For debate in the Standing Committee see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure
Pour débat à la Commission permanente – Voir article 15 du Règlement
15 October 2001
Code of good practice in electoral matters
Political Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mr. Georges Clerfayt, Belgium, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
Free and fair elections are a fundamental requirement for democracy.
At present, there is no formal code of practice in Europe in electoral matters, nor is there a permanent body, officially responsible for monitoring elections. Despite considerable efforts deployed in the last decade by the Council of Europe, OSCE/ODIHR, European Union and various other bodies, the criteria and rules remain piecemeal.
The report calls on the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) to devise a code of practice in electoral matters, inspired by the guidelines set out in the report and in close co-operation with the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and any other organisation with experience in the matter.
I. Draft resolution
1. Free and fair elections at regular intervals by secret ballot are a fundamental requirement for a political system to be recognised as a democracy.
2. The conditions in which elections are conducted depend to a large degree on individual countries’ political and cultural traditions and positive law. However, there are universal standards which set absolute minimum requirements or prohibit certain forms of conduct in order for elections to be considered free and democratic.
3. At present, despite the work which international organisations such as the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Council of Europe have been doing for some years now, there is no single text setting out the basic rules for the conduct of elections.
4. The Assembly strongly believes that, because of its special role as the guardian of democracy in Europe and its expertise in electoral matters, the Council of Europe could and should play a pioneering role in codifying election rules and standards. This would prevent the application of different standards and make a positive contribution to the evaluation of the member states’ situations in the monitoring of their commitments.
5. The Council of Europe’s role in electoral matters can be enhanced by the existence and activities of the Council of Europe body, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission). Co-operation and co-ordination between the Venice Commission and the Parliamentary Assembly should be improved so as to turn to fuller account the Assembly’s experience in this area, as well as the expertise of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in local and regional elections (CLRAE).
6. The Assembly accordingly calls on the Venice Commission:
i. to set up a working group comprising representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly, the CLRAE and possibly other organisations with experience in the matter to discuss electoral issues regularly;
ii. to devise a code of practice in electoral matters which might draw, inter alia, on the guidelines set out in the appendix to the explanatory memorandum of the report on which this resolution is based (Doc. 9267), on the understanding that this code should include rules both on the run-up to and the elections themselves and on the period immediately following the vote;
iii. as far as its resources allow, to compile a list of the underlying principles of European electoral systems by co-ordinating, making systematic and stepping up current and planned surveys and activities. In the medium term, the data collected on European elections should be entered into a data base, and analysed and disseminated by a specialised unit.
II. Explanatory memorandum by the Rapporteur
Table of contents
I. Introduction 4
II. International organisations and election assistance: 4
the role of the Council of Europe
i. OSCE ODIHR (Office for Democratic 5
Institutions and Human Rights)
ii. European Union 5
iii. Council of Europe 6
III. Propositions for the future 7
i. Co-ordination between the Assembly, CLRAE
and the Venice Commission in electoral matters 7
ii. Election observation questionnaire 8
iii. Guidelines for a code of good practice in electoral matters 9
IV. Conclusions 9
Appendix I List of elections observed by the Parliamentary Assembly since 1989 12
Appendix II List of elections observed by the Congress of
Local and Regional Authorities of Europe 16
Appendix III Proposed questionnaire for observers 18
Appendix IV Basic guidelines for a code of good practice in electoral matters 20
1. Free and fair elections at regular intervals are a fundamental requirement for democracy in a political system. This has been stipulated in Article 3 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights3
2. The free and fair nature of the elections depends on the respect of a number of standard rules, considered to be the absolute minimum and which forbid certain precise and unacceptable behaviour.
3. At present, there is no European code of practice in electoral matters. Nor is there a permanent European body responsible for monitoring elections.
4. Several European governmental organisations take part in election-observation missions in Europe, and each applies its own criteria for observation and appraisal.
5. Because of its special role as the guardian of European democracy and its experience in this area, the Council of Europe has a key role to play in electoral matters, for elections are a crucial factor in its appraisals of member and applicant states.
6. In order to harmonise standards for organising and observing elections, it is proposed that a standard European code of good practice in electoral matters be drawn up. Its existence would avoid the application of different standards and contradictory evaluations of one and the same election. By guaranteeing a consistent approach, the code would strengthen the impact and credibility of evaluation.
7. The member States and applicant States could then use the code as a model for drafting or revising their electoral legislation. Delegations of observers from the Assembly could also check that the code was being honoured.
8. In view of the technical challenge of drawing up a standard code of practice in electoral matters, the Political Affairs Committee decided to use the services of a consultant. Mr Bernard Owen, Secretary General of the Centre for Comparative Electoral Studies, Université Panthéon-Assas (Paris II), agreed to take on the task, for which I am deeply grateful to him. This draft report is therefore partly based on a document prepared by Mr Owen.
9. This present document describes the role of international organisations, and the Council of Europe in particular, in the field of election assistance. It concentrates on the potential benefit to the Council of devising a standard code of practice in electoral matters. It also provides guidelines for the code’s preparation.
II International organisations and election assistance: the role of the Council of Europe
10. Several European governmental organisations, in particular the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the Commission of the European Union, engage in election observation in Europe. Each applies its own criteria in observation and appraisal.
i. OSCE - ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights)
11. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw has expanded considerably during the past ten years. Having opted for an extensive interpretation of the OSCE governing instruments, it has a key role in election assistance, co-ordination and observation in OSCE member states4. The ODIHR employs short-term and long-term, non-parliamentarian, observers.
12. The ODIHR is currently the principal organiser and co-ordinator of observation missions. Since it arrives on the scene well before elections are due and can call on extensive resources and a large pool of observers, the ODIHR is generally accepted in this capacity by national authorities, and it will usually co-ordinate the observation activities of other international organisations.
13. OSCE observers have an election observation handbook containing a model questionnaire for election observation and evaluation.
14. In addition, the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE occasionally forms ad hoc delegations of parliamentarian observers.
ii. European Union: the Commission and the Parliament
15. The European Commission is constrained by its system of tendering, which results in appointing a different body for each observation mission. The financial resources available to observers vary enormously from one mission to another. This system hampers continuity and further development of working methods. The Commission has, however, been very active in developing observation methodology and training long-term and short-term observers. For instance, trials were conducted with computerised questionnaires during the 1995 elections to the Russian Duma.
16. The lack of continuity has rendered the European Commission completely invisible, its activities being co-ordinated by either the OSCE or the United Nations. When not directly involved in an observation mission, it sometimes assists with electoral activities run by the OSCE. For example, it trained 700 observers for the 1996 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
17. The European Commission report of 11 April 2000 conceded that its own initiatives, while numerous, have not been incorporated into an overall plan and expressed regret at its lack of visibility. The report speaks of the need for a complete overhaul in this area and also for co-operation with other international organisations5.
