2017

The administrative court is to examine electoral disputes in a collegial formation

Armenia

Photo: Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor Office

 

On December 19, 2017, based on the application submitted by Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor Office, the RA Constitutional Court examined the matter of the constitutionality of Article 213 § 1 of the RA Administrative Procedure Code.

HCA Vanadzor applied to the Constitutional Court after, upon the decision made on April 14, 2017, the Administrative Court recognized the rights of an observation mission to challenge at the Administrative Court the fact of the violation of its observer’s rights. However, the Court rejected the complaint filed by HCA Vanadzor and the Organization’s observer challenging the lawfulness of the territorial electoral commission’s actions and the decision made, and, under Article 213 § 1, the plaintiffs were deprived of the opportunity to appeal the decision by the order of re-examination.

Upon the decision of December 19, 2017, the Constitutional Court declared that Article 213 § 1 of the RA Administrative Procedure Code complies with the RA Constitution, taking into account the fact that elections are a term-based procedure and therefore the decision made after the summarization of the election results can lose its meaning.

However, the Constitutional Court declared that, based on the need to ensure the effective exercise of a person’s right to judicial protection, an examination was to be conducted in a collegial formation with regard to the electoral disputes on the legal acts and documents serving as a basis for the summarization of the election results.

In fact, the Constitutional Court found that the current regulations of the RA Administrative Procedure Code do not guarantee a person’s right to a fair trial, which should be corrected; in particular, the disputes on electoral disputes should be examined in a collegial formation.

The Constitutional Court emphasized that the examination of electoral disputes should be conducted in a short period of time, and the final judiciary acts should be executed before summarizing the elections.

Thus, as assessed by the Constitutional Court, the provision of the right to re-examination can lead to a situation where the judicial acts are executed following the summarization of the election results. Therefore, the legislative body of the Republic of Armenia should amend Article 208 of the RA Administrative Procedure Code, providing examination in a collegial formation, even in the case of resolving the electoral disputes in regard to registering the violations in the registers of the territorial electoral commissions.

Please find more information here.

Local elections in Belarus: Report on the results of monitoring the registration of nomination groups

Belarus

 

In the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have published a number of reports around the Belarusian local elections, to be held on February 18, 2018.

According to observers, the registration of nomination groups was marked by several flaws, e.g. in the Orša district commission. The commission registered a nomination group of Sviataslau Chernikau, head of the Radunskaje agricultural enterprise, who specified his party affiliation as the “Belaya Rus party”. After observers of the campaign “Human Rights Defenders For Free Elections” objected that there is no such party in the country, the commission agreed but did not change its decision, promising to look into the matter. See the full report here.

Please find all reports in our "Documents" section

EPDE Winter Camp took place in Poland

Poland

The second Winter Camp for election observers of the EPDE member organisations took place from 11 to 15 December 2017.

During one week, a large group of around 100 experts, observers and volunteers from Eastern and Western Europe met near Warsaw, Poland, for this major training event.

Participants could chose workshops covering a wide range of topics, including, among others, Long Term and Short Term Observation methods, Statistics as well as Campaigning and Social Media Strategy skills. During plenary sessions, key questions were discussed by the entire group.

A special feature of the event was the exchange of experience between election observers from different countries with similar challenges within the election process, as well as between experienced experts and young activists.

 

Welcome to our new website!

EPDE

Welcome at our new EPDE Website!

The European Platform for Democratic Elections has launched its new website! Presented in a fresh design, the site offers many new features and possibilities for visitors, members, partners, and journalists. As an example, in our new “Document” section, users can directly search for any elections reports or policy papers from EPDE and our members of the past years, easily filtered by country and year. The same applies for all items in the “News” section.

The address of our website remains unchanged: www.epde.org.

Please note that the content will be uploaded to our new site step by step. We apologize for any inconvenience that you might encounter in the meantime.

Feel free to share with us any feedback and comments that you might have about our new site.

And now, enjoy the new opportunities of www.epde.org!

Golos: Lack of Financial Transparency and Competition at Regional Elections

Russia

On December 6, 2017, the Russian President Vladimir Putin officially announced his intention to run for a fourth term at the Presidential Elections of March 18, 2018. The election campaign has now started. But is there a real competition for this office? What resources and financial resources does the opposition have? And what about the transparency of campaign financing?

The Movement "Golos" has recently analysed the financing of the election campaign to the elections of the heads of regions held on September 10, 2017. The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) publishes these two "Golos" reports, which raise general questions about the transparency of election campaign funding and the competitiveness of elections in Russia.

According to the first report, the system of financing election campaigns and political parties in Russia remains opaque. Often, the costs of paying for the services of political consultants, which make up a significant share of the expenses in any major election campaign, remain in the "shadow." However, according to Russian law, financial violations amounting to more than 10% of the limit of an electoral fund are grounds for cancelation of the election results. Thus, the prevailing practice of concealing a significant share of the expenses of candidates and electoral associations raises questions about the legitimacy of past election results. Read the full report

The second report finds that there was no real competition in the elections. As a detailed assessment of the final financial reports of the candidates shows, the opposition political parties refused to substantially fund the election campaigns of their own candidates for heads of regions. In the absence of resources for their formal competitors to conduct even a semblance of an election campaign, the "administrative candidates" and their headquarters were forced to provide not only organizational support to their "opponents", but also in some cases directly to engage in attracting financial resources to competitors’ election funds. The financial analysis compels “Golos” to underscore that the participation of "competitors" of elected heads of regions was contractual and “fixed” in nature from the beginning. Read the full report

Local elections in Belarus: Monitoring report on the formation of district election commissions

Belarus

 

In the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections", the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and the Human Rights Center "Viasna" have published a number of reports around the Belarusian local elections, to be held on February 18, 2018.

On of the findings of the report on District Election Commissions (DECs) is that executive officials still demonstrated an obviously discriminatory approach to the opposition parties during the formation of the DECs. The introduction of a requirement to consider the candidates’ professional and personal qualities did not contribute to greater political pluralism. The process of formation of the DECs took place in an atmosphere of greater transparency as compared to the previous local elections of 2014, but in general the new practices and the results of the formation of the DECs did not differ from previous election campaigns. See the full report here.

Please find all reports in our "Documents" section

Local elections in Belarus: Report on Territorial Election Commissions

Belarus

Photo: Bladyniec

 

According to the report on the Territorial Election Commissions (TECs), one of the major obstacles to nominate representatives to the TECs from political parties and public organizations is a rule endorsed by the Central Election Commission which only allows the nomination of candidates by the organizations’ local branches, provided they are registered at the regional, district and city levels.

See the full report here.

ISFED final statement on the runoffs of the local elections in Georgia

Georgia

Based on the ISFED PVT data, in the 99.7% of polling stations the counting process was conducted without major incidents. The polling station #59 in Ozurgeti district was an exception, where, apparently, there was a focused attempt to create disturbances and annul the precinct, which would influence the overall result of Ozurgeti mayoral race. Nevertheless, the integrity of electoral documentation was not threatened and, at the end, the summary protocol properly reflected the will of the voters.

Please read the full statement here.

EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform In Ukraine #3

Ukraine

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) monitors the progress of electoral reform in Ukraine. The third issue of the “EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform in Ukraine” analyzes the outcome of the recent approval of the draft Electoral Code (No. 3112-1) in the first reading and gives an outlook for the further pursuit of the reform

On Tuesday, November 7, the Ukrainian Parliament approved the draft Electoral Code No. 3112-1 in the first reading with a majority of 226 votes. The draft Electoral Code, which was submitted in October 2015 by the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Andriy Parubiy and Members of Parliament Oleskandr Chernenko (Bloc Petro Poroshenko) and Leonid Yemets (People’s Front), advocates a proportional electoral system for parliamentary elections with open regional party lists. In this regard, the draft does not differ from bill No. 1068-2, which failed to receive necessary support in the Parliament less than three weeks ago. Beyond provisions of the law on the election of people’s deputies, the draft Electoral Code combines provisions of the law on presidential elections, on local elections, on the Central Election Commission, and on the state register of voters.

Against the backdrop of the defeat of bill No. 1068-2 on October 19 and an overall prevailing reform fatigue among the elites in Ukraine, the positive voting on Tuesday was highly unexpected. Therefore, experts and journalists in Ukraine are still wondering whether the voting happened accidentally, i.e. because of a simple miscalculation among lawmakers and factions, and, moreover, which factors influenced the voting result.

Paradoxically, only 124 votes, i.e. slightly more than half of the 226 votes cast in favor of the draft Electoral Code in the first reading, came from the ruling coalition (Blok Petro Poroshenko and People’s Front). However, besides 20 positive votes from the Self-Help (Samopomich) faction—the only faction that unanimously supported bill No. 1068-2 in October—the Draft Electoral Code in the first reading was supported by 26 MPs from the Opposition Bloc faction, parts of the Fatherland (Batkivshchyna)faction (13), and the faction of the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko (14). Moreover, one MP from the parliamentary group Renaissance and two MPs from The People’s Will voted in favor of the draft, although these groups are above all regarded as supporters of the majoritarian electoral system. Commenting on the results of the vote, some deputies stated off the record that they were sure there would not be enough votes to approve the draft Electoral Code. They voted in favor of the draft only to save face and avoid accusations of blocking electoral reform. It is thus very likely that the approval of the electoral code took place by accident and not because of a genuine support from the majority of deputies.

Nevertheless, attention should be given to the impact of the rally for “Big Political Reform” which started on October 17 in front of Ukraine’s Parliament. With this rally, organized by various opposition forces and civil society activists, protestors called for the abolition of parliamentary immunity, the creation of an anticorruption court, and reform of Ukraine’s electoral legislation. The protests were critical in exerting pressure on authorities and lawmakers to return election legislation reform to the Parliament’s agenda.

After the (apparently accidental) voting results on Tuesday, it is not entirely clear if and how electoral reform will further develop. On the one hand, it is becoming more and more difficult for the authorities to merely simulate electoral reform. On the other hand, the draft code still needs substantial improvement. The draft was registered in the Parliament in 2015. Accordingly, it does not consider certain relevant developments of the past two years (on this, see also the recent statement of the Civil Network OPORA).

Theoretically, the next vote on the Draft Electoral Code could take place as soon as two weeks from now. However, many “opportunities” for delaying the process remain, as well as the risk of a lack of sufficient support among deputies during the draft’s consideration in the second reading. Whether this can be avoided will greatly depend on the activity and alertness of civil society and political parties. As the practice in Ukraine shows over and over again, the active positions of these stakeholders can be an effective catalyst in the push for transparency, political consolidation, and necessary compromises.

See all EPDE Policy Alerts here.

ISFED reports violations in runoffs of mayoral elections in Georgia

Georgia

In an assessment of the pre-election period ahead of the upcoming runoffs of mayoral races scheduled in six electoral districts on November 12, ISFED observed instances of harassment and intimidation on political grounds intertwined with misuse of administrative resources in Ozurgeti, which threaten equal and free pre-election environment.

Ozurgeti remains to be a competitive district and high concentration of intimidation cases resemble the trend from 2016 parliamentary elections.

Please find the whole report here.

"Golos" analysed non-transparent campaign financing

Russia

In the first analytical report Golos reveals non-transparent financing of services during elections of governors held in September 2017. According to the report, the significant costs of services of political advisers have not been properly declared. Such financial violations which apparently exceed the limit of 10% of spendings by electoral funds of candidates can cause cancellation of election results. 

Please find more here (in Russian).

EPDE press trip to Ukrainian elections

Ukraine

From October 23 to 30, 2017, upon invitation of EPDE, 5 German journalists took part in a press trip to Ukraine. The press trip focused on Ukrainian’s struggle for electoral law reform, the local elections of October 29, the decentralization process, and the country’s overall reform agenda. The journalists, representing both national and regional media and including TV, online, and print outlets, met a broad range of relevant stakeholders, including members of the Verkhovna Rada, political scientists, journalists, and electoral law experts.

The group visited several newly amalgamated territorial communities in different regions of the country, where they talked to representatives of election commissions as well as local politicians and discussed the challenges that decentralization posed for the electoral process. On Election Day, October 29, they took part in an election monitoring mission to the municipality of Velyka Dymerka, in the Kyiv Oblast.

Please find a picture gallery produced during the press trip here.

