„Fake Observation“ is a point of entry into political corruption

On 9 July 2018, within the 27th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) in Berlin, the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) held the side event “New Challenges to the International Election Observation”.

The event, which took place in the historic Reichstag building of the German Bundestag, was hosted by Isabel Santos, Vice President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and focussed on biased election observation as well as the shrinking space for independent civil society election observation.

The speakers were Stefanie Schiffer, EPDE Chair of Board, and Anton Shekhovtsov, EPDE expert and Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Ms Schiffer explained that biased election observation, also known as “fake observation”, is part of a bigger picture, in which authoritarian regimes increasingly try to exert pressure on democratic principles.

Within this context, EPDE as a promoter of democratic elections, has also become a target. Recently, EPDE has been declared an undesirable organisation in Russia, and its members from Azerbaijan and Russia could not join today’s event for political reasons.

Ms Schiffer called on the Parliamentary Assemblies of the OSCE and of the Council of Europe to strengthen free and transparent elections by setting clear standard in the field of election observation. She noted that it should be in the own interest of the assemblies’ members not to become part of politically biased missions.

Mr Shekhovtsov pointed out that, first of all, international institutions must be made aware that the phenomenon of biased observation exists. Further, members of the OSCE PA and other organisations should set red lines not to be crossed when it comes to participation in election observation missions. These red lines could be included, for instance, in Codes of Conducts on Election Observation of the parliaments.

Mr Shekhovtsov also recommended that election observers and civil society organisations that are aware of the problem should cooperate more closely.

Mr Shekhovtsov, who recently published two new reports on “fake observation” for EPDE, also noted that „Fake Observation“ is a point of entry into political corruption in general: Politicians who have taken part in biased election observation missions later on often support autocracies on a long term basis.

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