18. The European Parliament occasionally also takes part in election observation in Europe.
iii. Council of Europe
19. At the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly co-ordinates election observation at national level, while the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE) has competence at local and regional level. The Venice Commission too provides significant election assistance to certain member and applicant states.
a. Parliamentary Assembly
20. In recent years the Parliamentary Assembly has observed many general and presidential elections as well as referendums in Council of Europe member states and applicant countries whose parliaments enjoy or have applied for special guest status. Another consideration is that parliamentarian observers have extensive experience of the workings of democracy and are therefore able to give an accurate political appraisal of elections. The political dimension sets Council of Europe evaluation apart from that of the ODIHR, which is essentially technical. See Appendix I for the list of elections observed by the Parliamentary Assembly.
21. On the basis of the Assembly’s experience since 1990, the Assembly Bureau took stock in 1999 and approved guidelines on criteria and principles governing Assembly election observation in order to achieve maximum effectiveness and optimum results.
22. The Bureau placed particular emphasis on the specific features of Assembly observation missions.
23. Ad hoc Parliamentary Assembly delegations always conduct election observation missions within the broader context of examining membership applications or monitoring member states’ compliance with obligations and commitments. Far from being a one-off short-term exercise, observation is part of an ongoing process in the relevant Assembly committees (the Political Affairs Committee, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights and the Monitoring Committee).
24. The evaluation criteria reflect this. The aim of evaluation is to determine whether a country is on course for membership or, in the case of Council of Europe member States, whether it is honouring its obligations and commitments.
25. In July 2000, the Assembly Bureau appointed a support and evaluation group for the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. The group was drawn from all of the Assembly’s political groups and was composed of four eminent former Assembly members. Having been given the task of advising the central electoral commission in Azerbaijan and making all the necessary contact, it visited the country in September, October and November 2000. The detailed study which it produced at the actual time of the election proved a valuable resource for the Assembly Bureau’s ad hoc committee of observers.
26. With regard to relations with other international institutions, to date the Parliamentary Assembly has always collaborated on the spot with the ODIHR in spite of the attendant disadvantages: less Assembly visibility and the difficulty of carrying out their specific mission remit and presenting their opinions on equal terms. Experience shows that equality in co-operation is extremely difficult to achieve. The problems are due in particular to the considerable human and material resources at the ODIHR’s disposal.
27. Assembly members have also taken part on several occasions, most significantly in Slovakia and Albania, in “troikas” composed of delegations of parliamentary observers from the Council of Europe Assembly, the OSCE Assembly and the European Parliament.
b. Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
28. The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE), which was established in 1994 as a consultative Council of Europe body, is particularly concerned with local and regional democracy in Council of Europe member states and applicant countries, and engages in election observation in these countries at regional and local level. See Appendix II for the list of elections observed by the CLRAE.
c. Venice Commission
29. The Venice Commission is a partial agreement of the Council of Europe. It is composed of independent experts who are internationally recognised for their experience with democratic institutions or their contribution to the development of law and political science.6 It is active in the field of constitutional law in the broadest sense and places its skills and experience, especially in the electoral field, at the disposal of member and applicant states. Since its inception its election assistance has taken several forms. In the first instance, it comments on draft electoral laws so that they can be amended and brought into line with the standards applying to the European constitutional heritage.7 Alternatively, it may comment on legislation already enacted which there are plans to revise.8 In co-operation with national and international experts, the Commission also helps to draft and revise electoral laws, as in Albania in 1997 and 2000, or itself prepares legislation in this field, as in Bosnia and Herzegovina.9
30. In both the electoral and other fields, the Venice Commission also engages in general comparative work. For example, it prepares studies on themes such as electoral law with reference to national minorities10 and its international seminars such as “New trends in electoral law in a pan-European context”11 and “Electoral disputes in the Constitutional Court”12 result in publications.
III. Proposals for the future
i. Co-ordination between the Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission in electoral matters
31. In order to apply the standard code of practice in electoral matters, the Council of Europe needs to consolidate its role in election assistance.
32. It could do this by pooling the experience of the Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission within a new or existing body. Co-operation already existing between these institutions would be developed and placed on an official footing. The Assembly could contribute political legitimacy and the Venice Commission scientific or technical legitimacy.
33. Rather than actually make a new provision, the Council would develop, co-ordinate and consolidate existing activities. By and large, co-ordination of this sort does not exist at present. An ad hoc committee - a kind of elections body - could be composed of members of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the Political Affairs Committee, the Monitoring Committee, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission.
34. The new body would not be competing with or duplicating the work of the ODIHR or other organisations. Co-operation with these institutions would continue as in the past but with improved co-ordination.
35. The elections body would identify the principles of a common European electoral heritage, to which end it would conduct studies of a general nature. In co-ordination with the Assembly, it would apply these principles by delivering opinions on national legislation or producing election observation reports. Lastly, it would tackle electoral issues as they arose.
36. The Venice Commission would remain competent to assess electoral legislation, especially when so requested by a state or statutory organ, and to draw up comparative studies on diverse aspects of electoral law.
37. The Assembly and the CLRAE would retain competence for observation of specific elections, but this would be co-ordinated with scrutiny of electoral legislation.
38. By centralising documentation on electoral legislation and election observation, the new body’s co-ordination of Assembly, CLRAE and Venice Commission activities would allow appraisals to take account of observation findings systematically. Conversely, it would enable election observation to take the comments on electoral law into account.
39. The Assembly’s and/or CLRAE’s observation delegations would thus be fully informed before departure about the national electoral situation. Observation would then be an opportunity to verify in situ the way laws and regulations were being applied and to check the degree of compliance with or divergence from the criteria in the standard code of good practice in electoral matters.
40. The Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission could prepare joint opinions recommending improvements to legislation and practice in a given country. Other studies could be more general.
41. The Council of Europe would thus build up a corpus of basic documentation which could be shared with the European Commission and the OSCE.
ii. Election observation questionnaire
42 It would help election observation and evaluation to provide observers with a simple, practical questionnaire setting out general principles for good electoral practice.
43. The advantage of a questionnaire is that a record can be kept of the exact place where a particular event is observed. It also allows data to be electronically processed without delay and provides a technical basis for the rapporteur to produce the final observation report.
44. A suitable model computerised questionnaire for the Council of Europe can be found in Appendix 3
iii. Guidelines for a code of good practice in electoral matters
45. An electoral code of good practice might constitute the first general opinion produced jointly by the Venice Commission and the Assembly. Appendix 4 contains an outline of such a code which could provide a basis for the required draft document and which mentions the types of problem that may be encountered and some examples of solutions.
46. The code would not deal with choosing between a majority, proportional or mixed electoral system. It would confine itself to procedural matters and how an election was organised.
47. To avoid duplicating ODIHR guidelines, the code would adopt a general approach, allowing states some latitude so that their traditions and their particular circumstances can be taken into account, as long as these do not conflict with the principles. It would, however, set out the minimum rules that absolutely must be respected and a number of practices that are prohibited or formally discouraged.
48. The framework to be created by the Council of Europe is not meant to be a replica of the already numerous standards adopted by other international or non-governmental organisations, and which determine the elements that go into making an ideal institution.
