Council of Europe shares experience with Chechen Election Commission
Timur Aliyev, North Caucasus – A seminar was held on March 3-5 in Nazran for the Election Commission of the Chechen Republic and the Republic of Ingushetia, as well as representatives of the initiative group organizing the referendum on the Constitution of Chechen Republic. The Council of Europe’s representatives acquainted everyone with Europe’s experience of conducting referendums.
Isabelle Servoz-Gallucci, the Council’s advisor to the Directorate General of Political Affairs, mentioned a similar plebiscite in Yugoslavia as an example to show the significance of holding a referendum for resolving critical situations.
Bernard Owen, Director of the French Centre for Comparative Studies of Elections, presented an analysis of organizing referendums.
A separate issue was the need for objectivity about voting results. One of the organizers of the meeting, Pavel Russkikh, who represented the State Legal Administration of the Russian Federation, expressed concern about a member of the Election Commission who indicated to him an interest in the outcome of the referendum.
“The special legal status of the Commission lies in their being independent from other bodies of state power; its members cannot lobby either for or against the referendum” said Russkikh. In his opinion, any type of lobbying is likely to cast doubt on the legality of the referendum.
The Head of the Political Advisory Department of the Council of Europe, Jiří Vogl, stated that the training seminar was possible due to the cooperation of the Election Commission of Chechnya. According to him, political cooperation will only be possible through voluntary agreement between the Council of Europe and the Russian Federation.
“In the event Russia approaches the Council with such a request we will help them,” Vogl announced. By this he may have meant a general referendum, rather than the specific one in Chechnya.
At the same time, Vogl announced that the Council of Europe would continue its preliminary monitoring in Chechnya until March 23 and added, “This is just the beginning of long-term collaboration offered Russia by the Council of Europe.”
Besides the Council, other organizers of the meeting were: Office of the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Ensuring Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms in the Chechen Republic, and the International Centre for Projects and Programmes for the Development of Federative Relations and Regional Policy.