Ukrainian boarder. EPDE considers it unacceptable for European lawmakers.

EPDE calls on the Czech Parliament, the regional council of Torino, Italy and the regional Parliaments of Thüringen and Baden Württemberg, Germany, to investigate whether the deputies have informed the parliaments in due way about their plans, whether they were officialy deployed by the respective parliaments, to clarify whether the parliaments have covered the costs of the monitoring missions and to assess whether the deputies have followed the Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians by participating at observation mission to the internationally non-recognised "LPR" and "DPR".

EPDE to observe the parliamentary elections in Georgia

Georgia

 

EPDE together with its partner organisation Norwegian Helsinki Committee are observing the parliamentary elections in Georgia. 40 observers from 13 domestic citizen election observation organisations from eight countries will observe the conduct of the election day around the country. They will monitor all stages of the election day - from the opening till the closing of the polling stations and the counting the votes at the local and regional level.  On Sunday, they will publish a n assessment of the conduct of the election campaign and the election day.

 

Media contact: +995 555 22 19 47, info@epde.org

International “Election Observers” Whitewash Fraudulent Referendum in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

Aleksandar Nikoloski, PACE Vice-president and leader of the fraudulent PACE observation mission to Azerbaijan. Foto: independent.mk

 

On September 26, 2016 Azerbaijan held a hastily called, and controversial, referendum. The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has monitored the conduct of international election observer missions. EPDE is highly critical to statements made by international election observers, which stand in sharp contrast to the critical assessment made by local independent citizens’ election observers. EPDE sees the statements as attempts at whitewashing an undemocratic and fraudulent Referendum.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Committee of Regions of the European Union, the notorious “European Academy for Election Observation” and a series of European politicians, among them Mario David and Manolis Kefalogiannis, members of the European Parliament, have issued overwhelmingly positive assessment of the referendum on amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan which will among others significantly increase the power of the President of the Republic. By that the observers stand in sharp contrast to findings of independent local citizens’ election observers. The assessment raises doubts over the impartiality, professionality and honesty of the international observers. By that they damage the reputation of the institutions and parliaments that they represent.

The PACE mission's statement declares that "the voting process was transparent, well organised, efficient and peaceful throughout polling day, no serious violations were observed during the counting process" and concludes that the referendum "is considered legal and legitimate". The assessment does not take into account the critical human rights situation in the country, the systematic restriction of independent mass media, political opposition and civil society activists that do not allow for an open and fair campaign environment in the country.

The findings and conclusion of the PACE short term observers stand in sharp contrast to the assessment of local independent citizens’ election observers stating that "the Referendum day was marred with violations including ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting, group voting (carousel) and voting of persons without registration". Independent observers noted that voter turnout was artificially raised in majority of polling stations through multiple voting and ballot-box stuffing. "The official turnout does not correspond to real figures." Independent observers conclude that "the Referendum failed to meet requirements of election legislation and international commitments of the country with regards to democratic elections."

Already the November 2015 Parliamentary elections and the October 2013 Presidential elections in Azerbaijan were commented in a biased way by PACE short term observers. EPDE has criticized these reports. By issuing such ungrounded and politically motivated statements PACE violates international standards of election observation and damages the reputation of the Council of Europe. EPDE urgently recommends to PACE to put an end to biased, ungrounded and politically motivated election observation missions. 

The PACE mission was led by Aleksandar Nikoloski (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, EPP/CD). Other members of the mission were Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE), Yanaki Stoilov (Bulgaria, SOC),  Dominik Tarczynski (Poland, EC), Antonio Gutièrrez (Spain, SOC),  Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC) and the co-rapporteur of the Monitoring Committee Cezar Florin Preda (Romania, EPP/CD).

Similar positive statements were issued in the Azerbaijani mass media by the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, headed by Pauliina Hajanen (Finland, EPP) with members Kurmet Müürespp (Estonia, EPP), Danis Turlais (Latvia, ALDE) and Urmas Sukles (Estonia, ALDE). The group declared that they have visited ten polling stations. No mission report was published by the Committee, no information on their methodology has been made available either. Through statements made in Azerbaijani mass media, members of the Committee declared that “the voting process was well prepared from both technical and organizational points of view” and that “in general the referendum in Azerbaijan is completely valid and its results show the people’s desires.“

Other European politicians made similar positive statements : Lawmaker Carmen Quintanilla (Spain, EPP), member of the European Parliament Manolis Kefalogiannis (Spain, EPP), member of the European Parliament Mario David (Portugal, EPP): “To sum up, it is the conviction of our delegation that the process of the referendum…has been conducted in a free, open and sound process, in accordance with the best international standards, and that it will definitively express the will of the people of Azerbaijan.”  Lawmaker and member of PACE Predrag Sekulic (Montenegro, SOC), lawmaker and member of PACE María Concepción de Santa Ana (Spain, EPP), lawmaker Sergio Divina, (Italy, Lega Nord): “We have monitored elections in many countries as observers of the European Union and OSCE. I have observed elections in Azerbaijan before. The voting in Azerbaijan was conducted in line with European standards," Nathalie Goulet (France, UDI), Thierry Mariani (France, The Republicans), Michel Voisin (France, The Republicans): “To tell the truth, we know without observing that everything is all right”, former member of PACE, Tadeusz Iwinski (Poland, SOC) and Kyriakos Kyriakou-Hadjiyianni (Cyprus, Democratic Rally Party).

Moverover, neither the PACE mission nor any other among the above mentioned international observers did make any mention of the highly negative opinion which was published on 20 September by the Council of Europe's advisory body on constitutional matters, the  Venice Commission Opinion no 864/2016 (CDL-PI (2016) 010.  The preliminary opinion concludes, among several other critical points, that: “The  new powers of  the  President introduced  by  the  Draft are unprecedented even  in comparative  respect; they reduce  his  political  accountability  and  weaken Parliament  even further. The  Venice  Commission  is  particularly  worried  by  the  introduction  of  the  figure  of unelected Vice-Presidents, who may at some moment govern the country, and the President’s prerogative to declare early presidential elections at his/her convenience.”

EPDE calls on the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, the Committee of the Regions of the European Union, the European Parliament, and the national and regional parliaments which these observers claim to represent, to  consider if the activities of the elected representatives are in line with the ethical standards and codes of conduct of these parliaments. We also urge these parliaments to review  their rules and procedures  for participation in international election observation missions.

See the list of international observers who are responsible for biased assessments on the referendum in Azerbaijan here: PDF (EN)

ISFED: violations of the electoral legislation became frequent

Georgia

 
On October 3, the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) published the fourth interim report of pre-election monitoring of the October 8, 2016 parliamentary elections. 
 
The report covers the period from September 2 to October 1, during which ISFED observers attended 643 public meetings held by electoral subjects.
 
As the electoral campaign moved into an active phase, violations of the electoral legislation became frequent. ISFED detected the following incidents during the reporting period: 3 cases of alleged political dismissals; 11 cases of intimidation; 12 cases of abuse of administrative resources; 8 cases of interference with campaigning; 6 cases of violence; 4 cases of possible vote buying; 2 cases of vandalizing party offices; 37 cases of destroying campaign materials 4 cases of using hate speech; 8 cases of campaigning by unauthorized individuals. 
 
The reporting period was marked by violent confrontations between political opponents and activists. Activists and supporters of opposition parties as well as the ruling party suffered injuries as a result of use of force and cold weapons. People have been hospitalized following these incidents. Subsequent investigations have been launched. 
 
Acts of harassment/intimidation against opposition members and activists on alleged political grounds have grown considerably. It was mostly representatives of opposition electoral subjects that were targeted by various forms of harassment and intimidation. During the reporting period representatives of opposition parties reported verbal threats, removal of social benefits and other forms of intimidation to ISFED observers. 
 
Interference with campaign events of competitors occurred often. Meetings of parties were mostly attended by local self-government employees holding opposing political views, trying to interfere with campaigning using different forms of interference. 
 
Incidents that involved damaging of campaign materials – party flags, posters and banners - grew considerably and mostly included tearing down of posters, and placing posters of an electoral subject over posters of another electoral subject. With only a few exceptions, it was impossible to identify the perpetrators. These incidents affected campaign materials of virtually every political party.
 
The pre-election campaign by the electoral subject Davit Tarkhan Mouravi, Irma Inashvili – Alliance of Patriots of Georgia was marked by clear xenophobic calls. 
 
Abuse of administrative resources persisted during the reporting period, mostly by local self-governments, in favor of the ruling party. ISFED detected production and free of charge distribution of print materials for campaigning, use of buildings, campaigning during events funded from the State budget by event organizers, which is prohibited under the Election Code. Some municipalities have been using text-messaging service to keep individual citizens informed about status of certain projects. These initiatives of local municipalities may amount to a form of influencing will of voters and contain signs of abuse of administrative resources. 
 
Illegal wiretapping of politically active individuals continued during the pre-election period. An audio recording of a conversation that allegedly took place between Mikheil Saakashvili, former president of Georgia, and some UNM members was leaked on the Internet. The video recording suggests that these individuals are debating a revolutionary scenario for the electoral processes. Leaking of the recording was preceded by statements made by representatives of the ruling political party, alleging that the UNM was planning to cause a destabilization and unrest for the elections. The investigative authorities should launch an effective and impartial investigation for determining authenticity of the video recordings and whether the alleged criminal intentions are real, as well as for combating the crime of illegal wiretapping. 
 
ISFED maps all reports of pre-election incidents and possible violations on the interactive incident map available at the Georgian Elections Portal: http://www.electionsportal.ge/eng/.  
 
Anyone can report a possible violation to the Elections Portal by sending a text to a toll-free number 90039 or by going to http://www.electionsportal.ge/eng/new_incident

EMDS: Referendum in Azerbaijan failed to meet international standards

Azerbaijan

STATEMENT on results of the monitoring of the 26 September 2016 Referendum in Azerbaijan

Due to shortcomings in situation of democracy and political freedoms prior to and during the Referendum, including the voting day, the Referendum failed to meet requirements of election legislation and international commitments of the country with regards to democratic elections.

As a result of amendments to the NGO legislation, independent civil society is not able to operate freely in the country. Criminal investigation and large tax fines lingering over some foreign and domestic NGOs, along with restrictions of accessing the foreign funding prevented civil society organizations from meaningfully participating in the referendum and engaging in voter education and election monitoring.

Political repressions intensified during the Referendum resulting in increased number of political prisoners.

The Referendum day was marred with violations including ballot-box stuffing, multiple voting, group voting (carousel) and voting of persons without registration, similar irregularities from the previous elections. EMDS observed that voter turnout was artificially raised in majority of polling stations through multiple voting and ballot-box stuffing. The official turnout do not correspond to real figures.

Following the opinion of the Constitutional Court of Azerbaijan on the Constitutional Act on amendments to the main law of the country, EMDS published its opinion about the proposed changes and preparations to the Referendum, and called for consulting with the European Commission for Democracy through Law of the Council of Europe (the Venice Commission).

EMDS believes that comprehensive assessment of 26 September 2016 Referendum requires consideration of all stages of the referendum including evaluation of awareness raising among public on proposed changes, political situation and conditions prior to the referendum, the election legislation, conduct of the referendum day and vote tabulation against the international commitments of the country.

EMDS notes with regret that there was no open public debate or adequate awareness raising campaign among public on proposed changes to the Constitution which are essential for expression of people's true will. Increased restrictions on freedoms of expression, assembly and association in the last few years, along with very short official campaigning period (22 days) and refusal to register opposition campaign groups contributed to the lack of vibrant debate during the referendum.

EMDS believes that the government should demonstrate political will to restore mutual confidence in relations between the state and public, should create competitive environment for all political opponents and should release all political prisoners.

Moreover, as the Referendum fails to deliver adequate Constitutional reforms on separation of power and protection of human rights, the government should work together with the Venice Commission and civil society to address the issues in this field.

Please find the whole statement as PDF here.

Statistical estimates of vote counting fraud during Russian State Duma elections by Sergey Shpilkin

Russia

Statistical estimates of vote counting fraud in Russian federal elections

 

Sergey Shpilkin, independent researcher
e-mail: podmoskovnik@gmail.com

 

At least four times in the modern history of Russian elections, vote counting fraud, as estimated statistically, had significant consequences for the political development. According to the statistical estimates of the Russian election expert Sergey Shpilkin, the amount of fradulent votes in favour of the "United Russia" during the State Duma elections in September 2016 was 12,6 million, what allowed  "United Russia" to regain the constitutional majority in Duma.

Please find the whole study done by Sergey Shpilkin as PDF here.

ISFED preliminary report on Parliamentary elections in Geogia, October 8, 2016

Georgia

 

The International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED) has been monitoring October 8, 2016 elections of the Parliament of Georgia and Adjara Supreme council since July 1, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The third interim report of the pre-election monitoring covers the period from August 8 to September 1, 2016, as well as developments that began to unfold before August 8 and continued during the monitoring period.

During the reporting period a special electoral regime came into effect. In particular, the prohibition to amend budgets and increase the amount of unplanned welfare benefits became effective, special media regulations started
to apply, and the staffing of precinct election commissions (PECs) by district level commissions (DECs) was completed. In addition, registration of electoral subjects came to an end: a total of 6 electoral blocs and 24 parties will be competing in the parliamentary elections of Georgia.

Significantly increased the election campaign. ISFED observers monitored 439 public meetings in the period of August 8 – September 1.

As the electoral campaign moved into a more active phase, instances of alleged political intimidation/harassment against members of opposition parties and their activists grew considerably. Three incidents provided in this report suggest that law enforcement officers possibly exceeded their official powers. In addition to instances of campaign interference, in several cases offices of opposition parties were vandalized, putting free and fair electoral environment at risk. The reporting period saq several instances where campaign materials were damaged; no such violation had occurred before, during initial stages of the pre-election campaign.

ISFED identified 11 instances of alleged political harassment/intimidation, 2 cases of physical violence, 1 case of possible vote buying, 5 cases of campaigning by unauthorized persons, 4 cases of misuse of administrative resources, 7 cases of campaign interference and 5 cases of damaging campaign materials.

To summarize key trends:

- In three out of six cases of direct campaign interference and vandalism on party offices, United National Movement (UNM) offices were targeted; in two cases, meetings of the Georgian Dream candidates with voters were disrupted. Effective and timely investigation of these incidents, identification and prosecution of perpetrators is especially important for prevention of any similar violations in the pre-election process;

- Harassment/intimidation of opposition party members and activists became more frequent during the reporting period. Three out of eleven cases reported by ISFED, involved police officers that allegedly intimidated/harassed political activists. Incidents identified by the organization contain signs of a criminal offence and call for timely and effective response by law enforcement authorities. 

- Campaign materials were destroyed in 5 cases, against the recommendations of the Interagency Commission for Free and Fair Elections. All incidents are currently under investigation but the authorities have not yet released any information about the status of these investigations. On July 29, the Interagency Commission addressed political parties, electoral subjects and local self-government bodies, urging “political parties and local self-government bodies to issue clear instructions that categorically prohibit their activists/representatives from destroying competitors’ campaign materials or obstructing placement of such materials.” 

