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Conference on ‘elections in times of crisis’ opens in Bern

Bern, opening speech

A major parliamentary conference on “elections in times of crisis” opened this morning in Bern, Switzerland, focusing on how to make democracies more resilient in the face of pandemics, warfare, terror attacks, natural disasters and new digital technologies.

The event, organised by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in co-operation with the Swiss Parliament, is being live-streamed in English, French, German and original languages across two days (9-10 May).

It takes place 60 years after Switzerland joined the Council of Europe, the 46-nation body which upholds human rights and democracy across the continent, and only a week ahead of a historic summit in Reykjavik which will bring together the organisation’s heads of state and government.

In a series of six panels, moderated by BBC journalist and presenter David Eades, election organisers and observers, parliamentarians, local elected officials, digital and communication specialists and legal experts from all parts of Europe are discussing the following themes:

  • The pandemic and the polls – the impact of Covid-19 on election
  • Universal suffrage amid universal suffering – how natural disasters distort elections
  • How to be fair in warfare? – the impact of armed conflict on elections
  • Does digital mean danger? – how electronic voting, AI and cyber are transforming elections

Panellists will look at the transformed political and technical environment in which elections now take place, as well as topics such as trust in electronic voting, how terror attacks can impact elections, eve-of-poll “false narratives” and foreign interference, and the impact of data mining and profiling. There will also be a panel on the specific challenges of organising elections in post-war Ukraine.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook via the hashtag #ElectionsInTimesOfCrisis.