I knew when the lefty Daily Kos lobbed an email out the other day with the heading "It's Come to This" claiming that OSCE observers were coming "at the behest" of eight civil rights groups in the US (all left-leaning and Obama supporters) that we'd be in for a fun time with the OSCE monitoring of the US elections.
Already there's been several misleading articles about this here, here, and here -- some of them revealing lazy journalists who just cut and paste from Kos emails. None of the authors seem to realize that the OSCE has monitored US elections before, and doesn't come into countries at the invitation of NGOs, but comes in as part of the mutual cooperation of the participation states in OSCE. Their presence in the US has drawn complaints before. OSCE monitors the US just as it does other member states.
The OSCE is not "UN affiliated" even if (rarely) a UN partner, but is its own multilateral organization separate from the UN, in which 54 states in Europe, Eurasia and North America have joined since signing the 1975 Helsinki Accord, a non-binding agreement on security and cooperation, including human rights and promotion of democracy. There are UN elections observers as well, they are separate.
The OSCE's Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights does election monitoring in all of its members, and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly also monitors elections on a separate track. Both ODIHR and OSCE PA have been charged by NGOs over the years with bias, as either being too harsh or too timid on various bad election situations, particularly in the former Soviet Union. A problem with ODIHR is that its funding directly depends on member states who constantly pressure them. And a problem with OSCE PA is that its members include undemocratically elected members of parliament from awful places like Belarus and Turkmenistan. So they don't always have credibility, and they will inevitably spark controversy in the US, where in some parts, multilateral institutions are by their very nature viewed with hostility and suspicion. That's a shame, because to the extent the US can comply with the jointly-made standards, it helps to strengthen them everywhere.
But already, I see ODIHR playing politics with this, and I worry about OSCE just getting captured by the left here.
Contrary to the fake impression created by leftist groups in the US such as the Daily Kos and the ACLU, they don't "have to be brought in" because of awful unfair pre-election conditions or "are coming at the behest" of US non-governmental groups -- they've come here before for other elections in the past, the US government agrees to them coming as they have before, and it's a routine matter.
In a completely tendentious email dated October 22 (a version of it is in this post), Chris Bowers of the Daily Kos, a left-leaning blog and campaigning platform, claims:
United Nations-affiliated election monitors from Europe and central Asia
will be at polling places around the U.S. looking for voter suppression
activities by conservative groups, a concern raised by civil rights
groups during a meeting this week.[...]
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a United Nations partner on democratization and human rights projects, will deploy 44 observers from its human rights office around the country on Election Day to monitor an array of activities, including potential disputes at polling places. It's part of a broader observation mission that will send out an additional 80 to 90 members of parliament from nearly 30 countries.
Liberal-leaning civil rights groups met with representatives from the OSCE this week to raise their fears about what they say are systematic efforts to suppress minority voters likely to vote for President Obama.
Bowers probably put in the stuff about the UN to make it more understandable -- many people have never heard of the OSCE. And with this damning email, Bowers makes it seem as if OSCE just comes running when lefty groups whistle and need to fight their enemies, conservative groups, in an election. That's not the case, and Lenarcic needs to fix this fake impression ASAP if he wants his office to have credibility.
Lenarcic, the Slovenian ambassador who heads OSCE ODIHR is already playing politics with this observation mission, in accordance with the typical European's own political leanings, because most Europeans root for Obama. And Lenarcic is also very much under pressure from Russia to "balance his saddlebags" because of his critical coverage of the Russian presidential elections, which were found to be flawed due to lack of press freedom, repeat voting and other problems.
So now Lenarcic is under the gun to ensure that he appears just as critical of the US, which of course is leagues ahead of Russia in press freedom and democratic institutions. Russia just kicked out USAID accusing it of interfering with elections, and is threatening to prosecute a domestic critical monitoring group Golos that received legitimate US funding.
Lenarcic has already misrepresented this Texas story in a press release today by implying that there is a "threat of criminal prosecution of OSCE/ODIHR election observers" from the attorney general -- as if the *act of observing* is what is going to be prosecuted. But that's nonsense -- what the AG has said is that if they electioneer, and come closer than 100 feet, they will be prosecuted. Everyone knows that at the polls, there are signs that say "No Electioneering. Keep Back 100 Feet". This is to prevent people from agitating voters and passing out leaflets right near the polls. It would not prevent observation of the vote.
There's nothing wrong with OSCE meeting with all kinds of groups as they do in all countries as they wish to get a better picture of the scene. Let's hope they don't just meet with leftist groups like ACORN but have a more balanced agenda. But I wonder if they are already pretty much captured by the leftist groups like Daily Kos who already claim FALSELY in their email agitprop that the OSCE is here "at their behest". That's terribly misleading, and again, Lenarcic needs to correct that.
I don't believe that the OSCE has developed standards regarding Voter ID, and other countries even have Voter ID and voting online already, and certainly Russia, where even exchanging a pair of flip-flops in a store can require presentation of your internal passport, is going to demand ID. Likely this issue peculiar to US history is something that OSCE can comment on, but doesn't really have an international standard they can claim is violated here.
As for whether or not it's standard procedure to physically enter a polling place, in the hinterlands of Russia, American observers and observers from other nations have gone right inside polls and even taken pictures. So this is going to be grounds for furious protesting and analysis. The *intent* of the "keep back 100 feet" rule is to prevent *electioneering* -- attempts to manipulate elections. The intent should not be to stop impartial monitoring. But if an international body that is already portrayed by the left itself as "being brought here to the US by leftist groups" hangs around with its t-shirts and badges by polls, what will that mean?
I've seen some of these Russian and allied monitors in the past from undemocratically elected parliament captured by their counterparts on the left here. So here's what will happen:
1. If Obama wins, they will quietly melt away, and all their outrage, indignation, and declaration of "gross violations" and "fundamentally flawed elections" will simply disappear. All those "ten million" voters who were "disenfranchised" will be forgotten. That's all!
2. If Romney wins, or this is a tie, we will never hear the end of the contrived indignation of "violations" and "flaws". It will become an international case!