Toggle navigation menu.
Helsinki Default Banner

Helsinki Commission Releases U.S. Statement on Democratic Institutions

WARSAW, POLAND – The following statement was delivered by the United States during the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation currently being held in Warsaw, Poland:

Democratic Institutions

Statement Delivered by Patricia Davis

U.S. Delegation to the

OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting

Mister Moderator, in recent years, some commentators and academics have bemoaned the tendency to concentrate on elections as the focal point of democratic institutions, calling for more attention to processes such as freedom of the media and the right to engage in political activity.

Of course, democracy is a multi-layered, evolutionary process. Still, free and fair elections remain a cornerstone of democracy, which all OSCE participating states have freely accepted as the only form of government. Elections are the only tool for a people to decide who governs them and are ultimately the key factor in assessing the legitimacy of a president or parliament.

Mister Moderator, no State is beyond the need for improvement in the area of elections. Last year’s U.S. presidential election manifested certain problems with electoral procedures, particularly with regard to the tabulation of ballots. A transparent process and a resolute commitment to the rule of law and due process, however, ensured we met our commitment to free and fair elections and that the results were respected by all. Legislators have since worked diligently to correct problems with procedures through reform.

Last September’s Yugoslav elections were fundamentally flawed, but the will of the people persevered nonetheless. Despite Slobodan Milosevic’s attempt to stay in power, he could not do so in the face of a united opposition and a public which had had enough of his repressive regime. We congratulate the people of Yugoslavia for their success in claiming the right to choose their own leaders, and we warmly welcome the delegation from Yugoslavia to this meeting.

As noted by the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission, although several problems remained, the December parliamentary elections in Serbia marked considerable progress from the past. The U.S. delegation encourages the authorities in Belgrade to continue their reform efforts with the goal of meeting OSCE standards for elections at all levels of government. The United States also welcomes the ongoing willingness of Montenegrin authorities to work with ODIHR as the citizens of that republic go to the polls.

While this year’s parliamentary elections in Albania marked an improvement over the past, particularly during the campaign period, the second round and the need for additional balloting demonstrated the fragility of that progress. The problems observed in polling, the compilation of tallies and the courts’ consideration of appeals were disappointing. We welcome today’s participating representatives of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party of Albania. We urge Albanian authorities to correct shortcomings at all levels, from the polling committees to the courts to enhance in the citizens of that country confidence that their vote will be counted fairly. We call on all parties to respect electoral results and to work within the political system to produce the democratic change that is needed.

Local elections may be scheduled for later this year in Georgia and Kazakhstan. The law on local elections passed by Georgia’s parliament in August was controversial, and in Kazakhstan, opposition representatives have expressed grave concerns about the procedures envisaged for Kazakhstan. To improve on the record of parliamentary and presidential elections opposition and independent parties and candidates must be able to compete on an equal basis. If the official results eventually announced by the Central Election Commission are to enjoy credibility at home and abroad, opposition and independent media must be able to report and comment on the process.

Mister Moderator, the U.S. agrees with the conclusion drawn by the OSCE’s limited international observation mission that the electoral process in Belarus “failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections.” Regrettably, no part of the electoral process was transparent or fair. Belarusian authorities demonstrated a clear disregard for both democracy and human rights during this election by avoiding transparency in all stages and engaging in a campaign of intimidation. They delayed and hindered the participation of international and domestic observers, harassed opposition members and the independent press, confiscated independent electoral materials and newspapers, and prevented a standard parallel vote tabulation, placing the official vote into serious question.

We applaud the emergence of a more vibrant civil society and independent, democratic political pluralism in Belarus, as prerequisites for a more democratic society. These developments merit our continued support, particularly through the work of the OSCE Advisory and Monitoring Group Mission in Belarus.

Mister Moderator, it is evident that significant improvements are required in a number of OSCE States to meet the commitment to holding free and fair elections that all of us have made. These problems are clearly borne out in ODIHR reports. We urge all participating States to review those reports and to work cooperatively with ODIHR to address these shortcomings.

Thank you.

Media contact

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Articles

United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukra...

Jul 14, 2023

The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair Lead Delegati...

Jul 10, 2023

WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Helsinki Commission Chair Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) in Vancouver, Canada from June 30-July 4. As Head of Delegation and Deputy Head of Delegation respectively, Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson welcomed the […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

North Macedonia’s Leadership of the OSCE in a ...

Feb 28, 2023

North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, including using the organization to condemn Russian aggression and hold the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

HEARING: NORTH MACEDONIA’S LEADERSHIP OF THE OSCE IN...

Feb 24, 2023

Tuesday, February 28, 2023 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. Streaming: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNgAOyC9f5g North Macedonia has taken up leadership of the world’s largest regional security organization—the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)—a year into Putin’s brutal, full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Much of the OSCE’s focus over the past year has revolved around responses to the war, […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

U.S. Delegation to the OSCE PA presents Joint Statem...

Feb 24, 2023

WASHINGTON— Today, the U.S. Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA) endorsed the “Joint Statement of Action on the One-Year Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine and the International Legal Order,” which was endorsed by the OSCE PA Bureau and published today at the conclusion of the […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Steadfast Support for Ukraine: United States Delegat...

Feb 23, 2023

WASHINGTON – Today, the United States Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE PA), led by Senator Ben Cardin (MD), met with Mykyta Poturaiev, Ukraine’s Head of Delegation and additional representatives of the Ukrainian Rada in Vienna, Austria, along with the Heads of Delegation of Canada, Estonia, […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Helsinki Commissioners Urge Austria to Deny Visas to...

Feb 15, 2023

WASHINGTON – Helsinki Commission leadership, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson, Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, and Rep. Steve Cohen, on February 10, sent a letter to Austrian Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Schallenberg to reconsider granting visas to the Russian delegation to the Winter Meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

OSCE’s 2022 Ministerial Council in Lodz: Russia Isol...

Dec 09, 2022

By Janice Helwig, Senior Policy Advisor, Demitra Pappas, Senior Advisor Department of State, Shannon Simrell, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to OSCE Foreign Ministers and senior officials from the 57 participating States and 11 Asian and Mediterranean partners of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) convened the OSCE […]

screen-reader-text
Articles

NATO Refocused, Europe Reinforced

Aug 10, 2022

By Jessika Nebrat, Max Kampelman Fellow​ Following the escalation of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is playing a role it has not filled in years. Forced to reconcentrate its attention to Europe’s defense, NATO allies are demonstrating persistent resolve in countering Moscow’s expansionist tendencies. In doing so, NATO returns to a core […]

screen-reader-text
Publications

Helsinki Commission Digital Digest July 2022

Jul 29, 2022

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Deplores Arrest of Ilya Yashin in ...

Jul 28, 2022

WASHINGTON—In response to the arrest of Ilya Yashin, a Russian politician critical of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “Putin’s government has been engaged in a systematic assault on Russian citizens who dare speak the truth about […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Co-Chairman Cohen Condemns Execution of Democracy Ac...

Jul 28, 2022

WASHINGTON—Following the execution of four democracy activists by Myanmar’s military junta, Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Special Representative on Political Prisoners Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following statement: “I strongly condemn the execution of these courageous activists by Myanmar’s unelected and illegitimate regime. These men—Kyaw Min Yu, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo […]

screen-reader-text