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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Apathy NOT fraud undermines Azerbaijan’s Parliamentary Election
Apathy NOT fraud undermines Azerbaijan’s Parliamentary Election
Controversy surrounds Azerbaijan’s parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, the international media’s focus on the main opposition’s claims of “massive fraud” distract attention from the deeper crisis of legitimacy affecting all Azeri political parties. Barely 40% of registered voters took part in Sunday’s polls. Ordinary Azeris seem cynical about all politicians and their mass abstention sent the message “a plague on all your houses.”
Past performance by a governing elite universally accused of corruption in this potentially oil-rich society and by an opposition riven by personal rivalries barely disguised by the formation of several “united” fronts has led many Azeris to regard politics and politicians with open disdain.
This is a pity because it suggests an unhealthy outlook for Azerbaijan’s chances of establishing democracy, but also because the actual conduct of the elections and the counts in polling stations visited by this Group’s observers was of a high standard. Maybe if Azris had had more confidence in the candidates, many more of them would have voted, At the local level in their neighbourhood polling stations, the standard of conduct of the voting and counting should have given them reason to trust the ballot if they had really wanted to elect a candidate. (Final results are not yet available and so caution about the collation of results is naturally still in order.)
The Financial Times on 17th June described Václav Havel as the “happiest Czech” after the election results came in. One month later, on 17th July 2002, he appointed a new cabinet led by new prime minister, Vladimír Špidla. There are 17 members of the government: 11 ministers are from the CSSD, 3 from the KDU-CSL and 3 from the US-DEU. Stanislav Gross continues in his post as minister of the interior. Also continuing with their previous portfolios are Culture Minister, Pavel Dostál, Defence Minister, Jaroslav Tvrdík, Pavel Rychetský (justice) and Jiří Rusnok (industry). Petra Buzková becomes minister of education. The leader of the Christian Democrats, Cyril Svoboda is the new Foreign Minister with the ministries of transport and environment also going to the KDU, while the US’s Petr Mareš becomes minister for science as well as being one of 4 deputy prime ministers.
Much of the Czech media is now owned by foreign companies, mainly from Germany, Switzerland and France. In their editorial policies, most leading broadsheets (Mladá Fronta Dnes, Lidové Noviny, Hospodářské Noviny) support the US and the reform wing of the ČSSD. Only Právo on the left is (mildly) critical of the status quo. This means that the major opposition party, the ODS, has no support from any leading newspaper. The situation is similar for the Communist Party: the third largest party in the Czech Republic with the largest membership has the support of only one small, low-circulation newspaper – Hálo noviny. While this state of affairs would be unheard of in most other leading European democracies, Czech journalists see nothing peculiar about it. As for television, state TV supports the status quo whereas the Czech Republic’s most popular station, TV Nova, is seen as looking more favourably on the ODS.
As the June 2002 election approached leading figures in the ČSSD were determined to ensure that the events of 1998 did not repeat themselves. The party was basically split between older, prototype Socialists and young modernizers of whom the Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross and Chamber of Deputies deputy chairman, Petra Buzková (both close to Havel) were the most prominent members. The leader of the ČSSD and prime minister, the mercurial Miloš Zeman, resigned as party leader in 2001. His successor, Vladimír Špidla, is a colourless but more predictable figure.
The ground having been laid, the way was open for a campaign to take place in which the Yes campaign had massive predominance over the No. Literally the whole of establishment Ireland weighed in to support the Yes campaign against the No. The No camp, by contrast, was run essentially by citizens’ groups. The imbalance was clearest in the funding given to each side. The Yes probably spent 20 times more than the No: its total expenditure was reportedly at least €1.68 million. Against this, the No campaign spent approximately €170,500. The Yes figure included the following expenditure: Fianna Fáil, the governing party, spent €500,000; IBEC, the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, €500,000; Fine Gael, the opposition party, spent €150,000, also for a Yes; the Progressive Democrats, a governing party, spent €125,000; The Irish Alliance for Europe, €100,000; the Irish Farmers’ Association, €150,000; the International Financial Services Centre, €25,000; the Labour Party €25,000; the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, €100,000. On top of this, the Government of Ireland spent €750,000 and Irish Euro MP, Pat Cox, president of the European Parliament, spent c. €80,000 on a Yes campaign bus. By contrast, the “No to Nice” campaign spent no more than € 120,000.
