Thank you and greetings to all of you.
A year ago this week, in Pakistan’s Swat valley, a masked gunman boarded a school bus. Waving his firearm at the students, he demanded to know; “Which one is Malala? Which one is Malala? Tell me or I will shoot you all.”
When a bus full of frightened eyes revealed the truth; the gunman approached 15 year old Malala Yousafzi and – at point blank range — shot her twice, with bullets piercing her head and neck.
For days young Malala was unconscious; part of her skull was removed to relieve the swelling; amid the pain and dreams, she became uncertain whether she was alive or dead; but in Malala’s own words, quote: “I think death didn’t want to kill me. And God was with me…and the people prayed.” End quote.
Here in the United States, we’ve had more than our share of experiences with gun-related violence, including attacks on school children; often we characterize such tragedies as senseless, caused by inner demons, a personal grievance, a petty theft.
But Malala Yousafzai was shot for a reason. And that reason was fear – fear of knowledge, fear of freedom, fear of truth, and fear of change.
Years before that terrible day, this young woman had already become her country’s leading champion of the right of girls to attend school; when the Pakistani Taliban tried to deny that right – she fought back with the only tools she had – her voice, a blog, and defiance of the repeated death threats made against her.
Young and brave, she was noticed and she was listened to; this little girl became scary. With her growing appeal and her refusal to go away, she got under the skin of the Taliban, who recognized the danger she posed to their ideology. Her fearlessness terrified them. So the Taliban struck using the means they have come to know best – cold-blooded murder. But in striving to blot out Malala’s words, they amplified her message far beyond the Swat Valley, calling attention to the justice of her cause in every corner of every continent.
For that we are grateful, because the journey Malala is asking us to take is a necessary one. At the start of this century, the world established a set of landmark goals, one of which was ensuring access to primary education for every boy and every girl; in the years since, we’ve made progress but some 57 million school age children remain outside the classroom – and last year, for the first time in a decade, international assistance – international aid for education decreased.
In Malala’s home country of Pakistan, fully a third of young people who should be attending school are not. Enrollment rates are lower for girls, for children who live in rural areas, and for the poor.
Obstacles include the kind of medieval pressures imposed by the Taliban, but also a shortage of teachers, supplies, security, and money. When families struggle with poverty, many children who begin school don’t stay long, with boys dropping out to take jobs and girls dropping out to help domestically.
In my own home, I have two young children, and it is obvious that I want them to enjoy access to a first-rate education. But Malala reminds me – and I think all of us – that this dream is shared by families everywhere; it is every parent’s dream for their children.
Earlier this year, when the United Nations asked people in 194 countries to name their top priority – their top priority – more than two-thirds said education.
We must remember that attending school is not a privilege, but a right that enables individuals to take advantage of other rights – to speak, to organize, to earn a living, to safeguard family health, and to contribute to society. Intellectually and often ethically, education is what separates mere existence from the ability to live a full life, rich in dignity and blessed with understanding.
And so investments are urgently required to train instructors, to build schools, to transport students, and to give help to those with special needs – including refugees and children in armed conflict. Just yesterday, I returned from Central Africa, and can report that the big issue in that region is not whether to “teach to the test,” but how to bring students and teachers together safely and for more than a few days at a time.
Here in America, we often hear complaints about the size of government, but it’s the absence of effective government that’s far worse – and one of the public sector’s primary responsibilities is to provide for means of education.
Three months ago, Malala Yousafzai spoke before the United Nations General Assembly – and in front of that global audience, this 16 year old was professor to us all.
Now is the time, she said, to speak up for women’s rights and children’s rights and to ensure that no girl and no boy is denied an education because their families can’t afford it, or because their school has been destroyed by conflict, or because adults are afraid that knowledge will shatter the dubious comfort of their own narrow and bitter view of the world.
Malala spoke that day with telling affection about her home country, and about the Pakistani people’s desire for prosperity, dignity and peace. Of the Taliban, whose threats against her continue, she expressed only the prayer that their children, all of their children, will have access to a real education as well.
Mixed with the courage in Malala’s words, there is both personal humility and profound confidence; with passion in her voice, she summons us to unleash the power of young minds; to fight back against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism; and to know in our hearts that – again, in her words – “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”
“Education is the only solution,” she declares, adding that, with sufficient bravery and respect for one another “No one can stop us.”
