States should take measures to promote the principles of the rule of law.
- The Legal Framework and Candidacy and Campaigning
- The Legal Framework and Election Management
- The Legal Framework and Dispute Resolution
- The Legal Framework for Electoral Systems and Boundary Delimitation
- Rule of Law and the Legal Framework
- The Legal Framework and the Media
- Legal Framework and Vote Counting and Tabulation
- The Legal Framework and Voter Education
- The Legal Framework and Voter Registration
- Legal Framework for Voting Operations
- State Parties to this Convention undertake to abide by the following principles: 1. Respect for democratic principles and institutions, popular participation, the rule of law and good governance.
- Member States and the Executive Secretariat shall endeavour to adopt at national and regional levels, practical modalities for the enforcement of the rule of law, human rights, justice and good governance.
- Only transparency, impartiality and independence from political motivated manipulation will ensure proper administration of the election process, from the pre-election period to the end of the processing of results.
- State Parties shall commit themselves to promote democracy, the principle of the rule of law and human rights.
- Cognizant of the fact that the Constitutive Act of the African Union, inter alia, calls for the need to promote and protect human and peoples’ rights, consolidate democratic institutions and foster a culture of democracy and ensure good governance and the rule of law.
- Striving for the effective fulfillment of their obligations to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, in the spirit of the concerting of the efforts of the Contracting Parties for the purpose of asserting the ideals of freedom and the rule of law, preventing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, upholding the traditions of tolerance and friendship between peoples, and reinforcing civil peace and accord.
- Being resolved, as the governments of European countries which are like-minded and have a common heritage of political traditions, ideals, freedom and the rule of law, to take the first steps for the collective enforcement of certain of the rights stated in the Universal Declaration.
- State Parties shall strive to institutionalize good political governance through: 8. Entrenching and respecting the principle of the rule of law.
- Each State Party shall, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its legal system, develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anticorruption policies that promote the participation of society and reflect the principles of the rule of law, proper management of public affairs and public property, integrity, transparency and accountability.
- The Court has had frequent occasion to highlight the importance of democratic principles underlying the interpretation and application of the Convention (see, among other authorities, United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v. Turkey, judgment of 30 January 1998, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1998-I, pp. 21-22, § 45), and it would take this opportunity to emphasise that the rights guaranteed under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are crucial to establishing and maintaining the foundations of an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law (see also the importance of these rights as recognised internationally in “Relevant international materials”, paragraphs 26-39 above).
- The Court reiterates that its competence to verify compliance with domestic law is limited and that it is not its task to take the place of the domestic courts in such issues as the assessment of evidence or the interpretation of the domestic law. Nevertheless, for the purposes of supervision of the compatibility of the interference with the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, the Court must scrutinise the relevant domestic procedures and decisions in detail in order to determine whether sufficient safeguards against arbitrariness were afforded to the applicant and whether the relevant decisions were sufficiently reasoned (see, mutatis mutandis, Melnychenko v. Ukraine, no. 17707/02, § 60, ECHR 2004-X).
- The Court considers that the existence of a domestic system for effective examination of individual complaints and appeals in matters concerning electoral rights is one of the essential guarantees of free and fair elections. Such a system ensures an effective exercise of individual rights to vote and to stand for election, maintains general confidence in the State's administration of the electoral process and constitutes an important device at the State's disposal in achieving the fulfilment of its positive duty under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to hold democratic elections. Indeed, the State's solemn undertaking under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 and the individual rights guaranteed by that provision would be illusory if, throughout the electoral process, specific instances indicative of failure to ensure democratic elections are not open to challenge by individuals before a competent domestic body capable of effectively dealing with the matter.
- The Court reiterates that its competence to verify compliance with domestic law is limited and that it is not its task to take the place of the domestic courts in such matters as assessment of evidence or interpretation of the domestic law. Nevertheless, for the purpose of supervision of the compatibility of an interference with the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, the Court must scrutinise the relevant domestic procedures and decisions in detail in order to determine whether sufficient safeguards against arbitrariness were afforded to the applicant and whether the relevant decisions were sufficiently reasoned (see, mutatis mutandis, Melnychenko v. Ukraine, no. 17707/02, § 60, ECHR 2004-X).