No significant law violations in run-up to Ukrainian local elections

Ukraine

On October 29, local elections will take place in 202 newly united territorial communities across Ukraine. According to a report by EPDE member OPORA, relatively few election law violations were committed during the formation of election commissions and their first meetings. At the same time, lack of coordination between the Law of Ukraine on Local Elections and other Ukrainian laws caused complications in a number of important procedures. Please see the interim observation results here.

Starting on October 23, EPDE will conduct a press trip to these elections, with the aim of raising awareness for Ukraine and its need for general electoral reform in Western Europe.

Ukrainian local elections - improvement of law on local elections needed

Ukraine

On October 29, the first elections took place in 201 Ukrainian newly founded territorial communities. The relatively high participation of voters (48.2%) is one reason why there were lines of people still waiting to vote when polling stations closed.

According to the preliminary assessment of the CVU, in majority of communities, the observed procedural shortcomings did not affect the results. OPORA's observers noticed that the scale of violations has decreased in comparison to the previous elections, however, unprecedented incidents of criminal interference in the election process such as the attack on the election commission members in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, overshadowed the overall conduct of the voting day. Both organization stated that the elections once more demonstrated the necessity of improving the law on local elections. 

EMDS criticizes infringement of fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

EPDE member EMDS carried out an assessment of the implementation of election-related recommendations by OSCE and the Council of Europe in Azerbaijan. EMDS notes with regret that the Government of Azerbaijan has taken steps towards restricting freedom of expression on the internet and criminalizing unauthorized assemblies. Starting from the end of 2013, the operation of NGOs has effectively been prohibited in Azerbaijan.

EMDS concludes that Azerbaijan lacks the legislative framework and practices necessary for holding free and fair elections, and that the government does not show sufficient political determination to ensure these.

Please find the full report here.

EPDE experts observed the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic

The Czech Republic

35 EPDE election observers and experts from seven countries took part in the study trip organized during the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic. The group held a series of meetings with Czech authorities, election administrators, politicians, independent journalists, media outlets, the expert mission of the ODIHR-OSCE, and representatives of the Czech civil society. On both voting days, the group observed the voting and counting process.

Based on these observations, EPDE will soon issue recommendations to the Czech election administration which could improve the conduct of the voting and counting processes.

EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform In Ukraine #2

Ukraine

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) monitors the progress of electoral reform in Ukraine. The second issue of the “EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform in Ukraine” analyzes the outcomes of the rally for reform in Kyiv and the rejection of three draft laws on electoral legislation in the Verkhovna Rada.

In October 2017, various opposition forces and civil society activists rallied in front of Ukraine’s Parliament in Kyiv for one of the largest anti-government demonstrations since the Euromaidan 2014. With the rally for “Big Political Reform,” protestors called for the abolition of parliamentary immunity, the creation of an anticorruption court, and the reform of Ukraine’s electoral legislation.

Substantial success, from the perspective of the rally’s organizing committee, was reached only with regard to the issue of parliamentary immunity. In this matter, the Parliament decided to submit to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine draft laws providing amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine that would abolish immunity for members of the Ukrainian Parliament. In the case that the Constitutional Court of Ukraine approves the suggested draft amendments, the amendments are then subject to further vote by the constitutional majority of members of the Parliament in order to be adopted.

With regard to the electoral reform, three draft laws on the parliamentary elections, registered in the Parliament in December 2014, have finally been added to the agenda of the Parliament for the first reading on Thursday, October 19, 2017. However, all three initiatives on the reform of Ukraine’s electoral legal framework failed to receive necessary support in the Parliament. In addition, the Parliament did not vote for further revision of these draft laws, either by the relevant Parliamentary Committee or by the authors of the draft laws.

Two of the three draft laws  (i.e. draft law No. 1068, initiated by Opposition Bloc faction deputy Yuriy Miroshnychenko, and draft law No. 1068-1, initiated by Batkivschyna party leader Yulia Tymoshenko and other MPs of this faction), foreseeing a proportional electoral system in a nationwide constituency with closed party lists, received less than 100 votes. Draft law No. 1068-2 (initiated by Viktor Chumak and several other members of the Parliament), which advocates for a proportional electoral system with open regional lists, received more support in the Ukrainian Parliament (169 votes). Nevertheless, the draft law lacked about 60 votes to be further considered by the Parliament.

Members of the ruling coalition (Blok Petro Poroshenko and People’s Front) immediately blamed members of the Parliament who were elected by majority voting in single-member constituencies for failing to support the draft law No. 1068-2. However, this draft law was supported only by a minority of MPs from the ruling coalition factions: 57 out of 138 MPs from Blok Petro Poroshenko faction, and 38 out of 81 from People’s Front faction.

After the defeat of the three draft laws, the organizing committee of the “Big Political Reform” rally underlined that public protest, at least, succeeded in exerting pressure on the authorities to finally return election legislation reform to the Parliament’s agenda. The organizers also expressed the demand that the Parliament should continue work on electoral reform without further delay.

According to the Speaker of the Parliament, Andriy Parubiy, the Parliament will continue considering electoral legislative initiatives (draft electoral codes) during the next plenary week, starting November 7, 2017. These two draft electoral codes (No. 3112 and No. 3112-1) were registered in the Parliament in the fall of 2015. The draft electoral code No. 3112, initiated by Vidrodzhennia group deputy Valeriy Pysarenko, advocates for a proportional electoral system with closed party lists. The draft electoral code No. 3112-1, co-authored by the Speaker of the Parliament Andriy Parubiy, provides for a proportional electoral system with open regional lists. It corresponds with the draft law No. 1068-2, but it also covers presidential and local elections.

With last week’s protests, electoral reform is back on the Parliament’s agenda. Thursday’s vote, however, blatantly demonstrated that a fully-fledged parliamentary debate on electoral reform is still absent. Considering the missing consensus in the Verkhovna Rada, Blok Petro Poroshenko’s faction leader Artur Gerasimov claimed that the Parliament is now obliged to set up a working group comprised of all political forces to draft a new parliamentary elections law. An official working group, composed of leading specialists and representatives of all parliamentary factions and groups, is a long-standing demand from election experts and civil society organizations in order to ensure an inclusive dialogue on electoral reform among all national stakeholders.

However, the Civic network “OPORA” pointed out that there is still a risk that further debates within the Parliament will amount to a mere simulation of electoral reform. To avoid this outcome, such debates within the Parliament should take the form of an open and inclusive dialogue, with participation of election experts and representatives of civil society.

This issue is part of a series of EPDE policy alerts to inform relevant stakeholders and decision makers in Ukraine, the European Union, and globally about reforms in the field of electoral legislation, the composition and performance of the election administration, and the positioning of the main political forces in Ukraine. Please feel free to forward and share our analysis.

EPDE is financially supported by the European Union and the Federal Foreign Office of Germany. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the donors.

See all EPDE Policy Alerts here.

Fewer violations at Georgian local elections, but harassment of opposition

Georgia

The Georgian local self-government elections took place on October 21, 2017. According to EPDE member ISFED, the voting process was mostly conducted in compliance with election procedures. Violations were again reported in the electoral district of Marneuli, albeit not on the same scale as before.

However, the last four weeks before Election Day were marked by a significant increase in cases of intimidation and harassment, mostly of opposition and independent candidates and their supporters, but also of public servants and teachers.  ISFED notes that the 23 cases of intimidation identified in the interim report constitute the highest number of such violations documented in any reporting period compared to the 2013, 2014, or 2016 elections.

New Moldovan election law is partly unconstitutional, study shows

Moldova

A new study by Moldovan EPDE member Promo-Lex shows that the recently approved mixed-member electoral system will have negative consequences on democracy and civil society in that country. The study argues the provision stipulating that a person has to have a domicile in order to exercise his/her right to vote in a single-member constituency is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and confining, because it limits the right to vote for about 155,683 of voters with no domicile or residence—nearly 5% of all registered voters.

Promo-Lex also issued a report showing that Moldovan political parties have been making progress in submitting financial statements, but are still hiding their actual expenses.

Fake observation at Russian elections: Golos portraits the "electoral tourists"

Russia

According to the Central Election Commission of Russia, 774 international observers from 63 countries were accredited in Russia for the 2016 State Duma elections. 

There were no official international observers at the September 10, 2017 elections, but election commissions and media reported about a group of foreigners who came to Russia with the informal status of “foreign experts.” Despite the fact that they had no official status of international/foreign observers, and, according to Russian law, could not be present in the voting premises, they were welcomed by the election commissions and allowed to spend time at the polling stations.

Since such electoral tourists should also be expected at the Russian presidential elections scheduled for March 2018, Golos decided to analyze this phenomenon. We sourced our information from the local and foreign media.

Since the “foreign experts” did not receive the official status of international/foreign observers envisioned by the Russian legislation, there is no official list of these persons. Detailed media monitoring allowed Golos specialists to discover approximately 20 names. More than half of the visitors were from France and Italy. Almost all of the “observers” were from the European Union, save for two citizens of South Korea and one US citizen.

Please find the full report here.

HCA Vanadzor report finds lack of implementation of recommendations

Armenia

In Armenia, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly Vanadzor analyzed the recommendations by international election observers and their implementation in the 2017 National Assembly and Yerevan City Council Elections. According to the report, the current Electoral Code includes several recommendations by OSCE/ODIHR, yet many of these have not been properly adopted.

The lack of open discussions during the drafting of the code, which would have helped increase public trust toward electoral processes, was unfortunate. The recent elections showed that many recommendations reflected in the Code have not been effectively implemented, and the recommendations not taken into consideration were more than necessary, such as those on taking action against election bribery and ensuring financial transparency of the campaign.

Please see the full report here.

Georgia keeps controversial mixed voting system

Georgia

On September 26, the Parliament of Georgia passed constitutional changes affecting the electoral system. Despite heavy protests by the opposition, civil society, and the Venice Commission, the mixed voting system will not be abolished until 2020. Votes for parties that fail to pass the electoral threshold will be transferred to the winning party, thus weakening the opposition.EPDE’s Georgian member ISFED and several other organizations support a proposal by the President of Georgia to improve this situation.

In the run-up to the local elections of October 21, ISFED has condemned conflicts of interests, illegal participation in campaigning, misuse of administrative resources, and the increasing trend of voter intimidation.

ISFED also published a policy brief on the challenges within the judiciary system of Georgia.

EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform In Ukraine #1

Ukraine

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) monitors the progress of electoral reform in Ukraine. The first issue of the “EPDE Policy Alert - Electoral Reform in Ukraine” analyzes reasons for the prevailing reform fatigue among Ukraine’s government officials and lawmakers and gives insight into possible scenarios for the time to come.

On September 5, Ukraine’s Parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, returned for its autumn session. Earlier, Ukraine’s Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman stated that during this autumn session the Parliament should approve several packages of bills related to five priority reforms. These reforms involve pensions, education, healthcare, electronic services, and the country’s investment climate. Meanwhile, the reform of the Ukrainian election legislation (EPDE outlined the most important challenges and prospects of the electoral reform process in Ukraine here) was not mentioned by the head of government.

Indeed, electoral reform is currently not on the agenda of the Parliament and it seems that once again no serious efforts will be made to address Ukraine’s inadequate electoral legislation in the Verkhovna Rada this fall. However, with the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2019, the Parliament should start to discuss the already existing draft laws on parliamentary elections and the Elections Code right now. Even though reform of the electoral law and introduction of a proportional electoral system with open party lists are part of a 2014 agreement of the ruling coalition, Ukrainian politicians and lawmakers have been drawing attention away from the reforms.

There are several reasons for the prevailing reform fatigue among Ukraine’s government officials and lawmakers. First of all, the ruling elite still considers the electoral law and the electoral system primarily as tools for its own political survival. Since the elite have adapted their survival strategies to the current electoral system, it is unlikely that they would welcome fundamental changes to this very system. This applies, in particular, to half of the deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, who under the current electoral law were elected by majority voting in single-member constituencies. These deputies are most likely not interested in the introduction of a proportional electoral system and the consequent elimination of “their” single-member electoral districts. 

Furthermore, under conditions of inherent political instability and with a limited planning horizon, the governing coalition tries to prevent any dynamic that might lead to early elections. In particular, the pro-government forces fear that the adoption of the Law on Parliamentary Elections could upset the balance and trigger preparations for early elections not only in the ranks of the opposition, but also inside the coalition. At the same time, it seems favorable for the governing elite to negotiate the potential unification of the current coalition partners (Bloc Petro Poroshenko and Popular Front) under the conditions of the existing and familiar electoral framework. 