49. The aim of the exercise is to provide member states with certain guidelines, so that the constitutional principles of electoral law (universal, equal, free, secret and direct suffrage) are universally respected according to a set of rules, which are similar. However, one has to bear in mind that the rules will have to be applied in countries with sometimes very different traditions. For example, in some newly independent states, the administration that has been in place for the past 10 years hitherto had no right of initiative, and no attempts were made to monitor effectiveness of the election process as long as the reported figures matched the norm.
50. It would be difficult at the moment, given the different strategies adopted by the organisations concerned with electoral matters, to set up a single election-monitoring body in Europe. With the ODIHR, there is no doubt that the OSCE has gained a dominant position which tends to overshadow the European Commission and the Council of Europe.
51. Developing and placing on an official footing the co-operation that already exists between the Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission, and by drafting a standard code of practice in electoral matters so as to consolidate its activities in the electoral field would give the Council of Europe a measure of independence, enabling it to enter into agreements on equal terms and even make practical arrangements with the European Commission and other organisations involved in election assistance and observation.
52. There are three possible dimensions to Council action.
53. The first dimension would entail setting up a co-ordinating body to develop and place on an official footing the existing co-operation between the Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission. Once again, rather than make entirely new provision, established activities would be developed, consolidated and co-ordinated. The secretariat for this elections body could be provided by the Venice Commission in conjunction with the Assembly Bureau.
54. The second dimension would entail devising a standard code of practice in electoral matters. A draft would be drawn up by the elections body, using as its starting point the outline contained in Appendix 4. The Assembly should adopt it and recommend it to the Committee of Ministers.
55. The third dimension, relating to election observation, would make use of existing arrangements. Henceforth, however, observers would have access to records compiled from information provided by the Assembly, the CLRAE and the Venice Commission. They could also make use of a computerised questionnaire which would facilitate the overall appraisal of elections.
56. The Bureau should clarify in which cases observation would be appropriate, on the basis of criteria such as the existence of a monitoring procedure for a given country, previous elections that have been judged unsatisfactory, etc.
57. Electoral information would be collected into databases which would provide immediate access to details requested from the elections body. All of the documents in the databases would be made available to the European Commission and other interested organisations. The Council of Europe’s partners would be informed about this new election-information facility and given the procedure for accessing it.
Reporting committee : Political Affairs Committee
Reference to committee : Doc. 8327 and Reference No. 2366 of 30 March 1999
Draft resolution unanimously adopted by the committee on 21 May 2001
Members of the committee: Davis (Chairman) (alternate: Judd), Jakic (Vice-Chairman), Baumel (Vice-Chairman), Toshev (Vice-Chairman), Adamia, Aliyev (alternate: Seyidov), Arzilli, Atkinson (alternate : Jones), Bakoyianni, Bársony, Behrendt, Berceanu, Bergqvist, Bianchi, Björck, Blaauw, Bühler, Cekuolis, Clerfayt, Daly, Demetriou, Derycke, Diaz de Mera (alternate: Sola Tura), Dokle, Dreyfus-Schmidt, Durrieu (alternate: Lemoine), Evangelisti, Feric-Vac (alternate: Budisa), Frey, Fyfe, Gjellerod, Glesener, Gligoroski, Gross (alternate : Fehr), Gül, Hornues, Hovhannisyan, Hrebenciuc, Irtemçelik, Ivanenko, Iwinski, Karpov (alternate: Zarubinsky), Kautto, Kirilov, Kotsonis, Krzaklewski, Martinez-Casan (alternate: Puche), Medeiros Ferreira, Mota Amaral, Mutman, Neguta, Nemcova, Neuwirth, Ojuland (alternate: Tallo), Oliynyk (remplaçant : Tsybenko), Palmitjavila Ribo, Prisacaru, Prusak, de Puig, Ragnarsdottir, Rogozin, Schieder, Schloten (alternate : Hoffmann), Selva, Spindelegger (alternate : Gatterer), Squarcialupi, Stepová, Surjan, Taylor, Thoresen, Timmermans (alternate: van der Linden), Udovenko (alternate: Zvarych), Vakilov (alternate: Mollazade), Vella, Weiss, Wielowieyski, Ziuganov, Z... (Liechtenstein) (alternate : Wohlwend).
N.B. The names of members who took part in the meeting are printed in italics
Secretaries of the committee : Mr Perin, Mrs Ruotanen, Mr Sich
Elections observed by the Parliamentary Assembly since 1989
1. Members States
- Parliamentary Elections in Albania (31 March - 7 and 14 April 1991) ; Doc 6406 Addendum II
- Elections in Albania (22 and 29 March 1992) ; Doc 6603 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Albania; Doc 7587 and Doc 7592 (opinion)
- Local Elections in Albania (20-27 October 1996) ; Doc 7699 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Albania (29 June and 6 July1997) ; Doc 7902 Addendum I
- Referendum in Albania (22 November 1998) ; Doc 8292 Addendum III
- Parliamentary Elections in Albania (24 June 2001, 2nd round 8, 22 and 29 July, and 19 August 2001)
- Elections in Andorra (12 December 1993) ; Doc 6996 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia (5 July 1995) ; Doc 7369 Addendum I
- Presidential Elections in Armenia (16-30 March 1998), Doc 8058 Addendum IV
- Parliamentary Elections in Armenia (30 May 1999), Doc 8448
- Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan (9-13 November 1995), Doc 7430 Addendum III
- Presidential Elections in Azerbaijan (11 October 1998) ; Doc 8256,
- Parliamentary Elections in Azerbaijan (5 November 2000) ; Doc 8918 and Addendum I
- Re-run of 7 January 2001, Doc 8918 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Bulgaria (10 and 17 June 1990), Doc 6279 Addendum I
- Elections in Bulgaria (13 October 1991), Doc 6543 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Bulgaria (19 April 1997), Doc 7830 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Bulgaria (17 June 2001)
- Elections in Croatia (2 August 1992), Doc 6674 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Croatia, (29 October 1995) , Doc 7430 Addendum I
- Local Elections locales in Croatia – Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (13 April 1997), Doc 7803 Addendum I
- Elections in Croatia (3 January 2000), Doc 8624
- Presidential Elections in Croatia (24 January and 7 February 2000), Doc 8658
CZECH AND SLOVAK REPUBLIC (PRO MEMORIA)
