Elections and democracy

Elections and democracy

Elections and democracy

Improve the democratic process

Together with human rights and rule of law, democracy is one of the three pillars upon which the Council of Europe founds its mission. Through advisory and monitoring activities, the Organisation helps to guarantee democratic elections throughout the continent of Europe.

  • The Council for Democratic Elections: promoting European common values and the principles of the European electoral heritage

Since 2002 the role of the Venice Commission in electoral matters has been reaffirmed through the creation of the Council for Democratic Elections. Its aim is to ensure co-operation in the electoral field between the Venice Commission as a legal body and the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe as political bodies in charge of election observation.

It is made up of representatives of the Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. It has also encouraged the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and also the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as the Association of European Election Officials, to join in its work in an observer capacity.

  • The Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities: observing elections to improve the democratic process

Impartial observation of elections by international bodies such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is a crucial tool to evaluate and ensure the fairness of election processes and a yardstick by which the democratic development of a country is measured. Increased public acceptance of election observation as an instrument in international co-operation has led to a continuous refinement of the methodologies used by the international bodies.

The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has been taking part in the observer missions for local elections in the 47 Council of Europe member countries and beyond since 1990. It was for example involved in election observations in Israel in 2008. The Congress has conducted almost 100 election observation missions to date. Observing local elections is one of the Congress’s action priorities. This activity complements the political monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, which constitutes the cornerstone of local democracy in Europe.

The development and implementation of electoral assistance programmes by the Council of Europe has been developed as the natural complement to the international observation mandate of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities. Since the early 90s, the Council of Europe has:

• established electoral legal standards and monitored their implementation, notably through the Venice Commission;

• advised member States on electoral reforms to bring them in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights;

• acquired considerable experience in working with national Central Electoral Commissions and with civil society groups to support the participation of citizens in elections and political life, with a special emphasis on women, first-time voters and minorities;

• developed programs to educate domestic election observers and to raise awareness of the role of the media during the electoral process.

On the basis of its own observations and of the recommendations of PACE and OSCE/ODHIR, the Division of Electoral Assistance and Census (DGII) develops long-term electoral assistance projects aimed at successful reform of electoral legislation and the strengthening of institutional capacities outside electoral cycles. It also develops programs designed to increase women’s participation in politics, as well as initiatives to educate young people through curricular and extracurricular activities.

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The right to free elections is guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the European Convention on Human Rights

Everyone has the right to elect the government of his/her country by secret

The following judgments of the European Court of Human Rights found violations of this right:

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VOTA database

This database lists the electoral legislation of all Council of Europe member States, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, México, Perú and Kyrgyzstan.