Further pursuit of electoral reform could result in two negative outcomes. The first of these is that the registered draft laws are eventually debated in Parliament without achieving a majority. Observers in Ukraine have already drawn attention to the risk that several draft laws could be brought into the Parliament simultaneously. This would make it very unlikely that any of the existing bills passes the legislature. A rejection of the draft laws would mean that all activities to promote electoral reform would have to be relaunched from the very beginning. 

The second unfavorable scenario is that the Parliament continues to refrain from voting on any electoral law for the next several months. In this case, new electoral legislation may be adopted—if at all—only shortly before the elections. As was the case with the reform of the legislation on local elections in 2015, this could prevent all stakeholders from engaging in an open, fully-fledged debate on the amendment bills. Blocking reforms or making them largely useless by delaying decisions would be nothing new for Ukraine’s political elite. 

With the start of the autumn session of the Verkhovna Rada, it remains to be seen whether civil society and reform-minded political forces will be able to exert sufficient pressure on the authorities to return election legislation reform to the Parliament’s agenda. For this purpose, the civil movement “Chesno”, together with the “Reanimation Package of Reforms, the “Anti-corruption Action Centre”, and several individual Members of Parliament, have called for a nationwide protest on Tuesday, October 17. The central rally is planned to be held in front of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv.

Authors: Steffen Halling and Serhiy Tkachenko

See all EPDE Policy Alerts here.

Golos criticizes the report of the Presidential Council on regional elections

Russia

In Russia, EPDE member GOLOS has criticized a draft report by the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on the regional elections of September 10. The draft report includes a number of controversial recommendations for the future, such as limiting video monitoring and granting observer status only to members of the Presidential Council and other government institutions, thereby excluding civil society organizations.

 Further, the report omits serious violations that took place during the elections, such as the use of administrative resources by candidates, the exerting of administrative pressure on voters, and the general lack of transparency surrounding the elections. Other critical points are the missing transparency of the new voting order as well as campaign financing.

 At the same time, GOLOS positively highlights that some of its recommendations have been included in the draft report, such as reviewing and possibly eliminating the municipal filter; as well as recommendations with regard to the reconstitution of electoral blocks and the formation of election commissions.

Golos analyses German elections

Russia

Upon invitation of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), several experts and analysts of "Golos", the Russian Movement for Defence of Voters' Rights, took part in a study mission to the German federal election. Within their one-week stay, they discussed important questions related to the elections with German authorities, committees, political scientists, experts and journalists. On Election Day, they visited several polling stations of Berlin and Brandenburg and analysed the election process on-site.

Please find below links to articles and blogs by the participants of this study mission, analysing characteristics of and challenges for the electoral process in Germany, and comparing it with the situation in Russia.

Tatiana Iurasova, golosinfo.org, 3.11.2017 "Mistakes of the residents": https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142299

 

Alexey Petrov, newspaper "Pravo Vybora" (The Right to Choose), 29.10.2017, "Germany gives in to the Right" (Russian): part 1, part 2


Nikolay Grishin, newspaper "Gazeta Volga", 20.10.2017,  "German elections through the eyes of an Astrakhanian" (Russian)

Oleg Reut, Stolica na onego.ru, 03.10.2017, "The German's poison" (Russian): http://stolicaonego.ru/analytics/to-nemtsu-smert/

 

Arkady Lyubarev, golosinfo.org, 02.10.2017, "Remarks on the Bundestag elections 3. About postal vote" (Russian): https://lyubarev.livejournal.com/33213.html

 

Arkady Lyubarev, golosinfo.org, 30.09.2017, "Remarks on the Bundestag elections. 2. Briefly about the results" (Russian): https://lyubarev.livejournal.com/32896.html

 

Anastasia Fokina, facebook, 28.09.2017, "Unfortunately, I will be in Berlin or monitoring of the Bundestag elections" (Russian): https://www.facebook.com/notes/anastasia-fokina

 

Arkady Lyubarev, golosinfo.org, 26.09.2017, "Remarks on the Bundestag elections" (Russian): https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142229

 

Stanislav Anreichuk , golosinfo.org, 25.09.2017, "About money, demonstrations and voting on German federal elections" (Russian): https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142226

 

Nikolay Grishin, "Some conclusions of the study mission to the 2017 elections" (Russian)

Challenges, opportunities, and dangers associated with domestic election observation in Turkey

Turkey

Summary

The level of participation of civil society organizations in public administration in Turkey has always distinguished itself by being high among the Middle East and other Muslim countries. Over the past 25-30 years the local and national civil society groups contributing to the solution of society's problems have been formed in the country. Mostly, with the help of the national internal financial sources - voluntary donations and contributions from the business sector, these institutions have made significant progress in solving social problems, environmental and nature conservation and charity activities, along with the protection and promotion of human rights and freedoms. The areas where the civil society organizations in Turkey have recently joined include active involvement in the election process, voter education and domestic election observation.  

The purpose of this report presented by EPDE is to evaluate the role of the civil society organizations in the electoral process in Turkey, in which there has been a dramatic decline in the protection of human rights and freedoms in recent years, particularly the challenges, opportunities and dangers associated with domestic election observation.

Within the current political environment in Turkey the report covers the opportunities for the CSOs to function, domestic election observation and participation of independent CSOs in this process, challenges and successes they encounter, as well as the necessary conditions and recommendations on the development of domestic election observation for the upcoming elections.

Please read the full report here.

“Golos”: On September 10, Russia held administratively controlled elections

Russia

Statement on election monitoring results of Single Election Day on September 10, 2017

The “Golos” movement conducted long-term and short-term public monitoring of the Single Election Day elections in Russia on September 10, 2017. The monitoring resulted in analytical reports and the following statement.

Election campaign

Election commissions organizing elections in the Russian Federation

Analysis of the current composition of 22 election commissions of the entities of the Russian Federation, which organize major elections, allows us to conclude that their current formation procedure does not appropriately take into account the interests of non-parliamentary parties and of civil society.

Despite the efforts of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of the Russian Federation to reduce the share of state and municipal employees in the commissions, the tendency for a disproportionate strengthening of the position of the United Russia party in the commissions continues. This is happening largely because of the introduction of United Russia members and functionaries to the commissions, as well as of party-related persons from public associations, municipal entities, and other organizations.

In our opinion, the positive trend towards an increase in representation of parties that don’t belong to the “federal four” (United Russia, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, and Fair Russia) in the composition of the election commissions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation established in the period 2016-2017, is currently happening without taking into account the real political weight of specific non-parliamentary parties and their support by voters in the regions.

At the same time, it must be admitted that the regional authorities continue to play a decisive role in forming the composition and especially the leadership of the electoral commissions of the subjects of the Russian Federation, and that the influence of the CEC of Russia on this process remains very limited.

The dependency of several election commissions on regional authorities manifested itself during the election campaigns of 2017. We are primarily referring to the territorial election commissions of the city of Moscow, as well as the election commissions of the Altai Territory, whose controversial actions and decisions aroused widespread negative reaction from election participants, the general public, and the CEC of Russia. We believe that, with regard to these elections and following the results of the 2017 election campaign, there organizational changes ought to be made related to the aforementioned commissions.

Nomination and registration of candidates and party lists for state representative bodies. The level of competition remains relatively low – confirmed in particular by the results of the gubernatorial (heads of regions) elections. We would like to stress the reduction in the number of self-nominated candidates. The degree of electoral competition varies widely by region and hinges largely on the organizational capacity of administrative officials. The most competitive elections were the municipal elections, particularly in certain municipalities of Moscow.

The lists of the Duma parties, the so-called “federal four” (United Russia, Communist Party, Liberal Democratic Party, and Fair Russia), were registered without hindrance (although attempts were made to remove the Communist Party lists in some regions using the court, they ultimately remained on the ballots), while other, “non-parliamentary” parties were faced with denials of registration.

In comparison with previous years, the work of election commissions organizing the elections was more open and informative. But problems with obtaining the necessary information and getting access to election documents remain, and have been reported in regard to regional, territorial, and municipal election commissions.

In 2017, unlike in the elections of 2014 and 2015, no cases were documented in which the election commissions themselves directly prevented the nomination and registration of candidates or party lists. At the same time, commissions that organize the elections (as well as regional and local administrations) provided selective support for nomination and registration to those political players who act as “spoilers” or “technical” candidates.

Administrative control over the elections has shifted to the preliminary stage of the election campaign, to the process of selecting and nominating candidates and party lists, and to the stage of holding party conferences. There have been cases of exerting administrative pressure, including by security forces, on certain prospective candidates, as well as members and heads of regional and local branches of political parties, with the goal of preventing the nomination of those prospective candidates.

The wide participation of state and municipal employees and top officials in purely party and political events related to the nomination and registration of candidates and lists of candidates from the “United Russia” party has become such a common practice that it is no longer perceived as something dubious or inadmissible.

In the municipal elections in Moscow, informal socio-political groups successfully supported the nomination and registration of independent and opposition candidates. This phenomenon is natural, but also expresses the crisis of the entire political party system, and its inadequacy to represent the interests of large swaths of the population.

Nomination and registration of candidates for the elections of the heads of regions. To sum up: on September 10, 2017, the Russian Federation held direct elections of senior officials of the subjects of the Russian Federation in 16 regions.

As in previous years, the most acute problems in the election of the heads of regions are linked to candidates overcoming the so-called “municipal filter.” The “Golos” movement consistently opposes the use of this method of screening candidates as one that restricts the electoral rights of citizens (both the right to be elected and the right to elect) and hampers political competition. “Golos” believes that it is impossible to hold free and competitive elections of heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation while the “municipal filter” is in place.

The existing “municipal filter” practice is accompanied by widespread “administrative pressure” on municipal deputies and by the use of public resources (organizational, logistic, informational, and other) to ensure collection of signatures in favor of certain administrative candidates (current heads or deputies), as well as in favor of so-called “technical” candidates who are running to ensure the appearance of competition in elections. Instead of being a mechanism of electoral support for candidates for the post of head of region, it is actually a means of political filtration of rivals who are, for one reason or another, unacceptable to regional authorities. These assumptions are confirmed by the extremely weak election results of candidates running against current regional heads. What is more, election commissions, judicial and law enforcement bodies, local communities, political parties, the media, public organizations, and the candidates themselves have no effective legal instruments at their disposal with which to oppose this de facto administrative lawlessness.

Election campaigning. Reports on the use of administrative resources for campaigning purposes came from a wide range of regions and referred to elections on various levels.

Officials, state, and municipal employees, as well as employees of budget organizations took an active role in campaigning and mobilizing events in the interest of administrative candidates and nominees from the “United Russia” party. Public events organized by state or municipal authorities and financed by budgetary funds were widely used for conducting election campaigning. This was especially the case in the elections of the heads of regions.

Traditionally, a characteristic feature of the gubernatorial (heads of regions) elections are the ceremonial and “official” activities of the acting heads of regions, which tend to increase in frequency during the campaign, as well as the associated covert campaigning in the media under the guise of informing citizens about the official or public activities of administrative candidates. These circumstances and conditions violate the principle of equality of election participants: competitors of acting heads have no opportunity for equal access to informational resources, and hence to voters.

Although, with the exception of a few regions, campaigning activities, especially in the form of visual campaigning in the streets, were rare in the September 10 elections, there were still cases of obstruction of campaign activities of some candidates and parties. They happened at different elections and took forms such as creating difficulties and obstacles in conducting campaigning events; destroying and damaging campaign materials; putting administrative pressure on candidates; and using “black PR” (activities aimed at destroying someone’s reputation). Reports of damage and destruction of campaign materials mainly came from municipal election campaigns and increased noticeably a week before Election Day, especially in Moscow.

Administrative electoral technologies. The week before Election Day was marked by several scandals related to early voting in municipal elections in the Altai Territory (Barnaul) and Primorsky Territory (Vladivostok, Nakhodka), as well as in Moscow and the Leningrad Region (Kuzmolovskoye).

In the Altai Territory, early voting took place in the elections of the deputies of the Barnaul Municipal Duma, with anomalously high indicators of voter participation, making it possible to conclude that an administrative inflation of turnout numbers was aimed at distorting the election results. In the Primorsky Territory, during the election of deputies to the city duma of Vladivostok and Nakhodka, there were cases of centrally organized transportation of voters to voting stations, and of voter bribery in the early voting stage. Similarly to the Altai and Primorye elections – and with similar scandals – early voting was held in the Kuzmolovsky township in the Leningrad Region.

