Would the US State Department consider “monitoring” the election of a pope?

Would the US State Department consider “monitoring” the election of a pope? March 19, 2013

Check out this snippet from last Friday’s daily briefing with reporters. The briefer is Victoria Nuland.

I think they were kidding.  But these days, it’s hard to tell.

QUESTION: Vatican.

MS. NULAND: What about the Vatican?

QUESTION: Well, do you regard it as a free and fair exercise in electing a leader of a country?

MS. NULAND: We did a little bit more digging on this. We consider Vatican City a sovereign juridical state. As some of you know – I think Matt knows – that sovereign juridical state has about 600 resident citizens. I would simply note that in the context of the election for the Pope, they were electing the head of a religion. He’s also the head of this sovereign juridical state.

It’s interesting to us that since this is a European state, we have never had a request for ODIHR [Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights] monitoring of the election, ODIHR being the election-monitoring entity in the European space. So, obviously, were that to come forward, we would take it very seriously.

QUESTION: So, wait, who requests that?

MS. NULAND: The – it can be requested by citizens. It can be requested by parliament. It can be requested by the opposition, as it was in the case of Belarus.

QUESTION: So if – (laughter) – such a request was made, would – the Vatican would have to open up its voting process for that kind of state?

MS. NULAND: If such a request were made for ODIHR monitoring of the voting, then the Vatican would have to consider whether it would open itself to ODIHR monitors.

QUESTION: Okay. But – all right. That’s very interesting. Now —

MS. NULAND: And as I said yesterday —


MS. NULAND: — we would – if you wanted to be a monitor, we could see if we could arrange it, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That would be great. I would love to spend a week or two in Rome.

MS. NULAND: Exactly.

QUESTION: But – what – now – but that —

QUESTION: Can women be monitors?

MS. NULAND: Say again?

QUESTION: Can women be monitors?

MS. NULAND: In the Vatican City context, I don’t know. We’d have to work on that. Jill, do you want to monitor?

QUESTION: So this just brings me —

MS. NULAND: Jill’s volunteering, too. We could have a whole roomful of monitors.


QUESTION: Is it then correct that the U.S. does not take a position on whether the election of the Pope was free and fair and transparent?

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday —

QUESTION: Without universal suffrage, without —

MS. NULAND: As I said yesterday, we don’t have any reason to question the process.

Thank you very much.

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