HITS: 2002 | 29-11-2002, 09:49 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Elections, Analyzing
The election seemed at best sloppy, so much so that even elections BHHRG has monitored in “pariah” states of the ex-Communist bloc compared favorably in terms of cleanliness and order. Furthermore, turnout by BHHRG’s observation was lower than reported. Even if the large figures for early voting in some south Florida regions were correct (approx. 25% for Miami-Dade County, 20% for Broward County), the stream of voters going to the polls on polling day itself never appeared to exceed a trickle. As already noted, at one polling station, BHHRG waited almost twenty minutes for a voter to even show up. A report from The Miami Herald on Nov. 6th claims that Broward County’s initially reported turnout figure had to be “corrected” from 35% to 45% after it was discovered that the new voting machines had made an error – 104,000 ‘missing’ votes suddenly appeared. But from what BHHRG could see, the 35% figure was closer to reality.
An account of the US midterm elections: The ghost of 2000
HITS: 1930 | 29-11-2002, 09:10 | Comments: (0) | Categories: United States , Politics, Elections
Haitians demonstrating outside Miami's Immigration & Naturalization Service building in Little Haiti on the night of 4th November 2002 Background During the 2000 US election, international news media – particularly US media outlets such as CNN, CBS, etc. – were unable to announce a winner on the night of polling day, reportedly because the result was “too close to call.” To some extent, the US media’s tradition of “calling” elections when only a fraction (sometimes as low as 3%) of votes has been counted did indeed contribute to the embarrassing spectacle in the world’s largest Western democracy, since the hullabaloo surrounding the close finish in Florida intensified an already chaotic situation. The practice of “exit polls” has been standard for television news networks for decades, and journalist Lynn Landes of www.Ecotalk.org has speculated on a link between vote-rigging in America and the computerization of election outcome predictions from 1964 onward (see “Election Night Projections – Cover for Vote-Rigging Since 1964?” Dissident Voice, Sept. 23, 2002). The acceptance by election officials of predicted outcomes also meant that the laborious task of counting postal ballots was dumped in some states up to and including 2000 because it was decided that they could not influence the predicted outcome where sufficiently wide anticipated margins based on exit polls and partial counts already existed. This meant that exact results including hand-filled early/postal ballots were often not provided.
Although the Swedish PR system appears to guarantee equal chances and reasonable local access to all potential points of view, there are features of the electoral system which, despite being in force for many years, are of dubious value. Like most people in Britain, most Swedes are understandably proud of their long history of parliamentary government. However, as in Britain complacency about election procedures can creep into the system and make people unaware of emerging flaws or even irregularities and cheating. Although initial counts in the individual polling stations around the country are open to observers from the different parties and members of the general public, participation of non-members of election commissions throughout the whole counting process is not universal. Where all members of the local commission are known to each other and may be friends/comrades, even if not drawn from the same party, there is always the risk of collusion in counting. This, admittedly small risk, is magnified by the very large number of ballot papers floating around the country. Given that voters, and even non-citizens, can pick up ballot papers at post offices around the country at least 18 days before the election day, the possibility of “valid” ballot papers being available to substitute for ballots actually cast exists.
A report on the second Irish Referendum on the Nice Treaty
HITS: 1882 | 5-06-2002, 06:40 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Ireland , PR and human rights, Politics
On 19th October, the Republic of Ireland held a second referendum on the Nice treaty. That treaty, signed at Nice in December 2000, restructures the European Union, ostensibly with the aim of permitting the accession of 10 new member states in 2004. The first Irish referendum on Nice, which had been held in June 2001, had produced a clear negative result, to which the Irish government reacted by telling the other EU member states to press ahead with their ratification processes. This they duly did, and so when the Irish government put the same treaty before the Irish electorate a second time, a fait accompli had been created, in which Ireland was the only country not to have ratified the text. All other EU states ratified the treaty through parliamentary means. It is a sad reflection on the state of democracy in Europe that the only country to have held a democratic vote on this latest stage in the EU integration process should have deliberately ignored the results of a perfectly legitimate vote in 2001, only to submit the text again a year later. It goes without saying that referendums which produce Yes results are never run a second time.