The Right to a Choice 207


You may have to trust me on this, but the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is a terrific organisation that does remarkably good work, considering that it works for member states as diverse, and governments as severally ill-intentioned, as the United States, Russia, Uzbekistan and the UK.

When I was looking to leave the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I applied for a senior post at ODIHR and travelled to Warsaw for an interview. I believe my application was torpedoed by the FCO, who considered me far too committed to democracy and human rights to be allowed to work on the subject in a formal international body. There is a de facto – amd perhaps even an acknowledged – veto by member states on employment of their individual nationals in international institutions.

Yet somehow despite national governments ODIHR has managed to do its job credibly, and by and large OSCE election monitoring in particular has been very valuable, even where the result of the monitoring is not what some or even most member states on the OSCE Council want. All of Uzbekistan’s elections have been judged not free and fair, for example, with election monitoring missions generally not even being deployed on the grounds of assessment by ODIHR that the preconditions for free and fair elections simply do not exist.

Unfortunately ODIHR has no means to prevent member states from simply ignoring its reports, which they do, and the Heads of State whose election OSCE pronounced fraudulent immediately turn up as members of the OSCE council. But the rports themselves and the work behind them are good.

One important criterion for a free and fair election is that there should be a real choice offered to voters between genuine political alternatives. You find this expressed several times in the ODIHR guidance for election observers:

Genuine elections presupposes that the electoral process will be conducted in an accountable
and transparent manner and will provide a real and informed choice for voters,

A genuine election is a political competition that takes place in an
environment characterized by confidence, transparency, and accountability and that provides
voters with an informed choice between distinct political alternatives.

In Uzbekistan, for example, everyone has the chance to go and vote and there are several alternative candidates to choose between, but they all support President Karimov and his policies. In fact, this provision on distinct political alternatives and genuine choice has been repeatedly used by ODIHR and OSCE against elections throughout the former Soviet Union.

So what do we make of the EU – all of whose members are members of the OSCE – insisting that the leaders of all Greek political parties must sign up to an agreement to supprot the dreadful cuts in public spending, in imminent elections? With severe financial menaces, they are demanding that the Greek people be denied any real choice in the upcoming election. The EU members are thus in the most brazen breach of their OSCE commitments and obligations. It is appalling hypocrisy.

I am not sure in practice what mechanisms exist in Greece to keep independent candidates off the ballot or deny them access to the media. But the institutional advantages enjoyed by the main parties are massive throughout Europe, and having all the main parties campaigning on the same economic policy – due to direct foreign political pressure – cannot be a free and fair election.

I hope that the example of Greece will further open people’s eyes to what has happened in the UK, where the massive and growing gap between rich and poor is enmeshed with complete corporate control of what are now three neo-con main parties, whose policy distinctions are absolutely tiny. They all support bank bailouts, quantitative easing, public spending cuts and aggressive neo-con wars. The differences of degree are extremely marginal.

I published an article on this in The Guardian before our last general election – the rather foolish headline was not mine. But I am quite proud of that article, and believe there is increased understanding and support for the view it expresses.


207 thoughts on “The Right to a Choice

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  • Fedup

    pre-rigged such as in the Iran of the Palahvi’s in which there were two parties completely subservient to the ruling clique
    ,
    ,
    ,
    Iran did not have a multi party system during the later period of Shah’s reign.
    ,
    The Multi-party system was the case in the early part of the Shah’s reign, and the parties were mostly ran by the trustees of the Shah. In later years leading up to his ouster, he had decreed a single party system by repealing even the pretence of choice of the past.
    ,
    The current electoral system in Iran requires that candidates must have attained academic qualifications of at least MSc, or higher, and are background checked, for criminal conduct, dishonesty, etc. as in line with any other electoral system. The Guardian council that is composed of 12 specialist jurist, with expertise in various disciplines (legal, constitutional, etc.) approves the candidates for elections based on the findings and interviews. Finally the qualified candidates start their individual campaigns to attract the voters, as in any other system. This somehow is insinuated as some kind of rigged affair, by the majority of those external actors, whose own rotten electoral practices smacks of rigged and phoney elections that would make a banana republic’s electoral system to appear to be fair and credible.
    ,
    So far as UK systems is concerned, the assertion; ” Clearly these systems don’t operate in the UK” is baseless wishful thinking. The murky selection procedures which are supposedly a constituency affair are rigged. The predetermined candidate is not chosen based on various merits but on whose support they have garnered (crony nepotism) which is then put to vote in a quiet and unassuming meeting attended by no more than twenty party activist whom know who is the winner before hand. Craig has a very good understanding of the situation in UK.

