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For more democratic elections

Doc. 13021: collection of written amendments | Doc. 13021 | Final version

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ADraft Resolution

1The Parliamentary Assembly emphasises once more that democratic elections are decisive for ensuring that the will of the people is respected in the shaping of the legislature and government at all levels and that elected bodies are effectively representative. It recalls in this respect its Resolution 1705 (2010) on thresholds and other features of electoral systems which have an impact on representativity of parliaments in Council of Europe member States, and its Resolution 1706 (2010) on increasing women’s representation in politics through the electoral system.
2The Assembly notes that, today, when citizens seem to have less and less confidence in the institutions of representative democracy, it is all the more crucial to enhance the democratic character of elections and thus reinforce the link between the expression of the people and the actual outcome of the vote.

02 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media

Votes: 9 in favor 52 against 6 abstentions

In the draft resolution, at the end of paragraph 2, add the following sentence: “In this respect, member States must fulfil their positive obligations under Article 3 of the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 9).”

Explanatory note

Over a period of nearly 50 years, the European Court of Human Rights has established case law on the right to free elections under Article 3 of the Additional Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 9). This norm is the yardstick for free democratic elections throughout Europe. Therefore, it is important to recall expressly this Article 3 in the draft resolution, which aims at more democratic elections in Europe.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 2, insert the following paragraph:

"The Assembly reiterates its views expressed in Resolution 1617 (2008) and calls upon member states to grant the right to vote and to stand in elections at local and regional level to resident non-citizens."

3Ten years after the drawing up of the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters by the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), following an initiative of the Assembly, considerable improvements, both in electoral legislation and practice, have taken place in most member States of the Council of Europe. However, the Assembly election observation reports still all too often identify irregularities which show that the holding of “free and fair” elections remain a major challenge to be addressed.
4Whereas domestic electoral legislation in most member States generally offers a good basis to hold “free and fair” elections, recurrent violations occur, mainly due to a lack of political commitment at the highest level, generally on the part of the ruling political forces, to ensure full and effective implementation of the law and a level playing field to all candidates. Also, at present, the most serious violations tend to occur in the pre-electoral period and are thus more difficult to detect.
5The Assembly is in particular concerned that the following election-related violations still persist in a number of member States: misuse of administrative resources; opacity of election campaign funding and other problems related to political party funding; lack of equal access to the media and of media impartiality; lack of independence and neutrality of the electoral administration; threats, pressure, violence and intimidation carried out against candidates or voters; inaccuracy of electoral registers likely to lead to electoral fraud; restrictions on the right to stand for election, including excessive registration requirements for candidates and political parties; vote buying, ballot box stuffing, falsification of electoral protocols and other irregularities during vote counting; ineffective election complaints and appeals procedures.

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5, first sentence, replace the words "The Assembly is in particular concerned that the following election-related violations still persist in a number of member States:" with the following words: "On the basis of election observation reports and other Council of Europe sources, the Assembly is concerned that a number of election-related violations still persist in a number of individual Council of Europe member States, such as:"

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Votes: 69 in favor 4 against 2 abstentions

In the draft Resolution, paragraph 5, after the words “threats, pressure, violence and intimidation carried out against candidates or voters”, add the words: “, arbitrary detention of opposition candidates and supporters”.

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

In the draft resolution, paragraph 5, after the words "vote buying", insert the following words: ", family voting".

Explanatory note

Family voting is a rather common irregularity, which affects in particular women’s right to their individual vote. It has raised concerns in the Assembly and the Congress. It deserves to be mentioned.

6While most of the violations that occur on voting day and during counting are more frequent in countries which do not have such a long tradition of democracy, others, such as those linked to election campaign and political party funding, media impartiality and use of administrative resources, also occur in member States with longstanding democratic experience. Serious election violations have resulted in periods of instability and political crisis in some member States and may generally pose a threat to the “soft security” of societies.
7In the light of recurrent and persistent problems in the electoral process, measures to improve the democratic character of elections should respond to three main imperatives: foster participation, ensure transparency and strengthen supervision.
8The Assembly therefore calls on the Council of Europe member States to:
8.1foster citizen participation in the electoral process, notably by:
8.1.1drawing up electoral registers in such a way as to ensure that as many voters as possible register. First-time registration should be automatic, electoral registers should be permanent and recourse to supplementary lists exceptional. Multiple voting should be effectively prevented without, however, violating the principle of the secrecy of the vote;
8.1.2ensuring a free choice for voters by making as many political options as possible available in line with the principle of political pluralism. Requirements for the registration of candidates and political parties which are too strict should be abolished;
8.1.3opening lists in proportional electoral systems to allow citizens, where appropriate, to choose individual candidates from among different lists;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Votes: 19 in favor 52 against 8 abstentions

In the draft resolution, delete paragraph 8.1.3.