- During the pre-election period, another case of vote buying was identified by ISFED. Despite multiple prohibitions in the electoral legislation, the Alliance of Patriots attempts to entice voters by providing free food. Vote buying, as the most severe form of political corruption, jeopardizes equal electoral environment, impacts free expression of voters’ will, obstructs development of political culture and poses a fundamental obstacle to political and economic development of the country. 

- Several irregularities were revealed in the practice of registration of electoral subjects at the Central Election Commission (CEC). Upon examining registration documents of the political union the Centrists, ISFED found that the CEC registered the party as political subject based on insufficient and unreliable documents. Information provided by the Public Registry presents grounds for abolishing electoral registration of yet another political party. It should also be noted that the Resolution #60/2016, adopted by the CEC on August 24, clearly put into disadvantaged position those electoral subjects that have to participate in casting of lots in order to receive their electoral number. 

- The process of composition of PECs by professional members went with irregularities which raised important questions about the political impartiality of the PEC members. ISFED found out that selection of professional members at some PECs was conducted on the basis of pre-made lists. Opposition representatives allege

Please find the whole report  as PDF here.

OPORA appeals to foreign governments, IOs, and NGOs concerning involvement of Crimea in the Duma elections

Ukraine

 

Civil Network OPORA All-Ukrainian NGO calls on foreign governments, leading international organizations and national observation organization from different countries not to recognize the results of election to the State Duma of Russian Federation as an election, which corresponds to the generally recognized democratic standards and reflects the will of Russian electorate. This appeal is based on OPORA's extensive experience in independent election monitoring efforts and participation in international dialog dedicated to raising the quality of election process.

As a result of so-called elections in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which are occupied by the Russian Federation but belong to Ukraine, a wide-scale falsification of voter lists and election results occurred in elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation.

When the results of so-called election in Crimea (both by federal lists and in single-member districts) were included in the election outcomes in State Duma elections, the will of legitimate Russian electorate was significantly distorted. There are no grounds to consider that formation of new RF State Duma was adequate and that the rights of citizens for real, free and fair elections and fair vote count were ensured.

Civil Network OPORA asks foreign governments, international organizations and national observation organization from different countries to take into consideration the following:

- Voter rolls used in elections to the State Duma were falsified by inclusion of Ukrainian citizens who live on the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. However, authenticity of voter rolls and validity of the franchise are inherent standards of a democratic election.

- The Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol are internationally recognized to be Ukrainian territories, and it is undeniable that Crimeans were unable to opt out of Russian citizenship. These two facts prove that inclusion of Ukrainian citizens in voter rolls used for State Duma elections was groundless.

- Compulsory “naturalization” of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea was documented in the Resolution of European Parliament as of 4 February 2016. Besides that, the Russian legislation itself, which was adopted shortly after the seizure of peninsula, establishes the mechanisms used for highhanded naturalization or denaturalization, which grossly violate human rights.

- Inadequacy of the voting in Crimea, based on enrolling of Ukrainian citizens in RF electoral lists, is also proved by existing international commitments related to citizenship. For example, a national legislation regulating citizenship is recognized by other states only if it corresponds to current international conventions, international common law and internationally recognized principles, which concern citizenship. It is internationally recognized that the certain Ukrainian territories are occupied and acquisition of Russian citizenship by Crimeans is illegal. Therefore, the voter rolls used in these State Duma elections are invalid on the international level.

- This so-called voting on occupied territories of Ukraine and, moreover, consideration of its results while distributing State Duma seats is not only absurd in terms of international law and the principle of the inviolability of borders, but also reflects general non-conformity of Russian legislation to international standards. According to the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting (1990), participating states shall guarantee that their laws, administrative procedures, practices and policies are in line with their commitments under international law. Taking into consideration that current Russian legislation allows recognition of so-called voting on occupied territory of Ukraine, this legislation is not in line with international standards.

- There is no chance that the principle of equal opportunities was followed in elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation while some candidates adhered to international commitments of their country and didn't campaign on occupied territory of Ukraine, and other used falsified voter rolls to gain mandates.

- Taking into consideration an uncontrolled process of Russian citizens crossing internationally recognized border of Ukraine and their permanent residence in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, formation of Crimean electoral rolls for so-called elections to the State Duma is also against international humanitarian law prohibiting the occupying state to resettle its citizens to the occupied territories of another state.

Thus, Civil Network OPORA All-Ukrainian Non-Governmental Organization calls on foreign governments, international organizations and non-governmental organizations from different countries to take an explicit position in their assessment of election outcomes in the RF State Duma elections. In particular, OPORA calls on OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission for the State Duma elections in the Russian Federation not to include the number of illegitimate votes and the corresponding electoral districts in Crimea in their preliminary assessment and final report on elections in Russian Federation.

It is important that civilized international community and civil society of democratic states accelerate their efforts to secure electoral standards, prevent falsifications and counteract attempts of fraudulent power legitimization by authoritarian regimes.

We call on all stakeholders to start a dialog concerning development and international approval of standard response to electoral challenges caused by illegal actions of one country on a territory of another country.

OPORA expresses solidarity with fellow citizens of Ukraine living in occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, who demonstrated their civic position through a low turnout in these so-called elections. These so-called elections were followed by political harassment and vindictive punishments by Russian enforcement apparatus and illegal formation on the territory of Crimea. Besides that, higher leadership of the Russian Federation is interested in demonstration of “loyalty” by citizens of occupied Ukrainian territories.

We would also express our solidarity with position of Georgian and Moldavian NGOs concerning illegitimacy of holding Russian elections on territories, which do not belong to their legitimate territory and call on international organizations to take into consideration these circumstances when deciding on their own position concerning elections in Russia.

We highly appreciate efforts of the certain Russian NGOs, observers from parties and candidates, which didn't recognize elections in Crimea, but have secured independent oversight of election process on legitimate territory of the Russian Federation. Their efforts is a significant contribution to democratic transformations in Russia.

Please find this statement also here.

Golos on Duma Elections: far from being free and fair

Russia

 

On September 18, 2016, Russia held more than 5,000 elections, including elections of deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, elections of heads of seven regions, 39 elections of deputies of regional parliaments, elections of representative bodies of 11 regional capitals, and other local elections. Public monitoring of the voting procedures, vote counting at polling stations, and tabulation at higher-lever election commissions took place in 40 regions.

Considering that, regardless of this year’s reduced coverage of polling stations by independent observers, there were still reports of individual acts of ballot box stuffing, “carousel voting,” voting under pressure, and other irregularities, it is evident that these strategies have not been rooted out and are still widely used. However, the September 18 election day was different from the 2011 elections in that there were fewer violations of observer rights (removal from polling stations, restriction of movement at polling stations, bans on making videos and taking pictures) and in that the Central Election Commission (CEC) took quick and principled action in response to these violations. This, however, did not suffice to overcome feelings of distrust and apathy among voters, caused by violations and shortcomings earlier in the election campaign. Overall, the elections of deputies of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation of the seventh convocation are far from being truly free and fair.

In the years since the 2011 elections, the authorities have taken various steps to mitigate and minimize public control over the elections. These steps include the forced inclusion of five “Golos” organizations in the register of the so-called “foreign agents”; the introduction of the 2014 discriminatory amendments to the legislation prohibiting electionobservation by organizations with this status; the ban on foreign funding; obstruction of access to polling stations for observers and the media; persecution of “Golos” organizations and their employees by law enforcement and tax authorities; and information attacks in the federal media. Thanks to the leadership of the CEC in the past six months, the attitude towards public observers and independent experts began to change, but the pressure from the other state organs on “Golos” remained in place.

In 2016, there were half as many independent observers on election day than in 2011.

Observation results from September 18 show widespread use of illegal techniques on election day, although on a somewhat smaller scale than in 2011.

At some polling stations there were direct violations of voting procedures: ballot box stuffing and “cruise voting”; violations associated with pressure exerted by the authorities on voters; illegal campaigning; transportation of voters; violation of observers’ rights as well as rights of commission members and representatives of the media; and violation of counting procedures.

The hotline of the “Golos” movement (8 800 333-33-50) and the service “Map of violations” (www.kartanarushaniy.org) received 1,798 reports of possible violations. These messages were forwarded to the Central Election Commission.

Among the most common reports of violations on election day were: violations of absentee voting protocol, violations of “at home” voting protocol, or illegal voting (342 reports); procedural errors (400); violations of observer’s rights, rights of commission members, and rights of representatives of the media (290); illegal campaigning (181); violation of tabulation rules or distortion of voting results (162); violations in the design of polling stations (138); non-inclusion of voters in voter lists or denial of their right to vote (134); coercion of voters or breach of the secrecy of the vote (109).

There were reports of ballot stuffing from a number of polling stations in Moscow, Rostov region, Moscow region, Stavropol territory, Voronezh region, Republic of Bashkortostan, Samara region, Kostroma region, Republic of Tatarstan, Krasnoyarsk territory, Ryazan region, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad region, Saratov region, Chelyabinsk region, and Republic of Dagestan.

Ballot stuffing in Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, and Krasnoyarsk region were captured on the official live video stream from the polling stations.

Reports of “carousel voting” came mainly from the Altai region and Moscow.

Mass voting with absentee ballots was observed in Moscow. Buses were used to transport voters from one polling station to another. From 70 polling stations came complaints about arrivals of large groups of voters. Even during the election campaign, voters complained of coercion by employers to obtain absentee ballots. There is reason to doubt the voluntary participation of those voters in the elections.

There were reports of cases of illegal campaigning from some regions, particularly from Moscow, Moscow region, and Sverdlovsk region.

In contrast to the 2011 elections, the number of violations related to the (non-)admission of participants into the surveillance areas decreased dramatically. Similarly,the 2016 elections witnessed a decline in the number of cases of illegal removal of participants from polling stations.

At a number of polling stations in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Moscow region, and Saratov, there were cases of artificial delays of the vote counting process, the signing of final protocols, and the issuing of copies of protocols.

On election day, “Golos” reported numerous instances of such violations via various publications, the chronicle of the voting day, press releases from regional offices, videos from the call center, and the “Map of violations.”

 

For more details please see here (Russian)

Invitation to the Round Table “Electoral Authoritarianism in the OSCE Region - the Example of the Russian Federation“

 

Round Table “Electoral Authoritarianism in the OSCE Region - the Example of the Russian Federation“

 

Political science describes electoral authoritarianism as a sort of authoritarian regime where elections are organised but incumbents always win. "Ruling elites in electoral autocracies use repressive acts, fraudulent manipulation, abuse of state resources and restrictions on party competition to deter rival leaders, reduce domestic threats, and deflect international pressure." (P.Norris) The State Duma and the Presidential elections in the Russian Federation served as examples for international scientific analysis of the phenomenon of electoral authoritarianism in the past years. The Russian regime steadily fulfilled the main criteria of electoral authoritarianism - "to hold regular, broadly inclusive elections, but they are subject to severe state manipulation and systematically violate liberal democratic principles of freedom and fairness." (A. Schedler)

 

The given side event gives room for discussion whether the State Duma elections of September 18th 2016 again confirm this classification or whether a positive development towards more integrity, inclusiveness and transparency of the election process can be noticed. Based on the first preliminary findings of international and domestic citizens' observation international experts and civil society activists will present their assessment of the quality of the past State Duma elections. The discussion will also provide an oversight over different mission reports produced during the State Duma elections thereby trying to classify their assessment according to their methodological approach. 

 

Friday the 23th of September 18.00-19.45

 

Place: Meeting Room 2, Sofitel-Victoria Hotel, Krolewska Str. 11, Warsaw

 

Moderator: TBC

 

Panellists:

 

  • Nature of the electoral campaign, evaluation of the results and perspectives by Lilia Shibanova, Golos Movement
  • Quantitative evaluation of the scale and regional peculiarities of electoral fraud during the Duma elections 2016 by Dmitry Oreshkin, “Narodnyi Izbirkom” project
  • Analysis of financing of electoral campaign and its regional peculiarities by Stanislav Andreichuk, Golos Movement
  • Opportunities and challenges for civic election observation by Golos movement’s regional network by Roman Udot, Golos Movement
  • Fake election monitoring as a challenge for independent civic observation in the OSCE region by Stefanie Schiffer, European Platform for Democratic Elections.

 

The event is organized by the European Platform for Democratic Elections in cooperation with the Swedish International Liberal Centre (SILC), International Elections Study Center (IESC), movement for defence of voters’ rights “Golos”, and the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats (FMD).

 

European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is a network organization assisting citizens’ election observation in the countries of the Eastern Partnership and in the Russian Federation, and aiming to contribute to democratic election processes throughout Europe. www.epde.org

 

Swedish International Liberal Centre (SILC) is a liberal foundation that promotes the values of democracy and human rights. www.silc.se

 

International Elections Study Center is a non-profit organisation aiming at promotion of the non-partisan evaluation of the electoral process, study and dissemination of the best practices in election administration, legislation and rules based on international standards. www.iesc.lt

 

Golos is the most respected voters’ rights and election observation organization in Russia today. Established in year 2000 the organization now has citizen observers in nearly all regions in Russia, and has well-developed IT technologies for reporting in and communicating election fraud to the Russian public. www.golosinfo.org

 

Analitical report on the election campaign in the media, Parliamentary elections, Russian Federation, September 18, 2016

Russia

 

In contrast to the intense and lively campaign of 2011, the apathetic campaign of 2016 left no significant information trace. Although legislative changes were supposed to stimulate the media activities of non-parliamentary and small parties, this did not happen –“United Russia” totally dominated over other parties in both federal and regional media. The largest contributors to this outcome were the summer holidays and political passivity of many election “stakeholders.”  The chief new trends of the 2016 election year were thus: regionalization, the de-facto refusal of the ruling party to campaign on the federal level, and the “crowding out” of the non-parliamentary opposition to blogs and social networks.

 

Please find the whole report here.

Analytical report on the agitation period, Parliamentary elections, Russian Federation, September 18, 2016

 

ANALYTICAL REPORT ON THE ELECTION CAMPAIGN

Parliamentary elections, 18 September 2016, Russian Federation

 

SUMMARY


Administrative resources, being an integral part of the Russian electoral process, traditionally affect and even determine the course of election campaigns, setting them up for a predictable outcome. Regional and local authorities use their administrative capacity both to create advantages for certain political forces in the pre-election campaign and to exert pressure on disagreeable stakeholders or strong election competitors.


