Riccardo Migliori, the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and Matteo Mecacci, the head of the OSCE PA's observation mission for the September parliamentary elections in Belarus, concluded their three-day visit to the country on Wednesday.
During the visit, Migliori and Mecacci met top officials, opposition and civil society leaders and journalists.
That was the first political-level OSCE visit since the closure of the OSCE Office in Belarus in 2010, Mr. Mecacci said.
“We appreciate the invitation to be in Belarus to observe the pre-election process and look forward to returning next week,” he noted. “We see this observation mission as an opportunity to have a meaningful dialogue with the Belarusian authorities based on the OSCE commitments that they have voluntarily agreed to.”
“In fact, we regret that we were not able to meet with those political figures who are in prison, and I hope they know that we are thinking of them and their struggle as we observe events in this country.”
Mr. Mecacci called on the Belarusian authorities to respect their OSCE commitments regarding fair and democratic elections.
“For these elections to meet OSCE standards, citizens need to have free access to information, freedom to organize and participate in the political process, and in the end free to choose candidates among many options,” he said. “Our mandate is to observe that Belarusian authorities respect citizens' political rights and we will do so scrupulously.”
Mr. Migliori said that the government's open door to meet with the OSCE observers was a welcome sign. “We appreciate the courtesy shown to us by the Belarusian authorities and hope that officials extend the same welcome to all international observers who are traveling to Minsk in the coming days for this important election,” he said.
While meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Minsk on August 15, Aliaksandr Lukashenka expressed his dissatisfaction with the OSCE PA’s choice of Mr. Mecacci as head of its observation mission for Belarus’ 2012 parliamentary elections.
“I think they could have found a person who would have better knowledge of Belarus and the situation in the Republic of Belarus,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “We are studying all these matters and will certainly respond in a proper manner.”
Neil Simon, the Assembly’s communications director, said in response that the candidacy of Mr. Mecacci had been proposed by the OSCE PA president, and that Mr. Mecacci had followed political developments in Belarus for some time and would be able to convey the Assembly’s stance on the parliamentary elections in Belarus.