In Moscow, on the contrary, during the elections in municipal districts, the territorial commissions massively rejected voters’ attempts to exercise their right to vote early with a valid reason. Unprecedented and illegal demands to provide supporting documents in the absence of signs of involuntary voting prevented many voters from voting early. Often the actions of members of election commissions towards voters who came to vote early were extremely disrespectful. In addition, the process of informing the voters about municipal elections in Moscow, which is the responsibility of election commissions, was vastly insufficient.

The introduction of a new voting procedure for voters at their current location should be recognized as a positive development. A significant number of voters in 20 regions (245,000, or 1% of the total number of voters in these regions) were able to use this mechanism. This applies, first of all, to voters registered in rural settlements but actually living in the cities, mainly in regional centers.

At the same time, the organization of this process was far from smooth, and did not receive the appropriate degree of publicity.

For example, in a number of regions (specifically, in Republic of Mari El, Republic of Mordovia, Kirov, Sverdlovsk, and Yaroslavl regions), a high proportion of voters applied for this procedure in the five days prior to Election Day (special applications with the stamp). Only 20-26% of voters who submitted such applications did so five or more days before Election Day (which is to say that 75-80% submitted them four day or less before Election Day). This indicates at least a lack of explanatory work on behalf on election organizers.

From the Saratov region came reports of citizens with five special applications with stamps who were instructed to vote at five different polling stations. One report about the possibility of a double vote came from the Ryazan region.

Over the course of the entire period of filing applications for voting at the voter’s current location (i.e. since July 26, 2017), neither the CEC of Russia nor the election commissions of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation provided detailed information on the development of this process. The CEC only issued information on the break-down of such voting in the regions on August 30.

Data on voters who submitted applications five or more days before Election Day were published by the CEC only on the evening of September 8 (in the Sakhalin region, it was already September 9 at the time), thereby preventing election participants from analyzing them in advance and using them in the monitoring process. In addition, this data was published in a format that made it extremely difficult to analyze: the data was available only for each polling station, without summary tables and aggregation at higher levels.

At the same time, our analysis shows that practically in all the regions the numbers on the registers for the inclusion of voters in the lists did not match up with the numbers for the exclusion of voters. This indicates that the registry data compilation system is not working smoothly. In addition, from the explanation offered by the CEC, it follows that there are many discrepancies between the addresses of voters indicated in their passports and their addresses in the voter register. This means that the voter register contains numerous inaccuracies, and that their elimination should be made a priority (taking into account, among other things, that this register is used to verify signatures of voters submitted by candidates).

Data on voters who submitted applications less than five days prior to Election Day was published fairly promptly – on the morning of September 10. The data was also published for each polling station, but, unlike previous data, the total number of such voters by region was also published. However, the sum for all the regions turned out to be 19,427, whereas the CEC chairman on the morning of September 10 announced a different number – 21,928 – with the explanation that this is the most recent data. Nevertheless, the data posted on the portal “Vybory” throughout the day on September 10 had not been adjusted.

We believe that the lack of publicity and inconsistencies within the final data substantially reduce the level of citizens’ confidence in the new voting procedure at the current locations.

Election Day also demonstrated that the new voting procedure at the current location through pre-submitted applications provides broad and uncontrolled opportunities for organized mobilization of administratively reliant categories of voters (workers of large enterprises, budget institutions, and others).

Election day

The low turnout observed in these elections was caused in the first place by the low level of competition and by the voters’ distrust towards the election process that had developed over the course of recent years.

Undoubtedly, the policy of intolerance to violations and fraud, which had been publically adopted by the new leadership of the Central Election Commission of Russia, as well as the Committee’s attitude towards observers as allies rather than enemies, had an overall positive effect on the election process. These efforts, along with legislative restrictions on the removal of observers, significantly reduced the number of violations of voters’ rights compared to previous years.

Nevertheless, observations of the September 10 elections suggest that illegal strategies and tactics are still prevalent in certain regions.

From a number of polling stations, we have received reports of documented election rigging: ballot box stuffing and exertion of pressure on voters by their employers or superiors; illegal campaigning; illegal transportation and bribery of voters; violations of the “home” voting procedure; violations of the rights of observers, members of commissions, and representatives of the media; and violations of counting procedures.

On Election Day and during the subsequent period of vote counting, the hotline of the movement “Golos” (8 800 333-33-50) received 1,200 phone calls (and a total of over 1,300 during the entire election campaign period). On Election Day, the “Map of Violations” service received 825 reports of possible violations (with over 1,500 messages received during the whole election campaign period).

The most common messages received on Election Day by the “Map of Violations” pertained to the following infractions:

violation of the “home” voting procedure, illegal voting – 173 calls (21% of the total number of calls)
violation of the rights of observers, commission members, and media representatives – 158 (19%)
violation of the rules for summarizing election results, distortion of election results – 110 (13.3%) (It is important to stress that the percentage of reports on these violations has increased compared to previous years.)
coercion of voters, violation of the secrecy of the vote – 102 (12.3%) (The share of reports on such violations compared to previous years has also increased.)
illegal campaigning – 94 (11.4%)
violation of polling station design – 58 (7%) (Compared to the previous years, there were significantly fewer complaints from observers regarding the design of polling stations.)
non-inclusion in voter lists, failure to grant voting rights – 19 (2.35%).

Information on criminal violations – 32 messages in total, including ballot stuffing (with varying degrees of detail) – came from 10 regions. We should pay particular attention to the investigation of incidents in two regions, the Krasnodar Territory and the Saratov Region, where the largest number of ballot stuffing reports originated. Reports of various procedural irregularities, including instances of voting taking place outside designated voting premises, came from 33 regions.

Complaints about the (organized) transport of groups of voters to polling stations came from 10 regions. There is reason to doubt the voluntary participation of these voters.

Illegal campaigning on Election Day was observed in 26 regions, and reports on voter bribery came from 15 regions. We are particularly concerned about a large-scale “lottery” for voters in the Sverdlovsk region, which included prizes such as apartments, cars, and other valuable objects. There is evidence that the lottery coupons were handed out directly at the polling stations.

The number of violations related to the refusal of admission to observers at polling stations, and instances of their illegal removal from the premises, are down from previous years. At the same time, we should note that, whereas earlier such violations most often happened during the first half of Election Day, when the rights of observers were violated at the stage of their non-admission to polling stations, now such violations occur more frequently in the later stages of the voting process and during vote counting.

Vote counting violations were reported at polling stations in 21 regions, specifically: lack of publicity regarding the count, violation of the vote counting procedure, and restriction of the rights of observers. At the same time, in some areas of Moscow, the procedure of summarizing the results in the Territorial Electoral Commissions was artificially delayed.

Various examples of such violations were reported by “Golos” on Election Day: in three reports (at 12:00 a.m., 6:00 p.m., and 12:00 p.m ), in the election day chronicle, in press releases of the regional offices, and on the “Map of Violations.”

Preliminary recommendations

Observations by the “Golos” movement of the September 10 elections on Single Election Day – including long-term observation (during the entire election campaign) and short-term observation (on Election Day itself) – warrant us to issue the following preliminary recommendations.

To the federal legislator (the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the Council of the Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, the President of the Russian Federation):

Protect electoral legislation from manipulation in the interest of the ruling party and of individual subjects of the political process. In making changes to electoral legislation, first ensure the principle of equality of election participants as well as of the interests of the voters.
Introduce amendments to electoral legislation that ensure real competition in elections at all levels; in particular, restore the possibility of registering candidates and party lists on the basis of electoral pledge, reform the voter signature registration system, and cancel or significantly reform the deputy signature registration system (the so-called “municipal filter”).
Create necessary conditions for public observation at elections, and legislatively establish the institution of election observation by public associations.
Reform the system of forming election commissions: exclude the participation of executive officials in election commissions. Increase to two thirds the proportion of members of election commissions nominated by political (and not only parliamentary) parties, and establish an order in which priority is given to parties more dependent on voter support. Carry out the reform of election commissions in the city of Moscow.
Increase the fine for administrative offenses related to the violation of the rights of observers and members of election commissions. Simplify the procedure for appointing observers to polling stations.
Oblige heads of regions and municipalities that are candidates for elections to go on vacation for the period of the election campaign.
Completely exclude any possibility of using public events organized at the expense of budgetary funds and/or with the participation of officials performing their official duties for the purpose of election campaigning of individual candidates and parties.
Introduce amendments to Russian electoral legislation that close the gap for financing election funds from companies that have foreign owners or belong to the state of the Russian Federation, constituent entities of the Federation, or municipalities.
Improve the procedure for provision, financial reporting, and monitoring of political consulting services to candidates and parties in order to increase their transparency.

To election commissions:

Ensure a completely independent, collegial, open, and transparent decision-making process, as required by current electoral legislation.
Do not implement recommendations and informal instructions that do not comply with current electoral legislation.
Ensure greater protection of commission members in the event of their prosecution for refusing to commit unlawful acts.
Eliminate any element of arbitrariness and selectivity in the decision making process.
Ensure the equality of all candidates and parties in the nomination, collection, and verification of signatures and registration, as well as in the conduct of election campaigning and other electoral activities.
Create the most favorable conditions possible for equal access of candidates and parties to the media.
Develop a set of measures to identify and suppress indirect campaigning, carried out under the guise of informing the public about the official activities of a candidate.
Tighten control over campaigning activities not financed from official electoral funds, such as by using administrative resources and obtaining unequal access to the media.
When publishing data on legal entities, disclose information about the ultimate owners of the companies, including those of closed joint-stock companies.
When publishing information on the sources of election fund financing, indicate the TIN of the relevant legal entity.
(To the CEC of Russia:) Ensure compliance of election commissions with the legal procedure for counting votes and summarizing election results.

To candidates and political parties:

Stick to the principles and methods of fair competition in election campaigns.
Do not resort to using the help of an “administrative resource.”

To the mass media:

Ensure equal opportunity for all candidates and parties to access print space, airtime, and network resources.
Ensure objectivity and equality of candidates and parties in election coverage.
Abstain from publishing custom-made campaigning materials of a negative nature.

To judicial and law enforcement bodies:

Take real measures to identify and punish patrons and organizers of crimes committed by members of election commissions and associated with the falsification of voting and election results.
Investigate violations and crimes more thoroughly, based on evidence and equality of testimony.
Prevent election offenses related to taking advantage of official positions.
Tighten control over campaign activities not financed from election funds, such as by using administrative resources and obtaining disproportionate access to the media.
Prevent various actions that impede the legitimate campaign activities of candidates and electoral associations.
Do not follow politically motivated instructions.

Silence in the media: "Golos" on campaign for Russian municipal elections

Russia

On “Single Voting Day” of 10 September 2017, elections of various levels will take place in Russia. The heads of the regions (governors) will be elected, as well as the deputies of regional legislative bodies and members of the State Duma in single-mandate constituencies, among others. On the occasion of these elections, EPDE publishes a series of reports written by its Russian member, the “Golos” Movement, analyzing in detail electoral problems, practices and challenges. Please see below the second report of this series.

 

Analytical report on the election campaign for Municipal Elections in Moscow on September 10, 2017

As expected, current campaigning is mostly taking place under the radar. Most of the election campaigning, as observed in the week before Election Day in the streets and surrounding areas of the city, is being conducted by independent and opposition candidates. These candidates are only occasionally represented on specially designated information stands, billboards, and message boards near residential housing. In some cases, candidates face obstacles when campaigning, but these are currently only sporadic episodes.

Notable are some individual cases of obstruction of legitimate campaign activity, sometimes with the aid of law enforcement. At the same time, the police themselves show little interest in incidents involving damage and destruction of legitimate campaign materials.

Administrative candidates rarely resort to visual outdoor campaigning and prefer to use “administrative mobilization technologies” in their campaign activities. The entire administrative machine, consisting of prefectures of administrative districts, municipal district administrations, and budget organizations, works in their favor.

It is clear that city authorities do not care about turnout in the municipal elections. Moreover, they intend to conduct the so-called “drying” (i.e. reduction) of the general turnout and mobilize the “administratively dependent” electorate. To this end, campaign meetings take place in educational institutions and other budget organizations using the advantages of official positions, thereby violating the requirements and restrictions laid out in the electoral legislation.

