International election observers in place

Observers from twelve countries of the former Soviet Union, among them Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan will observe the Norwegian Parliamentary elections. The observers were invited to Norway by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

During the 2005 Parliamentary elections, the committee invited international observers from countries in the former Soviet Union to systematically observe Norwegian elections for the first time in Norwegian history. It was a great success, and highly educational for both the Norwegian public and the observers. In the aftermath of the report made by these observers, two of the most important recommendations have been taken into account. Norwegian voters are now obliged to present ID papers to vote, and the observers’ right to observe is now included in the election legislation.

“It is important to show how Norwegian elections are assessed on the basis of international standards. Also Norway needs a critical examination from time to time. Only in this way we can safeguard and improve our democracy, although democracy has long traditions in this country,”  says Secretary General Bjørn Engesland of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

The observers will follow the voting in several parts of the country, including the Oslo-region, Bergen, Trondheim, Tromsø and as far as Karasjok, far north of the Arctic Circle. The observers will also visit the Storting (parliament), Oslo Town Hall and follow the electoral campaign. This time, there will also be a certain focus on the elections to the Sàmi Parliament, the elected representative assembly of the indiginous Sàmi people of Norway.

“This time, it is representatives of the traditionally observed countries who will observe us, not the other way around. It is good for those administering Norwegian elections to be observed and assessed following the standards of the OSCE,” Berit Lindeman, election expert and Head of information at the Norwegian Helsinki Committee says. “We also believe this may contribute to a raised awareness here of the need to value and protect our democracy.”

Among the observers is Mikhail Komarkov from Moscow, who has long experience of organising election observations in Russia through the NGO GOLOS. Marina Sabitova from Kazakhstan, a doctor of philosophy who has been active in the democratic movement in Central-Asia for several years, amongst other as an advisor to opposition parties in the region, will also be among the observers.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee was founded in 1977. The committee bases its activities on the Helsinki Declaration that was signed by more than 35 European and North American states at the Conference of Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE, later OSCE) in 1975. The Declaration states that respect for human rights is a fundamental factor in the development of peace and understanding between states.

Source: The Norwegian Helsinki Committee

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