Since 1990 the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has been involved in the observation of municipal elections in the 47 Council of Europe member states and beyond (eg in Israel in 2008). To date, around 100 election observation missions have been carried out by the Congress.
Resolution 306 (2010) – New strategy to improve quality
As part of its reform, the Congress designed a policy aimed at improving the quality of its election observation and increasing its impact. Resolution 306 (2010) was adopted in June 2010. The policy covers the whole electoral process as well as its conditions which are essential for genuinely democratic elections: the political system of the country, the legal conditions, the role of the media, the election campaign and the post- election situation. The strategy and rules on the observation of local and regional elections provide guidelines for organising election observation missions and drafting the missions’ reports, resolutions and recommendations. They also set out a code of conduct to create a clear framework for the mode of action of Congress observers.
The Congress decided in particular that:
· all observation missions will be preceded by pre-electoral visits of a delegation between three and five members to assess the overall political situation in the country, the electoral campaign and the legal framework of the elections;
· post- observation follow-up will be put in place for a better follow-up to the Congress’ recommendations and resolutions. It will focus on concrete action to implement the recommendations within two years, and on organising co-operation programmes to address the issues of concern, together with national governments and local and regional authorities.
How does the Congress organise the observation of elections?
Observation missions are subject to the condition that the relevant state authorities (e.g. Ministry, Central Election Commission) extend an official invitation to the Congress. Once received, the Congress composes a delegation to observe the vote which normally includes between 10 and 15 Congress members (elected representatives from local and regional authorities in the 47 Council of Europe member countries). Prior to the election day, different meetings are arranged to evaluate the state of the electoral democracy involving governmental bodies, local and regional elected representatives, representatives of the public administration (election commissions), political parties (those in power and opposition parties), the media, diplomatic circles and members of civil society.
Who are the observers of the Congress?
· The political composition of delegations is proportional to the representation of the political groups in the Congress. A fair representation of non-registered Congress members is also aimed for.
· In addition, a fair gender representation should be achieved (at least one third of female members, in accordance with the Congress Charter). A balanced representation from the two Congress chambers as well from the different Council of Europe member countries should also be ensured.
· Members of the EU Committee of the Regions take part in the Congress’ election observation missions, in accordance with the co-operation agreement between the two institutions.
Conclusions and follow-up
· At the end of each election observation mission, the Congress delegation issues a preliminary statement – normally presented at a press conference organised on the spot after the vote. Subsequently, a Report is drafted by the Congress member who was nominated Rapporteur for the mission.
· The Report covers not only the processes and observations made on election day, in particular during the vote and the counting, but also the overall political situation in the country, including the state of fundamental rights and freedoms, the atmosphere in which the electoral campaign took place and the democratic progress.
· The Report is submitted to the Congress Bureau. It is further evaluated and adopted by the Congress when it meets in plenary. A Recommendation (addressed to the national authorities) and a Resolution mark the end of the observation.
· A congress priority for 2011-2012 is targeted post-observation follow-up (see Resolution 306(2010) above). The Congress organises specific cooperation programmes targeting the major issues requiring attention it has highlighted through its Recommendation.
Facts and figures
· Since 1990, the Congress has been involved in the observation of municipal elections in the 47 Council of Europe member states and beyond (eg in Israel in 2008). To date, almost 100 election observation missions have been carried out by the Congress.
· Depending on the electoral calendar of the member countries, the Congress is invited to observe between three and five votes per year. In 2012, the Congress observed elections in Serbia, Armenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.