31. Aug. 2006
Association of Central and Eastern Europe
When the process which has led to the results had been free and fair, those who did not win the elections will accept the results
Mrs. President, dear Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
I am here to transmit to you the congratulations and greetings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. We know what we do owe you; as in a football game there would be no goals and there for no winners without the referees, we members of parliaments are fully aware that we owe our existence to you, your work and serious commitment. For this we are really grateful to you indeed.
As a Member of the Parliament and the PACE who observed in the last ten years 36 elections besides France and the United-States in the countries which are members of your Associations I am especially aware of the difficulty of your work. I am sure that some of you must often feel like the meat in a sandwich: Under presser from two sides who both expect from you incompatible demands: The citizens want and have the right to have free and fair elections, the power holders want to keep the power. And you have to deliver without being able to set the rules which are maid by the majority of the Parliament which is eager to keep this majority and unfortunately too often priorities this interest over the constitutional duty to set a fair polity.
Some of you overcame this sandwich position for the sake of a sound and healthy democracy some of you are still struggling. Please do not give up. Tell those who hold the power and always want to keep it, that you are responsible for the core of any democratic power, legitimacy. This is not only the core, but the soul of democracy and you know that we all know that we have one but it s not so easy to find it and even to define it.
But as you certainly know there is a clear test for the question how legitimate elections are: When the process which has led to the results had been free and fair, offered equal opportunities to all competitors and the counting of tabling of the results have been done in a transparent way overseen by impartial referees as you are in which all competitors trust, then those who lost or did not win the elections will of course be sad, not happy, but they will accept the results. This is the test of the quality of the rules you had to obey to and the test of the quality of your work. You are the guards of this legitimacy and please be aware of it and be careful with it, it’s the most difficult and precious good we are defending in democracies.
I thank you for this and do wish you all the best for your never ending work in the future, in the next 15 years.