Last year at this time, the Taliban asked “Which one is Malala?” Now the whole world knows which one is Malala. And we – and they — have started to look around and to see that there are Malalas everywhere.
The 92nd Street Y is my favorite venue, Christiane Amanpour is the world’s foremost interviewer, and tonight we come together in the presence of a remarkable young woman to listen and to learn.
Malala, in your fervent wish to know more, you have become all of our teachers. And for that, and many other things to come, you have our eternal thanks.
Ladies and gentlemen, Malala Yousafzi, her father, and Christiane Amanpour.
Cross posted from: USUN
The United States would like to take advantage of the recent release of the final report of the OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission to once again congratulate the people of Mongolia on their June 26th Presidential election. As the report makes clear, the election was peaceful, voter participation was high, and the election was generally conducted in a free and fair manner in accordance with the Mongolian constitution. It is particularly noteworthy that on election day, members of the Observation Mission gave a positive assessment to 99 percent of the polling stations observed – a true testament to the dedication of Mongolia’s public servants to ensure the integrity of Mongolia’s electoral system. These elections demonstrate Mongolia’s continued commitment to the further development of the principles of democracy and free and fair elections.
Of course, the final report highlighted several areas for Mongolia to focus on improving in order to fully meet its OSCE commitments. Notable recommendations cover areas such as media and freedom of expression; election administration; and maintaining the secrecy of the ballot. The United States encourages Mongolia to implement all of the Report’s recommendations, and we encourage ODIHR to assist Mongolia in this effort where appropriate.
We thank the government of Mongolia for its close cooperation with the Election Observation Mission. After more than two decades of impressive democratic and market economic transformation, Mongolia continues to serve as a positive example for emerging democracies around the world. However, not content to rest on its laurels, Mongolia continues to work hard to strengthen its democracy. This report will serve as an important tool for Mongolia to achieve this goal.
Finally, the United States is proud to have contributed election observers to this mission. We express our appreciation for the wide-range of support to the election provided by other participating States as well. We would also like to thank ODIHR for organizing an unbiased and professional monitoring team. Being the first such ODIHR mission in Mongolia presented several logistical and organizational challenges, from mapping the location of polling stations to identifying enough qualified interpreters. The Mission overcame these challenges and provided a valuable service to the OSCE’s newest participating State.
Mr. Chairman, I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ strong support for Mongolia’s request for a Field Presence in Mongolia. We believe that this request should be given due consideration in the near term and – as has been our past practice – the OSCE participating States should not deny such a request from a participating State.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We commend the Government of Azerbaijan for inviting ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly to observe this election. The United States is proud to have contributed two Long-Term Observers and 25 Short-Term Observers to the observation mission, and we thank all 41 of the participating States that provided support to this mission.
The United States offers its strong support for the October 10 preliminary statement of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (PA) on the October 9 Presidential election in Azerbaijan. We commend the close cooperation of ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly as they observed the election and offered a joint, clear assessment of the many serious shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for Azerbaijan to fully meet its OSCE commitments. On the basis of the joint ODIHR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly initial assessment, which stated that the election “was undermined by limitations on the freedoms of expression, assembly, and association,” highlighted that the campaign was marred by “candidate and voter intimidation and a restrictive media environment,” and cited “significant problems…throughout all stages of election day processes,” we regret that this election fell far short of the international standards and Azerbaijan’s commitments to the OSCE.
Deputy Spokesperson of the U.S. State Department Marie Harf, in a statement on October 10, highlighted the report of ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and noted that election day procedural irregularities included ballot box stuffing, serious problems with vote counting, and failure to record the number of received ballots. She also stated that “leading up to election day, the Government of Azerbaijan also maintained a repressive political environment. Authorities interfered with the media and civil society routinely, sometimes violently interrupted peaceful rallies and meetings before and occasionally during the campaign period, and jailed a number of opposition and youth activists.”
At the same time, the United States notes the comments in the ODIHR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly preliminary statement on constructive steps taken by the Government of Azerbaijan during the election campaign, including the successful registration of Jamil Hasanli and certain other opposition candidates, authorization of some opposition campaign rallies, and efficient technical preparation for the election.
