Media Contact: James E. Geoffrey, II
(Washington) - Members of the U.S. Helsinki Commission praised today a resolution of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly strengthening the organization’s role in election monitoring.
“The Parliamentary Assembly has reaffirmed the central and historic leadership role of the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in monitoring elections,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ). “The resolution demonstrates that the participating States in the Helsinki Process remain deeply committed to ensuring that elections meet the highest international standards, and that the OSCE will remain key to promoting free and fair elections. Unfortunately, members of the Belarus delegation abstained during the vote on the resolution.”
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is a U.S. Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.
“This is really an extraordinary development. Not only did the Assembly reaffirm the OSCE’s role in monitoring elections, it significantly strengthened it,” added Commission Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD).
The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Washington Declaration included a strong reaffirmation of the “preeminence” of the OSCE’s methodology for monitoring elections and a provision urging all participating States to fully implement their commitments to conduct free and fair democratic elections.
The Assembly defeated overwhelmingly text offered by the Russian delegation that would have called for the creation of a working group to study and revise OSCE election monitoring procedures. The U.S. delegation argued that the measure would have undercut ongoing OSCE election monitoring activities and would not have improved the quality of such activities.
The Russian delegation offered their proposal after a year in which Russia had attempted to weaken ODIHR’s election observation program. ODIHR has run successful election monitoring efforts in Georgia, Ukraine and Kazahkstan. Following negotiations, the Russians supported the Assembly’s final resolution, including the unqualified language on election monitoring.
“The Russians realized that the momentum on the election monitoring issue was against them,” added Smith. “This should finally put to rest the issue of creating an elections working group. Parliamentarians from the participating States have soundly rejected the ploy to weaken OSCE election standards, holding participating States accountable when they fail to fulfill their OSCE election commitments.”