Parliamentary Elections in the Czech and Slovak Republic (8-9 June 1990); Doc 6279 Addendum III
Elections in Estonia (20 September 1992), Doc 6724 Addendum I
"THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA”
- Elections in the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (16 and 30 October 1994), Doc 7205 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" , (15-19 October 1998), Doc 8257
- Presidential Elections in the "former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (31 October and 14 November 1999), Doc 8604
- Parliamentary Elections in Georgia on 5 November 1995, Doc 7430 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Georgia (31 October 1999), Doc 8605
- Presidential Elections in Georgia (9 April 2000), Doc 8742
Parliamentary Elections in Hungary (25 March and 8 April 1990) in the light of the visit by the Ad Hoc Committee (23-26 March 1990), Doc 6210 Addendum I
- Elections in Latvia (5- 6 June 1993), Doc 6908 Addendum
- Parliamentary Elections in Latvia (3 October 1998), Doc 8255
Elections and referendum in Lithuania (25 October and 15 November 1992) ; Doc 6724 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Moldova (27 February 1994) ; Doc 7080 Addendum II
- Presidential elections in Moldova (Chişinău, 15-18 November 1996) ; Doc 7699 Addendum III
- Parliamentary Elections in Moldova (Chişinău, 19-24 March 1998) ; Doc 8058 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Moldova (25 February 2001)
Elections in Poland (27 October 1991), Doc 6543 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Romania (20 May 1990), Doc 6279 Addendum II
- Elections in Romania (27 September 1992), Doc 6724 Addendum V
- Elections in Romania (3 and 17 November 1996), Doc 7699 Addendum II
- Parliamentary Elections in Russia (12 December 1993); Doc 7038 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Russia (17 December 1995) ; Doc 7430 Addendum V
- Russian Presidential Elections, first round : 16 June 1996, Doc 7560 Addendum II
- Russian Presidential Elections, second round: 3 July 1996 ; Doc 7633 Addendum I
- Elections in Russia (19 December 1999), Doc 8623
- Russian Presidential Elections (26 March 2000), Doc 8693
Parliamentary Elections in Slovakia (25-26 September 1998) ; Doc 8254
Elections in Slovenia (6 December 1992), Doc 6724 Addendum III
- Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine (27 March 1994) ; Doc 7080 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Ukraine (29 March 1998) ; Doc 8058 Addendum III
- Presidential Elections in Ukraine (31 October and 14 November 1999) ; Doc 8603
2. Non-member States
- Parliamentary Elections in Belarus (14 and 28 May 1995), Doc 7335 Addendum I
- Parliamentary Elections in Belarus (29 November and 10 December 1995), Doc 7430 Addendum IV
- Presidential Elections (9 September 2001)
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
- Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (14 September 1996) ; Meetings held in Vienna and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 10 to 16 September 1996) Doc 7633 Addendum IV
- Local Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (13 and 14 September 1997) ; Doc 7902 Addendum II
- Elections for the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) (22-23 November 1997) ; Doc 7978 Addendum I
- Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (12-13 September 1998), Doc 8216
- Parliamentary Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (11 November 2000) ; Doc 8910
Visit to Chile of the Joint Sub-Committee at the time of the elections 14 December 1989 ; Doc 6169 Addendum
FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA
- Local Elections in Kosovo (28 October 2000) ; Doc 8891
- Elections to the National Assembly of Serbia, FRY (23 December 2000) ; Doc 8934
- Parliamentary Elections in Montenegro (22 April 2001)
GERMAN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC (PRO MEMORIA)
Parliamentary Elections in the German Democratic Republic (18 March 1990) in the light of the visit by the Ad Hoc Committee (14-19 March 1990) ; Doc 6210 Addendum II
Elections in Palestine (20 January 1996), Doc 7560 Addendum I
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe
OBSERVATION OF ELECTIONSÂ Â Â Â 9
ALBANIE / ALBANIA
(26 juillet/July 1992) CPL/P (27) 27
(15-23 octobre/October 1996) CG/BUR (3) 52 rev
(21 + 27 juin/June 1998) CG/BUR (5) 61
(1+15 octobre/October 2000) CG/CP (7) 13 rev
ARMENIE / ARMENIA
(10 + 24 novembre/November 1996) CG/BUR (3) 73
(24 octobre/October 1999) CG/BUR (6) 88
AZERBAÏDJAN / AZERBAIJAN
(12 décembre/December 1999) CG/BUR (6) 184
BULGARIE / BULGARIA
(13 octobre/October 1991) CPL/P (26) 30
(16 + 23 octobre/October 1999) CG/BUR (6) 89
CROATIE / CROATIA
(7 février/February 1993) CPL/P (27) 70 rev
(13-15 avril/April 1997) CG/BUR (4) 2 rev
REPUBLIQUE TCHEQUE / CZECH REPUBLIC
(24 novembre/November 1990) CPL/BUR (25) 21
ESTONIE / ESTONIA
(17 octobre/October 1993) CPL/P (28) 49
HONGRIE / HUNGARY
(30 septembre/September 1990) CPL/P (25) 18 I + II + III
LETTONIE / LATVIA
(29 mai/May 1994) CG/BUR (1) 13
(5 mars/March 1995) (Gagaouzie/Gagauzia) CG/CP (1) 48 + Addendum
(16 avril/April 1995) CG/BUR (1) 82
CG/CP (2) 8
(30 juin/June 1999) CG/BUR (6) 16
(21 septembre/September 1999) (Gagaouzie/Gagauzia) CG/BUR (6) 58
(23 janvier/January 2000) (Taraclia) CG/BUR (6) 131
POLOGNE / POLAND
(27 mai/May 1990) CPL/P (25) 9
ROUMANIE / ROMANIA
(9 + 23 février/February 1992) CPL/P (26) 49
FEDERATION DE RUSSIE / RUSSIAN FEDERATION
(12 décembre/December 1993) CPL/P (28) 56
(17 - 21 novembre/November 1994) CG/CP (1) 27
(17 décembre/December 1995) CG/BUR (2) 73 rev
(19 décembre/December 1999) (Vladivostok) CG/BUR (6) 117
"L'EX-REPUBLIQUE YOUGOSLAVE DE MACEDOINE"/
"THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA"
(15-18 novembre/November 1996) CG/BUR (3) 62
(10+24 septembre/September 2000) CG/CP (7) 12 rev
(26 juin/June 1994) CG/BUR (1) 11
(29 mars/March 1998) CG/BUR (4) 132
(23 août/August 1998) CG/BUR (5) 60 rev
(28 mai/May 2000) (Vasylkiv) CG/BUR (6) 173
BOSNIE & HERZEGOVINE / BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
(10-16 septembre/September 1996) CG/BUR (3) 51
(13-14 septembre/September 1997) CG/BUR (4) 69 &
(29 avril/April 1998) (Republika Srpska) CG/BUR (4) 147
(12-13 septembre/September 1998) CG/BUR (5) 54 rev
(8 avril/April 2000) CG/BUR (6) 171
(11 novembre/November 2000) CG/BUR (7) 72
REPUBLIQUE FEDERALE DE YOUGOSLAVIE / FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF YUGOSLAVIA
(11 juin/June 2000) (Podgorica et Herceg Novi - Monténégro) CG/Bur (7) 45
(28 octobre/October 2000) (Kosovo) CG/Bur (7) 63
(23 décembre/December 2000) (Serbie) CG/Bur (7) 85
The questionnaire is shown recto verso. It is recommended that the front page be completed at the polling station, with one of the observers asking the questions while another notes down the answers. The back should be completed later in the car, calmly and objectively, before setting off.
