Arab Spring observers monitor Polish election

AFP , Sunday 9 Oct 2011

Warsaw gives delegates from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya an insight into the lessons of Poland's democratic wave that drove out its communist regime in 1989

Member of the Tunisian election authorities Larbi Chouikha, right, talks to reporters following a meeting of a group of democracy activists from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, some at left, with Foreign Ministry top officials in Warsaw, Poland on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011.(Photo: AP)

Fifteen observers from Tunisia, Libya and Egypt were invited to follow the day's voting in a handful of polling stations, Poland's electoral commission head Stefan Jaworski told reporters.

They were deployed in the capital Warsaw and the central cities of Plock and Radom to oversee voting and monitor the count after polling ended at 9:00 pm (1900 GMT).

Libyan Mohamed Salem Abunnaja said one goal was to learn lessons to be used back home.

"It's impressive to see what Poland has achieved in the past 20 years. We would like to adopt similar methods to ensure the independent operation of election bodies," he added.

Mounira Belghouthi, member of Tunisia's electoral commission, underscored the importance of systems to enable free and fair votes.

"In Tunisia, where we're going to the polls on October 23, the biggest challenge is to create a transparent and credible electoral system," she said.

Mohamed Momtaz Metwaly Aly, from Egypt's electoral commission, said Poland's lessons were crucial.

"We're trying to create a similar system," he said. "Just like in Poland, only judges can sit on the electoral commission in Egypt."

On Monday, the Arab observers are due to visit the Warsaw offices of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe -- the Polish capital is home to its human rights and election-monitoring arm.

Poland's Solidarity opposition movement drove the country's four-decade communist regime bloodlessly from power in 1989 in an election that was part of a deal negotiated with the government.

Since then, Warsaw has sought to share the lessons of its transition to democracy with other nations emerging from authoritarian rule.

Earlier this year, iconic former Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Lech Walesa visited Tunisia to advise its new authorities.

All six general elections in Poland since the fall of communism have seen a change in power, but the centrist Civic Platform of Prime Minister Donald Tusk is aiming for a landmark second mandate Sunday.

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