At the same time, the very topic of the elections is treated with silence in the media, and the election commissions that organize municipal elections are not overly zealous in informing voters about the election date. In district newspapers, there are extensive reports and information about the administrative activities of administrative candidates and current deputies of municipal assemblies. Meanwhile, in most areas the print versions of regional newspapers are no longer in circulation: they are distributed solely on the Internet.

All scandals and resonant events occurring during the elections are quickly hushed up, once again suggesting that the goal of the authorities is to have a quiet and unremarkable campaign.

During the campaign, instances have occurred in which technology was used to produce indirect campaign effects. These include the “interception” of brands and slogans of public campaigns, and the manipulation of photographs (images) of candidates on information posters. Both technologies, in our opinion, were used to erode “protest votes” and reduce the electoral advantages of recognizable civil activists who are running as independent and opposition candidates.

See the full report here.

 

Call for Applications: Press trip to Ukrainian elections

Ukraine

 

Ausschreibung

 

Pressereise zu den ukrainischen Wahlen

 

Anlässlich der ukrainischen Kommunalwahlen am 29. Oktober 2017 organisiert die European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) vom 23.-30. Oktober 2017 eine Informationsreise in die Ukraine. Um die Teilnahme an der Informationsreise können sich deutschsprachige JournalistInnen, BloggerInnen und andere MultiplikatorInnen bewerben, die sich für das Thema Wahlen in der Ukraine interessieren.

 

Ziel der Reise ist es, über die aktuelle politische Situation in der Ukraine zu informieren, und, vor dem Hintergrund des Reform- und Dezentralisierungsprozesses im Lande, der anstehenden Wahlrechtsreform einen angemessen Platz in der öffentlichen Debatte zu eröffnen.

 

Dazu sind Treffen mit VertreterInnen aus Parteien und Politik, JournalistInnen, NGOs und ExpertInnen vorgesehen, sowohl in Kyiv – wo die Reise beginnen und enden wird –, als auch in den Regionen. Ein detailliertes Programm der Informationsreise wird den ausgewählten TeilnehmerInnen nach Teilnahmebestätigung zugeschickt.

 

Die Flugkosten nach Kyiv und zurück müssen von den TeilnehmerInnen selbst getragen werden. Unterkunft, Verpflegung, Transportkosten innerhalb der Ukraine, sowie die Organisation des siebentägigen Programms übernimmt die EPDE.

 

Um sich zu bewerben, senden Sie bitte den ausgefüllten Fragebogen und Ihren Lebenslauf bis zum 20.09.2017 an ks@epde.org.

 

Die EPDE realisiert dieses Projekt mit freundlicher Unterstützung des Auswärtigen Amts.

 

Mehr über die Arbeit der EPDE erfahren Sie unter www.epde.org.

 

Wir freuen uns auf Ihre Bewerbungen!

Das EPDE-Team

 

Fragebogen

Ausschreibung als PDF

 

 

Russian regional elections: Independent candidates face discrimination through the "Municipal Filter"

Russia

 

On “Single Voting Day” of 10 September 2017, elections of various levels will take place in Russia. The heads of the regions (governors) will be elected, as well as the deputies of regional legislative bodies and members of the State Duma in single-mandate constituencies. On the occasion of these elections, EPDE publishes a series of reports written by its Russian member, the “Golos” Movement, analyzing in detail electoral problems, practices and challenges. Please see below the first report of this series.

 

Analytical report on administrative control over the procedure of collecting signatures of deputies and heads of municipal entities in support of candidates (“municipal filter”)

On Single Election Day (hereafter referred to as “SED”) on September 10, 2017, direct elections of senior officials of the subjects of the Russian Federation (hereinafter “governors” or “heads”) will be held in 16 regions of the country: the Republic of Buryatia, Republic of Karelia, Republic of Mordovia, Republic of Mari El, Udmurtia Republic, Perm Krai, Belgorod region, Kaliningrad region, Kirov region, Novgorod region, Ryazan region, Saratov region, Sverdlovsk region, Tomsk region, Yaroslavl region, and Sevastopol.

As in previous years, the most acute problems in the election of the heads of regions are linked to candidates overcoming the so-called “municipal filter.”

The informally called “municipal filter” means that in Russia candidates for the post of governor (or head of a region) are required to collect signatures of a certain percentage of deputies of municipalities and heads of municipal entities in order to be eligible. The mandatory percentage varies from region to region, from 5% to 10%. There are further requirements as to how the signatures have to be distributed throughout the territorial entities and institutions of the region.

In 8 out of 16 regions, non-systemic candidates failed to overcome the “municipal filter” because of obstruction by local and regional authorities. Almost universally in Russia, independent candidates failed to collect the required number of signatures of municipal deputies because of severe “administrative pressure.”

The “Golos” movement consistently opposes the use of this method of screening candidates as one that restricts the electoral rights of citizens (both the right to be elected and the right to elect) and hampers political competition. The existing “municipal filter” practice is accompanied by widespread “administrative pressure” on municipal deputies and by the use of public resources (organizational, logistic, information, and other) to ensure collection of signatures in favor of certain administrative candidates (current heads or deputies), as well as in favor of so-called “technical” candidates who are running to ensure the appearance of competition in elections.

The “municipal filter” apparatus is entirely controlled by the current administration. Instead of being a mechanism of electoral support for candidates for the post of head of region, it is actually a means of political filtration of rivals who are, for one reason or another, unacceptable to regional authorities. The situation is made more dire by the fact that election commissions, judicial and law enforcement bodies, local communities, political parties, the media, public organizations, and the candidates themselves have no effective legal instruments at their disposal with which to oppose this de facto administrative lawlessness.

It is impossible to hold free and competitive elections of heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation while the “municipal filter” is in place. We invite all parties interested in the political process to continue discussing this problem and to initiate a thorough reform of the electoral legislation with the goal of abolishing the existing procedure for collecting signatures of municipal deputies in support of candidates for the elections of heads of regions.

See the full report here.

 

EPDE contributes to investigation on Corruption in the Council of Europe

France

During its summer session in June 2017, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has appointed three judges to conduct an external investigation of the pending corruption cases among members of the PACE.

These allegations have shattered the reputation of the most important and respected European human rights institution for years.

The PACE members also decided to strengthen the rules of procedure of the Parliament and to remove Pedro Agramunt (formerly EPP Spain), the current President of the Parliamentary Assembly.

EPDE has contributed to the ongoing investigation with its reports on politically motivated election observation. Members of PACE have been involved in whitewashing falsified elections among others in Azerbaijan in 2013 and 2015.

Promo-LEX Association celebrates 15th anniversary!

Moldova

 

August 2017, Chisinau

EPDE’s Moldovan member Promo-LEX Association this year celebrates its 15th anniversary. For the past 15 years, Promo-LEX has actively promoted fair and transparent elections in Moldova and abroad, advocated and defended human rights and stood up for the civil society.

 

EPDE warmly congratulates Promo-LEX, expresses its gratitude for the intense cooperation in the past and, in challenging times, looks forward to many more successful joint activities in the future!  

 

Please find more information about Promo-LEX Association and its projects on the Promo-LEX website:

 

EPDE stands for international solidarity among citizens' election observers

EPDE

 

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) has been an active member of the Solidarity Group of GNDEM (Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors) since 2014.

With this, EPDE is part of an international community of election monitoring organizations that advocate fair and transparent elections worldwide. In many countries, authoritarian regimes oppose independent election observation and joint effort is needed to support democratric developments.

Currently the global community of election observers is standing up for independent and unobstructed election observation in Cambodia.

Please see attached the statement in support of free elections and democracy in Cambodia.

Ukrainian local elections will take place on 29 October

Ukraine

 

August 2017, Kyiv

Within the framework of Ukrainian's ongoing decentralization process, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission has scheduled the first elections of City Mayors and Councilors in 202 newly united territorial communities. The corresponding decision was taken on Friday meeting, August 18, as EPDE member OPORA informs.

 

The Central Election Commission has scheduled elections for 29 October 2017, and announced that the election process will begin on 9 September. The corresponding resolution was supported by 12 commission members, present at the meeting.

 

In total, 1 million 360 thousand people, i.e. 4% of Ukrainian voters, will have a chance to participate in the 29 October elections. The elections will be widely spread across the country, including, for instance, municipalities in Dnipro oblast in the East; Kyiv and Cherkasy oblast in the centre; and Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv oblast in the West of Ukraine.

 

EPDE plans a number of activities around the local elections of 29 October 2017. Stay connected with EPDE's communication channels to receive more details soon.

 

Please also follow the coverage of the Ukrainian elections at our Ukrainian members' websites: 

Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU)

OPORA

 

 

ISFED identifies challenges in Georgian pre-election environment

Georgia

 

The local self-government elections in Georgia will take place on 21 October 2017. The Georgian EPDE member ISFED has recently published a report assesing the pre-election environment. According to the report, constitutional changes were the major issue of civil society and political discussions ahead of the elections. The process of constitutional reform initiated in the mostly inclusive format of the State Constitutional Commission reached a sort of a stalemate in late June, after the ruling party made an unexpected decision to postpone changes in the electoral system until 2024.

Also unexpectedly and without involvement of the general public, the Parliament of Georgia voted for merging 14 municipalities and abolishing the self-governing status for 7 cities just a few months before the election. The decision essentially limits the right to self-government for the cities and the villages within the self-governing communities.

As a result of changes in the Election Code, a number of positive new regulations were introduced; however, changes in rules that regulate composition of electoral commissions have been criticized. According to these new regulations, the number of the ruling party representatives in the electoral administration will significantly increase following the 2017 elections. To the disappointment of NGOs and political parties, no substantial changes were made in the electoral system of the self-government bodies.

Please see the full report here.

International observation of the Norwegian parliamentary elections

Norway

A participant from 2009

 

August 2017, Oslo

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, an EPDE member, will organize for the fourth time the international election observation of the Norwegian parliamentary elections, which will take place on Monday, 11th of September. 25 observers from EPDE-member organizations in the former soviet republics will come to Norway to learn about the Norwegian election system and see it in action. Guests from Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Russia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine will have a unique chance to observe the peaceful and constructive process of election campaign and voting. All the participants are already experienced observers of domestic, and in some cases international elections. This gives room for exchange of ideas inside the group, as well as between observers and the receiving side. Norway also has much to learn from these visits that take a fresh look at hundred year old democracy.

 

NHC hopes to give the guests both new insights and inspiration through a specially tailored two-day training, visits to the Parliament, the City Hall, and meeting the biggest political parties in Norway. On the day of the election, observers will be deployed throughout the country, from Arendal in the South, to Karasjok in the North. To conclude, Helsinki committee will invite to an open seminar with topic Autocratic Elections: Stabilizing Tool or Force for Change?, where a panel discussion consisting of our guest-participants and Norwegian experts will try to shed light on this relevant for many former soviet countries issue.   

 

EPDE network reports on French elections

France

Foto: G. Melkonyants

 

June 2017, Paris

In June 2017, the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) organized a study trip to the second and decisive round of the French Parliamentary Elections. Six election experts from the EPDE network participated in this trip, during which they met French authorities, electoral administration, candidates, influential think tanks and election experts. On Election Day, they visited several polling stations

 

EPDE’s experts were warmly welcomed by their French hosts and had the opportunity to discuss technical questions concerning the elections as well as political topics in an open and interested atmosphere.

 

Aim of the research mission was to receive insights into French electoral practice and to compare it with EPDE’s experience from other countries. In addition, another objective was to provide a qualified and unbiased coverage of the elections in France in the Russian-language independent mass media.

 

Please see below selected articles of our experts based on their experience at the study trip:

 

Tatjana Jurasova, Novaya Gazeta, 19.07.2017, "How it is done in Paris" (Russian): https://www.novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/07/19/73170-kak-eto-delaetsya-v-parizhe

 

Arkady Lyubarev, golosinfo.org, 18.07.2017, "Parliamentary election in France: a detailed overview" (Russian): https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142055

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, salt.zone, 25.06.2017, "French Elections – lessons for Russia” (Russian): https://salt.zone/post/8141

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, golosinfo.org, 23.06.2017, "On prefectures, financing and complaints at the elections in France” (Russian): https://www.golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142012

 

Stanislav Andreychuk, golosinfo.org, 21.06.2017, "Experts of Golos visited French elections” (Russian): https://golosinfo.org/ru/articles/142007

 

Arkady Lyubarev, blog, 10.06.2017, “Briefly on the French electoral system” (Russian): http://lyubarev.livejournal.com/30009.html

 

Report on Belarus Parliamentary Elections

Belarus

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 - this is a conclusion of the recently published report on the 2016 Parliamentary Elections in Belarus by the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, both members of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), in the framework of the campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections".

