Albanian and Russian observers sent to monitor American elections
by Andrew Gumbel, Independent.co.uk, 31 October 2002
The joke, during the endless presidential election recounts in Florida two years ago, was that Russia and Albania would send poll monitors to help the United States with its unexpected bump on the road to democracy. Now, the joke has become reality.
A high-level delegation of European and North American election observers -- including members from Russia and Albania -- arrived yesterday for a week-long mission to watch Florida's mid-term elections, which take place on Tuesday.
Their task: to see if the world's most powerful democracy has learned anything from the disastrous 36-day showdown between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000, in which the world saw every wart in Florida's deeply flawed electoral system without ever discovering for sure who had won.
Certainly, the Russians and Albanians know a thing or two about flawed, rigged or fraudulent elections. After receiving a decade of lectures from Western democracies about overhauling their own systems, they also have a good idea how to overcome them. It remains to be seen whether Florida isn't too tough a nut to crack, even for them. "Whatever else it is, it will be an experience," said a tight-lipped Ilirjan Celibashi, head of Albania's Central Electoral Committee.
Mandated by the OSCE, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the 10-man delegation will not be manning polling stations. However, that might not have been a bad idea, given the experience of the presidential election and the more recent Democratic primary, when voting machines again malfunctioned and hundreds of people complained of being disenfranchised.
Rather, the team will look at the broader picture of Florida's electoral laws, how they are applied, and the ways in which US practices fall short of the stringent requirements imposed on emerging democracies in Eastern Europe and elsewhere.
This is the first time international monitors have gone to the United States. The OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights has been campaigning for some time to improve electoral standards in some of the older, established democracies.
Copyright © 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
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