It's Election Time . . . In Albania
NEW PALTZ -- The election season is in full swing and SUNY New Paltz political science assistant professor Kathleen Dowley is packing her bags for Albania.
Dowley is one of 15 Americans selected to be part of the 100-person international team of election observers during October's local elections in Albania. The observation team will monitor polling stations across the East European nation under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Dowley applied for the team through the U.S. State Department.
"This is a great opportunity to obtain first-hand experience for my research," says Dowley, who specializes in Eastern European and Russian politics. "I hope this is the first of many opportunities to be directly involved with observing the growth of democratic processes in that part of the world."
While the observation duties will take Dowley away from her students for a week, she expects her students will be beneficiaries of her experience.
"We talk a lot about how a nation's success with democratization affects its world standing and eligibility for foreign aid and IMF and World Bank loans," she says. "I will be able to bring personal stories directly to them, about how these evaluations are made, which should add significantly to the written materials they are studying and discussing."
In the last year, the OSCE sent 1,900 observers to monitor elections in 11 OSCE participating states. While many of the past observation missions included well-known global leaders, such as Jimmy Carter, Dowley modestly notes that the Albanian elections are local, not national.
"Local elections don't draw the big names," she says. That is just fine with her - her expertise and research are more focused on local elections in the overall democratization process.
When she leaves Sept. 26, Dowley will only know brief pieces of her itinerary. She will join the other observation team members in Vienna, Austria. From there they will leave for Tirana, Albania, where OSCE coordinators will pair team members and assign polling places. "I'm guessing that some of these regions may be fairly remote and electric power will be intermittent," Dowley says, referring to a memo recommending observers pack a "torch" in case of emergency.
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