International election observers, particularly those from various European structures, used to be considered by people living in countries which struggle with the establishment of democratic institutions as an important tool to limit potential electoral fraud and to grant legitimacy to those who got elected, be that President or MP.
However, recent developments in the region and particularly Georgia, cast serious doubts on political motivations of observers’ decisions. Well, there was always a suspicion of it, but what happened in Georgia was so blatant that could lead to serious breach of credibility towards the whole system.
Immediately after the Georgian presidential elections, they declared that the elections ‘generally met standards’, thus giving so much desired legitimacy to Georgian president Saakashvili. Then, soon after they published a report detailing serious irregularities, which under any other circumstances should have cast serious doubts on the conduct of election. And now a senior US representative in the region Matthew Bryza, who previously endorsed the elections, warns that Georgian elections could not be considered as a good example for others. So why did not they shout about before? Why now, when their “concerns” do not worth a penny? Was it because of Saakashvili’s “pro-Western” status? Rhetorical question, indeed.
We are just 2 weeks away from presidential elections in Armenia. What happened in Georgia has already seriously damaged observers’ reputation. In order for observers to regain it, they have to behave like proper independent observers, regardless of vague “pro-Russian” or “pro-Western” labels. Their preliminary conclusion, which is normally made the day after the election, should not differ substantially from final one. If they are not sure, they’d rather wait few more days and then declare their findings which are very important in terms of acceptance and legitimacy of the results. Otherwise, they risk equalling their reputation to that of polls in Armenia. Nothing could be more damaging.
P.S. On a kind of bizarre note, via Reporter_arm, below is a clip with John Prescott, head of PACE observation mission in Armenia for upcoming presidential election. During his own election campaign in Britain back in 2001, he (then deputy prime minister) actually punched one protester who threw eggs towards him.