OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President briefs participating States on Belarus election

VIENNA, 22 March 2006 - OSCE Parliamentary Assembly President Alcee L. Hastings told the Organization's 55 participating States at a special meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council that the Parliamentary Assembly was willing to "continue dialogue with the Belarusian parliament as well as other authorities in Belarus."

Speaking about his role as Special Co-ordinator of the OSCE election observation mission to the 19 March presidential election in Belarus and the mission's preliminary statement that the polls had failed to meet OSCE commitments for democratic elections, he said:

"The right to vote, the right to have your vote counted as well as the right to run for office and carry out a campaign in an atmosphere free of pressure and intimidation is a fundamental requirement for democracy."

"The Belarusian people deserve better," he said.

"Having said all of this, I would like to encourage the Government of Belarus and all of us to continue to work to support the development of democracy in Belarus. The criticism that was presented yesterday was done so in a constructive spirit," Hastings added.

In his speech, Hastings also stressed the Assembly's general role in the OSCE's election observation activities.

"As politicians who have fought elections themselves, parliamentarians have particular expertise in political campaigns and electoral processes, bringing added credibility to the conclusions of OSCE observation missions," he said.

Hastings, a United States Congressman from Florida, was also appointed by the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, as Special Co-ordinator for the election observation mission for the upcoming parliamentary elections in Ukraine on 26 March.