Post-campaign reports predictably showed an increase in the number of incidents of obstruction of legitimate campaigning. We registered cases of disruptive, if not criminal, obstruction of campaign activities and events related to the apparent abuse of power by local administrations, state (municipal) institutions, and private companies. The election campaign of 2016 showed that violations in election campaigning stem from the most diverse political forces and election participants. Among them are: lack of identification on campaign materials; improper placement of election campaign materials; procurement of campaign funding from sources other than election funds; placement of advertising in non-smoking areas; recruitment of children for campaigning activities; release of the so-called “black PR”; and others. These actions are not always associated with the use of administrative resources, which indicates widespread disregard for the rule of law in Russian society and a kind of “electoral nihilism” among vast numbers of election participants.


It’s not a secret that in Russia the role of the media increases dramatically in the midst of an election campaign, resulting in an increase in the number and significance of media-related violations. These include various forms of covert campaigning, which is often associated with the use of administrative resources, and publishing of election campaign materials with negative content.

 

Please find the whole report here.

Invitation to the public discussion "Russian elections to Duma - preparation for the Presidential elections?", September 21, 2016 in Berlin

Russia

 

INVITATION

European Platform for Democratic Elections and German Council on Foreign Affairs are holding a podium discussion on the topic:

"Russian elections to Duma - preparation for the Presidential elections?",

which will take place on September 21, 2016, from 12:30 till 14:00

(small lunch from 12:00 till 12:30)

 in DGAP at Rauchstrasse 17/18, 10787 Berlin.

In the context of the 2011 parliamentary elections, huge demonstrations against election fraud and the Putin's system were held in Moscow and St. Petersburg. After Putin's re-election as President in 2012, the Russian authorities have organized number of restrictive measures against local NGOs, independent media, increased control over the Internet resources and limited the election monitoring in order to prevent similar events in the future. Today Putin’s rating is still higher than 80 percent, although the people's discontent is growing in the context of economic situation.

What signal effects are coming from the parliamentary to the presidential elections? To what extent is the Kremlin prepared for all eventualities? What scope do the opposition, election observers and NGOs have at the moment in Russia?

Speakers Ilya Ponomarjow, member of the Russian Parliament in 2007-2016, Andrey Buzin, member of the Board of the Movement for Defence of Voters' Rights "Golos", Benjamin Bidder, journalist from the Spiegel Online, and Denis Volkov, Lewada Centre, together with Stefan Meister will try to find answers to these questions during the discussion of the results of the upcoming elections to the Russian Parliament.

Simultaneous translation and a small lunch will be provided. The languages of the podium discussion will be German and Russian.

In order to participate please register at loeva@dgap.org or send a fax to 030 25 42 31-91.

Parliamentary elections in Belarus did not meet a number of key international standards for democratic and free elections

Belarus

CONCLUSIONS

This year’s parliamentary elections were called against the backdrop of a complicated geopolitical situation in the world and Europe, in particular, which is primarily due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Despite the fact that the vote was accompanied by unfavorable trends in social and economic spheres, the campaign took place against a more favorable internal political background as compared to earlier elections.

It should be noted that the Belarusian authorities have not abandoned the repressive practices against their political opponents: peaceful protesters are still subjected to administrative liability, other civil and political rights are restricted, the country has new political prisoners. The Belarusian authorities have not made any measures aimed at systemic and qualitative changes in the field of human rights, especially at the legislative level.

The elections were marked by a number of positive trends: absence of significant constraints on the part of the authorities in the collection of signatures for nominating candidates and conducting campaign activities, a small percentage of refusals to register nominations groups and candidates.

However, the Belarusian authorities did not take into account the recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR and the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections, which were developed on the basis of observation of earlier campaigns, while the few, but widely announced changes were obviously unable to contribute to a qualitative change in the nature of the elections towards greater democracy and transparency.

The elections did not meet a number of key international standards for democratic and free elections, as well as the country’s electoral legislation. First of all, the findings are due to the lack of equal access to state media for all candidates, lack of impartiality of election commissions, facts of abuse of administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, numerous facts of forcing voters to participate in early voting, non-transparency of some election procedures for observers.

Traditionally, greatest criticism is caused by the opaque vote count procedures, which gives rise to serious doubts about the conformity of the results of this calculation to the actual will of the voters.

Election commissions

- formation of the TECs and the DECs took place against the backdrop of widely announced new approaches to selection procedures: the possibility of observers (including international ones) to attend the meetings of bodies in charge of forming election commissions, discussing business and political qualities of the nominated candidates, and a separate vote for each nominee;

- these approaches were often applied in the formation of the TECs and the DECs, however, most PECs were formed as a result of approving lists of candidates, without presenting and discussing the nominees;

- the absence of legislatively fixed criteria for selecting candidates to election commissions still results in a highly partial approach to the personal composition of these commissions; the CEC’s Decree No. 18 has failed to contribute to greater political pluralism: as in the earlier elections, the formation of the PECs was based on a bias in favor of representatives of the pro-government political parties and public associations;

- the proportion of representatives of political parties on the TECs, DECs and PECs remains extremely low (24.2%, 13.6% and 5.2%, respectively), as compared to the representation of public associations (51%, 54.3% and 44.1%, respectively);

- as before, the main administrators of the elections are representatives of the five largest pro-government associations — Belaya Rus, Belarusian Republican Youth Union, the Belarusian Women's Union, the Belarusian Public Association of Veterans, and the Belarusian Federation of Trade Unions. The total percentage of their representatives in the composition of the TECs and DECs is 40% and 42.3%, respectively;

- the formation of the election commissions was still based on a discriminatory approach towards the representatives of the opposition parties: the percentage of their admission to the commissions is traditionally low: 31.2% of the total number of candidates nominated to the TEC, 19.4% — to the DECs and 10.3% — to the PECs; the overall percentage of their representation in the composition of the TECs, DECs and PECs is insignificant (5.4%, 1.8% and 0.08%, respectively); during the parliamentary elections of 2012, the proportion of representatives of opposition parties in the composition of the DECs was 3%, in the elections of 2008 — 2.2%; the PECs had even less members of the opposition parties: 0.01% in the elections of 2012 and 0.07% in the elections of 2008;

- a small number of representatives of political parties in the composition of the commissions reflects the specifics of the Belarusian political model, in which the main political actors in the election campaigns are the representatives of the pro-governmental public organizations and labor collectives.

Nomination and registration of candidates

- the nomination and registration of candidates were not marked by any major differences from the previous parliamentary election campaigns, the collection of signatures was held in a calm atmosphere and without significant obstacles to the nomination groups;

- there were some facts of abusing administrative resources in favor of the pro-government candidates, pressure on members of the opposition candidates’ nomination groups;

- in a number of DECs (27%), verification of signatures submitted for the nomination of candidates was sufficiently transparent, the observers were able to monitor the process, including the procedure of selecting signatures for verification; the observers regard this as a positive practice. A negative factor of this year’s elections is that in the majority of the DECs (73%), as before, the observers of the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections were denied the right to observe the signature verification procedure;

- the current election campaign was marked by a larger number of nominations as compared to previous campaigns (365 in 2008, 464 in 2012, 630 in 2016) and fewer refusals to register the candidates (23% in 2008, 24.7% in 2012, 14.8% in 2016).

Election campaigning

- the election campaign did not become a significant social and political phenomenon in the Belarusian society and failed to attract much public attention;

- in most regions, decisions of local authorities regarding the places for authorized campaigning activities and campaign advertising were improved as compared to the elections of 2012 and 2015; some regions preserved the negative practices of earlier campaigns;

- the candidates were not provided with equal rights; pro-government candidates enjoyed better conditions for campaigning: they made extensive use of the administrative resources, including electronic and print media; there were cases of pro-government candidates’ meetings with voters during working hours, reporting inaccurate or false information about the schedule of meetings on the websites of local governments;

- there were instances of censorship of candidates’ speeches and platforms, as well as obstacles in the publication of campaign materials (unauthorized editing etc.), although the current legislation does not provide for approving electoral texts by printing companies and does not impose such duties on the candidates themselves; there were facts of discrediting the opposition and independent candidates.

Early voting

- 31.29% of voters took part in early voting, which exceeds voter turnout of the previous parliamentary elections in 2012 (25.9%); in fact, early voting has become commonplace, despite the fact that it does not comply with the Electoral Code;

- the observers reported numerous cases of coercion of citizens to participate in early voting. The illegal measures were practiced by the administrations of government-owned enterprises and universities (at up to 18% of the polling stations). The trend repeated the negative practices of previous election campaigns;

- the official data on voter turnout significantly exceeded the calculations of the campaign’s observers. These violations were documented throughout the five days of early voting; the total percentage of discrepancies in the data during the five days of early voting was 14%. During the 2012 parliamentary elections, the total percentage of overstated turnout was 10.4%;

- early voting remains one of the systemic problems of the country’s electoral process and creates opportunities for the use of administrative resources and other manipulations. In this regard, the OSCE ODIHR recommendations regarding changes to early voting procedures remain relevant.

Mobile voting

Existing procedures for mobile voting provide space for manipulation. Observers cannot check whether the voters really applied for mobile voting, which in practice allows to organize such a vote without any applications (86.4%).

In some polling stations, the observers reported an abnormally high number of voters who voted by a mobile ballot box.

Voting at the polling stations and vote count

The Electoral Code does not provide a description of the ballots counting process. The election authorities failed to take into account the recommendations and proposals of the OSCE ODIHR and the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections, which were expected to settle the procedure through a decision of the CEC.

As during previous election campaigns, the PECs counted the ballots jointly and simultaneously, without announcing the voter’s choice and displaying each ballot. Such a procedure of vote counting is not transparent and does not allow to refer the results of observation of the counting of votes to the data reflected in the protocols on voting results. 95.31% of the observers noted that the vote-counting procedure wore extremely non-transparent. During the observation of the parliamentary elections in 2012, this figure was 92.3%.

During the observation of the counting procedures, the campaign’s observers reported other violations of the counting procedures: 32% of the observed PECs failed to announce the results of separate counting of the votes, 42% of the observed PECs failed to secure a separate ballot counting for each candidate, in 61% of the PECs, the observers were forced to monitor the vote-counting procedure from a distance that prevented them to actually see the counting.

Read the full report here: PDF (EN) | PDF (RU)  | PDF (BY)

Belarus: Citizen election observers' conclusions on the conduct of the election campaign

Belarus

 

CONCLUSIONS

- the campaign was held within the time limits set by the Electoral Schedule (from the date of the registration of candidates on September 10, inclusive); the campaign was largely low key, failing to attract much public attention;

- in most regions, the conditions for campaigning were improved as compared to the elections of 2012 and 2015; some regions preserved the negative practices of earlier campaigns;

- 525 candidates were registered, of which 40 withdrew; the election authorities cancelled the decision to register one of the candidates;

- only 322 candidates created their election funds, representing 67% of the registered applicants (484);

- 43% of the observers reported that the local authorities provided the candidates and their agents with unauthorized premises for meetings with voters; 55% of the observers said that all the candidates in their districts were on an equal footing to meet with voters in these areas; in 13% of the electoral districts, local authorities did not allow individual candidates to meet with voters in the premises or conduct mass events;

- the candidates were not provided with equal rights; pro-government candidates enjoyed better conditions for campaigning: they made extensive use of the administrative resources, including electronic and print media; there were cases of pro-government candidates’ meetings with voters during working hours, reporting inaccurate or false information about the schedule of meetings on the websites of local governments;

- all the candidates had the opportunity to appear on TV and had their election platforms printed in the state-owned media, but some refused to do so; 416 candidates presented their televised speeches (80% of the total number of registered candidates and 85% of the number of candidates who continued to run for Parliament); 380 candidates spoke on the radio (72% of total number of registered candidates and 77% of those who continued to run for Parliament); 227 candidates appeared in televised debates (43% of total number of registered candidates and 46% of those who continued to run for Parliament);

- there were instances of censorship of candidates’ speeches and platforms, as well as obstacles in the publication of campaign materials (unauthorized editing etc.), although the current legislation does not provide for approving electoral texts by printing companies and does not impose such duties on the candidates themselves; there were facts of discrediting the opposition and independent candidates.

Read the full report here: PDF (EN)

Opinion on the proposed amendments to the Constitution and preparations to the Referendum

Azerbaijan


August 19, 2016 Baku, Azerbaijan

 

ELECTION MONITORING AND DEMOCRACY STUDIES CENTRE OPINION

on proposed amendments to the Constitution of Azerbaijan and preparations to the 26 September 2016 Referendum

I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY


Following the proposal submitted by the President on 18 July 2016 and approval by the Constitutional Court on 26 July, Azerbaijan will hold a referendum which proposes to amend 29 articles of the Constitution on 26 September 2016.

Stressing the restrictive impact of proposed amendments to the Constitution on electoral system and division of power, as well as on human rights, Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Centre (EMDS) notes that proposed amendments do not adequately correspond to needs of Azerbaijani public with regards to rule of law, democracy and free and fair elections. On the contrary, if adopted, it will result in strengthened executive branch with wide powers at the expense of parliament which will see its role as an important legal and political institution diminished.

EMDS notes with regret that existence of political prisoners, including imprisoned journalists, human rights activists and political party members, as well as the situation of freedom of assembly, association and expression raises serious questions about democratic environment required for free and fair referendum. Political repression, including revoking the license of the ANS TV and radio, and the arrest of executive secretary of the Republican Alternative (REAL) movement Natig Jafarli, that has taken place since the announcement of the referendum cast doubts that the process will be fair or democratic.

The Referendum Act proposes to increase the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch extending president's term from five to seven years, granting the president with the right to dissolve the parliament and to call for unscheduled parliamentary and presidential elections.

Furthermore, the Referendum Act is set to restrict human rights further by introduced such articles to the Constitution as "abuse of human rights are not permitted" and allowing the restriction of freedom of assembly if it breaches "public moral", as well as limitations on property rights and freedom of expression.

Despite proposing to bring significant changes to the legal and political system of the country, the Referendum Act has not been subject of any parliamentary or public debate and was proposed during the summer recess of the legislature. Moreover, the government has not consulted the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe on the compatibility of proposed amendments with the country's international commitments. 

EMDS stresses that according to the national legislation and international commitments of Azerbaijan, the government should provide adequate opportunities for political parties and civil society to participate in the referendum campaign, and should ensure necessary guarantees and freedoms for holding a democratic vote.

EMDS is a non-partisan, not for profit and non-governmental organization that aims to promote democratic elections and human rights in Azerbaijan. The organization has carried out various projects regarding elections in the country from 2001 to 2013. Following the critical assessment of the 2013 Presidential Elections, criminal investigation was launched against the organization and its chairperson Anar Mammadli was imprisoned for more than two years. Restrictions imposed by the 2014 amendments to the NGO law created legal limitations for the operation of EMDS and currently the organization faces difficulties for activity.


II. LACK OF PUBLIC DEBATE AND HASTY ANNOUNCEMENT

The Referendum Act proposed by the government includes 40 amendments to 29 articles of the Constitution which will alter the political and legal system of the country. However, despite the gravity of proposed changes, the Referendum Act has not been subject to parliamentary debates or public discussions. The government has failed to provide adequate justification to the proposed amendments while other political parties and civil society were denied opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the process. On the contrary, the proposal and scheduling of the referendum took place in a rushed manner barely complying with the timeline set by the law.

