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Statement by Ambassador Viktar Gaisenak, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Belarus to the OSCE, at the Meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council (November 4, 2004)

Reaction to the response of the delegation of the United States of America

Mr. Chairman,

We wish to thank the delegation of the United States of America for the clarifications it has provided. Unfortunately, however, we are again forced to note that there has been no answer regarding the essential points of the concerns we expressed at the last meeting of the Permanent Council. We must also point out that once again an improper attempt has been made to cast doubt on our right to freely voice criticism of certain participating States.

As has been noted, Belarusian diplomats did in fact conduct monitoring activities in Virginia, where from the very outset the state authorities did not refuse them access, for which we are extremely grateful. On the other hand, as we pointed out the last time, we received no clarifications regarding the ban on monitoring in the state of West Virginia. And monitoring in Virginia does not cancel out the problem of the refusal to allow monitoring in West Virginia. Neither have we heard any explanations with regard to the state of Maryland, where our observers were also not admitted. We can list other states as well where Belarusian diplomats did not apply but where, as we know beyond a doubt, monitoring was prohibited.

This being the case, we cannot understand why the United States is seeking to tie in these absolutely obvious problems with the problems of Belarus, where there are no restrictions on the access of accredited international monitors to polling stations and where there were far more such monitors at the recent elections than in the United States.

The preliminary findings reached by the election observation mission of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will be presented not before this evening; nevertheless, already today certain conclusions can be drawn.

But before doing that, we should like to congratulate the delegation of the United States of America and the American people on the fact that the elections of 2 November were marked by a very large turnout of voters. That having been said, we very nearly witnessed a repetition of the story of Florida 2000 in the state of Ohio. This is clear evidence of the fact that the negative experience of the previous elections was not properly taken into account.

Further, we are regretfully compelled to note that, in our view, this most recent election campaign in the United States was characterized by violations of fundamental international commitments with regard to elections, including the principles and obligations contained in the OSCE Copenhagen Document of 1990.

There were serious shortcomings and failures in the run﷓up to the elections and during the actual voting: breakdowns in the operation of the electronic voting machines, a failure to include the names of some citizens in the voting lists, the loss of postal ballots, and, not least of all, intimidation and discrimination of voters on racial grounds. According to available information, the authorities responsible for conducting the elections in the United States of America have already received more than 50,000 complaints.

A source of particular concern is the lack of transparency in the electoral process and of opportunities for having it monitored by international and domestic observers. When they applied for accreditation, both independent international observers and observers from the OSCE encountered massive resistance on the part of the authorities in a number of states. In a great many states, these observers opportunities for monitoring polling stations on election day were either severely limited or totally non﷓existent.

Our attempts to somehow influence the situation were to no avail since, in effect, both the Chairman﷓in﷓Office of the OSCE and the senior officials of the ODIHR refused to take decisive measures and failed to call publicly on the United States authorities to guarantee the international observers the possibility of monitoring without hindrance the electoral process.

Under these conditions, there is no way in which we can say that the elections just held in the United States met international democratic standards.

We assume that the shortcomings we have noted will be properly reflected and appropriately assessed in the report released by the ODIHR and OSCE Parliamentary Assembly mission.

We call upon the Government of the United States to study in the most serious manner the comments of all the international observers and to take them into account when making further improvements to the countrys electoral system. We hope that further attention will be given to this subject as part of the discussion of the preliminary report of the ODIHR mission on election monitoring in the United States.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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