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OSCE Observer Chief Upholds Universal Election Standards for Tajikistan

The head of the OSCE election monitoring team in Tajikistan says the same values and standards should apply to all countries, regardless of differences between their political systems.
By IWPR Central Asia
After the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, issued a preliminary report noting significant problems with arrangements for the February 28 parliamentary election, IWPR interviewed former Latvian foreign minister Artis Pabriks, head of the observer mission.

In past Tajik elections, observers from the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – both dominated by former Soviet republics – have given upbeat assessments, in stark contrast to the OSCE’s criticisms.

Asked the reason for such diverging assessments, Pabriks said, “That’s very easy to answer – OSCE/ODIHR is really the only international organisation that has very specific standards and methodologies for studying elections. As for the rest of the international participants, of course it’s a very good thing that they attend and observe elections in other states.”

Noting that only the OSCE sent in observers a long time before the actual election, he said, “For the moment, only we can provide a 100 per cent analysis.”

Pabriks went on to discuss the question of whether the bar for election standards should be set as high in places like Tajikistan as it is in more prosperous OSCE member states.

“We realise where it is that we’re working,” he replied, “but there are some universal principles… from which we cannot step back.”

He continued, “The argument that ‘universal standards don’t apply to us because we are completely different’ does not work. If we say we don’t have universal values that are important to everyone, we will slide back hundreds of years to a point where there’s no respect for the individual, for women, indeed for anything. That would mean a relativist approach, where everyone can do as they like.”

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