  • pozycjonowanie cennik

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  • ingo

    don’t think that a few trillion fake dollars could compete with the speed the US treasury deflates its own currency.
    It is US Fed ex and the sharks on wall street that have eroded the dollar for decades, its real value, as Marks points out, has been consistently diminished though mathematic exercises, I would not be surprised if the movement away from the gold standard was a shimmies move, designed to mask deflation.

    My sincere thanks to Clark for his expert help with setting me up to run UBUNTU, in a green way and to the delight of us all here, Our spring like weekend which started of with comedian Henning Wehn’s close knuckle encounter at the Norwich Playhouse and ended with a no frets ever again bulletproof Linux system. Most Important, we met and talked…. until the cows came home.
    Thank you Clark.

  • Mary

    This dear man, now aged 82, should have received the Nobel Peace Prize and not bloody Obama. He runs the British Vietnam Friendship Society and is also the chairman of the Agent Orange Action Group. His recent open letter protesting at the involvement of Dow Chemicals in the London Olympics (in the link) was delivered by hand to Lord Coe but received the brush off.
    .
    http://www.lenaldis.co.uk/index.html
    .
    {http://aoag.org/?page_id=65}

    The reply:
    DOW’S OLYMPIC WRAP AND THE SILENCE FROM VIETNAM
    Friends, The front page of this issue shows the letter I
    received from VAVA, who not having had any reply asked
    if I could help. I did, by taking the letter by hand to the
    palatial offices of Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Olympic
    Committee situated at 100 Churchill Place, Canary
    Wharf. In two days I received a reply, the reply to General
    Nguyen Van Rinh was posted to him the same day.
    The reply was no different from those I had received
    from Dow and Monsanto, here are a couple of extracts:
    “We have discussed the matter with The Dow Chemical
    Company and understand that they were one of several
    contractors from whom the US Government commissioned
    the production of Agent Orange. The decision to develop,
    buy, and use Agent Orange was made by the US Government.
    In the aftermath of that decision the US Government
    has rightly led the process of addressing the many issues
    which has resulted.”
    “We further understand that the US Government and
    Vietnamese Government remain in constructive dialogue
    working closely together to resolve issues arising from
    Vietnam war-time activities including the use of Agent
    Orange.”
    This reply could have been written by the PR of Dow
    Chemical.
    Since the receipt of these letters it has been good to
    read athletes from India have raised the issue of whether
    to boycott the Games unless Dow sponsorship is cancelled.
    Their anger is due to the tragic Industrial accident
    in Bhopal in 1984 causing the deaths of 25,000 and leaving
    many more thousands suffering from horrific injuries. At the
    time of the accident, the plant was owned by United Carbide.

  • Roderick Russell

    @Angrysoba – “The UK electoral system is not explicitly about parties.” Not so Angrysoba – In practical terms the UK electoral system is about parties because most people are voting for a government and a prime minister rather than a specific MP.

    It would indeed be nice if we were able to able to vote independently both for a government and for our MP as more democratic countries can

  • facts of monkeys

    Hi, i feel that i noticed you visited my site thus i got here to go back the prefer?.I’m attempting to find issues to enhance my website!I suppose its adequate to make use of some of your ideas!!

  • Iain Orr

    This thread’s becoming rather unwieldy, but I hope it’s still a good place to post this link to the Information Commissioer’s article in the Observer on 19 Feb –
    http://tinyurl.com/6moa8j3

    .

    In an article on the same page Daniel Boffey (Policy Editor – a useful contact in other contexts?) describes the article as ” a thinly veiled attack on former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell”. I don’t mind the attack being veiled as long as the dagger is sharp.

  • Mary

    Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger takes pay cut and joins the 99%
    .
    Posted by The Editors on February 20, 2012, 8:25 am
    .
    Alan Rusbridger emailed staff at the newspaper to say that his salary in the upcoming 2012-13 financial year will be £395,010, compared with £438,900 in the current financial year.
    .
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/09/guardian-editor-takes-pay-cut
    .
    That’s gotta hurt!
    .
    Eds
    http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1329726344.html

  • Mary

    No 10 NHS summit
    Health minister Simon Burns said Monday’s event was to meet groups who were “constructively engaged”.
    .
    {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17093082}

    .

