OSCE to prepare report after an in-depth assessment of Cyprus’ presidential elections, head of OSCE mission tells CNA

The OSCE/ODIHR team has been able to conduct an in-depth impartial assessment of the Cyprus 2018 Presidential Election during its three-week long mission in Cyprus, the head of mission Ambassador Urszula Gacek has told the Cyprus News Agency in an interview, on conclusion of their visit to the island.

She said a report will be prepared which will be sent to the Cyprus authorities and other election stakeholders within approximately eight weeks after the election and it will assess implementation of legislation pertaining to the campaign, campaign finance and media regulations, as well as some other aspects of electoral process.

The head of mission said she is pleased that no one declined their request for a meeting and everyone has been open, hospitable and frank in their exchanges with us.

Invited to assess the extent to which the objectives of the OSCE mission in Cyprus have been achieved, she said she is satisfied that the OSCE/ODIHR team, according to its methodology, has been able to conduct an in-depth impartial assessment of the Cyprus 2018 Presidential Election during its three-week long mission in Cyprus. That is the job we have a mandate to do.

On the procedure to be followed after the end of the mission here, Ambassador Gacek explained that they will prepare a report which will be sent to the Cyprus authorities and other election stakeholders and published on OSCE/ODIHR website (http://www.osce.org/odihr) within approximately eight weeks after the election.

It will assess implementation of legislation pertaining to the campaign, campaign finance and media regulations, as well as some other aspects of electoral process. It will also put forward recommendations for improvements, based on international commitments, standards and good practice, she pointed out.

The report will be made public, as this is ODIHR standard methodology. It is then up to the authorities to decide which recommendations they will implement, she noted.

Asked to describe their visit to Cyprus and say how this differs from other missions in other parts of Europe, she explained that OSCE Participating States are bound by the same international commitments and standards and we apply these fairly and equally to all. The formats of missions deployed do vary, however, according to an initial assessment made.

Depending on the needs identified, she noted, missions may take the format of full or limited observation with international observers deployed on polling day, in addition to an expert core team looking at all aspects of the electoral process starting from the legal framework, candidate and voter registration, campaign financing, media coverage of the campaign, safeguards for people with disabilities, minorities and other vulnerable groups and finally the conduct on election day itself.

In the case of this year’s Presidential election in Cyprus, a core team of six international experts was deployed in an Election Assessment Mission. Our small team did, however, visit polling stations and tabulation centres during the election, in addition to carrying out systematic analysis of the points mentioned above, she told CNA.

The Ambassador said that this format was decided upon because OSCE/ODIHR noted that while a number of our previous recommendations had been implemented and recent amendments have enhanced some aspects of electoral law, there were nevertheless some inconsistencies and gaps in the electoral legal framework, particularly concerning the conduct of the campaign, campaign finance and media coverage. It was felt that an external assessment could be useful, focusing on these areas, but also including an assessment of all other aspects of the election process, as is the norm.

The Election Assessment Mission format, she added, has been used in a number of OSCE participating states, most recently in the Czech Republic, Austria, Malta and will also be used in upcoming elections in Italy and Turkmenistan.

She pointed out that as with all other OSCE Participating States, we are here at the invitation of the authorities.

The methodology for the OSCE/ODIHR election observation is well-established and transparent, she said, adding that it is elaborated in numerous OSCE/ODIHR observation methodology publications, including the core one – the Election Observation Handbook: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/68439?download=true

Asked about the meetings the mission had in Cyprus with the various people/groups/parties, she said that they have had numerous meetings with all people involved in this election.

She said members of the mission have met with various levels of the election administration, all nine candidates or their representatives, the Attorney General, the Auditor General, the President of the Supreme Court, the Commissioner for Data Protection, the Human Rights Commissioner, representatives of the police, editors of the major newspapers, TV and radio stations, journalists, the Radio and Television Authority, civil society organisations including those for disabled persons, representatives of women’s’ groups and representatives of academia. In total we conducted more than 50 interviews.

The Ambassador was invited to express the missions overall feelings with regard to their contacts in Cyprus, she said they are pleased “by the fact that no one declined our request for a meeting and everyone has been open, hospitable and frank in their exchanges with us. The whole team is genuinely grateful for the cooperation we have received.”

” We have experienced your famous warm and generous hospitality during our entire stay. For several of our international team, which for your information comes from Belarus, Croatia, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, this was their first visit to Cyprus and an opportunity to get to know a little about your rich heritage, culture and cuisine,” she concluded.

The mission is expected to leave Cyprus on Tuesday.

Source: Cyprus News Agency