From September 11 to September 22, 2017, the OSCE participating States meet in Warsaw, Poland, for the Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM). The HDIM is Europe’s largest annual human rights event. Over the course of two weeks, the 57 participating States will discuss compliance with consensus-based commitments on full range of fundamental freedoms, democracy, tolerance and nondiscrimination, and humanitarian concerns.
In the 1990 Copenhagen Document, the OSCE participating States adopted, by consensus, watershed commitments on free and fair elections.
They stated that the participating States:
“. . . solemnly declare that among those elements of justice which are essential to the full expression of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all human beings are the following:
[ . . . ]
— free elections that will be held at reasonable intervals by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedure, under conditions which ensure in practice the free expression of the opinion of the electors in the choice of their representatives;
[ . . . ]
— a clear separation between the State and political parties; in particular, political parties will not be merged with the State;”
Accordingly, the participating States rejected the concept of a one-party state or “modified” democracy (e.g., communist- or socialist-democracy). In a summit held later that year, the OSCE Heads of State or Government declared, “We undertake to build, consolidate and strengthen democracy as the only system of government of our nations.”
In spite of the OSCE commitment to hold free and fair elections, some OSCE participating States have demonstrated even more resistance—if not complete unwillingness—to hold free and fair elections. In a few, a transfer of power is more likely to be the result of death than an election. In some cases, a generation has come of age under a single ruler or ruling family.
Download the full report to learn more.
Download highlights of conclusions and recommendations drawn from OSCE election reports (October 2016 to September 2017).
Contributors: Robert Hand, Senior Policy Advisor,
Janice Helwig, Representative of the Helsinki Commission to the U.S. Mission to the OSCE,
Everett Price, Senior Policy Advisor,
Scott Rauland, Senior State Department Advisor,
Erika Schlager, Counsel for International Law,
and John Engelken, Intern