The report, called "Results of Independent Observation: Facts, Analysis, Comments", provides an analysis of all stages of the elections to the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus of the sixth convocation held on 11 September 2016.

Conclusions of the report

The parliamentary elections of 2016 were called against the backdrop of a complicated geopolitical situation in the world and Europe, in particular, which was primarily due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Despite the fact that the vote was accompanied by unfavorable trends in the 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.

Full report "Results of Independent Observation: Facts, Analysis, Comments"

 

Challenges and Prospects of Electoral Reform in Ukraine - EPDE Policy Paper

Ukraine

Electoral reform is a crucial component of a strong and sustainable democracy in Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian election legislation ranks among the least stable in Europe. Six out of the last eight parliamentary elections in Ukraine were held under different electoral legal frameworks. Moreover, four different electoral systems were in place. In most cases, either new wording or major changes to the electoral legal framework were introduced shortly before the elections.

This prevented experts, political parties, and other stakeholders from engaging in an open, fully-fledged debate on the amendment bills. Both parliamentary and local elections shared the same set of problems. This paper outlines the most important challenges of the current electoral reform process in Ukraine.

With the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2019, international actors should take action and encourage the Ukrainian government to overcome the prevailing reform fatigue and push for the implementation of the following reform steps: a proportional electoral system with open regional electoral lists, the right to vote for IDPs, a proper legal framework for the prosecution of violations of the electoral law, and a new composition of the Central Election Commission.

Download

EPDE Policy Paper, June 2017: Challenges and Prospects of Electoral Reform in Ukraine

 

EPDE research trip to French parliamentary elections

France

June 2017, Paris

 

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) and several of its member organisations from Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Germany and Lithuania will conduct a research trip to the upcoming second and decisive round of the French parliamentary elections. Six election experts from the EPDE network will participate in this study trip to the elections that will take place on 18 June 2017.

 

Aim of this research mission is to receive insights into French electoral practice and to compare it with EPDE’s experience from other European countries and the United States. With this, the experts will put the French election system in a comparative context and have a better basis for informing about elections in their home countries.

 

Another objective of the group is to provide a qualified and unbiased coverage of the upcoming elections in France in the Russian-language independent mass media.

 

To that end, EPDE will meet with French local authorities, candidates, influential think tanks and local experts and discuss technical questions as well as topics of current political importance. Furthermore, EPDE’s experts will visit several polling stations on Election Day.

 

Reports about this mission by the experts will be published soon on epde.org.

Challenges for electoral reform in Moldova discussed at international conference

Moldova

 

On 23 May 2017, Promo-Lex Association, an EPDE member, hosted the international conference “Options and considerations for reforming the electoral system of the Republic of Moldova. Comparisons from international experience” in Chisinau.

The conference took place in the light of a current legislative initiative in the Moldovan parliament that aims at changing the election of the Moldovan MPs from a proportional to a mixed parallel electoral system.

While the supporters of the proposed new electoral system highlight its advantages, critics object that its design may have a profound impact on the political life and the democratic consolidation of the country.

At the conference, a number of international experts, including EPDE experts, from Western and Eastern European countries provided input for this debate. Representing countries such as the United Kingdom, Lithuania, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Norway and Romania, they offered insights into the electoral laws and practices in their countries.

From the UK’s traditional “Westminster” or “First Past the Post” system to mixed systems in Eastern European countries such as Ukraine or Georgia, both advantages and disadvantages of all systems were broadly discussed, as well as their possible implementation in Moldova.

In addition, the Norwegian expert Mette Bakken and her Romanian colleague Adrian Sorescu presented the study ‘Electoral System Design in Moldova’. Ms Bakken and Mr Sorescu argue that in Moldova, it is not clear what would be the result from passing from an electoral system to another one. Therefore, they have developed a number of recommendations for reforming the current system.

Downloads:

Presentations of the international experts

Study "Electoral System Design in Moldova"

Links:

Promo-Lex website

 

Two new electoral handbooks published by Council of Europe with support of EPDE members

France

Juni 2017, Straßburg

 

The Council of Europe has recently published two new handbooks for Civil Society Organisations: "Reporting on elections" and "Using international election standards". Several members of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) took an active role in developing these handbooks, among them Roman Udot from GOLOS (Russia), Nicolae Panfil from Promo-Lex (Moldova) and Tamar Bartaia from ISFED (Georgia).

 

The first handbook, “Reporting on elections”, provides an overview over the planning of observation activities from a reporting perspective. The aim of this handbook is to help observers become more efficient and to produce more effective reports.

 

The purpose of the second handbook “Using international election standards” is to improve the quality of domestic observation of electoral processes in the member states, among others, and to serve as a reference for domestic observers, primarily for core team members.

 

The publications were funded by the European Union and the Council of Europe within the Programmatic Cooperation Framework for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Republic of Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus.

 

Please find more information about the handbooks on the website of the Council of Europe.

Download "Using international election standards"

Download "Reporting on elections"

EPDE experts contribute to Promo-Lex' conference on electoral reform in Moldova

Moldova


EPDE-member Promo-Lex Association organizes an international conference “Options and considerations for reforming the electoral system of the Republic of Moldova. Comparisons from international experience”. International experts from western and eastern Europe will analyze the recent election law reform pushed forward by one of the political parties in Moldova. The experts will present pros and contras of the proposed electoral system. EPDE experts will focus on the experience in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine, where majoritarian or mixed election systems are being implemented.

During the event, international experts Mette Bakken (Norway) and Adrian Sorescu (Romania) will present their study “Electoral system design in the Republic of Moldova”. The authors will focus on the specific socio-political and historical background to identify the most efficient electoral system in Moldova.

Also, EPDE-election experts from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia and Ukraine as well as election analysts from Lithuania and United Kingdom will present their home experience with majoritarian and mixed systems (with majoriarian and proportional components) which have been implemented in their countries. They will focus on important challenges of those systems which were often pointed out by domestic and international observers and experts.

Venue: Courtyard Room, Hotel Codru, str. 31 august 1889, 127, Chisinau, Republic of Moldova

Date: Tuesday, 23 May, 9:30

Georgian CSOs concerned about new election regulations

Georgia

 

Georgian civil society organizations have issued a joint assessment of the work of the State Constitutional Commission of Georgia.  The document reflects the views of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (GYLA), Transparency International – Georgia, and the Open Society Georgia – Foundation (OSGF). These four organizations were members of the State Constitutional Commission of Georgia and together were represented in all four working groups of the Commission.

The purpose of the joint assessment is to provide the Venice Commission with a comprehensive overview of the working process of the Constitutional Commission together with the CSO opinions on some of the most crucial amendments introduced by the draft of the constitution. Namely, these are the electoral system of the Parliament, election of the president and the definition of marriage in the constitution.

CSOs have concerns over the electoral system and specifically, the allocation of remaining seats (undistributed mandates).  The constitutional draft introduces an unlimited bonus for a party that receives the most votes – all undistributed mandates will be allocated a single party.  CSOs consider this aspect of the electoral system highly unfair and largely undermining the positive gains from the change of the majoritarian system.  The prohibition of blocs together with the 5% threshold is likely to produce a large number of undistributed mandates, which, if allocated to a single party, could damage the political plurality and facilitate long-term concentration of power in a single ruling party.  CSOs believe that the constitution should guarantee that the undistributed mandates are allocated to all parties in the Parliament proportionally to their election results.

Another problematic issue is the definition of marriage as “union between a man and a woman”.  This amendment is particularly problematic given the widespread homophobia, increasing cases of hate crimes, and continuous struggle for LGBT groups to even exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly.  This amendment which is fueled with homophobic and populistic connotations will have a further chilling effect on the rights of LGBT people in Georgia.  The constitutional prohibition of a theoretical chance of marriage equality is particularly concerning given that the Georgian legislation does not guarantee civil partnership for same-sex couples.  CSOs believe that in line with the ECHR practice, Georgia should introduce a legal recognition of same-sex couples and guarantee similar rights as the opposite-sex couples.

Given that the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia has pledged to take into consideration all recommendations of the Venice Commission, CSOs believe that the Venice Commission opinion might be the most effective mechanism to address the problematic amendments proposed in the constitutional draft.  Therefore, the organizations stand ready to work with the Venice Commission and provide it with further updates and information on the constitutional reform process in Georgia.

The full text of the CSOs assessment as PDF (EN)

Job announcement: political public relations manager

Germany

April 2017, Berlin

 

Der Europäische Austausch gGmbH Berlin besetzt zum 01.06.2017 die Stelle eines/er ReferentIn für politische Öffentlichkeitsarbeit (20 Wochenstunden) für die "Europäische Plattform für Demokratische Wahlen" (www.epde.org). Die Stelle ist vorerst bis Februar 2018 befristet, Option auf Verlängerung besteht.

 

Zu den Aufgaben gehören:

  • Koordination der internationalen Öffentlichkeitsarbeit der Plattform
  • Advocacyarbeit für die Anliegen der Plattform und ihrer Mitglieder in internationalen Institutionen
  • Verfassen von Pressemitteilungen und Nachrichten in den sozialen Medien
  • Pflege der Datenbank und der Webseite der Organisation
  • Verfassen eines monatlichen Newsletters

 

Anforderungen:

  • abgeschlossenes Hochschulstudium der Geistes- oder Sozialwissenschaft
  • englische und russische oder ukrainische Sprachkenntnisse – weitere slawische Sprachen sind von Vorteil
  • praktische Erfahrungen in Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
  • Kenntnisse oder Arbeitserfahrungen in politischen Institutionen (Parlamente, Ministerien, Europarat, Europaparlament, OSZE, UN)
  • theoretische und/oder praktische Erfahrungen in Wahlbeobachtung
  • geübter Umgang mit Datenbank, Webseitenredaktion, Internet und sozialen Medien

 

EPDE ist ein im Dezember 2013 gegründetes Netzwerk europäischer Nichtregierungsorganisationen und Stiftungen, die zivilgesellschaftliche Wahlbeobachtung in Europa durchführen oder unterstützen. Zu den Mitgliedern gehören Organisationen aus Schweden, Norwegen, Polen, den Staaten der Östlichen Partnerschaft und der Russischen Föderation. EPDE fördert die Professionalität und die Sichtbarkeit der zivilgesellschaftlichen Wahlbeobachtung in Europa und arbeitet dabei eng mit der OSZE und dem Europarat zusammen. EPDE wird u.a. von europäischen Ministerien, Stiftungen und der Europäischen Kommission gefördert.

 

Bitte senden Sie Ihre aussagekräftige Bewerbung ausschließlich elektronisch mit den üblichen Unterlagen (Bewerbungsschreiben, Lebenslauf, Arbeitszeugnisse und ggf. Arbeitsproben) als zusammenhängende Pdf Datei (max. 5 MB) bis zum 12.05.2017 mit Angabe des Kennworts "EPDE PR Arbeit" an assistenz@european-exchange.org.

 

Independent Observer Public Alliance: Elections in Armenia non-free, accompanied by control over voters

Armenia

April 2017, Yerevan

 

The civil society in the Republic of Armenia constantly highlighted a number of problems regarding the electoral processes and the failure to solve such problems gives grounds to doubt the elections held in the country. These problems include the organized and widespread abuse of administrative resources and ineffective combat against it, lack of equal competition conditions for candidates, ineffective combat against the barriers to expression of voters’ free will, restrictions on civil oversight of elections and the lack of any effective mechanisms and opportunities to complain against the election frauds and appeal the election results.

 

The new electoral code adopted in 2016 gave no answer to these concerns but rather increased the possibility to abuse administrative resources and various levers by basing the proportional voting system on the opportunity to nominate candidates in territorial voting lists.

 

Back during the observation of the election campaign, ‘Independent Observer’ Public Alliance reported as follows: The election campaign was accompanied by violence and pressure, including use of firearms, mostly against the candidates and supporters of the non-ruling and/or opposition parties and blocs. Ruling party RPA committed an organized and widespread abuse of the administrative resources.

