EEU EOM report-divorced with reality and principples

By Fanowedy Samara
Nov. 30 2010 Comment on

According to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation, genuine democratic elections are an expression of sovereignty, which belongs to the people of a country, the free expression of whose will provides the basis for the authority and legitimacy of government. The rights of citizens to vote and to be elected at periodic, genuine democratic elections are internationally recognized human rights. Genuine democratic elections serve to resolve peacefully the competition for political power within a country and thus are central to the maintenance of peace and stability. Where governments are legitimized through genuine democratic elections, the scope for non-democratic challenges to power is reduced.

Concerning the International Election observation, the declaration indicated that International election observation is the systematic, comprehensive and accurate gathering of information concerning the laws, processes and institutions related to the conduct of elections and other factors concerning the overall electoral environment; the impartial and professional analysis of such information; and the drawing of conclusions about the character of electoral processes based on the highest standards for accuracy of information and impartiality of analysis.

It further explains that International election observation missions are expected to issue timely, accurate and impartial statements to the public. The observation must also be conducted with respect for the sovereignty of the country holding elections and with respect for the human rights of the people of the country. Moreover, International election observation missions must respect the laws of the host country, as well as national authorities, including electoral bodies, and act in a manner that is consistent with respecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Code of Conduct for International Election Observers also explains that observers must respect the laws of the host country and the authority of the bodies charged with administering the electoral process. Observers must follow any lawful instruction from the country’s governmental, security and electoral authorities. Observers also must maintain a respectful attitude toward electoral officials and other national authorities. Observers must note if laws, regulations or the actions of state and/or electoral officials unduly burden or obstruct the exercise of election related rights guaranteed by law, constitution or applicable international instruments.

These are some of the fundamental International documents through which the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) in Ethiopia should be bound in discharging its observation mission in the 2010 election throughout the nation. Unfortunately, almost all of its findings have divorced with these principles and with the objective election realities of the Ethiopian election 2010.

To critically evaluate the final report of the mission, the author needs to describe some of the findings and recommendations from the final report. The report states that the jamming of the Voice of America Amharic Service throughout the campaign period, and of Deutsche Welle a couple of days before the elections, reduced the possibility for voters to receive information from a wider range of sources. This was not compensated by other media, as the limited outreach of print and broadcast media reduced their role in providing voters with information to make an informed choice (Page2). It also claims that the exclusion of civil society organizations from voter education, together with the new and more restrictive Ethiopian Charities and Societies Law, limited the potential role of local organizations in the electoral process (page 3).

The author of this article believes that these paragraphs are purely political stands of the mission which have nothing to do with the election process at all. These paragraphs rather indicate the political motives of the mission which in turn contradict with article one of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This article states that all peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. Thus, the above paragraphs delegitimate the political sovereignty of the nation and its nations, nationalities and peoples as well. After all, neither jamming of VOA nor the Charities and Societies Proclamation negatively affects election 2010 for both actions have nothing in common with the election.

This report further accuses that some of the legal instruments adopted in the last few years, notably the Mass Media Law, the Charities and Societies Proclamation, and the Anti-Terrorism Law appear aimed at increasing the potential for holding peaceful elections. Although for example, the Anti-Terrorism Law was not applied during the electoral process, these legal instruments raise serious concerns as to their impact on the effective exercise of fundamental freedoms. These laws have curtailed the operation of relevant national stakeholders disengaging them from the process. This is notably the case of the media and NGOs, who should play an important role in ensuring the transparency of the electoral process (page 8).

As explained earlier, this paragraph has also nothing to do with the election process. It rather manifests the latent motives of the mission. Moreover, this explanation is similar to the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) allegation in its 2010 report called hundred ways of putting pressures. This HRW report alleged that the Ethiopian government in 2009 adopted two alarming pieces of legislation that have a significant impact on core political freedoms enshrined in the Ethiopian constitution and international law. These were the Charities and Societies Proclamation (CSO law) and the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (page 19). Any normal person can simply understand the common agenda of HRW and EU EOM in Ethiopia.

Both HRW and the EU EOM seem to have a clear political agenda against the ongoing development efforts of the nation in the name of human rights and election observation mission respectively. Hence, it is plain fact that the EU EOM like HRW concluded the 2010 national election from its intrinsic political ambitions by absolutely divorcing with the objective facts and realities on the ground ignoring the esteemed values of the mission described by Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and undermined the objective missions of observers explained by the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.

The report also states that “Prime Minister warning that legal actions would be taken after the electoral process against those who had violated the ECCPP was a concern for some opposition leaders.” One might ask how this speech could negatively affect the election process. After all, Prime Minister Meles addressed this speech on 26 May 2010 after announcement of provisional election results by the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) while polling was finalized on 23 May 2010. In his speech on 25 May 2010, the premier promised that EPRDF will enable opposition parties to participate in pressing national issues whether they have seats in the parliament or not. But EU EOM never touched this statement for it its concern is not to explain what had been really happened during or after the election.

Whatever the time might be, the PM stated that no one is beyond the rule of law; and every body could be liable whenever his/her violates the laws. And he never frustrated or discontented anyone who respects the rule of law. So, where the sin with the Prime Minister’s speech! Moreover, this idea contradicts with the reality explained by the European Union on 25 May Stated as “the election process has a significant importance for the development of democracy in Ethiopia” in its message read as “Congratulation Ethiopians”.

Though the EU EOM intentionally divorced with objective realities of the election process and its results, the UK Foreign Office Minister, Henry Bellingham lauds the massive turnout of Ethiopians for voting in the 4th National Election held on 23 May 2010. Henry Bellingham stated that "I welcome the fact that the Ethiopian elections, which took place on 23 May, were conducted in a peaceful environment and that the Ethiopian people turned out to vote in large numbers.” Though were some of the objective realities of the May 2010 National Election of Ethiopia, EU EOM intentionally divorced with them.

The EU EOM also suspects all the Ethiopian Citizens and government structures as well. The report blamed that kebele administrations remained a prime source of information for citizens, which was problematic given the significant doubts about their impartiality. It also claimed that a poorly communicated nation-wide programme of voter education was held on the weekend prior to Election Day. This effectively limited political parties’ possibilities to campaign on the last weekend before the elections, as all political campaigning was prohibited on these days. Although in terms of turnout on Election Day, the effectiveness of voter education for the 2010 was notable, citizens’ understanding of the process was found lacking. In a country with a relatively high illiteracy rate and low levels of education, the opportunity for voters to make a free and informed choice was in part compromised by the limited extent to which they were able to access impartial information (Page12). Why the EU EOM did come to Ethiopia if it concluded that Ethiopian citizens and government structures were less effective to carryout the election! This is a ridiculous statement, in fact. The author believes that EU EOM shouldn’t come to Ethiopia from the beginning unless it believed that there is conducive political environment to carry out democratic election.

In summary, the EU EOM has intentionally divorced with fundamental principles of the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and with the esteemed values of the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers indicated at the top of this article. Furthermore, it disabled all of its sense organs in order not to rationally evaluate the entire election of the nation carried out on 23 May and its results as well. And the main points of divorce with these realities and principles are the ongoing development endeavors of the nation because Ethiopia has been registering rapid and successive development achievements on the basis of its home grown policies and strategies. Thus, EU EOM is fighting against new options of development thoughts and strategies in the name of election observation mission like what Francis Fukuyama called the “end of history and the last man”-to indicate the role of liberalism in determining the destiny of the world. This is the whole history of the report according to the author of this article.