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Despite Time Crunch, OSCE Kosovo Supervises Smooth Election Process

Kosovo -- A voter casts his ballot in the OSCE balloting facilitation exercise for the second round of the Serbian presidential election, Gracanica, 20may2012

Given only 134 hours to accomplish what would otherwise take months, Edward Joseph, Deputy Chief of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Kosovo, pulled off nothing short of an election day miracle.

Joseph, speaking at the Center for Transatlantic Relations at John Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. on May 25, described the effectiveness and speed with which his team carried out the supervision of the Serbian presidential elections in Kosovo on May 6.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo, whose aim is to oversee democratic elections and protect human rights, supervised polling booths for the first round of elections where voters in Kosovo were invited to cast their ballots at any of the OSCE-orchestrated polling centers. Although the election process in Kosovo proved successful, the OSCE staff initially thought they had been dealt “mission impossible.” The tardy negotiation between Pristina and Belgrade over the appropriate polling procedures on April 30 left OSCE scrambling to find locations, materials, and staff for the election.

Quickly, 28 centers were erected and ballots, boxes, and ink transported to the desired locations. Three Kosovo Serbs, one international coordinator, and one interpreter were stationed at each voting center.

The OSCE Mission in Kosovo is the organization’s largest field operation and has maintained favorable relations with all communities in Kosovo. In the weeks leading up to election day, Joseph said simmering tensions between rival factions made OSCE’s supervision “the best choice to avoid what could have been a bad situation.”

The OSCE proclaims itself “status neutral,” meaning it has no position relating to the statehood of Kosovo.

-- Kate Leisner