OUR INITIATIVES

#16 GIVE OBSERVERS GREATER POWERS TO MONITOR THE ELECTION PROCESS

Domestic and foreign observers should have the widest opportunity to participate in the election process (VC 3.2.a). Observation should not be limited to the Election Day itself, but should include the candidate and voter registration process, as well as election campaigns, and should allow for irregularities to be identified before, during or after elections, especially during the vote count (3.2.b) The observer’s access to the voting process should be clearly defined by the law (3.2.c). In order for these standards to be met, it is necessary to undertake the following:

 

a. Legally regulate the status of observers and their authority

It is necessary to supplement the Law on the Election of Members of the Parliament by adding a special chapter that would, together with the amendments to the Law on Local Elections, be applied to the local elections as well, and would regulate the status and position of observers. The amendments to the law would contain an itemised list of electoral bodies’ actions and activities that observers can monitor – i.e. their authorities. Besides, a separate chapter would explicitly prescribe the number of observers who can monitor the work of the electoral bodies. In accordance with the best international practices, the work of polling station committees and of electoral commissions should not be monitored by more than two observers simultaneously. Furthermore, a special chapter of the law would demarcate the notions of long-term and short-term observers. The notion of a short-term observer would imply a person who monitors uniquely the work of the polling station committee on the Election Day. On the other hand, the notion of a long-term observer would imply a person who monitors the entire election campaign and the work of the electoral commissions. The status and position of observers, actions and activities of election bodies that observers can observe are more precisely prescribed by the Instruction for the Conduct of Voting at the elections for MPs of the National Assembly scheduled for June 21st, 2020, however, these provisions were not included in the law. (See articles 34-39 of the Unified Electoral Law.)

 

b. Defining the manner and deadlines for awarding accreditations to observers

In the Instruction for the Conduct of Voting in the 2020 election cycle, the REC foresaw that the applications for observation would be considered at the session following the receipt of the application. Moreover, the Instructions stipulate that accreditations be granted to observers within 48 hours from the end of the session at which it was determined that the organisation that had submitted the application for observer status met all the conditions prescribed by the Instructions. However, these changes were realised in the form of a by-law that is to be passed before each election cycle and hence does not guarantee uniformity of all election processes. It is necessary to legally define the manner and deadline for granting accreditations to observers in the following way: “The REC establishes that the applicant has fulfilled all conditions imposed for the election observation (domestic and/or international observers) at the first session following the submission of the necessary documents. The day following the establishing of fulfilment of all conditions, the competent service of the REC delivers to the applicant adequate accreditations for observing the work of the electoral bodies.”

 

c. Define the conditions that organisations and associations must fulfil in order to observe the election process

According to the current by-laws of electoral commissions, only citizens’ associations the goals of which are achieved in the field of elections can be accredited to monitor the work of election administration bodies. Given the complexity of the electoral process and the fact that the electoral process itself by its nature includes several different processes that permeate different areas of action in society, it is necessary to enable civil society organisations dealing with topics of general, public importance, such as media freedom, struggle against corruption, public administration reform, protection of human rights, etc. to be accredited to monitor the work of election administration bodies. (See article 36 of the Unified Electoral Law.)

 

d. Precisely define the time of the observing period for which accreditation is issued

In order to avert uncertainty regarding the time period in which the observers can monitor the work of the election administration bodies, it convenes to formulate a special article which would prescribe the validity period of the issued accreditations. Having in mind the best international practices, it is necessary to allow monitoring of the election bodies until the completion of all procedures of the protection of the electoral right (until the expiration of deadlines for finality and irrevocability of the procedures for the protection of the electoral right) as well as monitoring of the session at which the Report on the Conduct of the Voting is adopted by the electoral commissions. Given that the electoral commissions work uniquely in their standing composition as soon as the final results are announced, independent monitoring of their work is justified and indispensable.

 

e. Award authority to observers to enter remarks to the Minutes on the work of the polling station committees

A special authority that observers would have in the election procedure is the right to enter their remarks and observations in the Minutes of the polling station committee, under the same conditions that the members of the Polling Station Committee currently have. Namely, as observers are participants in the election process on the Election Day who monitor the entire work of the polling station committee from the moment the polling station members gather in the morning and prepare the polling station for opening to determine the results at the polling station and publish the Minutes, they need to be allowed remarks and observations in the Minutes. As the Minutes, according to the current practice of electoral commissions and the Administrative Court, have almost unique and main probative force in the procedure of protection of the electoral rights, it is necessary to give observers this right because independent, non-partisan observers guarantee the legitimacy of the election process. (See article 114 of the Unified Electoral Law.)