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Recent Presidential Election violates some rules of Copenhagen Document

By Claire Launay

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) praised the overall good proceedings of last Wednesday’s election, while pointing out a few violations of the Copenhagen Document by which Mongolia should strive to abide.

The OSCE and its affiliated Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) have voiced their first observations regarding the Mongolian Presidential Election yesterday at a press conference.

The overall positive proceedings of the elections were highlighted by Head of the OSCE/ODIHR election mission Audrey Glover. She noted that “voting was assessed positively in 99 percent of the cases observed,” adding later that no major complaints have been filed yet. The assessment is tainted with several problems though, mostly regarding the independence of the media and the criteria for the eligibility of presidential candidates and the selection of civil servants at the General Election Commission (GEC).

Mongolia became the 57th country to join the OSCE in November 2012. By doing so, the Mongolian government agreed to abide by the rules regarding democratic elections set forth by the Copenhagen Document signed by all the members. The ODIHR considers that this election has violated several of those rules. The first one concerns the registration of presidential candidates. Indeed, only candidates belonging to a parliamentary party or a coalition of parliamentary parties were allowed to run for election, whereas the OSCE allows for independent individuals to do so. Moreover, the criteria to be eligible to run for election are overly restrictive, according to the ODIHR, as one must be a Mongolian citizen, at least 45 years old, and provide proof of Mongolian citizenship of both of his or her parents.

The other target of the ODIHR’s complaints was about the legal framework in which the election took place. Indeed, after its joining of the OSCE in late 2012, the Mongolian government passed a new Presidential Election Law to comply with the OSCE commitments. It was passed without any public consultation and may have been somewhat hastily put in place, which led to uneven interpretations and applications of the law for this election. According to the ODIHR, the GEC was not fully transparent in its proceedings, not necessarily inviting an ODIHR representative to the decision-making sessions, for example. Moreover, it was shown that most of the members of the election commissions – for which selection did not follow any written criteria – at all levels were drawn from among civil servants and were affiliated with the Democratic Party. In case of complaints about the results, the legal procedure, especially its hierarchy, is also considered too unclear by the ODIHR to actually make it possible for anybody to appeal to it. There was also nobody to prevent all presidential candidates from making pledges of a financial nature, which also violates the OSCE commitments.

However, the most important problem pointed out by the ODIHR was the lack of independence of the media. A monitoring of five major television channels and four newspapers showed that the overwhelming majority of Mongolian media was directly or indirectly owned by a political actor. Criminalization of defamation and possible imprisonment for it constitute a major shortcoming, as they foster self-censorship and, thus, fail to provide for a robust public debate on election matters. Moreover, it has been pointed out that some media owners influenced the placement of “black PR” (bad publicity) to discredit political opponents. In an environment where the media is not fully independent, it becomes difficult for the public to make informed decisions, which significantly hinders the democratic component of an election. The ODIHR also deplores the lack of debate among candidates, as there was only one, on June 24, in which the topics discussed were restricted and did not lead to a genuine debate.

Nevertheless, the Commission stressed the success of the election in several ways. Even though the press is not considered independent, the campaign period showed respect for fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, and movement. Additionally, the ODIHR praised the training, put together by the GEC, that all Territorial, District and Precinct Election Commissions members went through to ensure the peaceful and legal proceedings of the election on D-day. They prepared and applied all the technical aspects of the election – including voter lists, voting booths, and the organization of mobile voting – within legal deadlines. Moreover, the GEC successfully raised awareness and encouraged voting to the people by sending to every single household a brochure with instructions about Election Day. The ODIHR was also very pleased to see that the ballots, written in the Mongolian language, had a picture of the candidate on them as well, to allow illiterate and non-Mongolian-speaking people to vote, too.

The Commission thanked the Mongolian Government for its cooperation and for having accepted the observation procedures. As Mongolia joined the OSCE only in November 2012, the ODIHR was not able to make a comparison between this election and the previous one, as it had not sent observers to rate it. But this election will serve as a benchmark from which all the next elections will be assessed. No matter what party one supports, this election marks a starting point from which to advance towards a more fully democratic system in Mongolia.

 

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Posted by on Jun 30 2013. Filed under Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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