8.1.4enhancing internal party democracy through adoption of the relevant legislative framework, in particular as regards transparency of financing of political parties and the selection of candidates for election, in line also with the Code of Good Practice in the field of Political Parties;
8.1.5opting for an electoral system which better reflects the opinion of the people and the political composition of the electorate, as well as taking into account other important aspects such as geographic distribution, gender or ethnicity;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

Votes: 16 in favor 57 against 6 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 8.1.5 with the following paragraph:

"opting for an electoral system which ensures that the final results are representative of the electorate in terms of political views, gender, geographic distribution and the existence of national and/or linguistic minorities".

Explanatory note

This amendment aims to clarify the original text. It also puts gender as the second element to be taken into account. It refers to national or linguistic minorities as, in civic states, their existence should be relevant in the design of the electoral system and not mere ethnicity.

8.1.6combining mechanisms relating both to electoral systems and the internal party functioning to promote increased representation of women in politics, and raising awareness among the electorate and the leaders of political parties to foster women candidacies and the vote for women;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

Votes: 74 in favor 6 against 4 abstentions

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 8.1.6 with the following paragraph:

"introducing in their electoral legislation mechanisms to promote the balanced representation of women and men in elected bodies at all levels as well as encouraging political parties to introduce internal regulations, policies and affirmative actions so as to promote women’s participation and representation in politics".

Explanatory note

States have a responsibility in the area of legislation but only in exceptional circumstances should they interfere with party internal regulations. However, States can encourage political parties to introduce voluntary measures, as described in Ms Stavrositu’s report.

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons

Votes: 75 in favor 7 against 4 abstentions

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.1.6, insert the following paragraph:

"facilitating access to nationality as advocated in the European Convention on Nationality (ETS No. 166) and granting migrants voting rights and/or other possibilities for political participation as proposed in the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level (ETS No. 144). Democratic legitimacy is not served by excluding large numbers of migrants from political life and democratic elections."

02 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Votes: 75 in favor 6 against 5 abstentions

In the proposed amendment, replace the words "granting migrants" with the following words: "granting legally-recognised migrants".

8.1.7ensuring that the design of the electoral system and the delimitation of constituencies facilitate the effective participation of minorities in the election process and thus promote minority representation as a factor guaranteeing interethnic peace and stability;
8.1.8guaranteeing that electoral campaigns are open and accessible and allow genuine debate that is not only of interest to voters but also informative for their choices. This requires, inter alia, equal access to, and impartiality of, the public service media. Any national regulations on the role of private broadcasting media and the Internet, including websites, in election campaigns should strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and ensuring equal opportunities;

In the draft resolution, replace paragraph 8.1.8 with the following paragraph:

“ensuring freedom of political debate in the media and guaranteeing that electoral campaigns are open and accessible and allow genuine debate that is not only of interest to voters but also informative for their choices. This requires, inter alia, transparency and pluralism of all media as well as equal access of all candidates and political parties to, and impartiality of, the public service media. Any national regulations on election campaigns should strike a fair balance between freedom of expression and ensuring equal opportunities;”

Explanatory note

Paragraph 8.1.8 addresses important issues concerning election campaigns and media freedom. Freedom of expression and information through the media is a necessary condition for informed elections in a democracy. All recent election observation reports of the Parliamentary Assembly have noted serious problems with regard to the freedom of political debate in the media.

8.1.9requiring that political parties permanently refrain from exercising pressure, violence and intimidation on the population, and protecting voters and candidates against such threats. This requires strict compliance with the principle of secrecy of the ballot and application of dissuasive but proportionate sanctions against perpetrators of any of these violations;
8.1.10guaranteeing that all possible means are used to make all polling stations accessible;
8.1.11enabling all citizens to exercise their right to vote through proxy voting, postal voting or e-voting, on the condition that the secrecy and the security of the vote are guaranteed; facilitating the participation in the electoral process of citizens living abroad, whilst ensuring that, if polling stations are set up abroad, their establishment is based on transparent criteria; safeguarding the right to vote of vulnerable groups (people with disabilities, the illiterate, etc.) by adapting polling stations and voting material to their needs; abolishing legal provisions providing for general, automatic and indiscriminate disenfranchisement of all serving prisoners;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Votes: 78 in favor 6 against 2 abstentions

In sub-paragraph 8.1.11, after the words "citizens living abroad", add the following words: ", subject to reasonable restrictions in accordance with the law, such as duration of residence abroad,"

Explanatory note

Amendment proposed at the Committee meeting on 1 October 2012 to reflect the fact that, for example, in certain countries a citizen's right to vote expires after a certain specific period of time.

02 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy

Votes: 50 in favor 28 against 8 abstentions

In the proposed amendment, delete the word "reasonable".

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Votes: 79 in favor 6 against 3 abstentions

At the end of paragraph 8.1.11, add the following words: “irrespective of the nature or gravity of their offences”.

