On March 4, Russia will hold presidential elections. “The whole setting is undemocratic” writes Anders Åslund, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute in Washington DC: Many individual candidates have been refused registration on bogus grounds. Two million signatures are required for individual candidates to be allowed to run. Previously, such candidates have been disqualified despite having collected two million signatures. The government maintains media control. “These elections cannot be judged as legitimate” writes Anders Åslund.
In mid-November a delegation from the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation visited Cairo and Alexandria. The purpose of the visit was to research possibilities for future cooperations in the region. Thomas Gür, who was part of the delegation, describes the complex political landscape that reveals itself when the Arab Spring turns into fall and winter.
When we visited Egypt the country faced its first round of elections to the parliament’s lower house – an election which was held in approximately a third of the constituencies on 28 November. The second round of elections took place in mid-December and the third will be held early January. Another three rounds of elections will later be held to the parliament’s upper house in March of 2012.
The complexity of the electoral process is a result of an Egyptian election law which states that there must be a judge present at every polling station to ensure that the process is conducted in a right manner. And since there are three times as many polling stations as there are judges in the country, elections to parliament’s two chambers are held in three rounds each. After the elections a committee of 100 people will be appointed to write Egypt’s new constitution.
This process is tainted with serious weaknesses – not least as the results of each election are made public which influences the following elections. The complexity of it however reflects that these are the first free elections since before the military coup in 1952. (more…)
The European People’s Party (EPP) calls upon the European Union, the OSCE and the Council of Europe to declare the State Duma elections in Russia, on 4th December 2011, as non-free and not meeting some OSCE commitments on generally accepted democratic standards. The mass arrests follwing the elections are also critiziced.
In a statement dated December 8, 2011, the EPP calls upon the European Union, the OSCE and the Council of Europe to monitor the presidential elections in Russia [ March 4, 2012] carefully.
The EPP points to the fact that the Russian authorities persistently refused “to register new political parties under the pretext of various technical formalities”.
The EPP declares that Russian authorities must “stop non-compliance with their obligations in the sphere of human rights and democracy under the framework of the OSCE and CoE, changing the rules and practices of the process of registering political parties, in order to provide for unimpeded access for political forces to the presidential elections of 2012”.
Opportunities for electoral fraud were definitely present, said four moderate MPs who visited Russia during the Duma elections on December 4. On Thursday the team shared their experiences and analysis at a breakfast seminar arranged by the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation.
In particular, the election observers pointed out, there were ample opportunities to cheat during the so-called mobile voting (for elderly at home) and at the many unattended ballot boxes in the more than 90,000 polling stations around the country. Ulrik Nilsson mentioned electoral lists where United Russia had beforehand been marked with a cross. Stefan Caplan noted that at some of the polling stations, he visited, there were more ballots than voters, after polling closed!
“United Russia’s grip of the Russian soul is decreasing significantly”, said Ulrik Nilsson at the breakfast seminar when he was asked about what the election results might lead to.
He and other observers gave the audience a unique insight into what happened in a number of the many polling stations. The images showed flaws in the system which allows for cheating and fraud.
Lack of valsekretess was also something that many of the observers noted. How ballots reviewed by election officials (all have a ballot where you check for the party you vote for) and how many people voted together. (more…)
On December 4 voting to elect the State Duma of the Russian Federation took place. Facing the collapse of public confidence and support, the ruling group was forced to organize the most dirty and fraudulent elections in the post-Soviet history. Campaign and the voting itself were accompanied by an unprecedented level of violations and abuses by the authorities. Manipulations of the public opinion, pressure on citizens, independent observers and members of election commissions, buying and rigging votes were undertaken at a scale unseen before. .
On 21-24 November, the leadership of the oppositional National Independance Party of Azerbaijan visited Brussels, to build contacts, knowledge and exchange ideas.
The visit program included meetings with Moderate Party members of the European Parliament, the Swedish Ambassador to the EU, deputy secretary general of the European People’s Party and the European External Action Service’s expert on Azerbaijan. Some of the issues on the agenda were the challenges regarding democratic development and freedom of the media in Azerbaijan,and the conflict over Nagorno-Karabach.
The political situation in Argentina has been turbulent in the last year. In the legislative elections of June 2009, the opposition won majority in the House of Representatives and has over the last year been characterized by president Cristina Kirchner’s attempt to remain in power. When visiting Sweden in March, Carolina Poli Palazzo, Advisor to an Argentinian local politician described an Argentina which has been subject to political misgovernment but which is finally on its way back – if the opposition manages to build a stable coalition.
The presidential form of government in Argentina not only results in a different role and impact of the legislative branch but also in few coalitions formed between parties compared to the Swedish form of government. As legislative elections are mid term elections, when majorities are changed in both chambers it doesn’t change the government whatsoever.
The two-party structure that has been predominant in the last sixty years came to an end in the 2001 political and economic crisis. Today, the system is largely based on four main parties (which have subdivisions and, in some cases, fragile alliances). This system has a direct impact on the National Congress and is likely to have an impact on the 2011 presidential elections. (more…)
The Swedish government has decided to strengthen the Swedish presence in the Caucasus and in the Balkans. Today it was decided that the current offices in Pristina (Kosovo), Tbilisi (Georgia), Chisinau (Moldova) and Tirana (Albania), that up until this point have been administered from neighboring embassies, will be upgraded to embassies.
In Western Africa, offices will also be turned into embassies in Bamako (Mali), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and in Monrovia (Liberia). The same goes for the office in Kigali (Rwanda), La Paz (Bolivia), and in Phnom Penh (Cambodia). Along with this decision the Swedish government has decided that the embassies in Bratislava, Dakar, Dublin, Ljubljana, Luxemburg and in Sofia will be closed.
– Within the framework of close cooperation between the EU member states, there are great possibilities to develop new ways of bilateral contacts in the future, says the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt in a comment published by the Foreign Ministry.
– To turn the Secretariats’ into embassies is a step towards, supporting the Swedish development efforts within certain countries. It is also a step on the road to further strengthening our long-term cooperation with these countries. A stronger presence is crucial for an effective collaboration with superior results, according to Gunilla Carlsson, Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation.
The Russian economist and reform politician Yegor Gaidar suddenly passed away on December 16, at the age of 53. The son of an admiral entered Russian history and world politics in the early nineties, as the brief prime minister of the Yeltsin government that was about to get the post Soviet economy back on its feet after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This granted him the admiration of the world but hardly the love of the people. The so called shock therapy, associated with the visiting economist and colleagues Anders Åslund and Jeffrey Sachs, implied a necessary but brutal transition from the waste of the planned economy to market economic principles. However, contrary to the common belief among senior Soviet officials and the aims of Mikhail Gorbachev, it soon turned out that the Soviet economy was so dysfunctional that reform was beyond reach.
The break from the old was crucial to the rescue team. However, the immediate positive effects were scarce. In addition, the liberalization was further restrained by the still communistically dominated political establishment around Yeltsin. Due to the long dictatorship there was an imminent lack of entrepreneurs who could have been able to shoulder a renewal. Instead, Oligarchs and corruption flourished. (more…)