 

The CEC (Central Election Commission) did not carry out a thorough and comprehensive examination of the issues raised in the petitions addressed to it. Also, the CEC, in its turn, did not take sufficient efforts and show will to prevent the offenses that became known and were confirmed during the election campaign and to remove their consequences. 1 6 It should be noted that during the last days of the election campaign and especially on the voting day and the campaign silence day, there were many alerts on widespread mass vote-buying by the Republican Party of Armenia, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (‘Dashnaktsutyun’) party and ‘Tsarukyan’ bloc and reliable information on such incidents was also shared by the mass media and social networks. In spite of this, the law enforcement officers have not detected or prevented a single case of vote-buying so far.

 

The observers, who carried out observation mission in 200 district and 35 territorial commissions throughout the country on April 2, 2017 within ‘Independent Observer’ Alliance, reported over 3050 frauds most of which might have affected by their nature the election results. At 134 (67%) of the 200 observed polling stations, the secrecy of ballot of voters was actually breached as there were incidents when there were other adults in the voting booth who were not helpers to voters as prescribed by law. At 101 (50.5%) polling stations, there were cases when voters filled out the ballots outside the voting booth. At 59 (29.5%) polling stations, there were cases when voters informed loudly after voting the commission members or proxies about their vote. All this is indicative of an unprecedented control over citizens’ votes.

 

The main violations typical of the election day also covered regular overcrowdings of voters near polling stations resulted from taking voters to the polling stations in groups and guiding them in their voting. At 99 (49.5%) of the observed polling stations, disputes were recorded at different hours of the voting which once again comes to prove of the tense atmosphere at least at half of the polling stations on the election day. Based on the above, ‘Independent

 

Observer’ Public Alliance reports as follows: Many issues identified during the election campaign (widespread and organized abuse of administrative resources, unequal competition conditions for nominated parties and blocs) and the atmosphere of impunity resulting from the improper reaction and inaction of the RA Central Election Commission, the Police and other law-enforcement agencies also affected the election day. The desired results for the ruling party through its territorial candidates were ensured by vote-buying and other illegal means not prevented or examined properly by competent authorities so far. The National Assembly elections were accompanied by numerous frauds and widespread control over the voters.

 

The ‘Independent Observer’ Public Alliance considers the RA National Assembly elections of April 2, 2017 as absolutely non-free and accompanied by gross infringements of RA citizens’ civil and political rights.

 

For the initial opinion of the Alliance, see here .

 

Armenian parliamentary election: infografics ‘Independent Observer’

 

Public Alliance represented by:

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor

Union of Informed Citizens

Martuni Women’s Community Council

Goris Press Club

 

Over 2000 violations reported during election day in Armenia

Armenia

 

On April 2, 3112 independent and non-partisan observers of Citizen Observer Initiative monitored the conduct of election day in Armenia at 1521 precincts. The observers registered overall 2131 cases of violations during the preparation of voting, the conduct of voting, counting and tabulation of votes, out of which 1243 have been so far verified.

Initial verifications done for 1243 violations are as follows:

287 general violations of which 120 (42%) are due to technical malfunction and 72 (25%) due to congregation of people and cars

186 violations registered during preparation and opening of the precincts, of which 97 (52%) due to violation of voting room arrangement protocols and 33 (18%)՝ due to precinct commission working procedures

640 violations have been registered during the voting process out of which 125 (20%) violations of the secrecy of the vote and 92 (14%) cases of unauthorised persons assisting voters to vote

130 cases of violations were registered during the closing of the precincts, counting and the tabulation procedures.

Based on verified violations, the Initiative’s observers have registered 584 objections in the precinct commission’s log book and so far 31 complaints have been submitted too District Election Commissions. The compilation and submission of complaints are ongoing.

According to the received data so far, Citizen Observer Initiative emphasises the following problems: 

1) supervised, controlled and open voting  as well as pressure on expression of the free will of voters, including bribery.

2) complicating the voting process

3) low quality of work of the precinct election commissions

4) violations and obvious malfunctions of technical tools

5) noticeable passivity of police at precincts

6) operations of fake observer missions

Despite expectations that the new Electoral Code would have heightened the trust of public towards election process, based on the abovementioned observations we report that this assumption has not been gained. Citizen Observer Initiative has serious concerns and doubts that these elections do not represent the free will of the voters.

In parallel, we remind that the election process is not completed and that the observation mission still continues to verify reported cases of violations to complete the process of final reports and complaints.

Citizen Observer Initiative calls on all interested parties, including political powers (or proxies) and other observer missions to join the process of reporting and analysis of violations to express commitment to follow up with further actions.

 

Despite some improvements many violations reported during elections in Armenia

Armenia

April 2017, Yerevan

 

Sona Ayvazyan, Executive director of Transparency International Anticorruption Center acknowledged positive amendments to the election legislation and the introduction of the new voter registration devices which improved the election day proceedings. At the same time, Ayvazyan stressed that a high number of violations were reported to the "map of violations" on the election day. In many cases, unauthorized persons or persons with local election observation accreditation overtook leading position among the election commission members and often assisted voters during the voting.

 

Lousine Hakobyan, President of the “Europe in Law” Association underlined that election day is only a part of the entire election process and stressed the importance of solving election disputes before making final assessment on the conduct of elections. According to Hakobyan, the new election law provides several restrictions which limit the possibilities to effectively prepare and fill election related complaints based on the reports of observers and voters.

 

Daniel Ioannisyan, Programs Director of the Union of Informed Citizens, drew attention to the large number of domestic observers accredited at the Central Election Commission. However, he stressed that only up to 20 % of the observers were representatives of the acknowledged independent civic organizations while the majority  represented political actors or mostly unknown organisations.  According to Ioannisyan, many regulations were amended in order to ensure the secrecy of vote, however, in many cases ballots and special envelopes were apparently manipulated to achieve a particular results. Further shortcomings took place during the transportation of the election material to the territorial election commissions and during the tabulating of the votes. In many cases protocols from precincts were corrected before they were delivered to the territorial commission.

 

Levon Barseghyan, Head of the Journalists’ Club Asparez based in Gyumri, informed that the observers have collected a lot of information on shortcomings and that this material should be sufficient for the police and prosecutor to investigate relevant cases. In his opinion, however, the police did not do enough to investigate the reported violations.

 

Lilia Shibanova, board member of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), condemned the refusal of the CEC to invite international non-governmental election monitoring organizations to observe the election day proceedings. She underlined the importance of the Armenian civil society which was able to achieve progress with regard to democratic election procedures.However, to establish truly democratic elections in Armenia still much have to be done by citizen election observers.

 

Assessment report on preparation and result of the 26 September constitutional referendum in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan

 

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 amendments, political situation and conditions prior to the referendum, the election legislation, conduct of the Referendum Day and vote tabulation against the legislation of the country and its international commitments.
EMDS notes with regret that there was no significant improvements in the fields of freedoms of speech, association and assembly, along with electoral legislation and opportunities for political participation during the Referendum. Pressure and harassment of political activists continued. Amendments to the Constitution were submitted to the Constitutional Court and then put for the Referendum without holding any public discussions and without consulting the civil society, the Parliament and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe representing only the interests of the ruling party.
EMDS notes with concern that opposition parties were denied an opportunity to participate in the Referendum campaigning which was dominated by the ruling party. Analysis of the information provided by journalists, voters and observers shows that 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, voting without registration and ballot-box stuffing. The official turnout do not correspond to the real figures.
The Referendum further deepened the political crisis in the country and shaken the public confidence in transition of power through democratic and peaceful elections, as well as in the rule of law and parliamentarism. In order to address the issue, the government should take necessary measures to restore trust of opposing political forces. Such measures should include improvement of the Election Code, lifting the restrictions on political freedoms, halting all forms of political persecution, and the release of all political prisoners.

Please find the whole report here.

Golos coordinator sentenced to four days detention after protests in Saratov

Russia

April 2017, Saratov

 

On 26 March 2017 Russian police arrested hundreds of mostly young people for joining nationwide anti-corruption protests in Russia.The police illegally and violently prevented journalists from their work.

 

Officially accredited Civic Monitoring Commission was deprived of the right to monitor the activities of the police. Member of this Commission and coordinator of the EPDE member organization "Golos" in Saratov Alexandr Nikishyn, who is also a correspondent of the Information Agency "Free news" ("Svobodnye novosti") and presenter of the "Open channel" ("Otkrytyi kanal") was sentenced and arrested for 4 days.

 

EPDE conciders his detention as unlawful. The protesters were intimidated for expressing their dissatisfaction with the level of corruption among top government officials. Many of detainees faced court trials. Since the freedom of speach is guaranteed by the Russian constitution, the citizens should be able to execute their right to freely express their opinion. The freedom of speech and assembly, civil control over the actions of the government officials are the basic principles of a democratic state. EPDE is seriously concerned over the actions of the Russian authorities and expresses its solidarity with all illegally arrested people.

Citizen observers: serious shortcomings observed during parliamentary campaign in Armenia

Armenia

 

Shortly before the election day, Citizen Observer Initiative and Independent Observer Public Alliance together with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) presented their findings on the monitoring of the pre-election campaign. They also announced their action plan for the election day on 2 April.

 

Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Programme Director at Transparency International Anticorruption Center drew attention to the fact that voting day is only a part of electoral process. Despite some changes in the election law, including the public display of voters lists and the video recording in polling stations, observers cannot be optimistic that they would make a big difference to the entire election process.    

 

Lousine Hakobyan, President of the Europe in Law Association Human Rights, was concerned about the lack of adequate electorate education. According to Hakobyan, the Central Election Commission issued explanations to the new electoral code shortly before the election day which apparently change the previously adopted regulations. Those changes may confuse the voters few days before polling.

 

Daniel Ioannisyan, Programs Director of the Union of Informed Citizens and representative of the Independent Observer Public Alliance informed that 4000 independent observers including mobile groups will be covering 1800 polling stations all over Armenia. The Helsinki Committee of Armenia, the Independent Observer Public Alliance and Citizen Observer Initiative thus cover 90% of the polling stations and 97% of the electorate in monitoring compliance with the new electoral code and constitution. However, Ioannisyan warned that recommendations from civil society had not been taken adequately into consideration in the reform of the legislation and regulations from Central Election Commission, raising doubts about the sincerity of many of the changes.

 

Artur Sakunts, head of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor NGO listed some of the violations that have already taken place in the campaigning period. He warned that the violations so far already give sufficient reason to doubt the fairness of the elections, and that not enough has been done by the authorities to increase trust in the general population, in particular by the Central Election Commission CEC.   

 

Levon Barseghyan, Head of the Journalists’ Club Asparez based in Gyumri encouraged the audience to follow the updates on the Map of Violations that will be regularly updated directly from the observers in the field. The map is easily accessible online and will provide a great overview of which violations in which regions are most widespread on election day.

 

Adam Busuleanu, coordinator of the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE), condemned the refusal of the CEC to invite international non-governmental election monitoring organizations to observe the election day proceedings on 2 April. The authorities rejected the request of the EPDE and other citizen observers groups explaining that a high number of international election observers was already accredited. This explanation contradicts international obligations of Armenia as a member of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. EPDE as well as other international election observation groups were eventually accredited as representatives of domestic observation groups or local media which is conform with the new election law.  

 

The EPDE is a network of experienced European non-governmental organisations that carry out and support domestic election observation in Easter and Western Europe. In Armenia, EPDE supports its members Transparency International Anti-Corruption Center and the Helsinki Citizens Assembly Vanadzor and cooperates with other widely recognized, non-partisan election observation organisations.

Joint Press Conference on the Parliamentary Elections in Armenia

Armenia

 

Invitation to the

 

Joint Press Conference on the Parliamentary Elections in Armenia

 

Venue: Armenia Marriott Hotel, Yerevan, "Levon of Cilicia" meeting room

 

Date: March 31, 12:00 hours

 

Citizen Observer Initiative and Independent Observer Public Alliance, together with the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE)


Citizen Observer Initiative and Independent Observer Public Alliance will announce their action plan for the election day on 2 April, 2017. They will also present their conclusions on the observation of the campaigning period

Both intiatives will focus on the means of information dissemination on electoral violations and irregularities, their media timelines, and the opportunities to complain in the post-election phase. They will also wrap up the initiatives’ work from the pre-election period.