The proposed questionnaire would cover the following points:
- Names of the parliamentarians, team number.
- Name and number of the polling station.
- Arrival time.
- Number of people on the electoral list and on the supplementary list, if any.
- Number of voters at arrival time.
These two figures are important because at the end of the day, they can be used to verify the voter turnout, as reported by the authorities.
1. Polling station overcrowded
2. Unauthorised persons present
3. Trouble at the polling station
4. Voter intimidation
5. Persons not entered in the list
- If the answer to questions 1, 2 and 3 is “yes”, this means everyone agrees that the conduct of ballot at the polling station was less than satisfactory.
- If the answer is “yes” to questions 1 and 3 only, this would suggest incompetence on the part of the chairperson of the polling station, because overcrowding in the polling station leads to disorder.
- If the answer is “yes” to questions 3 and 5 only, this would suggest that the persons whose names were not on the list vented their anger and that the chairperson of the polling station was probably unable to maintain order.
- If the answer is “yes” to questions 3 and 4 only, this suggests that there was extensive voter intimidation.
- If the answer to questions 3, 4 and 2 is “yes, this might suggest that the presence of unauthorised persons was to blame for the trouble.
- If the answer is “yes” to question 2 only, it might be an idea to question the unauthorised persons concerned in order to find out who they are. One might claim to be, say, an electrician, in which case he should be asked what he would do in the event of a power cut.
- If the answer is “yes” to question 4 only, this might mean that intimidation was something people took for granted, or that it was carried out in a subtle manner.
5 - The affiliation of the chairperson of the polling station.
The party representatives present.
The back of the questionnaire would be split into 3 parts: the first would be reserved for the observers’ comments. For example:
- The voting took place on tables, not in booths: this is true of many places in the CIS - the ban imposed by the electoral law will take a while to come into force. It was traditional, under the Soviet regime, to do everything in the open. The practice of family voting has likewise been banned, but still goes on in many former Soviet states.
The main thing, therefore, is to determine whether in the case of table voting, the operation was overseen by a party representative, who may thus be deemed to have had an intimidating effect on the voter.
The second part would deal with incidents that have been reported to the observer by other people, and ought to be treated with caution therefore.
It is important, then, to check the identify of the author of the report.
At the bottom of the page (third part) there would be an area split into four sections (no middle position), which would be completed at the very end and would amount to an overall impression of the conduct of the poll at the station.
VERY GOOD GOOD BAD VERY BAD
The idea here is to conduct a final appraisal of what has been observed, in a relaxed atmosphere, away from the bustle of the polling station.
BASIC GUIDELINES FOR A CODE OF GOOD PRACTICE
IN ELECTORAL MATTERS
The following propositions could serve as a foundation
for a draft document outlining a code of good practice
A. Pre - election period
1. The transparency and effectiveness of the election process is directly related to the correct organisation of the pre-election period. In this respect, the key aspects to be considered at this stage are: the implementation of the election law and regulations; the impartiality of the pre-election administration and the political environment prior to voting day.
i. Legislative and Administrative Framework
a. Electoral Law
2. The legal framework should be drafted in an open and comprehensive manner in order to secure the confidence among the competing parties, candidates and voters. The imperfection of the Electoral Law, the deficiencies in its implementation, or significant changes in the legislative framework in the run-up to the election may cause a series of shortcomings in the unfolding of the electoral process.
3. Besides, a relative stability of the electoral law is a sign of maturity of democracy. Frequent changes of the electoral system could easily appear as manipulations in favour of the ruling party. The best way of ensuring stability of the elecoral law would be to include its main principles in the Constitution. In any case, since late legislative amendments may place some political parties at a disadvantage, changes must be introduced sufficiently far in advance (at least three months) of the date of new elections.
b. The right to vote and stand for election
4. This right should be afforded to every citizen on equal terms who has reached a qualifying age, except persons who are excluded on legal or medical grounds, confirmed by a court decision. The right to vote and stand for election is central to the notion of universal suffrage.
5. Some states try to get round this by denying the right to citizenship to persons, who have been living in the country for several generations, citing, say, linguistic considerations. The observation of the parliamentary elections of 3 October 1998 in Latvia revealed in this respect the problem of country’s residents voting: 14“only persons over 18 years of age with Latvian citizenship could vote, which automatically ruled out the non citizens, who make up about one-third of the population”.
c. Electoral lists
6. Electoral lists are always a matter of dispute at election time, to some degree or other. The authorities’ lack of experience, population shifts and the fact that few citizens bother to check the electoral lists whenever they are presented for inspection makes it difficult to compile these lists.
7. The problem of the inaccuracy in the voting lists occurred in several countries, for example during the parliamentary elections in Armenia on 30 May 1999. According to the Assembly rapporteur15, “Many voters could not find their names on the registers and others found the names of dead parents or children not yet entitled to vote in the lists.”
8. In order to remedy these problems, a number of conditions must be met:
i. There must be permanent electoral lists.
ii. There must be regular annual updates, at clearly defined intervals, so that the municipal (local) authorities get into the habit of performing the various tasks involved in updating at the same time every year.
The purpose of this operation is twofold, therefore:
- to compile the update
- to train local authorities by instilling habits and creating responsibilities.
iii. The provisional update must be published.
iv. The final update should be sent to a higher authority under the supervision of the election commission
v. A supplementary list can enable persons who have changed address or reached the statutory voting age since the final list was published, to vote. Drawing up a supplementary list requires close co-operation between the local authorities and the court of first instance. In some countries, the closing date for entry in the supplementary list may be, for example, 15 days before the election or election day itself. The latter arrangement, whilst admirably broad-minded, relies on decisions made by a court obliged to sit on polling day, and is thus ill suited to the organisational needs on which democracies are based. Polling stations should not be permitted, therefore, to register voters on election day itself.
9. The financing of Political parties is currently the subject of a report by the Assembly’s Political Affairs Committee. We will therefore confine our remarks to the situations encountered in the context of elections.
10. What matters is not the number of parties registered but rather the number of parties capable of winning a significant number of votes.
11. However, too many parties in parliament is a potential factor in unstable government.
12. There are three levels at which legislators can act:
i. Restrict the number of parties registered,
ii. Restrict the number of parties that are allowed to field candidates in elections,
iii. Restrict the number of parties that can win seats by introducing thresholds in proportional representation ballots, majority-voting ballots or in systems which rely on both.
13. The general tendency is to avoid restricting the number of parties by tinkering with the terms and conditions governing registration.
14. The tendency, therefore, is to introduce restrictions on taking part in elections. For instance, parties are normally required to collect a certain number of signatures. All but the most marginal parties seem to have little trouble gathering the requisite number of signatures when the rules on signatures are not used to bar candidates from standing for office. But election commissions often question the validity of signatures more or less at will, and with a large signature requirement they can easily reject candidates they wish to prevent from standing. For this reason it is preferable for the law to set a low signature requirement. In all cases candidatures must be validated at least one month before the election date, because late validation means that some parties and candidates are at a disadvantage in the campaign.
