Mission gets down to concrete work

OSCE observers receive first accreditation documents from Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda

For Ambassador Geert Ahrens, the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission, it’s his third electoral campaign. The Chair of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda, Lidia Yermoshina, noted that the number three has mystical meaning for Slavs and hopes that ‘this time, the work of the mission will be more successful and that previous failings have been overcome’. She has reported to the OSCE on how the electoral campaign is progressing, while explaining changes to legislation, stressing that many OSCE recommendations have influenced reform. Mr. Ahrens’ welcome address left the impression that his mission aims to be constructive. He assures us that international observers ‘won’t compare these elections with those of other countries, since each state has its own traditions and is unique, which should be taken into account’. Meanwhile, he has praised changes to vote count monitoring.

Mr. Ahrens also noted that the reliability and security of early voting has been improved, emphasising that ‘preliminary voting itself doesn’t contradict OSCE principles’. Ms. Yermoshina has invited OSCE representatives to take part in training courses at district election commissions, which will model situations for both early and major voting. The Chair of the Central Commission for Elections and National Referenda and the Head of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission have agreed to meet once a week to discuss current issues. Ms. Yermoshina hopes that the opinions of international observers, expressed in the media and via the Central Election Commission, will coincide with the results of the final report. OSCE General Secretary Marc Perrin de Brichambaut has noted at a press conference in Moscow that ‘Belarus was very open in inviting observers’. He added that he ‘doesn’t remember the OSCE ever sending fewer than 400 observers to elections in Belarus’ and expressed his wish that ‘all countries work in a similar manner’. The official noted that the invitation was received ‘almost the next day after the elections had been announced’.

While OSCE specialists are only just beginning their observation, the CIS mission has been present for almost a month, following the electoral campaign countrywide. It has monitored the process of signature checking by district and city commissions and has attended their sessions. “The commissions are working openly and publicly, providing all necessary information regarding the electoral process,” explains Yevgeny Sloboda, the Head of Operations Office for the CIS Observation Mission.

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