Speech Made by Christian Nadeau, IFES Moscow Project Director, At the CEC Conference «Election System of the Russian Federation and Its Role in the Establishment of the Multi-Party System and Strengthening of Democratic Basis of the Russian Statehood» Moscow, 29 September 1998
1. Mr. Chairman, Members of the Central Election Commission, Members of the State Duma and other bodies of State Power, ladies and gentlemen. I am here today to honor an evolving partnership between the Central Election Commission and the International Foundation for Election Systems, IFES. Richard Soudriette, the President of the Foundation, was unable to attend this important event due to prior personal engagements and asked me to represent him here today. Let me first briefly present you the International Foundation for Election Systems, detail our work here, and how our partnership has grown to this day.
2. The International Foundation for Election Systems has been working around the world for over ten years now, supporting emerging and transitioning democracies by the provision of technical assistance and expert advice to election commissions and civic groups. Our motto, ballots not bullets, supplemented by an approach sensitive to the needs of each country, has led a sustained growth of the Foundation. Since it's foundation in 1987, IFES has worked in 90 countries around the world; we now has offices in most CIS countries.
3. IFES' work in Russia began early on, starting with an exchange of election officials from the US and the Soviet Union in 1989. At the time, this type of exchange was unprecedented. And our relationship developed from there onwards. In 1993, with the establishment of the Central Election Commission and the leadership of Chairman Ryabov, our collaboration «took off» and we became very close - IFES actually opening it's first Russia office .... in the Central Election Commission itself, until we found our own space and amenities.
4. At the request of Chairman Ryabov, our collaboration initially focussed on issues related to election administration and standard policies as well as increasing the voter awareness. The issues which the Central Election Commission had to face and rapidly tackle, given the fact that elections were about to happen, were not always uncommon: media access, campaign finance, massive training, and results transmission to name a few. With diligence and openness, IFES experts, such as Catherine Barnes, Linda Edgeworth, Connie Mc Cormack, and Robert Allan Dahl provided insights into how other electoral bodies had addressed similar situations. Very often, however, the questions raised due to the uniqueness of Russia's conjuncture and geography were unprecedented. The CEC has shown innovation and determination in its effort to establish a credible, functioning, electoral process at both the regional and national levels. IFES and the CEC held over eighteen round tables, a dozen seminars, published 2,500 pages of analysis and have had numerous consultations through the years. A recollection of these efforts is presented in a collection of articles on Russia which has been previously distributed through our election magazine, «Elections Today», worldwide.
5. Five years is an important step to celebrate and IFES congratulates the CEC for their achievements. These are important for IFES as we learn extensively through this common experience. We can say with confidence that we enjoy a two-way partnership. For example, the CEC has been expanding its role internationally; IFES is using the CEC's experience. A year ago, the Central Election Commission was the host of the Association of Eastern European Election Officials, or ACEEEO, of which Chairman Ivanchenko is now a Board member. In June this year, the Chairman joined the International Advisory Council of the Foundation, an exclusive nine-member body which provides guidance to IFES and it's programs. (Ramos/ Chamorro) In November, a delegation from the CEC will go the United States to witness the U.S. Congressional elections and exchange views. And so forth. Our two-way partnership is strong.
6. The innovations and achievements in Russia have led it to be a model for other countries in the region and elsewhere. We have frequently seen electoral legislative initiatives implemented which were derived from the Russian experience. These again are positive signs of a healthy system.
7. But, after five years, where does this lead us to ? As in any other democracy, there is still important work to be done, technologies to be improved, voters and poll workers to educate about their latest «basic electoral rights». We use to say that «democracy never sleeps» ; it sounds even more true today. Some of the challenges ahead will be to keep campaign finance in line with the law and to convince voters that their vote makes a difference, that they ought to wake up, get up and participate. You snooze you loose !
8. IFES is pleased to have been associated with the Central Election Commission and looks forward to continuing expanding our partnership as federal elections approach, and at creating a sustainable domestic organization who can continue working in Russia well into the next millennium. To underline this important event, I am pleased to present the Commission with a memento to celebrate it's achievements.
Again, my thanks to the Central Election Commission Chairman, CEC members, and the staff of the International Department with who we work constantly. Thank you.