The United States urges the Government of Azerbaijan to respect its OSCE commitments in areas including freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression. We urge restraint and avoidance of violence by all in the post election period. We remain committed to supporting the people of Azerbaijan and working with the Government to further efforts to achieve Azerbaijan’s full potential as a stable, prosperous, and democratic member of the international community.
We urge the authorities to conduct a transparent, credible investigation of all reported electoral violations and to implement the recommendations made in ODIHR’s final report.
Finally, we note with deep concern the statements by some elements of the OSCE and participating States that appear to call into question the role of ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly and our obligations as participating States in the field of democratic elections and observation. At the 1999 Istanbul Summit, participating States made a clear commitment to election observation and to abide by the recommendations of ODIHR and the Parliamentary Assembly. In particular, at Istanbul, participating States reaffirmed “our obligation to conduct free and fair elections in accordance with OSCE commitments, in particular the 1990 Copenhagen Document. We recognize the assistance the ODIHR can provide to participating States in developing and implementing electoral legislation. In line with these commitments, we will invite observers to our elections from other participating States, the ODIHR, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and appropriate institutions and organizations that wish to observe our election proceedings. We agree to follow up promptly the ODIHR’s election assessment and recommendations.”
It is troubling to us that some chose to overlook that the joint ODIHR/PA report found “significant problems were observed throughout all stages of election day processes and underscored the serious nature of the shortcomings that need to be addressed in order for Azerbaijan to fully meet its OSCE commitments for genuine and democratic standards.” ODIHR and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly worked closely together to uphold the OSCE gold-standard of impartial election monitoring and deserve the full support of all participating States and OSCE bodies.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States takes note of the latest round of 5+2 talks held in Brussels on October 3. We note the sides focused on issues related to freedom of movement, and encourage them to take further concrete steps in this direction.
We welcome the high-level contacts between the Moldovan Prime Minister and the Transnistrian leader in Tiraspol on September 23 prior to the latest round of talks. Such contacts can build momentum in the settlement process.
We support the efforts of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara, the Chairmanship’s Special Representative for Protracted Conflicts, Ambassador Andrii Deshchytsia, and the OSCE Mission to Moldova in their work to facilitate progress in the settlement process.
The United States strongly supports efforts to promote a peaceful settlement of the Transnistria conflict—one that respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and provides a special status for Transnistria.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States notes with concern and deep disappointment that the Serbian Government cancelled the Belgrade Pride Parade for the third year in a row. We echo the statements given by our Embassy in Belgrade, by Secretary General Jagland of the Council of Europe, by EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Fule, and by many others, who have lamented the Serbian government’s choice to not stand up for those seeking to exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
One of the basic commitments of governments is to guarantee individuals the fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression. One of the ways to measure or assess a government’s success at protecting these rights is how it protects them for members of groups that “may be unpopular.” We are disappointed that the Serbian Government acquiesced to those who threatened violence.
We commend the Belgrade police for the work they did to identify security threats and prepare for the Parade. The extent of those preparations gives us further confidence that Serbian authorities have the ability to provide adequate security for the Pride Parade. We acknowledge and support President Tomislav Nikolić’s call for preparations to begin now to ensure that next year’s Pride Parade can be held successfully; we urge the Serbian Government to heed this call and commit now to hold the parade in 2014.
Serbia must uphold its international obligation to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. As the 2015 OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Serbia bears a particular responsibility to set the highest standard possible in implementing all of its OSCE commitments.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The United States warmly welcomes Her Excellency Maia Panjikidze, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, to the OSCE Permanent Council.
Georgia is an important partner of the United States. We have broad cooperation based on shared values and common interests. The strength of our relations is affirmed by the “U.S.-Georgia Charter on Strategic Partnership,” which includes cooperation in priority areas such as: democracy; defense and security; economic, trade, and energy issues; and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. We are also grateful for Georgia’s steadfast partnership in Afghanistan, where Georgian troops stand alongside American servicemen and women, working without caveats as the largest non-NATO contributor, in some of the most dangerous regions. We appreciate the sacrifices and efforts being made every day by Georgia.
