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The atmosphere in the press conference is electric.  TV and video crews cram the aisles.  Finally, the OSCE/ODIHR mission announce that, in their view, the 2010 Ukrainian presidential election has met most OSCE and Council of Europe commitments.  Leaders of the mission talk of “an impressive display of democratic elections” and “a well-administered and truly competitive election offering voters a clear choice”.  Soon after, congratulations start rolling in from international leaders.  Ukraine’s international standing is strengthened.

Around the time of the 2010 presidential elections in Ukraine I wrote several blogs (see eg here and here) about how the conduct of those elections would have the best chance of being recognised by the international community. The importance of a good OSCE/ODIHR observer mission was central to that case.

It is good that the Ukrainian authorities have repeatedly said that the October 2012 parliamentary elections will be free and fair.  It is also welcome that the authorities have said they will invite OSCE/ODIHR to send observers to scrutinise those elections.  One “quick win” for Ukraine to help demonstrate its commitment to democracy would be to ensure that a formal invitation letter to OSCE/ODIHR is issued as soon as possible.  The more time observers have in country, the more authoritative their report can be.  On a more basic level, ODIHR needs time to prepare, eg by making a “needs assessment visit”, probably before the summer.

Ukraine’s hard-won reputation as one of the most democratic countries in the former Soviet Union has long been one of this nation’s most important and attractive features.  It is the nature of all reputations that they are hard to gain and easy to lose.  Many factors will determine how the international community assesses the quality of the October 2012 elections, including whether all opposition leaders are able to take part in them.  But to issue an early invitation to OSCE/ODIHR would be a valuable first step.

Leigh Turner

Ukrayinska Dumka


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