The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions
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Conclusion: Sigh of Relief or Democracy’s Last Gasp?
The New World Order’s loyal chorus let out a sigh of relief. On the day after the vote, Reuters declared, "Macedonia was a rung higher on the ladder to EU and NATO… Nudged by Washington and cajoled by Brussels, most Macedonians stayed away from the polls on a rainy Sunday, dooming what the West had viewed as a retrograde step.," The result of the referendum confirmed the tribal totalitarianism of the Albanian community in Macedonia. Whereas the ethnic Macedonian population was divided roughly in to two halves, one voting the other boycotting, the Albanians of Macedonia acted as one conformist bloc. Civil society with its pluralism and inherent splits across ethnic and religious lines seems as far away from Macedonia’s Albanians as ever.
Referendum on the proposed re-districting of local government units 7th November 2004
On 7th November 2004, fewer than 30% of eligible voters turned out in Macedonia’s referendum on local government re-organisation which required a minimum 50% participation. Hardly a subject to disturb the headline-writers, one might have thought. Yet Washington and Brussels worked overtime to achieve that level of apathy. The low turnout was hailed as a triumph for Euro-Atlantic values. Perhaps an invalid Balkan referendum on an obscure local issue tells us more about the New World Order than anyone might have expected.
Enter the Labour Party: On 13th June, Lithuania also held its first elections to select 13 MPs to the European parliament. From the established parties the Social Democrats won 2 seats, the Liberal-Centrist Union, 2, Homeland Union 2, Liberal Democrats, 1, Farmers and New Democracy, 1. Although Paksas’s Liberal Democrats might have expected to gain support after the acknowledged unpopularity of the impeachment process, the main winner was the upstart Labour Party led by Viktor Uspaskich, a former Social Liberal MP, which won 5 seats. Lithuania’s Labour Party is a classic jack-in-the-box creation which suddenly appeared in October 2003 and immediately took a lead in the opinion polls. It mirrors similar parties that have emerged, seemingly from nowhere, in several former Communist countries. For instance, the Smer (Direction) party in Slovakia and Bulgaria’s National Movement for Simeon 11 were created to drain support away from genuine opposition parties – in the case of Slovakia, from Vladmir Mečiar’s HZDS and in Bulgaria, from the Socialist Party (BSP). As Paksas continued to attract large numbers to his meet-the-people sessions the possibility presented itself that large numbers would vote Liberal Democrat in parliamentary elections scheduled for October, 2004.
BHHRG’s representative was present in Lithuania for the presidential election held on 13th June, 2004. Elections to the European parliament were held simultaneously. 5 candidates stood in the presidential poll while 12 parties contested the European election. By holding the polls on the same day Lithuania avoided the embarrassment of a spectacularly low voter turnout such as that registered in other ‘New European’ countries that day – for example, in Estonia, Poland and Slovakia. The reason for the different levels of participation was the greater interest engendered in Lithuania by the presidential election, although politicians themselves were keen to participate in the Euro poll, registering to stand as candidates in unprecedented numbers. No doubt, they were encouraged by the agreeable set of perks offered to Euro MPs by Brussels. Presidential election: The 2004 presidential campaign proper only properly took off after the Constitutional Court banned Rolandas Paksas from standing as a candidate on 25th May. Whatever the legal niceties put forward for removing him from the race, if he had he been allowed to run he would have probably won convincingly, maybe even in the first round of voting. Had the authorities resorted to manipulating either the conduct of the poll or the counting of the votes (or both) the government in Vilnius was all too aware that Mr. Paksas had become something of a lightening rod for the thousands of Lithuanians who felt abandoned by the cosy power structures that run the country.
Whereas in South Korea, the Supreme Court (silently) acknowledged the will of the people as clearly expressed in the general election and reversed the parliamentary impeachment vote, in Lithuania it is precisely the Constitutional Court which has pre-empted the judgement of the people. The Lithuanian Court chose to go beyond even what Paksas’s parliamentary enemies sought. Like it or not, the Court made itself a central player in a political crisis by taking the initiative to enact a far-reaching constitutional law not expressed in any part of the written text. Leaving aside a likely appeal to the ECHR in Strasbourg as the Court’s ruling cannot now be directly challenged in Lithuania, it may not be the final word on the matter. Various possibilities remain open to the Paksas camp for challenging the lifetime ban. First of all, a constitutional change might be pushed through by referendum. Or, the composition of the Court might alter as new judges replace the existing ones when their terms expire. Parliamentary elections due in the autumn might produce a majority which would not accept judges known to agree with the current Court’s anti-Paksas stance. As in America, nominations to the Constitutional Court could become bitterly contested.