Your Excellency, the United States remains deeply concerned by accelerated and ongoing “borderization” activities along the administrative boundary lines (ABL) for the Russian-occupied Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which first began several years ago. The increased pace of these activities near villages like Dvani, Ditsi and Khurvaleti further separates families and neighbors, and has a profound negative impact on the lives and livelihoods of populations on both sides of the barbed wire, cutting off local communities from their farm land, keeping children from attending school, and blocking access to cemeteries. Such “borderization” is inconsistent with Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
We continue to call for these barriers to be removed in accordance with Russia’s commitments under the August 2008 ceasefire agreement and its obligations under international humanitarian law – a call we will continue to make in Washington, here in Vienna, and at other international venues, including at the Geneva International Discussions. We appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Geneva Co-Chairs to facilitate progress towards these goals, and reiterate our support for the vital work of the European Union Monitoring Mission in promoting transparency and stability along the ABLs with the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. We welcome the Georgian government’s continued, peaceful approach to the resolution of these conflicts, and encourage all sides to engage in meaningful dialogue to resolve this situation.
The United States also looks forward to the upcoming presidential election on October 27 as an opportunity for Georgia to demonstrate its continued democratic development and advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. The fairness of the campaign environment – including adherence to the rule of law, media access, and transparency – will directly affect Georgia’s progress towards its Euro-Atlantic goals. We commend the government for its early invitation to the OSCE to monitor this election, and we commend the work of domestic and international monitors, whose impartial election observation efforts will be a key factor in whether the election process is assessed as democratic, both domestically and internationally. At the same time, challenges remain and must be addressed. We urge the appropriate authorities to respond in a timely manner to recent concerns, including reports of the participation of civil servants in pre-election campaigning during business hours, continued dismissals (or pressure to do so) of local officials, reports of disruptions and/or violence at minority party campaign events, the Georgian Public Broadcaster’s (GPB) recent closure of two political talk shows and firing of their hosts, and reports of pressure on the GPB Board of Trustees.
We support the OSCE’s on-going activities in Georgia in all three dimensions. The education project of the High Commissioner on National Minorities, the water project on both sides of the South Ossetia ABL, and ODIHR’s trial monitoring project demonstrate the value the Organization can provide in promoting security and stability in the region based on its comprehensive approach. As we look to the near future, the United States hopes there will be further opportunities for Georgia to expand its cooperation with the OSCE. Indeed, as the United States has stated on numerous occasions, we continue to support the re-establishment of a meaningful OSCE presence in Georgia.
In conclusion, we look forward to timely, concrete and peaceful actions to resolve the conflicts in Georgia. We welcome Georgia’s efforts to conduct elections in line with democratic commitments and call on the country to address shortcomings and recommendations. We also value Georgia’s engagement with the OSCE, and we hope that your appearance here today will help to further those relations.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ambassador Baer Response to the Report by the Representative to the Latvian-Russian Joint Commission on Military Pensioners
We welcome the return of Lieutenant Colonel Napiontek to the Permanent Council and thank him for his report.
The United States considers good relations between neighbors a vital indication that our shared objective of cooperative and indivisible security is being realized. Although Lieutenant Colonel Napiontek’s report shows that Latvia and the Russian Federation are continuing their cooperation, certain obstacles still remain.
We urge both parties to continue their productive collaboration on the issue of military pensioners, to enhance efforts to resolve their disagreements pertaining to the 1994 agreement, and to update the agreement on medical care expenses so that actual costs are reflected.
While the OSCE will remain supportive of the Joint Commission’s onward efforts, we would like the two parties to eventually reach a point where active OSCE engagement is no longer required.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
The United States support the Permanent Council’s adoption of the Decision on Amendments to the OSCE Staff Regulations.
We thank the Secretariat for their hard work over the past few months to work through some very important staffing issues and concerns from all delegates, and we commend the consensus reached by participating States on the amendments to staffing regulations and rules, critical to the success of the recruitment and retention of qualified staff to achieve the mandate of the OSCE.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
The United States welcomes the presentation of the 2014 Unified Budget Proposal and thanks the Secretary General and all the fund managers for their diligent work on the preparation of this very important budget document. A budget proposal that satisfies the interests of all participating States is an enormous task, and we are grateful for this document, which we believe presents a strong basis for funding OSCE priorities in 2014.
