Politicians debate necessity of vote observers

  • 2005-09-21
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - A debate over whether Estonia should invite outside observers for next month's municipal elections has crept to the fore and even divided coalition partners.
The policy-making extended board of the People's Union, a mainly rural party in the ruling coalition, proposed that the Foreign Ministry and the central electoral committee invite international observers to local elections on Oct. 16, because of e-voting.

"The opinion of a recognized international organization is important in order make the positive or problematic Estonian experience widely known and to get an international assessment," said a spokesperson for the Peoples Union, an opponent of online voting.

Specifically, the party wants observers from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to attend.

The People's Union sent a letter to all parliamentary parties on Sept. 20, inviting them to accede its application.

Reform Party deputy chairman Meelis Atonen told the Baltic News Service that the party was unsure about inviting an OSCE delegation, as the elections would take all European procedural rules into consideration.

"Such delegations usually observe elections if there is something wrong with them. As everything in Estonia is orderly, there is no special need for observation by an international organization. Inviting such a delegation would simply give a wrong signal to the outside world," he said.

The opposition Res Publica party agreed, arguing that OSCE attendance would place a question mark over the country's tradition of democratic, free and fair elections.

MP Marko Mihkelson, vice chairman of the party, said the People's Union's corresponding proposal could not be taken seriously, as such observations are carried out in countries monitored by international organizations.

"Estonia, as a member of the European Union and NATO, traveled this road long ago," he said, pointing out that the OSCE mission left four years ago. "If the People's Union is worried because debate over a bill didn't end as they desired, this is not sufficient reason to complain to international organizations and thereby question Estonia's efforts to strengthen a law-governed state."

There is no reason to think the OSCE sends observers only to elections in countries with little democracy, said the head of Estonia's delegation to the OSCE, Jaak Allik.

The OSCE has adopted a resolution underlining the necessity of transparent elections in all its member states, Allik, who is a member of the People's Union, told the Baltic News Service.

"The OSCE has officially overthrown the opinion that it only observes elections in suspect countries. The OSCE has urged all member states to invite observers to their elections," he noted.

If most parties find e-voting as democratic, Allik added, this opinion should be spread to other parts of the world by inviting observers.

The Center Party, the third party in the ruling coalition, will discuss the proposal on Sept. 26.

An OSCE/OHDIR mission was in Estonia in February 2003, and found that there was no need to send a mission to observe the parliamentary elections that March.