 

Speakers:

 

Citizen Observer Initiative:

Lousine Hakobyan, President of the Europe in Law Association Human Rights NGO

Levon Barseghyan, Journalists’ Club Asparez NGO

Armen Grigoryan, Transparency International Anticorruption Center NGO

Arsinee Khanjian, observer

Varuzhan Hoktanyan, Transparency International Anticorruption Center NGO

 

Independent Observer Public Alliance:

Artur Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor NGO

Daniel Ioannisyan, Union of Informed Citizens NGO

 

European Platform for Democratic Elections:

Adam Busuleanu

Raid in the Office of Belarusian EPDE Member HRC Viasna

Belarus

On Saturday 25 March the Minsk office of the Belarusian EPDE-member organisation Human Rights Center Viasna was raided by the police. 57 human rights defenders, among them the Chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, Aleh Hulak, also a member of EPDE, were detained. The lawyer of the HRC Viasna was hospitalized after he was beaten by the police.

The detainees were volunteers that were expected to observe today's protest in central Minsk among them international observers, representatives of foreign media and human rights organizations. All detained were released later the same day. Several hundred protesters have been detained in Belarus, in a crackdown to prevent mass protest against president Lukashenko's authoritarian regime.

EPDE calls on the Belarusian authorities to release the peaceful protesters that were detained during today's protests and to guarantee the freedom of assembly in the country.

More news on the website of HRC Viasna.

 

EPDE condemns the Armenian governments' refusal to invite international citizen election observers

Armenia

The European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) condemns the refusal of the Armenian authorities to invite its international citizen observers to monitor the parliamentary election scheduled on 2 April 2017. Together with its Armenian member organisations Transparency International Anticorruption Center, Yerevan and the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor, EPDE strongly protest against the arbitral decision of the Armenian government.

 

The reason for the refusal is the allegedly high number of already accredited observers and, therefore, the lack of need for additional international observers. Both the refusal and its justification contradict the obligation of Armenia as a member of the OSCE to invite international observers from other OSCE countries, in particular the agreements set up by the 1990 CSCE/OSCE Copenhagen Document, later reafirmed in the 1999 OSCE Istanbul Document and in the Decision No. 19/06 (Paragraph 10) of the OSCE Ministerial Council Document “Strengthening the Effectiveness of the OSCE" signed in Brussels in 2006. This gives cause for serious concerns that the Armenian government might not consider the presence of international observers as an important contribution to enhancing the electoral process.

 

The EPDE calls upon the international community, particularly the OSCE-Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR), the European Union and the Council of Europe to consider this arbitral denial of accreditation for international citizen election observers during relevant meetings and negotiations with the Armenian authorities in the future.

EPDE study visit in Netherlands

Netherlands

EPDE together with its Russian member Association Golos and the Lithuanian IESC observed the parliamentary elections in Holland. The election experts conducted a series of meetings with the Election Team of the Ministry of Interior, the Electoral Council (Kiesraad), the ODIHR-expert team and a range of Dutch non-governmental organisations and other observation missions. On election day, they observed the conduct of voting and vote counting in several polling stations in Rotterdamm and Den Haag.

The study visit was conducted by five election experts who focused on selected aspects of the electoral process in Netherlands. The team appreciates the efforts of the Dutch Ministry of Interior to invite international observers and to provide the observers with all election related information.

Please find below articles of our experts:

 

Stanislaw Andreichuk, salt.zone, 23.03.2017,"Why Russia is not Holland" (RU): https://salt.zone/post/6749

 

Aleksandr Glezev, golosinfo.org, 12.03.2015, "Netherlands: the first round of elections in Europe in 2017" (RU): https://golosinfo.org/ru/articles/141817

 

Aleksandr Glezev, golosinfo.org, 24.03.2015, "Campaign in Netherlands: Europe wins the first round" (RU): https://golosinfo.org/ru/articles/141845

 

Sergey Egorov, salt.zone, 29.03.2017,"Salt blogers: elections in Netherlands and support from Russia (RU): https://salt.zone/radio/6805

Round Table “Improving the accountability of Parliamentarians in election observation’’, March 7, 2017, Brussels

Belgium

On March 7, 2017, European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) - a platform of citizens’ election observation organizations from the EU-Eastern Partnership, the Russian Federation and the European Union organizes in Brussels a round table “Improving the accountability of Parliamentarians in election observation" in cooperation with the office of Vice-President of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff.

The event aims at discussing how politics and civil society can take action against the misuse of the instrument of international election observation.

  • How can one assess what is “biased observation” and what is a methodologically professional and well-grounded election observation?
  • Does the integration of official short-term parliamentary delegations into long-term missions reduce the risk of misleading/biased statements by parliamentarians?
  • How can the instrument of political short-term election observation be adapted to the new geopolitical situation and be safeguarded from political hijacking?
  • Which pre-emptive measures can be taken by national Parliaments or international Parliamentary bodies to prevent politically motivated observation?
  • Should “sanctions” measures be taken against parliamentarians who have participated in biased observation and have spoken on behalf of the institution, without being authorised to do so? Are such measures realistic and efficient?
  • Is there any positive experience in fighting politically-biased observation internationally?

Target audience: representatives from endorsing organisations of the “Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and Code of Conduct for International Election Observers” (Members of the European Parliament), national parliamentarians from EU member states, civil society organisations.

Please see attached the EPDE paper "Detection and prevention of politically biased Election Observation (“Fake Observation”) in the OSCE Region"

EPDE held preparatory meetings ahead of the parliamentary elections in Armenia

Armenia

On February 17 - 22, EPDE experts Roman Udot (Movement Golos) and Adam Busuleanu (European Exchange) held a series of meetings with EPDE observers in Armenia to coordinate its study mission to the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled on April, 4.

The EPDE member organisations Transparency International Anti-corruption Center and the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly Vanadzor plan to deploy around 3000 citizen observers to almost all election precincts in all regions of Armenia. EPDE will send a study mission of approx. 30 observers from its member organisations who will support their colleagues in different regions of the country.

EPDE together with its Armenian member organisations will organize a series of press conferences and public events before and after the election day. 

EPDE study mission to the Dutch parliamentary elections

Netherlands

 

EPDE together with its member Association Golos and in cooperation with the International Election Study Center organizes a study mission to the Dutsch parliamentary elections scheduled on March, 15. A group of election experts will exchange their experience with their counterparts in Netherlands. A range of meetings is planned with the representatives of the Election Council (Kiesraad), the representatives of the election commissions on the municipal level and the members of the civil society organisations who are engaged in the electoral process. On election day, the expert group will visit several polling stations around the country.

Сall for applications: Experts on Electoral System Design

 

EPDE member organization Promo-LEX Association is looking for two experts (one International and one National expert) to conduct a comprehensive study on the Pros and Cons of the electoral system in Moldova, the opportunity or necessity to change it, and if relevant, the best electoral systems to put in place in order to cope with the social-political developments and conflicts.

Additionally, the experts will contribute to the design and implementation of an information and advocacy campaign focused on the topic of electoral system reform in Moldova.

The detailed Terms of Reference can be found on PROMO-LEX website -
https://promolex.md/5329-terms-of-reference-international-and-national-experts-on-electoral-system-design/?lang=en.

 

Please find Terms of Reference as PDF here.

Final Report of the Election Observation Mission to the Republic of Georgia for the Parliamentary elections, October 2016

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.


Recommendations


The joint election observation mission recommends that the relevant Georgian authorities:


- Investigate the Jikhaskari incident impartially and effectively, including the role of police in failing to protect international election observers from physical violence inside the polling station;

- Amend the election law in order to introduce repeat voting also with respect to candidates elected through proportional party lists when precinct results are annulled;

- Consider establishing a review mechanism to assess the vote in polling stations where the reported results deviate significantly from the overall results, such as in the 185 polling stations where the ruling Georgian Dream party received from 70 to over 90 percent of the vote in these elections (compared to 48 percent in the country as a whole);

- Request the Central Election Commission to publish the turnout per Precinct Election Commission in the same digital format as they publish the results of elected candidates. This will increase the level of transparency and verifiability of the results by way of statistical analysis.

 

With regard to gender equality, the joint observation mission recommends that the relevant Georgian authorities:

- Support incentives and consider mandatory quota arrangements for political parties to include more women in decision making, and in particular to include more women among the candidates on proportional party lists;

- Step up efforts to develop and implement policies and strategies to improve the opportunities of women with respect to equal participation in political life.


With regard to protection of LGBTI persons, the joint observation mission recommends that the relevant Georgian
authorities:

- Properly investigate all reported incidents of hate-motivated violence and take effective measures to protect victims and potential victims;

- Address current shortcomings in LGBTI-related legislation and policies and the corresponding implementation mechanisms;

- Cancel plans to introduce a gender-specific definition of marriage into the Constitution.

 

Please find the whole report conducted by EPDE, NHC, IESC and IPHR here.

Fourth EPDE Annual Conference took place in Berlin, 19-20 December 2016

Germany

On December 19-20, 2016 a fourth Annual EPDE Conference took place at the Center for International Peace-keeping Operations (ZIF) in Berlin. 19 representatives from 13 EPDE member organizations participated in the conference. During the event, new guidelines for EPDE activities in the year 2017 were developed and agreed. EPDE team also discussed common actions during the upcoming elections in the Eastern and Western Europe. The ZIF staff presented the German contribution in the international peace-keeping and election monitoring missions.

Russian EPDE member "Golos" awarded 2017 Democracy Defender Award in Vienna

Russia

Live stream at 12.00 CET here.

The Russian EPDE member organization, the Movement to Protect the Voters' Rights "Golos" was awarded the international "2017 Democracy Defender Award" by 22 OSCE delegations. The Ceremony will be held in the Austrian capital Vienna on 18 January. "Golos" was awarded for "outstanding contribution to the promotion of democracy and human rights."

Yuri Gurman, co-chairman of board of "Golos" will participate at the ceremony.
The award was established in early 2016 on the initiative of Ambassadors of 8 countries, and supported by the delegations of the 18 countries of the OSCE. This year, the initiative was supported by the delegation of ambassadors of 22 countries: Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mongolia, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, USA, Ukraine, France, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Sweden, Estonia. The award does not include a monetary prize.

The prize supports the outstanding work being done by the representatives of independent civil society. It is designed to draw attention to the problems faced by activists.
It is worth noting that the awarding of "Golos" appears parallel to the visit of the Austria's Foregn Minister Sebastian Kurz to Moscow, who since January 1, 2017 is also OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.

Belarus: Priority recommendations on reforming electoral legislation [VIDEO]

The civil campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections has presented a policy paper on its recommendations aimed at reforming the electoral legislation of Belarus. According to the campaign’s experts, these recommendations are crucial for the conduct of free, fair and democratic elections.

VIDEO: statement by Uladzimir Lyabkovich and Valiantsin Stefanovich (Belarussian)

The authors say that since 1995 neither international nor domestic observers have recognized the elections in Belarus as free and democratic. The voting results have been challenged by the opposition parties and subjected to fair criticism of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the European Union and the United States.

In 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015, the Electoral Code was amended, which was expected to implement the recommendations of the OSCE ODIHR, which were made following the work of international election observation missions in Belarus. However, election procedures preserved their key drawbacks, as evidenced by the latest report of the OSCE ODIHR mission published after observing the parliamentary elections in 2016.

In February 2016, the CEC established an interdepartmental expert working group to study the OSCE ODIHR recommendations, which were made following the presidential election in 2015. Representatives of the campaign Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections have repeatedly written to the CEC head Lidziya Yarmoshyna offering their expert assistance in the work of the group, sent their detailed proposals for the implementation of the ODIHR recommendations, called for the revitalization of the work in this direction. However, the CEC has not provided a constructive response to these measures. At the moment, the interagency working group is continuing its work, and by February 1, it is expected to complete the analysis of the recommendations contained in the final report of the ODIHR OSCE observation mission on the parliamentary elections of September 11, 2016 (the document was published on December 8, 2016) and to develop proposals to amend the electoral law for their further consideration by the Central Election Commission and head of state.

The campaign "Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections" is a non-partisan initiative and does not intend to support political parties and politicians. The entire election process is assessed solely on the basis of the principles of free, democratic and transparent elections, which can enable the people of Belarus to fully exercise their constitutional right to participate in the government of the country.

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