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News 03 May 13

ODIHR-OSCE Eye Cooperation Over Albania Poll

A recently renewed agreement will test the ability of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the ODIHR to work together in monitoring Albania's upcoming election.

Besar Likmeta
BIRN
Tirana

“There will be cooperation between the two; the parliamentary assembly has just recently announced that is re-activating the cooperation agreement that we have and my understanding is that our missions will work together,” Thomas Rymer, spokesperson for the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, told Balkan Insight.

“We speak with one voice in that way,” he added.

However, the wording of the final statement has been a source of disputes in the past between the OSCE PA and the ODIHR mission.

In the 2009 parliamentary elections in Albania, diplomatic sources told Balkan Insight that the OSCE PA mission sought to downplay opposition concerns of poll irregularities.

At the time, the Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, opposed the leadership of the head of the ODHIR observers’ mission, Audrey Glover. On March 7, Berisha admitted that he had thought of declaring Glover persona non grata in 2009.

Concerns are accentuated by the fact the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Wolfgang Grossruck, is a close friend to Prime Minister Berisha.

Grossruck, who headed the OSCE PA mission in 2009, was criticised by the Socialist opposition in Tirana as biased in favour of the government.

In 2010, Grossruck, than vice-chairman of the OSCE PA, had a public showdown with Glover during the elections in Azerbaijan, where the statement of preliminary finding became a source of dispute between the two institutions.

In a letter to Kanat Saudabaev, then OSCE Chairman, Grossruck called Glover one-sided against the government of Azeri strongman Ilham Aliyev, and described the problems between the OSCE PA and ODIHR as longstanding.

“On the negative side stood some of the usual problems… but also ODIHR's unreliability and insistence on improper language for the statement, which made its cooperation with all three parliamentary observer delegations very difficult,” Grossruck wrote.

“We had the impression that the ODIHR was more eager to fulfill expectations from the international media, the NGO community and Azerbaijan's opposition than to demonstrate a truly professional attitude in accessing, collecting and analyzing the evidence,” he added.

Albania’s has a long history of contested polls that do not meet international standards. The last general elections in 2009 sparked a political crisis between the ruling Democrats and opposition Socialists, which reverberates to this day.   

The EU sees the general elections on June 23 as the latest test for Tirana’s political elite to advance the country’s battered integration goals.  

In the framework of election observation, the ODIHR co-operates with a number of international parliamentary and other bodies in the OSCE region.

The ODIHR and the OSCE PA enjoy a specific form of co-operation in the area of election observation, based on a Co-operation Agreement signed by the OSCE Chairman and the President of the OSCE PA in 1997. The agreement was renewed on April 22.

While ODIHR is responsible for long-term election observation missions, incorporating all aspects of the election process, it joins efforts with the OSCE PA during short-term election day observation where the OSCE PA is present.

On the basis of the Co-operation Agreement, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office regularly designates a political figure as a special co-ordinator to lead short-term OSCE observer missions.

Although ODIHR long-term observers have been generally deployed earlier in previous Albanian polls, Rymer told Balkan Insight that the mission should arrive in Tirana six to eight weeks before the poll date.

“They are still putting together the mission and I don’t think there is a problem with the timing,” he said. “It does not have anything to do with politics, it’s mainly a logistical issue,” Rymer concluded.  

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