    Perhaps constructively engaged like these A4E multi millionaires who are even more revolting than some of the parasites who attached themselves to NuLabour.
    .
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103522/Suspend-work-tsar-MPs-demand-action-fraud-probe-job-placement-scheme.html
    .
    See that the police are in.

  • Mary

    Not only health, job schemes, but education too.
    .

    ‘Wey Education, run by Zenna Atkins, the former chair of the government inspection body Ofsted, told the London Stock Exchange in December that a “market opportunity” brought about by “the deconstruction of the education function within local authorities” offered a chance to “make a substantial return to investors and improve education in the UK.”’

    .

    Private companies poised for takeover of UK state education
    By Harvey Thompson
    16 February 2012
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/feb2012/scho-f16.shtml

  • TFS

    Off Topic: Iran war and price of oil

    Given that we are lead to believe that oil prices are built on supply and demand? and given that consumption of oil in the USA has tanked, you think the possibility of war with Iran is being used as a mechanism to drive up the price of oil?

  • Chienfou

    @Roderick Russell
    .
    “most people are voting for a government and a prime minister”
    .
    That might be the IMPLICIT choice voters think that they have. EXPLICITLY they vote for their MP. No one but his constituents explicitly voted for David Cameron (or Tony Blair or… any other Prime Minister.)
    .
    Our system gives far greater opportunity for independent candidates to stand for election to Parliament than most others – pay your deposit and your name goes on the ballot paper – as Craig did a few years back. You don’t need to belong to any political party to stand for election. Few get very far as independents but that’s not a fault of the electoral system.
    .
    It also gives you a very direct relationship to your MP. Write to him and he is obliged to read your email or letter and to respond – as Craig urged many of us to do over the case of the Malyshevs.

  • Clark

    Good morning Ingo, thanks for your wonderful hospitality; it was good to meet you and your family, and thanks for the delicious bread and the jam which I just started for breakfast. I hope your old Steam Computer retains its new Flying Scotsman level of performance, and thanks for the two “retired” PCs which I’ve scheduled for boiler tests this week.

  • Mary

    Roderick and others. Our ‘democracy’ is illusory. The MPs are nearly all little chips off the same block of wood.

  • ingo

    The Guardian is sinking to new, even deeper levels, well beyond the cellar.
    To days contribution to the FoI thread, kindly provided by Ian Orr above, was ‘disappeared, it was not even marked as trashed, just ignored away, Gulaged, as I have coined this despicable practice.
    My post was not libel, I merely mentioned the lack of resolve Craig got for his efforts, and asked where Adam Werritty was and whether anybody thinks that G O’D’s involvement was withholding information that would point to perverting the course of British foreign policy.

    As much as I’m happy about the new system and its incorruptible state, Clark, should I also be happy at not being able to operate FB anymore? It just does not like script blocking.

    Ah well, it can only improve my social life.;)

  • Mary

    Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger takes pay cut and joins the 99%
    .
    Posted by The Editors on February 20, 2012, 8:25 am
    .
    Alan Rusbridger emailed staff at the newspaper to say that his salary in the upcoming 2012-13 financial year will be £395,010, compared with £438,900 in the current financial year.
    .
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/09/guardian-editor-takes-pay-cut
    .
    That’s gotta hurt!
    .
    Eds
    {http://members5.boardhost.com/medialens/thread/1329726344.html}

  • Mary

    This e-mail from 38 Degrees is entitled 48 Hours To go- NHS Crunch Vote
    .
    This Wednesday, there’s a crunch NHS vote in Parliament. MPs will vote on whether to demand the publication of a secret government report into the risks facing the NHS. That could be another nail in the coffin of Andrew Lansley’s plans – so let’s pile the pressure on our MPs to vote the right way.
    .
    Right now, Andrew Lansley is in a tricky position to defend. He wants MPs and Lords to back his plans for the NHS. But he’s refusing to let them find out what the risks are. If we work together to put our MPs under pressure, there’s a decent chance they’ll refuse to do Lansley’s dirty work for him.
    .
    This vote could go either way – send your MP an email asking them to back publishing the secret report – it takes two minutes:
    https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/nhs-risk-report
    .
    The vote will take place on Wednesday afternoon. That means we’ve got just over 48 hours to convince enough MPs to vote to publish the secret report. The more of us that email our MPs right now, the more likely we are to succeed.
    .
    38 Degrees members, doctors, nurses and academics have all been warning for ages that Lansley’s plans put our health service at risk. We know there’s a secret report that could prove that we’re right – so let’s work together to get this report published before it’s too late.
    .
    Write to your MP and tell them to vote the right way at the risk report debate on Wednesday.

