2007-09-28 Michal Kubicki
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OSCE has slams Poland for refusing to issue an invitation to watch parliamentary elections

Logo of OSCELogo of OSCE
The polish government hasn’t endeared itself to other European states this year, upsetting Germany with references to the war many deemed inappropriate. And it seems intent on following that path again now. Less than a month before parliamentary elections in Poland it is still not clear if observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will be allowed to monitor the campaign and the ballot itself. The OSCE has slammed Poland for refusing to issue an invitation but as we hear in this report from Michal Kubicki of Polish Radio’s External Service the story is not that simple:

A high ranking official of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe described Poland’s decision not to invite OSCE observers as an unprecedented move that sets a bad example. But as Urdur Gunnarsdottir, spokeswoman of the Warsaw-based organization’s election monitoring body – the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – told me, the issue is not yet closed.

‘The Polish government has not refused anything; what it has done is to answer a letter from us in which we requested a set of meetings. They have informed us that they have no time to meet with us. We’re still hoping for an invitation because Poland, as all other OSCE countries, is obliged to invite us.’

The Polish conservative government treated the OSCE’s initial request as ‘untactful’. Foreign minister Anna Fotyga:

Urdur GunnarsdottirUrdur Gunnarsdottir
‘The written request addressed to Poland is an inappropriate document. Poland has nothing to hide and elections are conducted here in a democratic way.’

If so, government critics respond, why not simply to invite the observers. A leader of the opposition Civic Platform Bronisław Komorowski

‘I think the government has made a mistake. There is still time to retract on its stand and invite OSCE representatives. This should be an initiative of thee Polish government.’

According to most analysts of the Polish scene, the official government rhetoric is part of an election strategy of the prime minister’s Law and Justice party, a strategy which political commentator Łukasz Warzecha sums up in these words:

‘Nobody will impose anything on us. We don’t want anyone to control us or check if we can do these things in a democratic way.’

This may be a message addressed to the party’s electorate, but what about Poland’s image abroad. Many commentators here say that an absence of foreign observers during the parliamentary election would further tarnish the country’s image. Łukarz Warzecha is among those who think that Poland has other, more serious problems on the international scene.

The seat of OSCE in ViennaThe seat of OSCE in Vienna
‘Much bigger problem is our relations with Germany or Russia, Let’s be honest, the OSCE is not a very important organization and I think that foreign leaders see very well that Poland is a democracy and that there is no danger to democracy in Poland, so I don’t think this will be a very big problem for Poland.’

The government spokesman said Poland does not want to be treated like a Third World country. But the OSCE has stressed time and again that the presence of its observers in any country has nothing to do with the organization’s criticism of the democratic procedures there. Urdur Gunnarsdottir again.

‘This is in no way a judgment over how an election is perceived or how it is being held. It’s simply a statement of interest from our side and when we look at elections we are not playing election police or chasing problems. We’re looking at the mechanics of an election. It’s equally of interest to us in France and in Russia, in Poland and in Switzerland.’

There is much to indicate that Poland will eventually reconsider its stand. Prime minister Kaczyński said a few days ago that Poland does not want to create problems where they don’t exist and according to a survey fifty seven percent of Pole think that foreign observers should be invited.

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