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OPEN LETTER: No European politicians to whitewash Kremlin’s fraudulent elections or pseudo-referenda

(August 17, 2022)

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To: Members of National and Regional Parliaments of the EU Member States, Members of the European Parliament

In light of the Kremlin’s statements on preparations for conducting so-called “referenda” on territories occupied during the military aggression against Ukraine, the European Platform for Democratic Elections (EPDE) calls on all national and regional Parliaments of the European Union, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the OSCE (OSCEPA) to be particularly vigilant and undertake measures preventing their members from participating in illegitimate “election observation”, organized to whitewash illegal electoral processes. The same applies to the upcoming September local elections inside Russia – a country whose elections have repeatedly been assessed as fraudulent by both international and domestic independent observers.

“Biased observation” – a form of politically-motivated election observation whose chief objective is to whitewash election fraud by providing misleading information about the conduct of illegitimate elections towards both the voters and an international audience – has become widespread in the OSCE region.

Authoritarian regimes organize and finance the presence of international “observers” whose function is to discredit findings of independent international and domestic observation missions such as by the ODIHR-OSCE or the EU. Politically biased election observers (or “fake observers”) are often recruited by agents of those regimes operating in western countries among loyal politicians, members of parliaments, including the EP, PACE, and the OSCEPA. Being portrayed in the local media as official representatives of western democracies and established institutions, they not only help to legitimize illegitimate, illegal or fraudulent elections, but also discredit the institutions they represent.

Striking examples of this practice include the 2018 Presidential “elections” in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s “republics”, where the EPDE identified 57 “fake observers”, including current and former national and regional parliamentarians of such EU countries as France, Germany, Italy, and Belgium. Other examples include the 2020 Parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan, with 43 “fake observers” including current and former national and regional parliamentarians of the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia. The 2021 Russian Parliamentary elections on the territory of illegally annexed Crimea were whitewashed by nine “fake observers”, including French parliamentarians.

 

 

Based on the evidence collected by the EPDE, the main culprits of organizing “fake observation” in the OSCE region are the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan. However, more recently we have detected the same practice being utilized in the EU member state Hungary. According to our data, participation in biased election observation has been particularly prevalent among the French, Italian, German, and Bulgarian nationals (see enclosed graph).

We appreciate the decisive steps of the European Parliament and PACE taken in recent years against this electoral malpractice. At the same time, we understand that still much remains to be done on the level of national and regional parliaments in the EU member states. EPDE offers its expertise and assistance to those parliaments wishing to actively fight this specific form of electoral disinformation. The EPDE will continue monitoring the use of biased election observation. All our findings up to date may be found here: www.fakeobservers.org.

Recommendations to all national, international and regional parliaments in the EU:

  • To call on their members of parliament through their political factions to abstain from participating in any international election observation “mission” that is neither endorsed by the parliament itself nor by the EP, PACE, or OSCEPA, the NATO PA, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe or any other organization-signatory to the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation;
  • To carefully monitor the participation of their members in any international election observation mission;
  • To carefully scrutinize the financial declarations of MPs with regard to benefits obtained in connection with participating in international election observation missions not endorsed by the parliament itself;
  • To review and eventually update the code of conduct of their parliament with regard to participation of their members in international election observation missions;
  • To install independent bodies commissioned with the regular verification of the upon-mentioned recommendations.

 

Yours faithfully,

Stefanie Schiffer

Chair of Board EPDE

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