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 has adopted more than 130 opinions and over 60 texts on elections, referendums and political parties.
The Commission co-operates closely with the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). Most opinions relating 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, Bulgaria, Georgia, the Republic of 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 pertaining 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 concerning elections, referendums and political parties in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Ukraine.
In order to give electoral laws certain stability and to further the construction of the 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 annually organises the European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies, as well as comparative seminars. In 2016, it launched the 1st Scientific Electoral Expert Debates, jointly with the Permanent Electoral Authority of Romania. It is responsible for training sessions for 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 2016, the Commission took part in nine electoral observation missions, in Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Jordan, Morocco, the Republic of Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
The Commission’s work 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 Venice Commission’s activities in the electoral field are as follows:
* The VOTA database provides access to the electoral legislation and relevant constitutional provisions of all Venice Commission members, observers and other States which participate in the Commission’s work. It also includes the basic Venice Commission documents, opinions and studies in the electoral field. Documents are available in English, French or Spanish. VOTA offers an additional tool in the form of the systematic thesaurus, which makes it possible to search the database under specific topics, such as electoral systems or election funding. VOTA was created by the Venice Commission Secretariat and is maintained in co-operation with the Mexican Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary (TEPJF).
Link to the VOTA database