On 18 July 2016, the Referendum Act was submitted by the President to the Constitutional Court for review which has confirmed the compliance of proposed amendments with the requirement of the Constitution on 25 July. Just a day after, with the presidential decree, Referendum was scheduled on 26 September the earliest day allowed by the legislation (Election or Referendum should be announced at least 60 days before the voting day).

Furthermore, the government has not consulted the opinion of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe regarding the proposed amendments. The Venice Commission provided its opinion on the previous 2009 Referendum proposal at the request of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and stated that "such a reform would seem necessary to reach a better distribution of powers between the branches of the state power and the Commission stands ready to provide its expertise at the request of the authorities of Azerbaijan"1. However, the government has once more failed to consult with the experts of the Venice Commission prior to the proposing amendments to the Constitution.

III. UNDEMOCRATIC ENVIRONMENT AND ONGOING REPRESSIONS


The Referendum is taking place on the backdrop of ongoing repressions and systematic restrictions for civil society and political parties which casts serious doubts on freedom and fairness of the vote. According to the report of local civil society groups, around 70 persons2, including journalists, bloggers, rights activists and opposition members remain behind bars for their political views, while non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are not able to operate freely due to legal restrictions imposed by the changes to the law in 2014 and 2015. 

Furthermore, the authorities continued with political repressions closing down a TV channel and arresting a prominent opposition member following the announcement of the Referendum Act. On 18 July, National TV and Radio Council suspended the broadcast of the ANS TV and Radio for announcing an interview with Fathulla Gulen, Turkish religious cleric living in exile and accused of staging the coup attempt in Turkey. The Baku Court of Appeal revoked ANS's license on 29 July. 

ANS management denies all allegations and announced that they will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. On August 12, on the third week of the referendum, Natig Jafarli, executive secretary of the Republican Alternative (REAL) opposition movement was detained and sentenced to four months of pre-trial detention on charges of illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power. Similar charges were used to imprison civil society leaders in 2013-2014, including Anar Mammadli, Rasul Jafarov, Intigam Aliyev, Khadija Ismayil and others. Natig Jafarli is leading the REAL movement which announced plans of campaigning against the proposed changes during the referendum in the absence of imprisoned chair of movement Ilgar Mammadov. Two other REAL activists Elshan Gasimov and Togrul Ismayilov were arrested on charges of not subordinate police. Judgments about the arrest of the two activists will be appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Despite the release of number of imprisoned civil society leaders earlier this year, legal and political restrictions on operation of non-governmental organizations remain not addressed. Azerbaijan has clampdown on civil society following the 2013 elections imprisoning number of civil society leaders and introducing amendments to the NGO legislation that blocked access to all foreign funding. International organizations and donors were forced to leave the country, while criminal investigation launched against many NGOs forced many to cease their work and even emigrate. These restrictions prevent civil society organizations from meaningfully participating in the referendum. As a result, unlike in 2002 and 2009 referendums, civil society organizations are not able to engage in voter education, protection of election rights and domestic election monitoring. 

Moreover, restrictions of freedom of expression, assembly and association have not been lifted and continue to obscure the conduct of democratic vote in Azerbaijan. This is also a serious breach of the Code of Good Practice on Conduct of Referendum3 by the Venice Commission which states that "democratic referendums are not possible without respect for human rights, in particular freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of movement inside the country, freedom of assembly and freedom of association for political purposes, including freedom to set up political parties"


IV. PROPOSED RESTRICTIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

The Referendum Act proposes to limit human rights and freedoms further going against Azerbaijan's commitments before international organizations including the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Amendments include adding provisions like "abuse of human rights are not permitted" to the Constitution which will increases the chances for authorities to limit the human rights on the pretext of "abuse". The amendments also stipulate a number of restrictions on human rights with regards to property rights, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and right for citizenship. Property rights: Proposed amendments to the Constitution will limit the property rights by stipulating additional and ambiguous conditions for restrictions. Article 29 of the Constitution on property rights is proposed to be amended as following (additions coloured in red):

V. Private property shall entail social responsibility.
VI. Land ownership may be restricted by law due to social justice and for efficient use of the land.

New amendments are to burden private property owners with "social responsibility" without clarifying the meaning of the term. Such ambiguity could lead to broad interpretation of the "social responsibility" and could result in forced confiscation or restriction of private property. The amendments also fail to clarify with regards to whom private property owners carry "social responsibility" and does not define how such responsibility will change the property rights.

Definition and regulation of "social justice" and "efficient use of lands" are also not provided in the proposed amendments creating more legal ambiguity with potential to restrict the property rights which is against Azerbaijan's international commitments including those arising from the European Convention on Human Rights and its Protocols. The Protocol 1 of the convention stipulates that [E]very natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions. No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.

Freedom of expression: Amendments will also add new restrictions to the Constitution with regards to freedom of expression through following amendment of the Article: 

III. Propaganda provoking racial, national, religious and social discord and animosity or hostility based on any other criteria is prohibited.

Addition of "based on any other criteria" which entails a very broad interpretation of the restriction allows for abuse of the provision by authorities. New amendments do not clarify the limits of the restriction and could lead to restriction of freedom of expression at the discretion of the state bodies in a country with already very poor record of free speech.

The Referendum Act also proposes to make it more difficult to access information by adding following provisions to Article 32 on Right to Personal Immunity:

VI. It is prohibited to enter information resources carried on the paper or in electronic form in order to obtain information on third party, except in the cases provided by law.

VII. Information technologies cannot be used for disclosing information about private life, including faith, religion and ethnic identity except in the cases when the concerned person has openly expressed his consent or when the statistic data of anonymous nature are being processed without discrimination and other cases provided by law. 

VIII. Scope of the personal information, as well as the conditions of their processing, gathering, passing, use and protection is defined by law.

Unlike the general legal practice, these proposed amendments are aimed at in lining the Constitution, the highest legal document of the country, with other laws. Such restrictions have been introduced to the law earlier to limit the access to information on commercial entities and businesses through changes to the "law on State Register of Property" and "law on State Registration and State Registry of Legal Entities". Such restrictions have been used to hide the information on commercial entities, particularly on their founders and shareholders.

Freedom of assembly: Proposed amendments include two new very ambiguous conditions for limiting the right to freedom of assembly by amending the Article 49 on freedom of assembly as follows:

II. Everyone has the right, having notified respective governmental bodies in advance, and with condition of not disrupting public order and public morale, peacefully and without arms, meet with other people, organize meetings, demonstrations, processions, pickets.

As with other amendments, the wording "with condition of not disrupting public order and public morale" allows for a very broad interpretation of limitation one of the fundamental freedoms of every person.

Right for citizenship is also proposed to be restricted by allowing for loss of citizenship "in the cases provided by law" by amending the Article 53 in a following form:

I. In no circumstances A citizen of the Republic of Azerbaijan may not be deprived of citizenship of the Azerbaijan Republic except when losing the citizenship in the cases provided by law. 

Proposed amendments leave the details of conditions of loss of citizenship to be determined by the laws and contradict Azerbaijan's commitments under the "Convention on Reduction of Statelessness" which stipulates that "if the law of a Contracting State provides for loss of its nationality by a person’s spouse or children as a consequence of that person losing or being deprived of that nationality, such loss shall be conditional upon their possession or acquisition of another nationality."


V. ELECTORAL SYSTEM AND DIVISION OF POWER

The Referendum Act proposes to significantly increase the power of the executive branch at the expense of the legislative branch depressing the division of power. Extending the President's term from five to seven years, granting the President with the right to dissolve the parliament and call for unscheduled parliamentary and presidential elections, as well as appointing Vice-Presidents without consulting the parliament will boost the executive branch and weaken the legislature overall negatively affecting the democratic transition of Azerbaijan.

Eliminating age limit: Amendments are also to scrub the age limits for the high level positions including the post of president, prime-minister, ministers, judges and the members of the parliament. If the amendments are adopted, the Constitution will have no age limit for any posts in the country allowing for everyone above 18 (right to vote) to occupy very high level posts. Age limits have never been noted as an obstacle for political participation by political parties or civil society and there has been no discussion or major interest group, including the ruling party advocating for lifting the age limit. On the contrary, the ruling party MPs and executive appointments have been criticized for being well over the current age limits and offering few opportunities for youth. Therefore, without creating opportunities for younger candidates within the existing system, the government has failed to provide convincing justification for such complete elimination of age limits.

Strengthening executive branch at the expense of legislative one: The Referendum Act also proposes to extend the president's term from five to seven years which is case only in two Council of Europe countries - Ireland and Italy. However, unlike Azerbaijan, both countries have parliamentary system with limited powers for presidents. Extension of term will hinder the process of democratic transition in Azerbaijan and will lead to more authoritarian governance.

Another proposed amendment will grant the president the power to dissolve the parliament and call for unscheduled presidential elections. If the amendments adopted, the parliament can be dissolved by the president if the parliament, more than twice in a year, does not provide a vote of confidence to the Cabinet of Ministers, does not approve the appointments by the president of the candidates for the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court, Board of Central Bank or when the parliament is not able to implement its duties. The president will be able to dissolve the parliament if the latter is not able to present the adopted laws for signing to the president within 14 days.

These drastic and undemocratic amendments will negatively impact the independence of the legislative body from the executive branch, if adopted. Amendments will provide the executive branch with formal mechanisms of control over the legislature resulting in complete loss of independence of the parliament.

Creation of new Vice-Presidents posts: The Referendum Act also proposes the establishment of new posts of the First Vice-President and Vice-Presidents who will be appointed by the president. The first vice-president is to replace the prime minister in the line of succession of power in case the president is not able to perform his or her duties. However, unlike the prime minister, the first vice-president's appointment by the president does not require the parliament's approval. As a result, the post of the president can be assumed by someone who has not received a public vote or approved by the parliament. The power of vice-presidents is not indicated in the amendments and is likely to be defined by the president.

 

VI. CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Stressing the restrictive impact of proposed amendments to the Constitution on electoral system and division of power, as well as on human rights, EMDS notes that proposed amendments do not adequately correspond to the needs of Azerbaijani public with regards to rule of law, democracy and free and fair elections. On the contrary, if adopted, it will result in strengthened executive branch with wide powers at the expense of parliament which will see its role as an important legal and political institution diminished. EMDS notes with regret that existence of political prisoners, including imprisoned journalists, human rights activists and political party members, as well as the situation of freedom of assembly, association and expression raises serious questions about democratic environment required for free and fair referendum.

Therefore, EMDS proposes following recommendations in order to ensure holding free and democratic referendum on 26 September:

- In order to inform voters on upcoming Referendum and proposed amendments to the Constitution, Azerbaijani government should create necessary conditions for non-governmental organizations and political parties to freely engage in referendum campaigning, including fully guaranteeing freedoms of expression, association and assembly, as well as the rule of law;

- The authorities should end all instances of harassment of activists, political party members and others campaigning against the proposed amendments to the Constitution;

- Azerbaijani government should consult the Venice Commission on proposed amendments and their compatibility with the country's commitments before international documents, including the European Convention on Human Rights;

- The Secretary General and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe should appeal to the Venice Commission for their expert opinion on compatibility of proposed amendments with the European Convention on Human Rights and other European standards.


The Board of Managment, Election Monitoring and Democrcay Studies Center (EMDS)

Please find this report as PDF here.

Russian Propaganda against Citizens' Election Observers from GOLOS-Movement

Russia

 

On Friday, August 26th - three weeks ahead of the elections to the State Duma - the Russian government-controlled TV channel NTV broadcasted a documentary "The Secret of Golos". This is already the fifth NTV report broadcasted in prime time which aims at discrediting citizens’ election observers in Russia. The film is based on materials filmed by hidden cameras and is a compilation of false accusations, outdated arguments and defamatory statements. The film has therefore to be assessed more as a product of pure political propaganda than as a piece of journalistic work.

 

EPDE is concerned that by broadcasting "The Secret of Golos", the Russian government-controlled mass media and the intelligence services undermine international obligations where the Russian Federation is binding itself to safeguard fair elections, public oversight over election processes and freedom of expression and association. EPDE regrets that by broadcasting a series of defamatory reports against domestic citizens’ election observers, the Russian state-controlled media are considerably contributing to the discretization of the Duma elections both in the eyes of Russian voters and international institutions.

 

For more information see here: http://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/107284

Parliamentary elections in Russia: Registration of political parties and candidates

Russia

 

SUMMARY


74 parties had the formal right to nominate candidates for the election of deputies to the State Duma in 2016.
 
However, only one-third of those parties attempted to take part in the 2016 State Duma elections because the Russian electoral system combines excessive demands on the number of signatures necessary for candidate registration with extremely rigid requirements for their inspection.

As a result, out of parties without registration exemption, only the following nominated their candidates to the State Duma of the Russian Federation:
1. "Union of Labor"

2. "Native Party"

3. "Revival of Agrarian Russia" (only district candidates)

4. "Revival of the Villages" (only district candidates)

5. "Party of the Parents of the Future" (only district candidates)

6. "Will"

7. "Great Fatherland"

8. "Party of Social Reform"


However, all 14 parties with registration exemption nominated their candidates:
1. "United Russia"
2. Communist Party
3. Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR)
4. "Just Russia"
5. Russian United Democratic Party "Yabloko"
6. "Civic Platform"
7. "Civilian Power" (a possible merger with the Communist Party of Social Justice (CPSJ) and a change of name to CPSJ was announced but did not occur)
8. Communist Party "Communists of Russia"
9. People's Freedom Party ("PARNAS")
10. "Patriots of Russia"
11. "Party of Growth" (formerly called "Right Cause")
12. "Rodina"
13. "Russian Party of Pensioners for Justice"
14. Russian Ecological Party "The Greens"

As a result, the number of parties participating in the nomination stage in these elections was lower than in the State Duma elections of 1993, 1995, 1999, and 2003, but higher than in the elections of 2007 and 2011.

Moreover, after the initial candidate list validation, the number of participating parties went down, and the number will most likely further decrease after the end of the registration process.

August 3 is the deadline for political parties to submit signatures to the Central Election Commission (CEC); the Commission then has 10 days to make a decision on whether or not to register the party.

Almost all parties that do not participate in the elections thus doom themselves to liquidation in 2019-2020.


Therefore, for the majority of parties, participation in the upcoming elections to the State Duma is the most viable opportunity to save their parties.

 

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

Belarus: Progovernmental Candidates Dominate in Precinct Election Commissions

Belarus

Analytical Report on the Formation of Precinct Election Commissions

 

Observation is carried out by activists of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center “Viasna” in the framework of the campaign Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections

I. GENERAL CONCLUSIONS

- on July 27, local authorities completed the formation of precinct election commissions, which are an important element of the electoral process, as they are directly involved in the organization of voting and the counting of votes. A total of 5,971 PECs were formed, with 65,856 people selected as election commissioners.