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 8.1.11, insert the following paragraph:

"consolidating overall democratic culture through the implementation of the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education;"

Explanatory note

Democracy can only flourish with strong supportive institutions and laws and a democratic culture which encompasses democratic values, ways of knowing and acting, ethical judgments, analytical competencies and skills of engagement. Education, which is a lifelong process, is a condition for rendering elections more democratic in so far as it contributes to the development of democratic culture in European societies.

8.2ensure transparency of the electoral process, notably in:
8.2.1the organisation of elections: they should be organised by independent and impartial bodies, which should lead to the general introduction of central electoral commissions, ensuring that adequate resources are made available for the effective registration of voters and efficient organisation of the ballot. Electoral commissions should perform in a transparent, efficient and professional manner. Multi-party electoral commissions, which have gained recently in popularity, do not seem to be the best solution. When they are opted for, there should be guarantees for their composition to be politically balanced and their functioning transparent throughout the electoral process;
8.2.2electoral campaign funding and party financing: legislation in this field is necessary not only to regulate the origin of funding and set a limit on expenditure, but also to enable all voters to have access to data on the nature and amount of campaign and party spending. To ensure strict implementation of such legislation, any violations should be sanctioned by proportionate penalties;
8.2.3the conduct of voting: this requires the appropriate design of polling stations, the use of transparent ballot boxes, the presence of voting booths, public counting and the good regulation of distance voting. The presence of domestic or international observers should be facilitated, in line also with the Venice Commission’s guidelines on an internationally recognised status of election observer. National observers, including from civil society, should be authorised in all member States. Accreditation procedures should be simple and easily accessible;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

In paragraph 8.2.3, replace the words “domestic or international observers should be facilitated, in line” with the following words: “international observers should be facilitated in line with the Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and”.

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

In paragraph 8.2.3, after the words “National observers, including from civil society, should be authorised in all member States”, insert the words : “, in line with the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and the Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Election Observers and Monitors”.

8.3strengthen supervision by ensuring an effective, transparent and accessible complaints and appeals system in order to reverse the culture of impunity for election-related offences and enhance public confidence in the electoral process. This requires notably that:
8.3.1supervision be assigned to a judge (whether special, ordinary or constitutional), at least as a last recourse, and covers the entire electoral process. The system of parliamentary verification of credentials employed in several States would not seem to ensure the necessary impartiality;
8.3.2access to courts be facilitated through simplified, free procedures involving short but reasonable time frames. Voters should be well informed of the existing appeal procedures and have easy access to the necessary forms;
8.3.3dissuasive but proportionate penalties be provided in cases of fraud, manipulation or cheating. The penalties must be applicable to both the direct perpetrators (rarely the candidates themselves) and to those instigating the fraud. The public and international observers should be informed of any sanctions imposed.
9Finally, in the light of its election observation experience over the past twenty years, during which it has observed more than 140 parliamentary and presidential elections, involving some 1 900 of its members, the Assembly believes that there is a need to strengthen synergies and enhance follow-up to election observation both within the Council of Europe and through co-operation with other specialised international organisations.
10The Assembly therefore:
10.1resolves to enhance follow-up to recommendations made in international election observation reports in the context of the work carried out in its Monitoring Committee and in particular in the context of co-rapporteurs’ visits to the States concerned, in the preparation of their reports and also, as appropriate, in the context of the committee’s annual progress report;
10.2recalls in this context that the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee for a given country are entitled, in accordance with the Guidelines for the Observation of Elections by the Parliamentary Assembly, to participate ex officio in an ad hoc committee to observe an election in that country;
10.3resolves to strengthen synergies with other international organisations which have an expertise in the field of elections, including after election observation, with a view to promoting the recommendations made by the international community and ensuring their implementation;

In the draft resolution, paragraph 10.3, after the word "organisations", insert the following words: "and non-governmental organisations".

Explanatory note

Election observations benefit greatly from the work of non-governmental organisations. Prominent examples are the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the European Network of Election Monitoring Organizations (ENEMO). It is therefore important for the Assembly to increase its co-operation with those organisations in order to achieve synergies.

10.4resolves to promote regular consultations, aiming at greater complementarity between the various Council of Europe bodies which have expertise in the field, notably the Assembly, the European Court of Human Rights, the Venice Commission and the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). This unique potential of the Organisation could be turned to greater account;

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

In paragraph 10.4, after the words “notably the Assembly”, delete the words “the European Court of Human Rights”.

01 October 2012

Tabled by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

In the draft resolution, after paragraph 10.4, insert the following paragraph:

“expresses its support for the Declaration of Global Principles for Nonpartisan Election Observation and Monitoring by Citizen Organizations and the Code of Conduct for Nonpartisan Election Observers and Monitors;”

10.5invites the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to strengthen the Organisation’s medium and long-term electoral assistance programmes by better targeting them at the problems observed.