Elections and referendums, political parties
Since its creation, the Venice Commission has been active in the electoral field, in particular, through the adoption of opinions on draft electoral legislation. In two decades, the Venice Commission adopted about 120 opinions and 60 texts of a general character on elections, referendums and political parties.
The Commission co-operates closely with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). Most opinions related to electoral legislation are drafted jointly by these two organisations.
Among the states that have co-operated regularly with the Commission in the electoral field one can cite such countries as Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The Commission has been active in a number of other States, including the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, Croatia, Romania, “the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the Swiss cantons, as well as Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Mexico.
The Venice Commission also works on questions related to referendums, both from a general point of view and in specific instances. For example, it was involved in Montenegro for the referendum on independence and recently in the Italian Autonomous Province of Trento.
In 2013 and 2014, it addressed (draft) legislation related to elections, referendums and political parties in Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Serbia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine.
In order to give electoral laws certain stability and to further the construction of a European electoral heritage, the Venice Commission and the Council of Democratic Elections developed the principles of the European electoral heritage, in particular by drafting the “Code of good practice in electoral matters" and the “Code of good practice on referendums”. These are reference documents of the Council of Europe, approved by the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe and supported by the Committee of Ministers.
The Commission organises the European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies on a yearly basis, as well as comparative seminars. It is responsible for training sessions intended at Central Electoral Commissions and judges on electoral disputes and other legal issues as well as for long-term assistance to these Commissions. It provides legal advice to the Parliamentary Assembly’s electoral observation missions. For example, in 2014, the Commission took part in eight electoral observation missions, in Bulgaria, Malta, Moldova, Serbia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Tunisia and Ukraine.
The work of the Commission in the field of elections is governed by the Council for Democratic Elections - a tripartite body consisting of representatives of the Venice Commission, PACE and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe. More information on the Council for Democratic Elections.
The activities of the Venice Commission in the electoral field are as follows:
The principal aim of the “VOTA” database, created by the Venice Commission Secretariat, is to facilitate access to the electoral legislation of all Venice Commission members, observers and other States which participate in the Commission’s work. The electoral laws are currently available in English or French and some will be available in Spanish shortly. The constitutional provisions as well as the opinions and studies of the Venice Commission in the electoral field will be available in the database as soon as its reconstruction is finalised, in co-operation with the Federal Tribunal of the Judicial Power of Mexico.