The war in Ukraine and the related inertia of the members of the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO) to show unity and a firm answer finally led to the dissolution of the organization.
Please find below the message from ACEEEO Secretary General Zsolt Szolnoki.
Dear Colleagues, dear Partners, dear Friends!
I guess some of you already heard the breaking news: the Association of the European Election Officials – also known as ACEEEO – has been dissolved.
The reason of the dissolution was that after Russian Federation’s unlawful war on Ukraine, the members of the Association could not agree about the exclusion, or about the suspension of the Russian and Belorussian members, meaning the Central Election Commissions of the two countries.
According to the ACEEEO charter a 2/3 majority was needed for both isolations. The first round of voting on the expulsion was invalid, because only half of the members were able to cast their votes. In the second round of voting for the suspension the expected majority was not ensured again, thus the technical suicide, namely dissolution was the only option.
I was sad to observe that most of our colleagues made emotional decisions: some left the association right after the first round already, denying to work further together in order to find a solution acceptable to all; others remained silent in a time when the situation called for firm answers. That is precisely what the invader wanted: divide the world, split up different organisations, spread discord.
We must show unity and firmly make a stand for peace, democracy and elections. Diversity, which was one of the key values of the Association for the last 30 years, now this is suddenly became our destiny.
Dear Colleagues, dear Friends,
In 1991 the founding fathers, Richard Soudriette and Zoltán Tóth with the support of IFES, established the ACEEEO with the aim to provide a non-partisan forum for the exchange of information among election officials and experts throughout the region; to discuss and act upon ways to promote open and transparent elections; and with the objective of supporting good governance and democracy. Therefore those, who have signed up for the ACEEEO Charter also signed up for the peace, democracy and elections.
In the recent 30 years the ACEEEO was always an example of a European network, where despite of differences in foreign and internal politics, members were able to discuss professional matters of elections and form united position. We all think about the decades-long joint work of election experts from across the ACEEEO region and from all over the world.
Throughout the last 3 decades we kept our flexible and friendly approach and provided support for election officials not only in Europe, for almost the whole world. I have been working for the ACEEEO since 1995 and met with many excellent colleagues and what is more important: true friends. I have learnt a lot about professionalism, respect, democracy and elections. I’m sure that most of us considered the ACEEEO not just as an organization, but rather as a community.
I would like to thank to all those practitioners who supported and contributed to the work of the ACEEEO in its 31 years history. Furthermore, my special appreciation goes to the remaining members of the Executive Board and my colleagues at the Secretariat, who stayed committed to the Association and its core values until the very last moment.
We have lived the last two weeks in dismay watching the collapse of our beloved community, but we never forgot, that the real tragedy is happening in Ukraine. We are thinking about our Ukrainian colleagues, friends, election officials, the Ukrainian people with great distress and we stands with all of them to defend their life, their democracy, their country.
At the time of the foundation of the ACEEEO, we didn’t think that 30 years later, the election management bodies will still facing challenges to save their independence. Even in Europe democracy is on decline and autocracies are spreading due to the mass flow of disinformation and propaganda. There are also other challenges in terms of political pressure, lack of trust, security concerns, just to mention some. Thus, in these troublesome times, we as election management bodies need to be united in support of each other, in support of free, fair and transparent elections.
Therefore, it is time to stop mourning the ACEEEO. It is the right time to double our efforts and work harder in order to promote open, free and competitive elections as well as to support good governance and democracy.
The story of the ACEEEO is not ended by its dissolution. We have an over 30 years history and experience in working with- and for election officials and thus creating a community of people dedicated to advancing democracy and the practice of elections. We have a functional network of professionals, many of whom ensured us in their support right after the spreading word about dissolution.
Therefore, I believe in the meaningful heritage of the ACEEEO. I believe in the values conveyed by our community. I believe in our network and the support of our friends and colleagues. I believe that the selected symbol of our Association – the ACEEEO bird – the symbol of peace, democracy and elections will rise like a phoenix in the near future.
Secretary General, ACEEEO