15. There is another procedure where candidates or parties must pay a deposit, which is only refunded if the candidate or party concerned goes on to win more than a certain percentage of the vote. Such practices are contrary to the liberalistic ideas popular among “democrats” in the new states but appear to be more effective than collecting signatures.
16. Preventing an excessive number of parties through the electoral system would seem to be the most effective and least objectionable method as far as political rights are concerned. In the case of proportional representation, a threshold of 3 to 5% of the vote in order to win a seat seems appropriate. The problem does not arise in majority voting which, by its very nature, tends to eliminate small parties, except in two rather rare events when strong, independent candidates should emerge, who are not attached to any party, or when local (possibly regionalist and small) parties are very strong in a limited part of the country.
e. Election Administration : The Election Commissions
17. Only the transparency, impartiality and independence from politically motivated manipulation will ensure a good administration of the election process, from the pre-election period to the end of the processing of results.
18. According to the reports of the Bureau of the Assembly on elections’ observations, the following shortcomings concerning the Election Commissions have been noted in a number of member States : lack of transparency in the activity of Central Election Commission, variations in the interpretation of counting procedure; politically polarized election administration; controversies in appointing members of the Central Election Commission; commission members nominated by the state institution; the dominant position of the ruling party in the election administration.
19. Where a country does opt for a central election commission, the latter must be permanent, as an administrative institution responsible for liaising with local authorities and other commissions, regional or otherwise: e.g. as regards compiling and updating the electoral lists.
20. The composition of a central election commission can give rise to debate and become the key political issue in the drafting of an electoral law, thus requiring observers or assistants to display a fair measure of flexibility. There are a number of guidelines, which ought to be followed.
21. As a general rule, the commission should consist of:
- a judge or law officer- in case a judicial body is charged with administering the elections, its independence must be assured through transparent proceedings. Judicial appointees should be immune from the authority of those standing for office.
- representatives of parties already represented in parliament or which have won more than a certain percentage of the vote- in this case they should be prohibited from campaigning and should not be subject to removal by their party based on their decisions concerning the election administration.
- a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs
22. However, for reasons connected with the history of the country concerned, it may not always be necessary to have a representative of the Internal Affairs Ministry in the commission. During its elections observation missions, the Assembly expressed concern, on several cases, for the transfer of responsibilities from full-fledged, multi-party electoral committees to an institution that was part of the executive administration16.
23. Nevertheless, a co-operation between the Central Election Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs is possible if only for practical reasons, e.g. transporting and storing ballot papers and other equipment.
24. The composition of the Central Election Commission is certainly important, but no more so than the manner in which it operates. The commission’s rules of procedure must be clear, because chairpersons have a tendency to let members ramble on, which the latter are quick to exploit. The rules of procedure should provide for an agenda and a limited amount of speaking time for each member - e.g. a quarter of an hour; otherwise endless discussions are liable to obscure the main business of the day.
25. There are many ways of making decisions. Given, however, that each country’s commissions will have a different party structure, it makes sense for decisions to be taken by a qualified majority (e.g. 2/3), so as to encourage debate between the majority and at least one minority party.
26. The meetings of the Central Election Commission should be open to everyone, including the media (this is another reason why speaking time should be limited). The computer rooms, telephone links, fax, scanner, etc. should be open to inspections.
27. The other regional or electoral district commissions should have a similar composition to that of the Central Election Commission. In a majority voting system, the electoral district commissions play an important role because they determine the winner in general elections. The regional commissions play an equally important role in relaying the results to the Central Election Commission.
28. The adequate human resources with specialised skills are required to implement an election. There were several cases of lack of qualified and trained election staff, e.g. in Azerbaijan, during the parliamentary elections of November 2000. The rapporteur noted that ”…the staff in the polling stations were neither motivated nor trained to implement properly the election procedures. The stakes were such that, on the day, people forgot the rules in order to get the “correct” results.” 17
29. The members of election commissions have to receive a standardised training at all levels of the election administration. Such trainings should be also available to the members of commissions appointed by political parties. Electoral Law should contain an article requiring the authorities (at every level) to meet the demands and needs of the election commission. Various ministries, other public administration bodies, local council mayors and town hall staff may be directed to support the election administration by carrying out the administrative and logistic operations of preparing for and conducting the elections. They may have responsibility for preparing and distributing the electoral registers, ballot papers, ballot boxes, official stamps and other required material, as well as determining the arrangements for storage, distribution and security.
f. Adjusting the number of seats to demographic trends
30. Whatever a country’s electoral system and particularly in the case of majority voting, drawing electoral boundaries is a very important matter and a difficult one at that. Three criteria must be considered:
- the geographical criterion
- administrative boundaries, which are often dependent on geography.
- the population, which is the fundamental criterion.
31. Distribution of seats should always take place in conformity with the principle of equal suffrage, and especially equal weight of votes. Seats should be distributed equally on the basis of the number of residents, the number of resident nationals (including minors) or the number of registered electors (possibly the number of voters). Otherwise, electoral geometry is at stake. It may be active electoral geometry, namely a distribution of seats causing inequalities in representation as soon as it is applied, as well as passive electoral geometry, arising from protracted retention of an unaltered territorial distribution of seats and constituencies. Furthermore, under systems inclining to a non-proportional result, particularly majority vote systems, gerrymandering may occur; it involves favouring one party by means of an artificial delimitation of constituencies.
32. As far as possible, electoral districts should reflect the historic structure of the population. In order to do this, it is important not to apply overly rigid criteria when determining the number of voters per district.
33. The political ramifications of drawing electoral boundaries are such that the commission responsible for this task ought to comprise a geographer, a sociologist and representatives of the parties.
34. The long-standing democracies have widely differing approaches to this problem, and operate along very different lines. The new democracies, therefore, should adopt simple criteria and easy-to-implement procedures, including a parliamentary vote on the commission’s proposals with the possibility of a single appeal. In view of the difficulties outlined above, this operation should not be carried out more than once every ten years.
i. Election campaign and Media coverage18
35. Media failure in providing impartial information about election campaign and candidates is one of the most frequent shortcomings arising during elections.
36. In his report on the State Duma elections on 19 December 199919, the Rapporteur noted that “the electoral campaign in the Russian media appeared to have been utterly unfair” and qualified” as often crossing the line to slander and libel”. “The influence of media by major stockholders, certain political circles or the administration provided partial and incorrect information on certain political parties, blocs or candidates”
37. Electoral laws differ widely in the way they regulate the conduct of electoral campaigns. The most important thing is to draw up a list of the media organisations in each country and to make sure that the candidates or parties are accorded sufficiently balanced amounts of airtime or advertising space, including on state radio and television stations.
38. The authorities and parties participating in the campaign must be interviewed by the observers before the election, although it may be advisable in some cases to use organisations, which specialise in media studies. Such matters can be covered by agreements between election monitoring organisations.