- the formation of the PECs took place against a background of widely announced new approaches to be applied by the authorities in charge of the process: the possibility of observers (including international ones) to attend the meetings of bodies in charge of forming the commissions, discussing business and political qualities of the nominated candidates. In cases where the amount of nominees exceeds the stipulated quota, information on each nominee should be considered and a separate vote should be carried out;

- the Central Election Commission did not support the proposal of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign to remove the concept of ‘political qualities’ from para. 6 of the CEC’s Decree No. 18 of 8 June 2016 before the beginning of the formation of the PECs, which, according to the campaign’s experts, entrenched the practice of biased and discriminatory approaches to their formation;

- all the entities who nominated their representatives to the PECs were generally provided with the opportunity to submit the necessary documents to the authorities responsible for the formation of commissions;

- representatives of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign had the opportunity to freely attend meetings of the bodies responsible for the formation of the PECs;

- in most cases, the PECs were formed through voting for a list of candidates, without discussing the nominated candidates, at separate meetings the nominees were not even introduced and no characteristics were announced. At most meetings, the lists of nominees were drafted in advance. About a quarter of the meetings discussed part of the nominees, including their business and political qualities; in some cases, applicants were invited for interviews.

- the formation of the PECs was accompanied by an obvious discriminatory approach of executive committees to representatives of opposition parties: only 53 people (10.3% of the total number of opposition nominees) were included in the PECs out of 514 proposed candidates, while 3,358 people (89%) became commission members out of 3,773 nominees put forward by the pro-government parties. The five largest pro-government public associations (Belarusian Republican Youth Union, Belaya Rus, Women’s Union, Veterans’ Union, and Federation of Trade Unions) nominated 27,080 people, with 25,546 people (94%of nominated candidates) were eventually selected to work as election commissioners.

- the country’s opposition parties will be represented in the PECs by 53 people or 0.08% of the total composition, which is less than in the parliamentary elections of 2012 (61 people or 0.1% of the total composition of the PECs) and approximately equal to the number of members of the opposition on the PECs in the 2008 parliamentary elections (48 or 0.07%).

- the absence of legislatively fixed criteria for candidates to election commissions still results in a highly partial approach to the personal composition of these commissions; the CEC’s Decree No. 18 has failed to contribute to greater political pluralism: as in the earlier elections, the formation of the PECs was based on a bias in favor of representatives of the pro-government political parties and public associations;

See the full report here: PDF (EN)

First EPDE Capacity Bilding Camp took place in Moldova

Moldova

 

On 25-30 July 2016 the first Capacity Building Camp of the EPDE took place in Moldova. Over 100 election observers, experts and volunteers from 13 EPDE member organizations participated in the event. The camp provided for several experts' presentations, trainings and seminars on capacity buidling, campaign financing, fake observation, statistical analysis, IT-security and other topics relevant for election observers. The camp was organized by the EPDE member organizations European Exchange, Association Promo-Lex and ISFED.

EPDE held a seminar for election observers in Tbilisi

 

The two-day seminar which was held on June 18-19 in Tbilisi gathered 20 observers from different EPDE member organisations. The main focus of the seminar was put on establishing and maintaining contacts with journalists and mass media. The EPDE observers got an insight into the specific media formats in different countries. Also, they discussed how to effectively disseminate election findings among journalists and different media outlets.

OPORA: Credibility of new Central Election Commission in Ukraine at risk

Ukraine

Today, legal grounds are in place for a legitimate rotation of CEC membership by dismissing the 12 current members and appointing 11 new members of the Commission.

However, the choice and submission of new CEC members by the President of Ukraine indicates that only proposals/candidates from certain parliamentary factions and groups were taken into account.

The submission does not include candidates who were officially nominated in advance by parliamentary factions of the all-Ukrainian Association “Batkivshchyna,” “The Opposition Bloc,” and Oleh Liashko’s Radical Party as well as the MP group “Volia Narodu.” Instead, the list of candidates takes into account the proposals from the factions of the parties “Petro Poroshenko Bloc” (5), “The People’s Front” (2), “The Association ‘Samopomich’” (1) as well as the Parliamentary Group “Vidrodzhenia” (1). Two of the 11 candidates (Roman Hreba and Oleh Konopolskyi) were not included in the submissions by parliamentary factions and groups.

Ignoring the representation quota of 3 of the 6 factions and one parliamentary group of Ukraine’s Parliament creates unfavorable conditions for overcoming the crisis of public confidence in the CEC, can provoke political statements, and can also give rise to justified concern about the absence of efficient guarantees for preventing administrative or political interference in the activities of the Commission.

Given the low level of public confidence in the CEC, it was important to ensure parliamentary consensus on CEC membership, gain public support for such processes, and form guarantees on administrative and political noninterference in the work of that body. In return, all of the newly elected CEC members are to lose their political ties with the entities that nominated them for submission by the President of Ukraine.

In view of previous recommendations by leading expert and public organizations about the necessity for taking into account proposals from all the parliamentary factions and groups (no less than one nominee from each faction/group), OPORA notes that the submission is not in line with this recommendation and creates additional risks.

At the same time, the Constitution of Ukraine and the Law of Ukraine “On the Central Election Commission” empowers the President of Ukraine to take an individual decision on the candidates for membership in the CEC, after considering proposals from parliamentary factions and groups in Parliament.

Pursuant to the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, the CEC should include representatives of parliamentary political parties or parties that received votes exceeding a certain percentage. Political parties must be equally represented in the election commissions or have the opportunity to observe the activities of the relevant impartial body; in this case equality can be interpreted as absolute (equal representation of parties) or proportionate (having regard to a party’s influence in the Parliament or its electoral weight).

It should be remembered that on June 3, 2016, the President of Ukraine announced his submission of a decree to Parliament which included the dismissal of 12 CEC members (whose terms expired) and 11 new candidates for CEC membership, to replace those who will be dismissed. On June 7, 2016, details of this submission were published on the official site of Ukraine’s Parliament and became accessible to the public and to mass media.

Read more here: www.oporaua.org/en

Belarusian EPDE members BHC and HRC Viasna publish first election monitoring' report

Belarus

 

Analytical weekly report on the results of observation: June 7-12

 

Election observation is carried out by activists of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" within the campaign “Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections”.

CONCLUSIONS

- the 2016 parliamentary elections started against the background of a difficult geopolitical situation in the world and Europe, primarily in connection with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict;

- the elections are accompanied by adverse trends in the social and economic development of Belarus;

- the campaign has a more favorable domestic political background as compared to last year's presidential election;

- the Belarusian authorities have not abandoned the repressive practices against opponents of the regime: peacefulprotesters are still subjected to administrative responsibility, political parties and public associations are still denied official registration, other civil and political rights of citizens are restricted;

- the Belarusian authorities have not taken any measures aimed at systemic and qualitative changes in the field of human rights, especially at the legislative level;

- during the preparation for the elections, the Belarusian authorities took into account only a few recommendations made by the OSCE ODIHR and the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" following the observation of the previous campaign.

See here for more information:

“Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections”

Statement on serious restrictions in the Draft Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia

Armenia

 

STATEMENT


on the restrictions of the activities of local observers and mass media representatives in the Draft Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia

The Draft Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia was adopted by the National Assembly of Armenia in its third reading on May 25, 2016. Unfortunately, neither the proposals submitted by the political forces and civil society, nor the recommendations on 2012 parliamentary and 2013 presidential elections by OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission and on 2015 referendum by Referendum Expert Team and considerable part of the recommendations put forward in the Preliminary Joint Opinion on the Draft Electoral Code of Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR failed to be considered.

Against the backdrop of the failure to consider numerous opinions on the improvement of electoral legislation, it is of particular concern introduction of artificial barriers and significant restrictions put on observers and mass media representatives as the main subjects who carry out public oversight on legitimacy of elections. The effectiveness of public oversight of electoral processes has been promptly increased recently, which was obvious during referendum of constitutional amendments in December 2015, when the observers and mass media representatives prevented and revealed more than thousands of electoral violations and fraud, and investigations are still carried out on nearly 70% of them.  Therefore, there is such an impression that the authors who drafted Electoral Code made every effort to minimize effective oversight of electoral processes and the opportunities to reveal electoral fraud. In particular,

1. The requirement for special registration of a number of election related documents (ballot papers, stubs, ballot envelops) has been abolished, while it was possible to reveal ballot box stuffing and “carousel” voting through observation of their irregularities. In addition, there is no longer an obligation for voters to sign the voter lists, which enables to find out false signatures, missing signatures and multiple voting. It is still impossible for observers and mass media representatives to observe voter lists and independently make extracts during voting process, summing up the results and/or recounting (article 32, part 1, point 3). Despite the recommendations of Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, real mechanisms providing access to signed voter lists failed to find reflection in the Code, instead the existing mechanisms were abolished.

2. In order to act as local observation mission during elections NGO may accredit its representatives if its charter objectives include issues related to democracy and protection of human rights for at least one year (article 30, part 1, point 2) and the entity carrying out media activities may accredit its representatives, if it has been disseminating on its behalf mass media for at least one year (article 31, part 8). Moreover, the final requirement shall not apply where the entity carrying out media activities disseminates mass media through terrestrial on-air broadcasting.

The threshold restrictions conditioned by their experience of activity do not follow any lawful purpose, are not needed in democratic societies and violate freedom of expression, and freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas of NGOs and mass media representatives. The differentiated approach applied against certain groups of media is an obvious discrimination in favor of terrestrial on-air broadcasting media.

3. The local NGOs shall still receive certificates to carry out observation mission after they pass a test (article 32, part 1, point 1), whereas international organizations have repeatedly raised the issue that testing of observers should not be mandatory or prerequisite for accreditation.

This is a serious obstacle for the NGOs who intend to carry out election observation mission, since the accreditation process implies additional administrative, organizational and financial burden. On the other hand, the quality of observation mission matters for the organization, and it shall not be regulated by the state and electoral legislation. 

4. It is the first time in the history of the development of the electoral legislation of Armenia that accreditation institute is set up for the representatives of mass media to conduct coverage of elections (article 31, part 8). Moreover, another restriction is stipulated besides the mentioned one year activity threshold, i.e. each entity carrying out media activities may accredit to the Central Electoral Commission no more than 50 representatives of only one mass media disseminated on its behalf.

If there are nearly 2000 precincts in the republic such restriction for mass media representatives may imply creation of artificial barriers to the opportunities to conduct coverage of all precincts by the same media.

5. The electoral commission shall be entitled by the Draft to limit the total number of observers and mass media representatives having the right to be in the voting room at the same time, this number may not be less than 15. Moreover, this restriction does not extend on the representatives of terrestrial on-air broadcasting television companies (article 65, part 8), which is also a manifestation of serious discrimination against the mass media that observe the electoral process.

More serious concern is caused by the mechanism of exercising restriction conditioned by the provision according to which total number of observers and mass media representatives is limited upon a decision adopted by 2/3 of the votes of attending members. In case of impossibility to make such decision it shall be ensured with the support of the police, upon request of the chairperson of the electoral commission. It should be mentioned that the authority to make decision by 2/3 of the votes of attending election commission members is obviously formalistic, since in the end it is the commission chairperson who has the authority to limit the number of observers and mass media representatives with the support of the police. Moreover, the principles and standards are not set up for the commissions to allow the observers and mass media representatives to be present in the precincts or to remove them, which means that these restrictions shall be applied arbitrarily.

On the other hand, such restriction is also illogical, since the organizations pass a certain process and are accredited by a state body in order to carry out election observation mission. However, it turns out that accreditation is not a sufficient guarantee for a representative of NGO with a status of local observers to enter the precinct on the day of election and carry out his/her mission of monitoring elections.

6. The Draft Electoral Code does not enable the observer any more to come up with requirement or recommendation for elimination of the electoral violation to the chairperson of the commission, draw his/her attention on the violations and ask questions.

This is a serious setback not only regarding the legislation in force but also the initial version of the draft which implies neutralization of observer’s role and significance on the whole.

7. The guarantees of legal protection of the observers when they are in the polling station have been largely weakened by the Draft. If according to the legal regulation in force the observer may be removed from the precinct only in case of arrest or detention, according to the draft the chairperson of the electoral commission may remove the observer from the sitting of the commission, and from the polling station on the voting day, upon a decision adopted by 2/3 of the votes of attending members of the electoral commission in case an observer supports a candidate, political party running in elections, violates the requirements of this Code (article 31, part 5).

This is uncontrollably wide authority granted to electoral commissions, which may be abused given Armenia’s practice, by removing undesirable observers from the polling stations through arbitrary decisions of the commissions to keep the voting process away from public oversight. It should also be noted that by the adopted version of the draft this authority of the commission shall be extended on mass media representatives as well. That is, mass media representative may be removed from the sitting of the commission, and from the polling station on the voting day, upon a decision adopted by 2/3 of the votes of attending members of the electoral commission in case they consider that the latter has violated the requirements of the Electoral Code.

By this statement, we, the below signed organizations, express our deep concern about the content of the Draft Electoral Code adopted by National Assembly and in particular, on the legal regulations regarding public oversight.

We record that the Draft Electoral Code of Armenia significantly restricts the rights of observers and mass media representatives, stipulated by articles 29 and 42 of the Constitution of Armenia and article 10 of European Convention on Human Rights; contradicts the recommendations made by Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR and is a significant setback compared with the legislation in force.

We find that by continuing to deprive citizens of their opportunity to public oversight, the authorities only deepen the doubts and mistrust of the credibility of the provided elections. Alienation of the public from the process of public oversight from the very beginning casts doubts on legitimacy of the election results and lead to final breaking off the dialogue between the people and the state. 

For public expectations not to be completely vanished on electoral system we demand that amendments be immediately made in the Draft Electoral Law in view of the requirements of respective international structures and Armenia’s civil society by ensuring safeguards for proper public oversight.

We emphasize that providing public access to the signed voter lists and giving opportunity to all the citizens of the Republic of Armenia to be engaged in the public oversight process of the elections is indispensable for gaining vast public trust in the electoral processes.

P.S. We would like to state that the representatives of this group of civil society have not authorized any political force and government body or their representatives to take part in discussions or negotiations on our behalf, reach consensus of make statements.   

“Transparency International Anticorruption Center” NGO

“Europe in Law Association” NGO

“Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office” NGO

“Journalists’ Club ‘Asparez’” NGO

“Open Society Foundations – Armenia”

“Yerevan Press Club” NGO

“Institute for Public Policy” NGO

“Foundation against Violations of Law” NGO

“Collaboration for Democracy” NGO

“Union of Informed Citizens” NGO

“Khoran Ard" Intellectual Center NGO

"Rule of Right" NGO

 

Please find this statement as PDF here.

