Slovenia’s leading left wing current affairs magazine since 1920 “Mladina” interviews Executive Director Brian Mefford about COD’s observation mission. For those who dont read Slovenian, here is the English translation:
“Although the Slovenian Elections were ‘Exemplary’ they were ‘Controlled by’ External Observers”
by Denis Vičič; July 18, 2014
Slovenia is known as a country where elections are exemplary. Finally, the observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) confirmed this in 2011, when watching over the pre-term parliamentary election. These elections are nevertheless watched by three organizations. In addition to a Canadian delegation to the Electoral Commission, there is also the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the Committee for Open Democracy (COD).
IRI is an organization funded by the U.S. government so that through the training of local politicians, the world made be introduced to democracy as perceived by the Republican branch of American politics (we can add that there is also a Democratic Institute). Years ago in Slovenia, IRI educated members of the SDS party.
COD was founded by Brian Mefford, who worked ten years as the head of the Ukrainian office of IRI in Kiev, where he later worked as an adviser to the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. The task of this organization, which is funded primarily through donations from the Ukrainian Diaspora in the United States, is to “observe risky elections in Eastern Europe.” Why did Slovenia finds itself on their radar? Perhaps because of events associated with Janša the disgraced Prime Minister? “I’m not here because of him,” said Mefford. “Sometimes it is good to observe elections that are conducted in an exemplary manner. If you only observe those where there are problems – and in the countries of the former Soviet Union has been a lot of problems – then you will assume that all elections are problematic. Here we see the processes and the election law, from which we can gather ideas and recommendation for electoral commissions in other countries (which otherwise is our focus)”.
But observers may also have different motives. Elections are a big deal. The Director of the National Electoral Commission Dusan Vucko for example, mentions Sudan, where the authorities decided to introduce fully electronic elections, although it is costly. Terminals need electricity, which is not everywhere in the country. The government had to make sure to lease or purchase batteries and pay for the transport of all devices to the polls. So, do the election observers exploit elections for the promotion of business and political interests?
“Throughout my experience, and I have officially observed almost 30 international elections, I have not heard of any international observers pressuring an Electoral Commission or exploited their position to offer business partnerships to countries. Also, any recommendations to the Central Electoral Commission are not binding, “denies Mefford. “Just as certain people collect coins, stamps and other items, it is my hobby to observe elections. You know that people in Mongolia vote inside tents? This is my first visit to Slovenia and since everyone says it is a beautiful country, I decided to come. I assume it is similar for the IRI delegation, “he adds.
IRI’s assessment of the elections has not yet been announced, however COD, decided that they were carried out according to democratic standards: “Slovenia remains a leader in the Balkans for democracy and fair elections.”