On 25th May, the Lithuanian Constitutional Court issued a wide-ranging ruling banning any impeached person from holding public office for life. In other words, it went far beyond the retroactive law. Since the Constitutional Court’s lengthy ruling has yet to be translated into English, Mr. Šukys kindly explained his understanding of the Court’s decision and its reasoning to the BHHRGs observers a few days after it was announced. On the day of its judgement the Constitutional Court’s chairman, Egidijus Kuris, and spokesperson, Ramune Sakalauskaite, were widely quoted in the international as well as the Lithuanian media saying that "The Constitutional Court found that the amendments to the law on presidential elections, under which people impeached from their posts cannot be elected for five years, does not run counter to the constitution," 
“If our citizens allow Paksas’s political corpse to be raised again, Lithuania will face the gloomy prospect of becoming a black hole on the outskirts of Europe.” Lietuvos Rytas (7th April 2004)
BHHRG has followed the progress of Lithuania’s political travails closely since the surprise election of Rolandas Paksas as the country’s president in January, 2003. The Group visited Lithuania in February 2004 as Paksas fought off allegations of corruption and compromising the country’s security by going over the heads of his parliamentary opponents to appeal directly to the people in a series of nationwide town hall meetings. BHHRG concluded that much of the information disseminated in the West about Mr. Paksas was biased and uninformed. The roots of the crisis fundamental to any democracy were never fully explored, namely, who gives a politician legitimacy ? Is it the voters or non-elected bodies like the constitutional court?
Ignoring the Harry Potter comparison, two ex-Tory MPs, Matthew Parris, now a Times columnist and Michael Brown now of The Independent both preferred a Star Wars reference when interviewed by Alistair Stewart on the ITN news channel. For them the essence of the Cameron phenomenon was that the “Force” is with him. They saw the irresistible rise of Margaret Thatcher and then of Tony Blair as precedents. On this model the “Force” is a tidal wave of media opinion which swamps any other consideration. However, both before 1979 and afterwards, Margaret Thatcher never enjoyed anything like unanimously favourable media coverage. Quite to the contrary. The media establishment, including in large parts of the Tory press, was condescending at best and dismissive at worst of the “Iron Lady.” Even eleven years in power never brought her a consensus of respect let alone admiration.
HITS: 2047 | 17-06-2004, 22:30 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing
The vogue for books and films about a vanished age of public school boy heroes, matrons and manners is the backdrop to the re-emergence of the politics of deference in Britain. After decades of dumbing down and a public school prime minister like Tony Blair who mangles his Estuary English in a desperate attempt to please the plebs, suddenly posh is the new divine right of politicians. Although American neo-conservatives like to present themselves as representatives of commonsense man against pointy-headed elitists who oppose wars of aggression and open-cast mining, British neo-conservatives are born-again class warriors. Of course not every journalistic advocate of Cameron is an Old Etonian but that just adds to the delicious atmosphere of deference. Whereas Murdoch’s US vicar, the Hudson Institute’s Irwin Steltzer, can assure readers of the Weekly Standard that the snobs were against George Bush’s America, our own Lord Rees-Mogg – whose first venture into boosting alleged drug abusers was his immortally comic deferential interview with Mick Jagger long before Cameron was born – drew on all his arts of self-parody to explain how 22 or more family entries in Burke’s Peerage and the Dictionary of National Biography made Cameron nature’s own candidate to rule democratic even demotic Britain.
HITS: 2488 | 17-06-2004, 22:23 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Great Britain , Political science, Analyzing
The nearest moment to a wobble in Cameron’s effortless rise to the top came when he failed to answer questions about any drug use in his past. As a member of Oxford’s notorious Bullingdon Club in the1980s – a group which has spawned a generation of cokeheads on the one hand and neo-con politicians in Britain and the New Europe on the other - Cameron clearly expected his decision to keep his pre-political private life “private” would be accepted with deference. In fact it took a host of commentators to knock it into Britons’ heads that past use of Class A drugs are a qualification for representing the “future not the past” in post-modern Britain. Cameron presented questions about any past drug use as unwarranted intrusions into his privacy, but that overlooks two key points. When it had suited Mr Cameron to parade his private life, for instance, the distressing disability of his young son, Ivan, he seems to have had few qualms about making political profit out of it.