39. The basic idea is that the main political forces should be able to voice their opinions in the main organs of the country’s media and that all the political forces should be allowed to hold meetings, including on public highways, distribute literature - and exercise their right to post bills. All of these rights must be clearly regulated and any failure to observe them, either by the authorities or by the campaign participants, should carry a criminal penalty. In public media, the principle of equality of chances must be respected. This principle can have two interpretations: either "strict" equality or "proportional" equality. "Strict" equality means that the political parties are treated without regard to their present strength in parliament or among the electorate. It must apply to the use of public facilities for propaganda purposes. "Proportional" equality involves allocating, in proportion to the parties' election results, such aids as airtime on radio and television or public funds.
C. Election Period
i. Polling stations
40. A good voting and counting implementation according to the electoral procedures depends on the organisation and activity of polling stations. The reports of the Bureau of the Assembly for the observation of elections in different countries revealed a series of irregularities of logistic nature. In this respect, in October 1999, they noted significant differences between polling stations across different regions of the same country. For example, in Georgia20, in October 1999, “a great difference was observed between the polling stations in cities and in villages. Some out-of-city polling stations did not have heating or electricity and were situated in cramped premises unable to accommodate all local observers and voters at the same time.”
41. Technical irregularities (wrongly printed or stamped ballot boxes; complexity of ballot papers; unsealed ballot boxes; insufficiency of ballot papers or boxes; misuse of ballot boxes; poorly organised voter’s identification, absence of local observers) have also been observed by the Assembly observation missions in several cases.
42. All these irregularities and disturbances together with the political party propaganda inside the poling station and the police harassment cause serious shortcomings and even compromise the integrity of the voting process.
- Financial transparency
43. Financial transparency is essential, whatever the level of political and economic development of the country concerned.
44. Transparency operates at two levels. The first concerns campaign finance, the details of which must be set out in a special set of carefully maintained accounts. In the event of significant deviations from the norm or if the statutory expenditure ceilings are exceeded, the election must be annulled. The second is about monitoring the financial status of elected representatives before and after their term in office. A commission in charge of financial transparency takes formal note of the elected representatives’ statements. The latter are confidential, but the records can, if necessary, be sent to the public prosecutor’s office.
45. Any expenses incurred by local authorities in connection with the conduct of the election, the payment of election commission members, the printing of ballot papers, etc. will naturally be borne by the state.
- public funding
46. In this area too, the principle of equal chances applies (“strict” or “proportional” equality).
47. Every electoral law must provide for intervention by the security forces in the event of trouble. In such an event, the chairperson of the polling station (or his or her representative) must have sole authority to call in the police. It is important that this right not be extended to all members of the polling station commission, as what is needed in such circumstances is an on-the-spot decision that is not open to discussion. (Polling station commissions have been known to range from 3 to 13 members).
48. In some states, having a police presence at polling stations is a national tradition, which, according to observers, need not trigger unrest or have an intimidating effect on voters.
49. The case of the presidential elections in Ukraine (31 October and 14 November 1999) is an example of such “tradition” impact on the election :”...militia personnel were present inside most polling stations visited-a factor of intimidation, particularly when too close to the voting booths and ballot boxes.”21. One should note that a police presence at polling stations is still provided for in the electoral laws of certain western states, even though time has changed this practice.
ii. Voting procedures
50. Voting procedures play a vital role in the entire electoral process because it is at this point that election fraud is most likely to occur.
51. The implementation of democratic practices requires a radical change of mentality, which must be actively promoted by the authorities. In this respect some measures have to be taken to control the habits and reflexes dating back to totalitarian period. These “habits” and “reflexes” have a negative impact on the elections. Most of these shortcomings occurred during the voting procedure, such as “family voting”. Family voting was observed by the Assembly observers in several countries, e.g. in Moldova22.
52. Family voting was one of the most common violations of the electoral Law in some States of the former USSR. This violation could be explained by the fact that in the former USSR, people had been allowed to vote for the members of their family who were ill or absent at the time of the elections.”; “open voting”(where voters place their ballot papers unfolded into the box); “multiple voting” as well as the disregard for voting secrecy are common violations.
53. From the foregoing, the following rules can be deduced: The voting procedure must be kept simple.
54. Assuming that the polling station officials represent a proper balance of political opinion, fraud will be difficult and the fairness of the ballot should be judged by two criteria only: the number of signatures in the electoral register compared with the number of ballot papers in the ballot box (taking into account any ballot papers returned and replaced by the polling station officials).
55. Human nature being what it is (and quite apart from any intention to defraud), it is difficult to achieve total accuracy with these two measures and any further controls such as numbered ballot paper stubs (stubs, not ballot papers) are best avoided.
56. Any unused ballot papers should remain at the polling station and should not be deposited or stored at another site. As soon as the station opens, the ballot papers awaiting use must be visible on the table of the senior station official. There should be no others stored in cupboards or other places.
57. The signing and stamping of ballot papers should not take place at the point when the paper is presented to the voter, for the following reason. The signatories or one of the persons affixing the stamp may mark the paper so that the voter can be identified when it comes to counting the votes - thus violating the secrecy of the ballot.
58. The voter should collect his or her ballot paper and no one else should touch it from that point on.
59. It is important that the polling station officials include multi-party representatives and that observers assigned by the candidates be present.
a. Postal voting or proxy voting in certain circumstances
60. Postal voting and proxy voting are permitted in countries throughout the western world, but the pattern varies considerably. Postal voting, for instance, may be widespread in one country and prohibited in another owing to the danger of fraud. Proxy voting is usually subject to very strict rules, again in order to prevent fraud.
61. Neither of these practices should be widely encouraged in the new democracies given the problems with their postal service, on top of all the other difficulties inherent in this kind of voting. Subject to certain precautions, however, postal voting can be used for voting in hospitals, for persons in custody or for persons with restricted mobility. This would dispense with the need for a mobile ballot box, which often gives rise to problems and carries a risk of fraud. Postal voting would take place under a special procedure a few days before the election.
b. Military voting
62. Servicemen should preferably be registered at polling stations near their barracks. Details of the servicemen concerned are sent by the local command to the municipal authorities who then enter the names in the electoral list. The one exception to this rule is when the barracks are too far from the nearest polling station. Within the military units, special commissions should be set up to supervise the preparatory period for elections, in order to avoid that superior officers’ impose or order certain political choices.
c. Other methods of voting
63. Mechanical and electronic voting methods are already used, or are being trailed, in various countries. The advantage of these methods becomes apparent when several or numerous elections are taking place at the same time - certain precautions are needed to minimise the risk of fraud, including notably the possibility for the voter to check his or her vote immediately after it is cast. Clearly, with this kind of voting, it is important to make sure that the ballot papers are designed in such a way as to avoid confusion. So that votes may be checked and recounted in the event of an appeal, the machine can also print votes onto ballot papers and place these in a sealed container where they cannot be viewed. There should also be some device for mixing the ballot papers so that if it proves necessary to open the container for checking, papers cannot be linked to particular voters - for example, early or late voters.
cdc. Post-voting period
64. The votes should preferably be counted at the polling stations themselves, rather than in special centres. The polling station staff is perfectly capable and having them count the votes obviates the need to transport the ballot boxes and accompanying documents, thus reducing the risk of substitution.