Lilia Shibanova, Russian Election Observer Arrested in Belarus

Russia

Foto: dw.de

 

Lilia Shibanova, EPDE board member and founder of the Russian election observation network GOLOS was arrested by Belarusian boarder control at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border in the evening of May 12, 2016 and was forced to leave the train directing to Moscow. Lilia Shibanova who is also a member of the Presidential Human Rights Council of the Russian Federation was on her way to the session of the Council and to a conference on election observation in Moscow.

EPDE assesses this incident as an ongoing intimidation and pressure on independent election observers ahead of Parliamentary elections in the Russian Federation in September 2016. Each single action against independent election observation increases and reinforces doubts over the quality and fairness of these upcoming elections. We call on the authorities of the Russian Federation and of Belarus to immediately release Lilia Shibanova and to clarify the situation.

Armenia: Civic Observers' Opinion on the Draft Electoral Law

Armenia

 

10 May, 2016

 

OPINION

 

On the compliance of the provisions of Draft Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia with international standards

 

According to the Amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia adopted on 6 December 2015, new Electoral Code is planned to be adopted by 1 June 2016.[1] The responsible bodies to participate in the elaboration and submission of the Electoral Code were the Ministry of Justice and the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) of Armenia, and 1 March 2016 was the deadline set up for submission of the Draft to the National Assembly for discussionprovided by presidential decree of 10 February 2016.[2]

The Draft Electoral Code (hereinafter the Draft) failed to be submitted to the National Assembly in due time and was not published, though as was revealed later, the fact of it being ready was kept secret from the public by the responsible state bodies for a certain time. As it was found later, the English version of the document was posted on the official website of the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission) on 22 February 2016. It was only on 2 March 2016 that the public got access to the Draft due to its inclusion on the agenda of the Government session of 3 March 2016.[3] Moreover, even as of that time the Draft failed to be posted on the official websites of either the Ministry of Justice, or the CEC.

The Draft was elaborated and was included on the agenda of Government session in gross violation of the procedures stipulated by Armenian legislation on elaboration and circulation of legal acts. In particular, the requirements on regulatory impact assessment of legal acts stipulated by the Law on Legal Acts,[4] organizing and conducting public discussions provided by Government decision,[5] and submitting issues to the Government’s session prescribed by presidential decree[6] were violated. Before the Government approval the authors drafting the document refrained from participating in the discussions initiated by NGOs.

Responding to the opposition political forces’ proposal of negotiating with the authorities to reach consensus on the main issues of the Draft and delegated by more than 200 civil society organizations, the NGO representatives with an extensive experience in the elections, took part in discussions in 4+4+4 format (government coalition, non-ruling political parties and NGOs). It was expected that as a result of negotiations the Draft Electoral Code would be considerably improved and through stipulation of effective mechanisms there would be  prerequisites for reforming the electoral system of Armenia created within the Draft in order to ensure the public trust. Five priority recommendations, agreed by a group of NGOs and non-ruling political parties, were the main issues discussed during the discussions. However, due to unyielding position of the representatives of state bodies the discussions failed to give any essential results. Despite the recommendations put forward in the final report of OSCE/ODIHR referendum expert team and the previous respective recommendations made by OSCE/ODIHR, the amendments to electoral legislation were not carried out inclusively, and the stakeholders were not given an opportunity to make every effort for reaching possible consensus on the reforms. Hence, one may insist that the authorities did not undertake any real step towards reaching a consensus in the process of drafting the electoral code and developing the public trust.

In addition to the above mentioned issues of concern, the Draft failed to make any progress to meet the requirements of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of the Venice Commission.[7] Below are presented the issues of the Draft worth mentioning.

Issues related to universal suffrage[8]

The Draft fails to ensure the right to universal suffrage, since it enables to exercise the right to vote only to limited number of individuals who are outside the territory of the Republic of Armenia. They are the voters who are on diplomatic service in diplomatic or consular representations of the Republic of Armenia, as well as members of their families residing abroad with them, military servants seconded for a long period of time to or those studying in foreign states, as well as persons employed at representations of legal persons registered in the Republic of Armenia, which are located abroad, and their family members residing with them.[9] Whereas the hundred thousands of the Armenian citizens living abroad for education, temporary work or other purposes are deprived of participation in voting. Thus, the state displays discriminatory attitude toward them and violates the principle of equal suffrage. What is more, for account of such discriminative approach the Government secures the basis for election fraud, since the names of registered voters could be used for impersonation of voters residing abroad and results of elections falsified.

Issues related to credibility of electoral registers[10]

Regulations addressing updates of electoral registers are of concern not only within the Electoral Code in force but also in the Draft of the new code. The proper maintenance of electoral registers, their regular and constant updates and publication are not fully ensured. According to the Draft the authorized body shall twice a year submit the electoral register to the Central Electoral Commission in an electronic format for posting it on the website of the CEC with a search option.[11] However, this is not sufficient as long as there is no parallel legal requirement to post the register updated by the police on its own website once in six months. To be precise, the updated full register with download functionality is posted on the website of the police only before the national elections, while, as a matter of fact, there are numerous mistakes and inaccuracies in item. For instance, more than 49,000 people did not have records on their year of birth during 2015 constitutional referendum, more than 6,000 people did not have addresses of registration, more than10,700 addresses hosted more than 10 residents.[12] Inaccuracies in voter registers that reach up to several thousands, repeat from election to election, and the responsible bodies do not take proper measures to ensure accuracy and credibility of the voter lists. Whereas regular publication of the register could have contributed to reveal and correct inaccuracies in reasonable time.

The key problem of the electoral register remains to be the inclusion of data of several hundred thousands citizens residing abroad and the potential use of their names in the elections to achieve a desirable outcome, a problem that was proved by the considerable volume of facts collected by the efforts of observer non-governmental organizations (NGOs).[13]

Issues related to equal voting rights[14]

Mechanism of multiple voting through “mobile” voters has been formed and sophisticated in Armenia for years and it is being used within the same precinct as well as moving from a precinct to another and from a community to another. Given that at present the citizens of Armenia can vote by several identification documents (passport, biometric passport, ID card)[15] there are increased doubts on the opportunities for organization of multiple voting.

Though the Draft proposes to introduce electronic registration system in order to prevent multiple voting, given an atmosphere of overall mistrust and chronic and unpunished election fraud, use of the system cannot be credible. Electronic registration system implies more limited public oversight and less visibility of certain components of the voting process, meanwhile, in view of holding various identification documents instances of multiple voting in the same or different precincts, using different fingers and abuse of the possibility that the fingerprints will be unreadable are likely to occur. Moreover, even if the cross checking of all fingerprints of precinct results reveals multiple voting, as suggested by the Draft, still there are doubts, since, on the one hand, the Draft fails to provide proper oversight over the respective software and the cross checking process, on the other hand, the tradition of the impunity of fraudsters in Armenia dispels doubts that the exposed illegalities may be concealed, as the electoral fraud was covered for years.

As it was noted above, provision of equal voting rights is failed because of the multiple voting carried out by certain voters and/or their groups, as a result of using the names of hundred thousands of people who are absent from Armenia. In response to the demand of the non-ruling parties and CSOs’ to publish the signed voter lists after the voting, Draft intends to completely eliminate the provision for signing of the lists by voters. In parallel, the Draft perpetuates consistent and tenacious “protection” of the voters’ signed lists from the public oversight by not publishing them as well as putting a ban on making extracts and taking photos. Thus, the practice of election fraud at the expense of those who are absent from Armenia is to be continued. 

Issues related to equality of opportunity[16]  

The Draft fails to fully exclude the opportunity of misuse of administrative resources. In particular, it does not ban location of election campaign offices in the premises that though do not belong to but are occupied by state and local self-government bodies or belong to the organizations where the state or the community has considerable share.[17] Besides, the Draft does not ban the political party or the candidate to use the public asset for campaigning which is not directly under their possession to carry out official duties.[18] Pursuant to the Draft, indirect expenses such as transportation fees, election campaign office employee compensation and cultural event costs are left out of the campaign funds. It should be mentioned that according to the legislative package enclosed to the Draft no liability is intended for campaigns held in violation of election campaign rules and abuse of the administrative resource.

There are serious concerns with the introduction of regional proportional district lists in the Draft, which despite being officially justified by the need to ensure decentralization and political party members’ geographic representativeness, strengthens the legal guarantees for the local criminal authorities to impact the electoral processes and to win seats in representative bodies, which already is a formed practice in Armenia. In spite of the requirement of all non-ruling political parties to apply 100% proportional electoral system or at least to postpone the application of district lists up to the following 2022 national elections, it was categorically rejected by the government. Territorial authorities’ role and impact on the results of electoral processes have become obvious in the recent years.  Due to district lists, in fact, they get additional and rather concrete incentive for investing their financial and administrative resources in order to personally appear on the representative bodies’ lists and, in parallel, ensure desirable results for the ruling political party in the elections. 

In addition to the above stated, it should be emphasized that the thresholds of electoral deposits are not comparable with the financial resources of the political parties in Armenia, conditioned by the minimal wages, social-economic situation and the level of unequal development of Marzes and communities. Moreover, by no means it is justifiable the intended increase of the threshold of  deposits.

Issues related to freedom of voters to form an opinion[19]

The Draft also fails to ensure freedom to form an opinion for certain categories of voters, such as the military servicemen and detainees of penitentiary institutions and detention facilities. Though formally they are given the electoral rights, in fact they are deprived of the opportunity to form independent opinion as they do not have adequate access to the political parties’ electoral campaign information. Similar to the existing code, the Draft does not regulate campaigns for the military servicemen and detainees, hence there is no relevant enforcement practice formed. Meanwhile, as the practice of NGOs during the constitutional referendum shows, this legal gap is being abused simply by making impossible the awareness raising for these groups of voters. This obstacle further complicates the situation by the risk of limitation of the expression of the opinion, conditioned by not only objectively explained more dependent relationships within the mentioned groups, but also largely by the circumstances, in which these groups actually take their vote.

Thus, the military servicemen mainly have to vote in precincts nearby their service locations and not in the places of their permanent residence.[20] The number and names of the servicemen are kept secret[21],which expands the opportunity for falsifying the election results on their names or at least creates such doubts. A new restriction introduced by the Draft is the confidentiality of the numbers of precincts and their locations,[22] which will essentially reduce the chances for public oversight.

The numbers and names of people kept in the penitentiary institutions and detention facilities are also not published.[23] Moreover, they vote in precincts formed within their respective institutions,[24] being completely inaccessible for observation.

Issues related to freedom of voters to express their wishes and combating election fraud[25]

Election fraud in Armenia is manifested via an arsenal of extensive and numerous electoral violations, including misuse of administrative resources, vote buying, overcrowdings and guidance inside precincts, ruling of the voting process by unauthorized people or proxies for the ruling political parties, open or collective voting, impersonation, carousel voting, ballot box stuffing, “helping” the people needing assistance, etc.[26] The mentioned violations were exposed as a result of election observations carried out by both local and international observation missions, while others were revealed by comparing electoral documents subject to registration (ballot papers, stubs, envelops, signatures)  and baseline and process data.[27] No effective mechanisms to prevent the above mentioned violations are stipulated either by the Draft or the enclosed legislative package. The number of documents/data subject to registration will be limited only to the report on the number of voters generated by the electronic device and self-adhesive stamps, while electronic registration mechanism implied for excluding multiple voting will simply make invisible some processes of the election fraud.

Consistent with observations, proper administrative proceedings and criminal prosecution on cases of widespread electoral violations were failed to be carried out during 2012 and 2013 national elections, 2013-2015 elections of local government bodies and 6 December 2015 referendum of constitutional amendments. Therefore, one may conclude that the fight against electoral fraud is nothing but imitation.

Civil society reiterates its longstanding claim that in present situation the best and only means as a safeguard against electoral fraud and for building the citizens’ trust in the electoral process is making the signed voter lists available so that every person is able to verify whether or not votes were cast on behalf of their acquaintances and relatives who are absent from the country or simply who did not participate in the voting. It should be mentioned that this claim is based not only on the vicious practice persistent in Armenia and the widespread public mistrust, but also the provisions of OSCE/ODIHR report published after 2015 constitutional referendum, which reads: “While the Venice Commission does not regard this measure as a good practice because abstention from voting may indicate a political choice, it should be noted that making marked voter lists available for public verification is not prohibited by international law.”[28]  

Issues related to secret suffrage[29]     

By introduction of electronic registration mechanism the Draft proposed such a complicated mechanism of voter’ registration and voting, which is not obviously based on the principle prescribed by the Code on the simplicity of the voting procedure. It is likely to create a situation where on the one hand the commission members will have difficulty in carrying out their functions properly and, on the other hand, more voters will be in need of help.  As Armenia’s electoral practice shows, the institute of “helpers” is largely abused and, as a matter of fact, violates the secrecy of ballot. 

Considering the fact that individual ballot papers shall be printed for each political party running in the elections[30] and counting is not envisioned for the unused ballots there are risks that the bundles of unregistered ballots can serve for “carousel voting” or be taken out of the precincts intended to ensure control over the voting procedure.  

Special attention should be paid on provision of the right to vote by electronic voting by the people who are on diplomatic service or members of their families residing abroad with them, military servants seconded for a long period of time to or those studying in foreign states, people employed at representations of legal persons registered in Armenia, which are located abroad, and their family members residing with them. The procedure set up by CEC on electronic voting bears certain risks. The heads of legal persons employed at representations having registered in the Republic of Armenia may submit the list of their employees who are abroad, without their awareness receive the passwords for electronic voting and vote on their behalf.[31] A survey on electronic voting has revealed that only a quarter of the people who voted using electronic means considered internet and the secrecy of the data transmitted by it “mainly secure.”[32] Since it is impossible to ensure secret ballot in an uncontrolled environment, as well as be assured if voting takes place in someone's presence or direct guidance, it was recommended in Joint Final Opinion of Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR on Electoral Code published still in October 2011 that the Armenian authorities review that provision.[33] This recommendation, however, was failed to be carried out. 

Issues related to effective observation of elections[34]

The voters’ rights are significantly restricted by the Draft. In particular, threshold is set up for experience in observing elections. Thus, those NGOs of Armenia whose charter objectives include issues related to democracy and protection of human rights (for minimum 3 years preceding the day of calling elections) shall have the right to act as observation mission during elections. [35] Neglecting OSCE/ODIHR recommendation that the CEC testing of observers should not be mandatory or prerequisite for accreditation of citizen observers, the Draft again stipulates requirement for local observers’ accreditation, which causes serious obstacles for the local NGOs who act as observation mission during elections, by increasing their administrative, organizational and financial burden and violating the balance between voters’ rights and obligations.[36]

The observer will have very limited rights according to the Draft. When exercising their rights, observers may only ask questions to officers responsible for the elections and draw their attention to violations but have no right to make claims or suggestions on elimination of the violation.[37] This is a significant setback compared with the legislation in force, according to which observers could at least present their observations and suggestions to the chairman of the commission.

