The EU vs. Democracy

ROME – One of the ways in which the European Union effectively asserts the fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law is through its External Cooperation Programs, whereby, on the invitation of local authorities, it provides support in the form of electoral assistance projects and election observation missions.

So, during the course of 2009, the EU sent election observation missions to various countries, including Mozambique, Afghanistan, Guinea Bissau, Lebanon, Malawi, and Bolivia. Just this month the European Parliament sent observers to Ukraine’s presidential election. At the end of each mission, a couple of days after the election, the Head of Mission, who is normally a member of the European Parliament, first issues a preliminary report on the election and on the handling of the electoral process, followed by a final report a few months later.

On December 6 last year, Evo Morales was re-elected President of Bolivia with more than 60% of the popular vote. In her preliminary statement, the EU Head of Mission, MEP Renate Weber, stated that the electoral process had, in general terms, adhered to international standards with respect to democratic elections, and that the Bolivian Electoral Commission had acted in a transparent, neutral, and efficient way.

But the preliminary report also included some criticism that irked the Bolivian administration. In particular, the report stated that the country’s sharp political polarization was highly visible in the media, in particular on Bolivian television stations. In fact, while opposition candidates were given fair exposure on private TV and radio, the EU Head of Mission observed various cases in which their state-controlled counterparts privileged the government’s parliamentary candidates.