65. The vote counting should be conducted in a transparent manner. Ideally, it should be open to the public but most legislators in Eastern Europe and the CIS allow only observers, representatives and the media to be present, and grants the first two the option of entering comments in the minutes. The minutes must be drawn up in a sufficient number of copies to ensure that all the aforementioned persons receive one; one copy must be immediately posted on the notice-board, another kept at the polling station and a third sent to the higher commission.
66. The rules and regulations should contain certain practical precautions as regards equipment. For example: the minutes should be completed in ballpoint pen rather than pencil, as written text with pencil can be erased.
67. In practice, it appears that the time needed to count the votes depends on the efficiency of the chairperson of the polling station. These times can vary markedly, which is why a simple, tried and tested procedure should be set out in the legislation or permanent regulations which appear in the training manual for polling station officials.
68. It is best to avoid treating too many ballots as invalid or spoiled. In case of doubt, an attempt should be made to determine the voter’s intention.
ii. Transferring the results
69. There are two kinds of results: provisional results and final results (before all opportunities for appeal have been exhausted).The media and indeed the entire nation are always impatient to hear the initial provisional results.The speed with which these results are relayed will depend on the country’s communication system. The polling station’s results can be conveyed to the electoral district (for instance) by the chairperson of the polling station, accompanied by 2 other members of the polling station staff representing opposing parties. In some cases under the supervision of the security forces that will carry the minutes, ballot box, etc.
70. However much care has been taken at the voting and vote counting stages, transmitting the results is a vital operation whose importance is often overlooked. Transmission from the electoral district to the regional authorities and the Central Election Commission can be done by fax, if the country is sufficiently developed. In that case, the minutes will be transferred from the scanner to computer and the results can be displayed as and when they come in. Television can be used to broadcast these results but once again, too much transparency can be a dangerous thing if the public is not ready for this kind of piecemeal reporting. The fact is that the initial results usually come in from the towns and cities, which do not normally or necessarily vote the same way as rural areas. It is important therefore to make it clear to the public that the final result may be quite different from, or even completely opposite to, the provisional one, without there having been any question of foul play.
71. The countries, which hold elections, including sometimes countries, which have been doing so for over a hundred years, use very different procedures. Owing to lack of public confidence in administrative institutions, the new democracies that have emerged from the collapse of the Soviet regime have set up a series of election commissions whose decisions can be challenged by a higher commission. There is much to be said for this system in that the commissions are highly specialised whereas the courts tend to be less au fait with electoral issues. As a precautionary measure, however, it is desirable that there should be some form of judicial control in place.
72. In both instances, the procedures should be straightforward and fast. It is desirable that the procedure, and also the time limits, be enshrined in law. In terms of legal organisation, one might consider introducing the following hybrid structure: For example, 3 days from commission to commission. Note that the time limits should include the time needed to make an appeal and also the time allotted to the commission for taking a decision.
- First stage in appeal proceedings: the higher commission.
- Appeal against the decision of the higher commission before the relevant court.
73. In order to avoid positive or negative jurisdiction disputes, neither the applicants nor the authorities should be authorised to choose the appeal court ; the law should specify in each case which appeal court is competent.
Central election commission → Su preme Court↑
Regional commission → Ap peal Court↑
Electoral district commission
Polling station (on election day)
74. The electoral lists, which are the responsibility, for example, of the local administration operating under the supervision or in co-operation with the election commissions, will be handled by courts of first instance. (This issue has already been raised when compiling the supplementary list).
Basic rule: the powers and responsibilities of the commissions in relation to those of the courts must be clearly defined by law.
75. Electoral laws normally contain two or three articles concerning election observation. International as well as national observers must be able to question everyone present, take note and report back to their organisation but they should refrain from making comments.
76. The law must be very clear as to what sites observers are entitled to visit. For example, specific mention should be made of vote counting, as any text, which refers, simply to “sites where the election (or voting) takes place” is liable to be construed by certain polling stations in an unduly narrow manner.
3 Article 3 Right to free elections: “ The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”.
4 The ODIHR’s role in co-ordinating and organising observation missions derives from an extensive interpretation of its founding charter of 21 November 1990, and draws on Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the earlier Copenhagen Meeting document. A recent seminar in Warsaw (29 – 31 May 2001) shed new light on the ODIHR’s role and methods. See “OSCE Human Dimension Seminar on Election Processes – consolidated summary”.
5 Communication from the European Commission, Brussels, 11 April 2000, COM (2000) 191, final, p. 27.
6 See Article 3 of the commission’s statute in the appendix to Resolution (90) 6 on a partial agreement establishing the European Commission for Democracy through Law, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 10 May 1990 at its 86th session.
7 Most recently, see the commission’s comments on the electoral law in Azerbaijan (CDL-INF (2000) 17).
8 See, for example, the comments on the electoral law in Ukraine (CDL (99) 51 and (2000) 2).
9 Cf CDL (1997) 61.
10 CDL-INF (2000) 4.
11 See Science and Technique of Democracy, no. 25, Council of Europe Publishing, 1999.
12 See collected reports from the international seminar held in Yerevan 1999.
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14 See Doc. 8255, Observation of parliamentary elections in Latvia (3 October 1998); Rapporteurs : Mr Elo, Finland, SOC and Mrs Fehr, Switzerland, LDR.
15 See Doc. 8448 ; Ad Hoc Committee to observe the parliamentary elections in Armenia (30 May 1999) ; Rapporteur : Mrs Gelderblom-Lankhout, Netherlands, LDR.
16 See for example Doc. 8254; observation of parliamentary elections in Slovakia (25-26 September 1998), Rapporteur : Mr Adamczyk, Poland, EPP.
17 See Doc. 8918 ; Ad Hoc Committee to observe the parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan (5 November 2000) ; Rapporteur : Mr Martinez Casan, Spain, EPP/CD
18 See :
- Recommendation N° R (99) 15 of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to Member States on measures concerning media coverage of election campaigns;
- Media and Elections : Handbook; Yasha Lange; Council of Europe Publishing, 1999
19 See Doc. 8623, Ad Hoc Committee to observe the parliamentary elections in Russia (19 December 1999), Rapporteur : Mr Atkinson, United Kingdom, EDG.
20 See Doc. 8605, Ad Hoc Committee to observe the parliamentary elections in Georgia (31 October 1999), Rapporteur : Mr Davis, United Kingdom, SOC.
21 See Doc . 8603; Ad Hoc Committee to observe the presidential elections in Ukraine (31 0ctober and 14 November 1999); Co-Rapporteurs : Mrs Jones, United Kingdom, SOC and Mr Gross, Switzerland, SOC.
22 Doc 7699 Addendum III ; Information report on the presidential elections in Moldova ; November 1996; rapporteurs : Mrs Durrieu (France, Soc), Mr Jeszenszky (Hungary, EDG), Mr Columberg (Switzerland, EPP)