Besides the observers, the Draft considerably restricts also the freedom of mass media, creates obstacles for the coverage of the electoral process as well as includes unjustified mechanisms for the oversight of broadcast media. The Draft prescribes that only those mass media representatives may get accreditation, who have been disseminating information on behalf of the given media for at least one year before the elections. Above and beyond, each entity carrying out media activities may accredit no more than 50 representatives.[38]

The Draft limits the number of observers and mass media representatives having the right to be in the voting room at the same time to 15.[39] This limitation, is likely to be applied for keeping principled and unbiased observer organizations and representatives of mass media “lined up” near the precinct and depriving them from an opportunity to enter the precinct. On the other hand, such regulation is also illogical, since the organizations undergo certain processes to be able to exercise their rights as observers and are accredited by CEC, meanwhile, it turns out that the certificate of accreditation granted by CEC is not a guarantee for NGOs or mass media representatives to enter precincts and carry out their mission.

Legal protection of the observers has been considerably weakened by the Draft.  If pursuant to the legal regulation in force the observer may be removed from the precinct only in case of arrest or detention, according to the Draft the chairperson of the electoral commission may remove the observer from the sitting of the commission, and from the precinct on the voting day, upon a decision adopted by 2/3 of the votes of attending members of the electoral commission in case an observer supports a candidate, political party running in elections or violates the requirements of this Code.[40] Thus, the electoral commissions are entitled with uncontrollable extensive authority that might be abused and by arbitrary decisions the commissions may remove the undesirable observers to ban them from public oversight of the voting procedure.

The bases of legal protection are considerably weakened for mass media representatives and proxies as well.[41]

Issues related to an effective system of appeal[42]

As it was stated in the report[43] by OSCE/ODIHR after 2013 Presidential Election, complaints and appeals system regarding election disputes is ineffective in Armenia, and the Draft in no way improves the current situation. The legal standing to bring complaints in the electoral process and timelines for the submission of claims are still constricted and, therefore, it is unrealistic to gather sufficient evidence and file substantiated and well-grounded complaints[44]. Both the Draft and the Electoral Code in force limit the object of the complaints. For instance, the observer cannot appeal the action or inaction of the electoral commission it the violation is not directly related to observer’s rights, but rather is a gross procedural infringement. Besides, the observer has no right to dispute actions or inactions of election commissions observed in the electoral precincts and the rigged election results as was recommended by OSCE/ODIHR.[45]

Currently, electoral complaints filed by local NGOs to territorial electoral commissions (TEC) and CEC are not taken into review on the grounds of either formalistic matters or the lack of legal standing. None of the several hundreds of complaints based on the evidence of violation of the observers or others’ rights and on violation of the voting procedure filed during national and local government elections since 2013, as well as during 2015 constitution referendum has been duly considered by administrative bodies and judicial instances. As a matter of fact, ensuring access to justice for observers is consistently violated mainly on the grounds that NGOs are not the right plaintiffs and may not raise concerns on behalf of their observers and, accordingly, to protect their rights. The Draft fails to give any solutions to these issues.

General situation

Lack of respect for fundamental rights[46]

In Armenia the exercise of political rights becomes more and more problematic day by day. Freedom of assembly is constantly violated when political issues are raised. Active participants in rallies are frequently subject to assault, persecuted by police and arrested, thus, adding the number of political prisoners. Oftentimes the cases against them are investigated in administrative courts and at the end of long-term trials the citizens bear the responsibility by paying fines for “failure to obey lawful requirement” of the police officers.

No progress had been made on the investigation into the killings of 10 citizens who fell victim to violence by illegal use of military force during peaceful demonstration following 2008 February presidential elections in Armenia. Moreover, the use of armed forces in internal political affairs was actually legalized by amendments to the Law on Legal Regime of Emergency Situations, adopted on 21 March 2012, which in fact contradicted the respective norms of the Republic of Armenia Constitution. Widespread impunity in the country creates distrust and doubts that the same scenario might be repeated any time, and especially during elections.

Summing up the above mentioned, we conclude that no measures are undertaken by the Draft proposed by the Armenian government to bring the new Draft Electoral Code of Armenia in compliance with the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of Venice Commission. The Draft fails to dispel the deep rooted public distrust towards the electoral system. As for the electronic technologies proposed in response to the public demand to reduce the risks of electoral violations, those simply aspire to perpetrate the tradition of rigged elections, this time with a new “packaging.”

 

Transparency International Anticorruption Center NGO

Open Society Foundations – Armenia foundation

Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor NGO

Journalists Club “Asparez” NGO

Yerevan Press Club NGO

Europe in Law Association NGO

Foundation against Violations of Law NGO

Union of Informed Citizens NGO

“Logos” human rights NGO

“KhoranArd” intellectual NGO

 



[1] Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, Article 201, part 1

[2] Presidential  decree No NH-170-A of 10 February 2016 “On organizing the process of development of a legal framework based on the Constitutional reforms”

[3] Government of Armenia session agenda of 3 March 2016 https://www.e-gov.am/sessions/archive/2016/03/03/

[4] RA Law on Legal Acts, Article 27.1, part 2

[5] RA Government decision N 296-N of 25 March 2010 “On approving the order of organizing and conducting public discussions” and N 13 Protocol decision “On repealing RA government decision of 5 April 2012 on approving methodical instructions for elaborating draft legal acts and N 42 protocol decision of RA Government of 28 October 2010”

[6] RA President decree N NH-174-N of 18 July 2007 on “Procedure of organizing the activities of the Government and other agencies under its jurisdiction”

[7] Code of good practice in electoral matters (hereinafter Code) http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-AD%282002%29023rev-e

[8] Code, Section1, part 1, point 1, 1.1. Rule and exceptions

[9] Draft, Article 62

[10] Code, Section1, part 1, point 1.2. Electoral registers

[11] Draft, Article 9, part 4

[12] Transparency International Anticorruption Center, Voting Numbers Electronic Monitoring of 2015 Constitutional Referendum, Yerevan 2016 http://transpartency.am/files/publications/1455616168-0-812260.pdf and interactive data base http://elections.transpartency.am/2015/

[13] Citizen Observer Initiative, Final Report of Observation Mission for the Constitutional Amendments Referendum of the Republic of Armenia on December 6, 2015, http://transpartency.am/files/publications/1454523289-0-754489.pdf  

[14] Code, Section1, part 2, Equal suffrage, 2.1 Equal voting rights

[15] Draft, Article 66, part1

[16] Code, Section1, part 2, Equal suffrage, 2.3 Equality of opportunity

[17] Draft, Article 19, part 4

[18] Draft, Article 23, part 1, point 2

[19] Code, Section1, part 3, Free suffrage, 3.1 Freedom of voters to form an opinion

[20] Draft, Article 10, part 8, part 9

[21] Draft, Article 8, part 12

[22] Ibid.

[23] Draft, Article 12, parts 5 and 6

[24] Draft, Article 63

[25] Code, Section1, part 3, Free suffrage, 3.2 Freedom of voters to express their wishes and combating electoral fraud

[26] Violations committed in 2012 parliamentary elections and 2013 presidential election on http://www.iditord.org  and Yerevan council and local government elections on http://armdex.com/elections2013/map,  violations in constitutional amendments on http://transpartency.am/elections/2015-12-06/map websites

[28] OSCE/ODIHR, “Final report of referendum expert team on constitutional referendum in the Republic of Armenia of 6 December 2015,” Warsaw, 2016, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/220656?download=true

[29] Code, Section1, part 4, Secret suffrage

[30] Draft, Article 59, part1

[31] Decision of RA CEC No 48-N of 20 July 2015 “Procedure on electronic voting in national elections for the voters who are on diplomatic service in diplomatic or consular representations and members of their families having right to vote residing abroad with them, ” point 5

[32] Hamazasp Danielyan, “Internet voting in Armenia: analysis of unnoticeable innovation in Armenia,” Yerevan, 2015, , http://www.osf.am/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Hamazasp_Danielyan_PP.pdf

[33] Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR, “Joint Final Opinion on the Electoral Code of Armenia adopted on 26 May 2011” http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/84269

[34] Code, Section 2,  Conditions for implementing the principles,  3.2 Observation of elections

[35] Code, Article 30, part 1

[36] During Constitutional referendum of 6 December 2015 Citizen Observer Initiative had to rent halls in different Marzes to move the people who were supposed to pass tests from one Marz to another.

[37] Draft, Article 32, part2

[38] Draft, Article 31, part 8

[39] Draft, Article 65, part 8

[40] Draft, Article 31, part 5

[41] Draft, Article 31, part 8 and , Article 34, part 4

[42] Code, Section 2,  Conditions for implementing the principles, 3.3 an effective system of appeal

[43] OSCE/ODIHR, “Election Observation Mission Final Report on Presidential Election in Armenia of 18 February 2013,” Warsaw, 2013, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/220656?download=true

[44] Draft, Article 48

[46] Code, Section 2, Conditions for implementing the principles, part 1. Respect for fundamental right

 

Pro-governmental United Russia candidates illegally financed by EU-based companies

Russia

 

On the invitation of MEPs Heidi Hautala and Rebecca Harms of the Green faction in the European Parliament, Golos experts presented their first conclusions on the preparations of the parliamentary campaign in Russia. According to the Golos’ expert Stanislav Andreychuk, campaigning of several candidates supported by the ruling United Russia party during the regular regional and local elections is supported by companies registered in European countries like Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg and Poland as well as in the European tax havens- Virgin Islands and Cyprus. This contradicts the Russian law according to which foreign founding for a broad spectrum of political activities is strictly forbidden.

 

At the same time, the United Russia’ MPs have successively restricted the rights of observers and limited the political competition and transparency. According to Golos’ experts Arkadiy Lyubarev and Roman Udot, non-partisan election observers are de facto prohibited from observing the polling which contradicts the Russian obligations stemming from international commitments. Moreover, the new amendments to the election law introduce preliminary and compulsory accreditation of observers – representatives of parties and candidates – which is limited to a single polling station for a given person, thereby preventing those observers from setting up mobile teams and observing the voting at different polling stations. Also, the new election law prohibits the freelance journalists to monitor the polling and provides for high fines for anyone accused of disturbing the voting process.

 

Political parties also face systematically growing restrictions despite some liberalizing steps made by the regime after the mass protest following 2011 rigged parliamentary elections. At the same time, ruling party and regime-loyal candidates profit from the full access to the state controlled media, as the research of Golos’ media expert Viktor Vakhstein shows.

 

Lilia Shibanova, Golos founder and EPDE-board member demanded from the European institutions more engagement and support for citizens’ observation in Russia. When deciding on the further politics towards Russia, European Parliament should consider not only the fulfillment of the Minsk-agreement but also the deteriorating situation with the human rights in Russia.

 

The presentation at the European Parliament was co-organized by the Swedish International Liberal Center (SILC), European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and International Election Study Center (IESC).

The Statement of civil society organizations on the procedure for nominating and selecting candidates for membership of the Central Election Commission

Moldova

The civil society organizations state the delayed publishing, on the official web page of the Parliament,  of the list of the candidates for the membership of the Central Electoral Commission(CEC), appointed by the parliamentary majority and the opposition. In this context, the signatory organizations draw attention on the fact that the mandate of the members of CEC expired on 11 February 2016 and the Speaker of the Parliament initiated the selection of the new members on 18 March.

Unfortunately, the information on the candidates was published today, on 13 April 2016 and the Committee on Legal Affairs, Appointments and Immunities on the same day endorsed the list of the candidates. In our opinion, this is not a transparent process. The civil society and the general public did not have the opportunity to follow the process at issue and to analyze the compliance of the candidates with the requirements provided for in the Electoral Code and the Law NO. 199 as of 16.07.2010 „ on the status of the persons performing responsible state positions”.

Therewith, the civil society draws the attention on the lack of information regarding the candidate for the CEC membership to be appointed by the President.

The transparent contest –based selection, grounded on principles of meritocracy and political nonpartisanship of the CEC members, by the parliamentary majority and opposition shall be deemed an important step for enhancing the independency and the professionalism of the CEC members, and the institution itself. In this context, the signatory organizations are concerned about the refusal of the Parliament to support certain previously presented legislative initiatives aiming at ensuring a selection process based on clear principles of meritocracy and transparency of the candidates to CEC membership.

In the light of the above, the signatory organizations, even after the endorsement of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Appointments and Immunities, request the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova and the President of the country to organize public consultations in order to identify the candidates for CEC membership, in compliance with the following principles: clear procedures and requirements for selecting the candidates, sufficient time for the application of the potential candidates, clear requirements for the potential candidates, transparency in the selection process, consultations and the involvement of the civil society in the selection process and justification of the decision on selection.

The signatory organizations consider that the political influence on the CEC members’ selection process at this stage shall be reduced at maximum and totally excluded from the further CEC activity.

It this respect, we deem as inadmissible the recommendation of the Speaker of the Parliament, expressed publicly on 18 March 2016, regarding the opportunity to offer the position of the Chairperson of CEC to the parliamentary opposition.

We reiterate the point that pursuant the electoral legislation, the Chairperson of CEC shall be selected by the new members, and any interference, especially from the political environment, shall directly point at the fact that the future CEC members could be subsequently politically influences in the activity thereof. ,

The parties to this document request:

  1. The Parliament Republic Moldova – to ensure the transparency of the procedure of appointing the candidates for the CEC membership and to eliminate the political influence in the process of selecting the CEC Chairperson;
  2. The President of the Republic of Moldova – ensuring the transparency of the procedure of appointing the candidate for CEC membership on behalf of the President.

 

Contact person: Ion Manole, Facilitator of the National Platform of EaP CSF, Executive Director Promo-LEX Association, tel. 022450024, GSM: 069070800, e-mail promolex.pr@gmail.com.

Invitation to the Round Table “Russian Duma Election 2016: Insights for Action”

Russia

Hosted by MEP Heidi Hautala (Greens/EFA) and MEP Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA)

R.S.V.P. by 5 April: amanda.lovkvist@silc.se

Ahead of Russian Duma Election 2016 the organisations Golos, IESC, EPDE and Silc are together launching a new initiative -presenting the results of their long-term election monitoring in Russia on the international level.

They aim at presenting as widely as possible the facts about the course of the Russian Duma election campaign: illegal campaigning, violations related to election campaign financing, new obstacles to the opposition candidate registration, restrictions of observers' and journalists' rights and other violations.

The first presentation on the long-term election monitoring results will be held on 7 April at 15.00 in the European Parliament.