The United States considers the OSCE to be a major contributor to regional security and stability. We are encouraged that the Organization continues to take a strategic approach to all three dimensions across the OSCE space.
We are particularly pleased to see the proposed inclusion of the Border Management Staff College in the Unified Budget, demonstrating recognition by participating States of the value of the College in managing transnational threats in Central Asia and the region. We commend those who have contributed to the success of the College, as evidenced by the positive results of a recent evaluation by an independent consultant. Bringing the College into the Unified Budget will help to ensure its continued success.
We are encouraged to see that the priorities in Central Asia are consistent with that of OSCE’s mission to continue to improve border security, promote economic security and good governance, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. We commend the Balkans for the savings and efficiency realized this past year, and for the progress and advancement made in this region.
We are also pleased to see a proposed increase in funding to support institutions, particularly significant with the addition of Mongolia as the 57th participating State and the increase in election monitoring activities in the region.
We continue to operate, however, in an environment of declining resources. We remain concerned about the growing share of the budget going into the Secretariat and encourage fund managers to seek creative ways to achieve savings in Vienna, in both staff and operational costs, without compromising the important work of the field missions. This will require prioritization and strategic thinking, but it is within OSCE’s capacity, and will help accelerate the reforms and progress sought by all.
Finally, the United States looks forward to working with Switzerland, as it takes the lead on budget negotiations for 2014. We commit ourselves to working constructively to reach a consensus on a realistic budget that supports the top priorities and mandate of the OSCE, to promote and ensure security and stability across the OSCE space.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Session 13: Democratic Elections and Election Observation: Sharing Best Practices (continued)
Moderator, the United States recognizes that, since our last Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, there have been numerous successful election observation missions to OSCE participating States and progress demonstrated in the administration of those elections. We welcome the first election observation mission to our newest participating State, Mongolia, in June this year and Ulaanbaatar’s interest in engaging fully in the OSCE. Mongolia continues to demonstrate its commitment to further developing the principles of democracy and free and fair elections. Regrettably, elections in a number of participating States during the past year left much to be desired and did not demonstrate progress toward implementing OSCE commitments. Some upcoming elections also warrant concern and close observation to ensure free and fair processes.
Moderator, Ukraine’s October 2012 parliamentary elections represented a step backward compared to its four most recent national elections. The elections were generally competitive, voters had a choice between distinct parties, and the voting was conducted without incident. Nevertheless, the election campaign was characterized by the abuse of government resources to favor ruling party candidates, the inability of some opposition leaders to participate due to politically motivated prosecutions, interference with media access, and fraud and falsification in the vote-counting process, notably in five disputed single-mandate districts. We understand new elections will be held in these five districts on December 15, 2013, and we hope they will be conducted freely and fairly.
We are also concerned by developments in the September 8th regional elections in Russia, as well as the Moscow mayoral race. In the regions, there were reports of opposition candidates and parties being denied registration. The government’s use of a wide range of administrative resources, including control of mass media and politically-motivated trials of candidates, limited voters’ choices in the elections.
With respect to the Bulgarian elections, there were pervasive allegations of vote-buying prior to and during the May elections. Cases of pre-election wiretapping and ballot security incidents contributed to weaken public confidence in the process. In addition, changes in 2012 to Bulgaria’s civic registration process that disproportionately impact registration by Roma, as well as a legislative ban on campaigning in minority languages, undermined political participation by minorities.
With respect to the participation of persons belonging to minorities, we are also concerned by elements of the Hungarian electoral framework in which the voting rights of minority-group and non-minority group members differ. If someone has self-identified as a national minority member for the purpose of voter registration for the so-called “minority self government” systems, then that person gets one vote for one candidate in an individual district and a second vote from the list for his or her ethnic group. If the minority group does not have a list, then the voter can vote for a party list. The choice of ballots, i.e. national minority list versus party list, is made at the time of registering, not at the time of voting which would likely have an impact on undecided voters. As the Venice Commission/ODIHR report stated, article 12(2) of the new election law “. . . limits the choice of minority voters in the proportional race on election day, especially when there is only one list competing for the vote of the respective minority.”
