Lithuania under international scrutiny

E.Sądej/Nasz Dziennik

Tomorrow is the election day to Lithuanian Parliament. It is a chance for Polish Associated Group in Lithuania to make the 5 percent minimum which may result in being part of the division of the seats that were listed in the national register. 

As to prevent that success from being ‘stolen’ by Lithuanians, people from Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) that works under the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OBWE)  will administer the process of election and counting of the votes as part of the Electoral Mission. Also, Polish members of the Parliament will be part of the administering process, being international observers invited by the AWPL.

Not all Lithuanians are happy about being administered by OBWE. Zenonas Vaigauskas, the chair president of the Primary Electoral Commission ensured that ODIHR’s people involvement is “nothing to be embarrassed about”. Nevertheless, many Lithuanian commentators are sure that it is a matter of controlling Lithuanian’s ability to conduct a fair and democratic electoral process.

As always, it is Poles who are to blame, who by inviting international observators from OBWE- “are reducing Lithuaniato post soviet-behavior”- Rytas Stasekis commented. He also noticed that ODIHR is not interested in countries that lack principles of democracy, but their focus is on those countries where democracy is “limited”, such as Russia, Armeniaor Kazakhstan.   

OBWE’s observers

OBWE’s observers are in Lithuaniafor the first time since year 1996. Their presence was recommended in the report created after the Electoral Mission’s visit in Lithiania this year in June from 26th to 28th. OBWE’s representatives came toVilnius two weeks ago, in order to administer presidential campaign, and they will remain there for at least a week after the election.

In the report created by the institution dealing with electoral necessities, its authors emphasize some of the examples that differ from standards established and applied in other countries that are part  of the European Union.

1)Border lines in constituencies of Vilnius- Troki and Vilnius-Szyrwiny  were changed and areas of Polish majority were excluded and joined with constituencies dominated by Lithuanians. By doing this, Polish minority’s power was deliberately weakened, which is against electoral law approved by Venice Commission.

2)Process of weakening Polish minority’s electoral power is also done by creating unequally located constituencies. Whereas in the areas that are ethnically Lithuanian, one candidate is being elected by 30 thousand people (minimal rate), in the areas nearVilniuswhich is dominated by Polish minority, one candidate is elected by 45 thousand people (maximum rate).

3)There was an indication of lack of AWPL party’s representatives among chiefs of 71 constituencies. Despite the fact that all of the parties, which are represented in the Lithuanian Parliament, have the right in managing electoral constituencies, Primary Electoral Commission omitted this fact, which is important in terms of supervising the electoral process.

4)There was a highly negative opinion concerning keeping the 5-percent electoral limit which concerns minorities’ parties. This was supported by the opinion of the High Commissioner of OBWE concerned with issues of minorities, who long time ago recommended thatLithuaniaresigns from this condition.

5)Publishing electoral guides only in Lithuanian was considered to be a highly discriminatory action. According to the authors, the AWPL party should have a right to publish its programme in Polish.

6)It was also established that there is “too much regulation” inLithuania, which sets the rules for availability of media. It was also concluded that, including the rules of financing political parties, high prices of political adverts limit minorities parties’ their availability.

In conclusion of the report it was established that all previously mentioned faults require to be “further analyzed” and  “observed”.

International observers from Poland 

According to Primary Electoral Commission’s data, in Lithuanian election there will be 17 parties to take part, one coalition and 29 independent candidates (in one-parliament-seat constituencies). All in all, there are 1950 registered candidates (in one-parliament-seat constituencies), and among them there are 150 ‘millionaires”. AWPL party disclosed complete list of national candidates-  there are 141 people and candidates in one-parliament-seat constituencies with Polish minority.

Lithuanian election will be watched by 7 legates and 3 senators fromPoland. In groups of two, they will go to these constituencies, where Poles votes most commonly (are of Solecznicki,Vilniusand Szyrwincki,Vilniusand Święciany, area ofVilniusand Trocki and in the city ofVilniusas well as in suburbs). During the day, they will make a visit to many electoral commissions, and when voting is over, they will take part in supervising the process of vote’s counting.

As of their position, they will be allowed to supervise any actions undertaken by the commission, as well as any paperwork and documents. They will specifically pay attention to voting conditions (cubicles, pens), whether voters are well attended to , if there is a person from police in the place where ballot box is placed, which can be a way of pressing voters. They will have the right inspect voter’s lists, converse with people from the electorate committee, they will also be able to record the process of supervising as well as of the actions performed by the committee.

However, in case of stating some irregularity they will not have the right to direct intervention. Nevertheless, these actions will be allowed to be performed by the people from International Electorate Campaign of Poles living inLithuania. Let us just hope that no such situation will occur.

Source:  http://www.naszdziennik.pl/swiat/12330,litwa-pod-miedzynarodowa-lupa.html

Tłumaczenie Emilia Borkowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Borkowska the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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