Elections are major events in democratic states. Without free and fair elections there can be no democracy. Where democracy is nascent, elections can enhance political stability, and help strengthen democratic institutions. The greater the confidence in the process, the greater the elected authority's claim for legitimacy and the likelihood that all parties, including the losers, will accept the result. However, elections are only one part of the democratic process, and a fair and effective electoral system must be founded in an adequate democratic infrastructure.
While a government has flexibility in constructing the structure of the legal framework according to legal traditions of the country, domestic electoral legislation is increasingly subject to international scrutiny. More and more states concede the moral and political necessity of having a set of rules governing the conduct of elections. Alongside, in international law, customary rules are in the process of crystallising. This process has gained momentum over the last two decades. Beyond the conceptual foundation of voting rights, this is reflected in the development of practical criteria by which progress towards the standards enshrined in the international instruments may be measured. This approach was followed by the OSCE based on the election-related Human Dimension commitments, agreed upon in Copenhagen in 1990.
The following key structural issues and principles may be identified for consideration when drafting or amending electoral legislation:
Furthermore, election legislation can nor should contain all regulations relevant to the election process. The election process will require involvement of institutions and procedures that are based on other parts of the national legal system. Of particular importance is national legislation governing the media, registration of political parties, citizenship, and criminal provisions related to election law violations.
Finally, there is more to elections than the Constitution and the law: if elections are to be free and fair, laws designed to that end must not just exist, they must be operated in practice and be enforced.
Joint Opinion on the draft checklist for compliance with international standards and best practices preventing misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes at local and regional levelDate : 13 March 2017 English [0.35 MB]
Joint Opinion on the Amendments to the Electoral Code of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (in English)Date : 17 October 2016 English [0.30 MB]
Second Joint Opinion on the Electoral Code of the Republic of Armenia (in English)Date : 17 October 2016 English [0.47 MB]
Joint Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to the Misuse of Administrative Resources During Electoral Processes (2016)
Guidelines for Reviewing a Legal Framework for Elections (2001)
International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)
IFES Psephisma.org: Global Election Resource Center
ACE Electoral Knowledge Network