Given that in the upcoming 2014 elections, transborder ethnic Hungarians will vote for party lists for the first time and under a new process, we urge the Hungarian government to take extra steps to ensure the integrity, transparency, and credibility of the process. The policies governing this voting should be clear and the voting subject to the highest verification standards. In light of the complicated nature of this upcoming vote, we urge the Hungarian government to quickly issue an invitation to begin the OSCE monitoring process.
We look forward to the November 3 municipal elections in Kosovo and appreciate the integral role the OSCE is playing to help facilitate what we hope will be free, fair, and transparent elections. The United States encourages eligible voters throughout Kosovo to exercise their right to participate in the democratic process. By voting, they have the opportunity to hold their leaders accountable and ensure effective and responsive local governance.
We also look forward to the October 27 presidential election in Georgia as an opportunity for it to demonstrate its continued democratic development, and thereby advance its Euro-Atlantic aspirations. There appears to be a consensus from observers that the overall political environment is free and competitive, even more so than it was 12 months ago prior to Georgia’s parliamentary elections. Nonetheless, challenges remain, and we urge the appropriate authorities to respond in a timely manner to recent concerns, including reports of the participation of civil servants in pre-election campaigning during business hours, continued dismissals (or pressure to do so) of local officials, and reports of disruptions and/or violence at minority party campaign events. The fairness of the campaign environment – including adherence to the rule of law, media access, and transparency – will directly affect Georgia’s progress towards its Euro-Atlantic goals. We commend the government for its early invitation to the OSCE to monitor this election, and we commend the work of domestic and international monitors, whose impartial election observation efforts will be a key factor in whether the election process is assessed as democratic, both domestically and internationally.
We have seen increased arrest and intimidation of democracy activists in Azerbaijan in the run-up to the October 9 presidential election. For example, members of the youth movement NIDA (pronounced N-ee-da) have been harassed and arrested on questionable charges. Opposition REAL Movement leader Ilgar Mammadov, who had hoped to run for president, is being held in extended pre-trial detention for allegedly having instigated protests in a town that he visited the day after protests had begun. On September 20, a Baku appeals court ruled that Mammadov will not be able to compete in the presidential election because he did not collect enough signatures to register as a candidate. Mammadov has stated his supporters were not invited to attend the signature verification process and also protested the use of subjective verification measures.
On September 17, Azerbaijani authorities detained journalist and activist Parviz Hashimli and subsequently sentenced him to two months’ pre-trial detention on charges of smuggling large arms and ammunition from Iran to Azerbaijan. The Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety considers Hashimli’s detention pre-election pressure on the media and civil society. We urge a timely, transparent, and just resolution of the legal proceedings against these individuals, in accordance with Azerbaijan’s international obligations and commitments. We also urge Azerbaijan to carry out free and fair elections, consistent with its international obligations and OSCE commitments.
When discussing election performance in light of OSCE commitments, the blurring or confluence of state and party activities is often cited as inconsistent with the Copenhagen commitment to keep a clear separation between the two. Since the last Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, OSCE observers have noted this as a problem in parliamentary and presidential elections in Montenegro, municipal elections in Macedonia, and parliamentary elections in Albania. Civil servants must not be coerced into attending campaign rallies, whereby their time and energies are unfairly co-opted to the detriment of the public they serve, and which leads to a breakdown in trust of government institutions.
Finally, we are concerned that potential opposition candidates for the November presidential elections in Tajikistan are being targeted for judicial proceedings in an effort to prevent them from running. Former Minister of Industry and popular businessman Zayd Saidov was arrested on May 19 for corruption and polygamy, soon after establishing a new political party. His new party had held a press conference just days before complaining that Saidov and some of his supporters were warned to stay out of politics. Since his arrest, numerous media reports, emails, and fliers have been distributed accusing him of past improprieties and alleged links to Islamist extremists. Under Tajik law, a person cannot run for office if there are criminal charges pending against him or her. In August, the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Tajikistan, Rahmatillo Zoirov, was taken in for questioning concerning statements he made to the press concerning last year’s military operation in Khorugh.
These are just a few examples that demonstrate the importance of OSCE election observation. As we said earlier today, we encourage all participating States to issue early invitations to ODIHR Election Observation Missions, to provide them with all necessary access and support, and to work to address issues raised in the mission reports.