Special measures to ensure participation and representation of national minorities may include reduced or waived minimum support, deposit, and electoral threshold requirements, and quotas.
- Best practices do not exclude reasonable quotas or preferences designed to ensure more equitable representation of women or minority groups.
- Special rules guaranteeing national minorities reserved seats or providing for exceptions to the normal seat allocation criteria for parties representing national minorities (for instance, exemption from a quorum requirement) do not in principles run counter to equal suffrage.
- The electoral system can include a component that seeks to address previous imbalances in political representation through the use of quotas or reserved seats to promote the representation of, for example, women and minorities.
- Parties representing national minorities must be permitted.
- Certain measures taken to ensure minimum representation for minorities either by reserving seats for them or by providing for exceptions to the normal rules on seat distribution, eg by waiving the quorum for the national minorities’ parties do not infringe the principle of equality. It may also be foreseen that people belonging to national minorities have the right to vote for both general and national minority lists. However, neither candidates nor electors must be required to indicate their affiliation with any national minority.
- In accordance with the principles of international law, the electoral law must guarantee equality for persons belonging to national minorities, which includes prohibiting any discrimination against them. In particular, the national minorities must be allowed to set up political parties. Constituency delimitations and quorum regulations must not be such as to form an obstacle to the presence of persons belonging to minorities in the elected body.
- In addition, the police, because of resource or training deficiencies, may be unable to meet to their international due diligence obligations to effectively prevent violence.
- Special measures to promote the election of national-minority candidates to public office should be encouraged. For example, experience has shown that lowering the number of supporting signatures required for the registration of candidates from national-minority parties can be an effective special measure. This could also be combined with an exemption from the requirement to surpass a nationwide threshold in proportional representation systems. When determining the size of electoral deposits, contribution and spending limits, eligibility thresholds and other parameters of electoral frameworks, states should consider their impact on the participation of candidates belonging to national minorities and, if needed, take targeted measures to ensure that the right to effective participation of minorities in the electoral processes is not unduly restricted.
- Ideally, both national and regional thresholds should be low enough to give national-minority parties the chance to have their candidates elected to a national legislature.
- For example, national-minority parties can be exempted from the need to surpass a legal threshold in order to qualify for seat allocation or can benefit from a lower legal threshold than other parties to obtain representation.
- While the principle of one person, one vote is one of the most fundamental rules of democratic electoral systems, in some cases a dual voting system can be used to promote representation of minority communities.
- According to a study by the Venice Commission, dual voting is an exceptional measure that has to be within the legal framework of the constitution and may be permitted if it respects the principle of proportionality in its various aspects. This implies that it can only be justified if: - It is impossible to reach the aim pursued through other less intrusive measures that do not infringe upon equal voting rights; - It has a transitional character; and - It concerns only a numerically small minority.
- If there is the political will to ensure the representation of such minorities, this can be achieved by introducing special measures through reserved seats. Reserved seats are contested within a minority community and filled by people representing minority communities.
- Further, in order to alleviate the effects of past discrimination and to enhance future participation, it is appropriate for the legal framework to include special electoral rules and voting arrangements for national minorities.
- Measures to help promote adequate national minority representation might include reserving a set number of parliamentary seats for specific minorities, waiving the threshold for the number of votes received so that parties representing national minorities may be represented in parliament and the provision of electoral material, including ballot papers, as well as voter education and campaign materials in minority languages.
- Reserved seats can be used to ensure the representation of specific minority groups in the legislature.