  • ingo

    Only 395.000, gosh, whatever next? volunteering to run communications for those in charge of foreign policy? as if….

  • ingo

    Thanks Clark, it is sorted, with such good tuition over the last weekends how could I possibly fail.

    Looks like Anonymous is gunning for Israel, wonders what they are planning for when billiard ball head Hague declares unpleasantness against Iran.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGQhBM7OBnk&feature=share
    What fun will we have at the anti Iran war demo to come, all lined up to please the extra assembled police forces from all over the country, neatly arranged and easy to handle in London.

    We must be f…..g mad to be as compliant as we have been in the past.

  • Mary

    Amazing that all the lies are water under the (Atlantic) bridge.

    ‘Mr Hague said he had not come across Mr Werritty since becoming foreign secretary, but did meet him while in opposition.
    .
    In recent days, attention has centred on Atlantic Bridge, the now-defunct charity founded by Mr Fox.
    .
    Mr Hague, who was on the advisory council, spoke at an event in the US.

    He said the organisation promoted transatlantic links and there was nothing “sinister” about it.’
    BBC October 2011

  • NY

    Craig,
    do you agree with “Uzbek state education standards correspond to international requirements”. These are the words pronounced at a conference in Tashkent by Les Kirkham who represented International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (based in Kent I believe). Apparently, Les Kirkham was astonished by high level of education in secondary schools in Tashkent. Perhaps, Les did not visit schools with pupils on cotton fields?

  • ingo

    Senator Liebermanns bill will change the sanctions regime that has up to now been the last brake to US hegemony, should it pass; it would be possible to attack any nation , not just Iran, although its tailor made for it, for just attempting to enrich nuclear fuel for civil nuclear power, a throttling move that would inevitably lead to war if AIPAC was to lobby for it.

    Those iditots who refused molten water and Thorium rectors in favour of PWR’s during the 50’s,60’s and 70’s, so as to fuel their nuclear weapons race with the USSR, have now proliferated this process all over the world.
    They have no right to demand that any country that dares to develop these same capacities which could lead to a nuclear weapon, or to civilian fuel, can be attacked if they so see fit.

    Oh dear, its an Al Jazeera link, again…
    http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012218134736845243.html

  • ingo

    Mary you like this. Norwich’s second paper.

    BTW. Norwich newspapers have been printed since 1781, the longest continous print run happened here, apparently…I ‘ve seen the plaque.
    Here comes the Monday morning hangover article, trying to be funny by looking for the G-spot. This could only be written by a provincial paper. Lets see how long my reference to Werritty stands up in the letters section.
    http://www.eveningnews24.co.uk/news/stacia-briggs/the_g_spot_you_re_just_as_likely_to_find_the_loch_ness_monster_1_1208956

  • Mary

    Recently, I put a link up here about Mark Simmonds Con MP taking £50,000 pa as strategic advisor to Circle Health and not declaring it when speaking in the HoC in health debates. I believe that complaints have been made to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon.
    .
    Simmonds has apologized today. Not sufficient. Circle Health have already taken Hinchingbrooke Hospital over and probably have plans in place for more acquisitions. Will he cease being Circle’s advisor and will he be returning the sum of money? Probably not.
    .
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17104463
    .
    MP apologises for failing to mention interest in health firm
    The Speaker said Mr Simmonds wanted to make a point of order under the code of conduct for MPs
    .
    Conservative MP and ministerial aide Mark Simmonds has apologised for failing to make clear an interest when speaking in favour of the NHS shake-up.
    .
    The Boston and Skegness MP, 47, is parliamentary private secretary to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman.
    .
    The MPs’ register of interest shows he is paid £50,000 a year as a strategic adviser to Circle Healthcare.
    ,
    Mr Simmonds told MPs he wanted to apologise for “inadvertently” failing to declare his interest.
    .
    He made his statement during a Point of Order. Although he had correctly declared his interest in the register of interests, he did not mention it – as MPs should – when speaking in the debates on the Health and Social Care Bill in January and March last year.
    .
    Circle, which is co-owned by its employees, was in the news recently when it became the first private firm to run an NHS hospital, Hitchingbrooke Hospital, Cambridgeshire.

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