Time: Thursday, 7 April at 15.00-18.00

Place: The European Parliament, ASP 1G

 

AGENDA

Welcome and opening

MEP Rebecca Harms (Co-president, GreensEFA) and MEP Heidi Hautala (Co-Chair of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, GreensEFA)

Opening remarks - Relations with Russia

MEP Knut Fleckenstein (Vice-president, S&D)

MEP Othmar Karas (Co-chair of the EU-Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, EPP)

Panel:

Analysis of financing of political parties and electoral campaign

Stanislav Andreichuk, Golos Movement

Media monitoring: methodology and results for February-March 2016

Viktor Vakhshtain, independent analyst

Barriers in the Russian electoral legislation

Arkadiy Liubarev, independent analyst

Legislative challenges for observation on E-day

Grigory Melkonyants, Golos Movement

Opportunities for distance observation

Lilia Shibanova, Golos Movement

Possibilities of electoral statistics based on official data

Roman Udot, Golos Movement

Comments

MEP Peter Eriksson (GreensEFA) (TBC)

Discussion

Closing remarks

MEP Heidi Hautala and MEP Rebecca Harms

______________

Golos is the most respected voters’ rights and election observation organization in Russia today. Established in year 2000 the organization now has citizen observers in nearly all regions in Russia, and has well-developed IT technologies for reporting in and communicating election fraud to the Russian public. www.golosinfo.org

European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) is a network organization assisting citizens’ election observation in the countries of the Eastern Partnership and in the Russian Federation, and aiming to contribute to democratic election processes throughout Europe. www.epde.org

International Elections Study Center (IESC) is a non-profit organisation aiming at promotion of the non-partisan evaluation of the electoral process, study and dissemination of the best practices in election administration, legislation and rules based on international standards. www.iesc.lt

Swedish International Liberal Centre (SILC) is a liberal foundation that promotes the values of democracy and human rights. www.silc.se

Please find this invitation as PDF here.

Training for EPDE observers in Tbilisi

Georgia

 

From 21-24 March two EPDE trainings for more than 40 observers from seven countries have taken place in Tbilisi, Georgia. The trainings aims were to strengthen the capacities of the EPDE member organizations in the work with volunteers and to maintain security standards in the area of internet communication. The trainings were organized by the International Society for Free Elections and Democracy (ISFED) with the support of the European Union.

Further restrictions against citizens’ election observation in Russia

Russia

In the run-up to the parliamentary elections in Russia which are to be held in mid-September 2016, the government controlled parliament introduced new amendments to the election related legislation which further limits the rights of citizens’ observers to freely monitor the voting process. According to the new amendment, domestic observers are not able to conduct observation at several polling stations on the voting day but can be deployed only to one particular polling station. They have to be accredited at least three days before the start of the voting thus allowing the authorities to identify polling stations with and without election observers in advance.

Already in 2014, established election watchdogs – most prominent among them the Association Golos – were deprived of the right to observe elections under the law on “foreign agents”, thus the observers have been accredited as journalists and party proxies. The recent amendments restrict this possibility by allowing only the permanent employees of the registered mass media, who signed the contract by the end of March 2016 at the latest, to observe the polling. They are also to be accredited no later than three days before the start of the voting. The question whether the media representatives will be allowed to move from polling station to polling station or whether they will be obliged to stay at only one polling station will be defined by the resolutions of the Central Election Commission.

Furthermore, according to the new amendments, registered parties and candidates can accredit only two observers at one particular polling station whereof only one observer can be present at this polling station. Apparently, only a very few independent observers will meet those requirements. In most cases, only pro-governmental observers will have the access to the polling stations during the upcoming parliamentary elections in Russia.

Training for EPDE observers in Tbilisi

Georgia

 

Between 21 and 24 March 2016, around 40 EPDE observers will take part in two training sessions organized by the EPDE member International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy ISFED in Tbilisi, Georgia. The trainings will focus on the volunteer networking and the internet data security.

Ukrainian EPDE members CVU and Opora publish expert reports

Ukraine

 

Civic Network Opora and the Committee of Voters of Ukraine together with the international EPDE experts published four analysis on the conditions for democratic elections in Ukraine. Arkadii Lubarev from the Association Golos, Moscow, analyzed the implication of the new local election law. Steffen Halling from the Berlin based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) monitored the election campaign in the Donbass region controlled 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 limited right to vote for the Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine. The expert team, who conducted the research during the local elections on October 25 and November 15, 2015, was 15 EPDE short-term observers from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Norway, Poland and Russia monitored the election day in the Kyiv area. The project was founded by the European Union, the German Association for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Polish-German Cooperation Foundation.

You can find the reports done by the EPDE experts here:


1. 2015 Local elections in Ukraine: a view from outside. Ukrainian legislation on local elections and its application in the Elections on October 25, 2015: Arkadii Liubarev

 

2. 2015 Local elections in Ukraine: a view from outside. The wright of IDPs to vote: International practice and and options for Ukraine: Elene Nizharadze.  The 2015 local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine: Steffen Halling. International observation with political at the 2015 local elections: Anton Shekhovtsov

Citizens’ observers demand transparent drafting of new election law in Armenia

Armenia

 

Citizen’s election observers urge the Armenian authorities to safeguard transparency of the process of drafting the new election law and to include all relevant experts, representatives of the civil society and the political parties in the process. The authorities should establish an updated voter register and provide proper voter lists, cancel undue restrictions of the observers’ rights and introduce cameras at the polling stations with live stream on internet. Citizens’ observers should be given the right to file complaints against the voting results if serious violations of the election law were documented. During the preparations for the constitutional referendum and on the voting day on 6 December 2015, mass violations of the voters and observers rights were documented by over one thousand of citizens’ observers deployed to all regions of Armenia. The EPDE experts prepared a comprehensive analysis which provides statistical evidence of massive manipulations of the voting results at the high number of the polling stations.

 

You can find the recommendations here.

Anar Mammadli pardoned after almost 2,5 years in prison

Azerbaijan

On 17 March 2016, Anar Mammadli, EPDE board member and the Director of the Election Monitoring and Democracy Studies Center (EMDS), based in Baku, Azerbaijan, was pardoned by the president Aliev along with a number of high profile political prisoners.

Mammadli was imprisoned on 16 December 2013 following EMDS critical report documenting massiv fraud during presidential elections held on 9 October 2013. He was sentenced to 5,5 years in prison under Articles 179.3.2 (appropriation in significant size), 192.2.2 (illegal entrepreneurship by an organized group), 213.1 (tax evasion), 308.2 (abuse of official authority with grave consequences) and 313 (service forgery) of the Criminal Codeon 26 May 2014.

EPDE and numerous international organisations and NGOs demanded the release of Anar.

See here the hronic of Anar's arrest: http://www.epde.org/…/id-55-years-of-prison-for-epde-board-…

Belarus: HRDFE offers support to the CEC on the implementation of the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations

Belarus

In a proposal presented to the Central Election Commission of Belarus (CEC), the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections (HRDFE), an initiative of the EPDE members Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center Viasna, suggest a number of steps to implement the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR to ensure democratic conduct of the future elections in Belarus. Although the HRDFE experts recommend complex changes in the electoral legislation, they also stress that the democratic conduct of the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled in late 2016 depends on the proper implementation of the existing election law and can be assured solely by resolutions of the Central Election Commission (CEC). More information about this you can find here.

From 12 February till 15 March an interdepartmental working group established by the president Lukashenka at the CEC, which consisted of representatives of the CEC, the Council of the Republic, the House of Representatives, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Information, analyzed the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. 30 detailed instructions on implementation  proposed by HRDFE were apparently considered by the CEC working group. The HRDFE urges the authorities to ensure the transparency of the amending the electoral legislation by involving of independent experts, election observation NGOs and political parties in the process of drafting of election law.

Recommendations of HRDFE you can find here.

Parliamentary elections in Slovakia, 5 March 2016: EPDE press release

SLOVAKIA

The European Platform for Democratic Elections

 

Press release

Parliamentary Elections

Slovak Republic, 5 March 2016

 

General Information

From 1st till 7th March 2016, 50 EPDE monitors from Poland, Russia, Azerbaijan, Germany, Lithuania, Sweden and Ukraine observed the last stage of the parliamentary election in Slovakia scheduled on 5 March 2016.  The monitoring group was established by the EPDE in cooperation with the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats and the International Elections Study Center (Lithuania). On the election day, observers were deployed to all regions (kraj) of Slovakia – Bratislava, Nitra, Žilina, Trenčín, Trnava, Prešov, Banská Bystrica and Košice, visiting over 250 polling stations. Before the election day, the group held briefings with the Head of the State Commission for Elections and Control of Political Parties’ Financing (State Commission), the OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission and representatives of the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the leading Slovak election experts’ organizations Memo98, Institute for Public Affairs IVO as well as the Slovak Academy of Science.

Due to the limited observation period, this statement focus only some aspects of the campaign, the electoral legislation and the procedures on the election day, as well as their implementation.

Monitoring conclusions

EPDE observers underlined the transparency of the preparation for the election day and the overall trust in and the integrity of the election day proceedings. However, the 2014 adopted Act on Election Campaign prohibits to publish election polls within 14 days before the election day thus limiting the freedom of voters to form an opinion. There are no polling stations established abroad (i.e. at diplomatic representations). Voters, who reside abroad on election day, can vote only via postal voting. The deadline for registering for postal voting is set at 50 days before the election day which limits the right to vote. Voters who moved abroad within 50 days before election day and did not register before for postal voting are deprived the opportunity to vote unless they return to the country. The parliamentary elections are conducted within one nation-wide constituency, which has a direct impact i.e. on the rather complicated format of the ballots. This was criticized by many EPDE interlocutors and shall be a subject of further consideration.

Election observers are not obliged to apply for accreditation. EPDE observers had, as a rule, unhindered access to all polling stations. However, the decision on what information should remain confidential and what information shall be available publicly is within a competence of the Chairman of the precinct election commission (PEC). The question whether photographing and filming should be allowed in the polling stations are not regulated by the 2014 adopted Act on Conditions of the Exercise of Voting Rights (Elections Act). In several cases EPDE observers recorded obstacles in obtaining information and faced difficulties in getting permission for photographing and filming in the polling stations.

The dense structure of 5,993 polling stations in Slovakia simplifies the access of 4,426,760 registered voters to the voting premises. According to the Election Act, PECs are made up of minimum five members delegated by the political parties or coalitions of parties. One person – a record-keeper with an advisory vote - is nominated by the respective municipality mayor.

Election commissions were in most cases prepared and trained, however, in some cases the Chairmen were lacking new procedural knowledge. In several observed cases, the PEC were lacking members who denied to work on the short notice. The PECs were often understaffed seeing only five members (excl. one record-keeper) working on election day. In some cases, the EPDE observers were reported by the PECs that commission members denied to take on the Chairman post on a voluntary basis. As a rule, lotteries were conducted to nominate a Chairman, as it is prescribed by Elections Act. In the districts with a large Roma population, members of Roma community were underrepresented in the PECs.

The new Elections Act which was for the first time applied during this parliamentary election, provides for additional safeguards during the voting. To obtain a ballot and the stamped envelope, a voter has to provide a valid identification card (or another document indicating all voters data as the voter register, i.e. the address of permanent residence) and to sign the voter list. The new Elections Act requires voters to cast special envelopes with filled ballots into the ballot box while the unused ballots shall be placed into a special ballot box. However, the Elections Act does not precisely define the procedure of handling the unused ballots during the postal voting from abroad. There are also no clear provisions on how to seal the ballot boxes.

In many cases the ballot boxes for unused ballots were not sealed and opened several times during the voting day to empty. Unused ballots were regularly removed in unsealed plastic bags. In some cases ballot boxes for voting ballots were not sealed. EPDE observers recorded a few cases when voters casted envelopes with filled ballots to the wrong ballot box - commission members were allowed by the Chairmen to take off those envelopes from the wrong box and cast them to the right one. In a few cases voters were allowed to vote without proper ID (i.e. showing the passport) or they refused to cast unused ballot to the proper box.

The new Elections Act does not foresee the counting of unused envelopes nor the unused ballots. During the counting, different approaches rather than a unified procedure were applied to establish the voting results by the observed PECs. The Elections Act provides neither for handing out the copy of the result’s protocol to the observers nor other PEC members nor for displaying the protocols for public scrutiny. The protocols are not available for later verification by the citizens and can be revised only by courts. In some cases the establishing of the results was challenging to the PECs. There were different approaches of assessing invalid ballots observed at different PECs. In one observed case ballots were damaged during opening of the envelopes and repaired with a tape. Those ballots were assessed valid.

During the handing over the voting materials at the District Election Commission in Bratislava, several cases of correction of mistakes in the results’ protocols by the PECs were observed.

EPDE recommends:

- to define in the Elections Act the status of international and domestic citizens’ observers

- to strengthen the transparency of the voting process by ensuring the right of observers to have access to all election-related documents and information

- to allow photographing and filming in the polling stations with respect to publish sensitive voters data

- to display the election results for public scrutiny at the polling stations and allow for  handing out of copies of election result’s protocols to the observers and other PEC members

- to introduce more inclusive system of voting abroad

- to allow publishing election polls until the end of election campaign

- to introduce sufficient safeguards for ballot boxes with both used and unused ballots, i.e. through a unified stamping procedure or seals

- to provide a format of the ballots and envelopes which would avoid the damaging of the ballots during opening the envelopes

- to introduce transparent ballot boxes

- to introduce different ballot boxes for used and unused ballots, i.e. in different colours

- to strengthen the capacities of PECs by establishing of a sufficient poll of available human resources for the PECs

- to create PECs at penitentiaries, hospitals and houses for elderly thus limiting mobile voting

- to strengthen the capacities of PECs by obligatory sending the final PEC results to Statistical Office via internet

- to strengthen voter education in districts with large Roma minorities

- to provide a list of polling stations with respective addresses sorted by districts on the relevant website

- to reconsider the application of one nation-wide constituency for parliamentary elections.

European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) was established on December 12, 2012 in Warsaw. It is made up of 14 civil society organizations supporting or conducting civil election monitoring in the Eastern Partnership countries, the Russian Federation, and the European Union. The purpose of the EPDE is to provide assistance for the civil election monitoring in the Eastern Partnership countries and the Russian Federation, as well as to contribute to the democratic electoral processes in Europe.

This statement as PDF (EN)

EPDE observes the parliamentary elections in Slovakia

SLOVAKIA

EPDE sends monitors to observe the parliamentary elections in Slovakia scheduled on 5 March 2016. The group is made up of 45 observers from the Association Golos (Russia), European Exchange (Germany), International Elections Study Center (Lithuania) and the Swedish International Liberal Center, in cooperation with the Polish Forum of Young Diplomats.

The observers will monitor the conduct of the entire election day in Bratislava and in the regions of Slovakia. It will also hold a number of briefings with the estalished Slovak NGOs, the ODIHR-delegation, local and international election experts. The monitoring teams will be assisted by local activits and experts. 

The mission intends to publish recommendations on the election day proceedings after accomplishment of the mission.

Voting violations and electoral fraud constitutional referendum in Armenia

Armenia


The constitutional referendum of December 6, 2015, did not comply with the norms prescribed in the Code of Good Practice on Referendums of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission. The official results are largely forced and falsified, and the referendum and the document adopted through it are not legitimate. The observation mission recorded gross, multiple, and widespread examples of voting violations and electoral fraud.

 

The whole repot you can find here: PDF (EN).