- The Court considers that, in order to ensure the State's compliance with its positive obligation under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to hold free elections, the domestic courts dealing with the present case, having been called upon to decide on an arguable claim concerning election irregularities, should have reacted by taking reasonable steps to investigate the alleged irregularities without imposing unreasonable and excessively strict procedural barriers on the individual complainant. What was at stake in those proceedings was not only the alleged infringement of the applicant's individual rights but also, on a more general level, the State's compliance with its positive duty to hold free and fair elections. Therefore, even assuming that the courts in the present case might have been unable to decide the case solely on the basis of the evidence submitted by the applicant, the material put before them was nevertheless strong enough to require them to take additional steps to obtain more information and verify the accuracy of the applicant's allegations which cast doubt on the free and fair character of the elections in his constituency.
- Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 is phrased differently from the other provisions of the Convention and its Protocols – in terms of the obligation of the High Contracting Parties, rather than guaranteeing a specific right or freedom (see paragraph 34 above). Unlike other provisions of the Convention, such as Article 5, Articles 8 to 11, or Article 1 of Protocol No. 1, the text of this provision does not contain an express reference to the “lawfulness” of any measures taken by the State. However, the rule of law, one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society, is inherent in all the Articles of the Convention and its Protocols (see, among many other authorities, Amuur v. France, 25 June 1996, § 50, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1996-III). This principle entails a duty on the part of the State to put in place a legislative framework for securing its obligations under the Convention in general and Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 in particular, and to ensure that its public officials charged with executing those obligations do not act outside the law, but exercise their powers in accordance with the applicable legal rules.
- According to the Court's case-law, a difference of treatment is discriminatory, for the purposes of Article 14 of the Convention, if it “has no objective and reasonable justification”, that is if it does not pursue a “legitimate aim” or if there is not a “reasonable relationship of proportionality between the means employed and the aim sought to be realised” (see Abdulaziz, Cabales and Balkandali v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 28 May 1985, Series A no. 94, pp. 35-36, § 72). Moreover, the Contracting States enjoy a certain margin of appreciation in assessing whether and to what extent differences in otherwise similar situations justify a different treatment (see Willis v. the United Kingdom, no. 36042/97, § 39, ECHR 2002-IV).
- The Court acknowledges that, owing to the complexity of the electoral process and associated time-restraints necessitating streamlining of various election-related procedures, the relevant domestic authorities may be required to examine election-related appeals within comparatively short time-limits in order to avoid retarding the electoral process. For the same practical reasons, the States may find it inexpedient to require these authorities to abide by a set of very strict procedural safeguards or to deliver very detailed decisions. Nevertheless, these considerations may not serve to undermine the effectiveness of the appeal procedure, and it must be ensured that a genuine effort is made to address the substance of arguable individual complaints concerning electoral irregularities and that the relevant decisions are sufficiently reasoned. In the present case, however, the conduct of the electoral commissions and courts and their respective decisions revealed an appearance of lack of any genuine concern for the protection of the applicant's right to stand for election.
- We reaffirm our commitment to the rule of law.
- Tak[e] all necessary measures to eliminate laws, regulations and practices that discriminate, directly or indirectly, against citizens in their right to participate in public affairs on grounds of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status, or on the basis of disability.
- They are determined to support and advance those principles of justice which form the basis of the rule of law. They consider that the rule of law does not mean merely a formal legality which assures regularity and consistency in the achievement and enforcement of democratic order, but justice based on the recognition and full acceptance of the supreme value of the human personality and guaranteed by institutions providing a framework for its fullest expression.
- The substantive validity of texts submitted to a referendum Texts submitted to a referendum must comply with all superior law (principle of the hierarchy of norms). They must not be contrary to international law or to the Council of Europe’s statutory principles (democracy, human rights and the rule of law).
- The Commission considers that the act of ratifying the American Convention presupposes acceptance of the obligation of not only respecting the observance of rights and freedoms recognized in it, but also guaranteeing their existence and the exercise of all of them. It is these elements of political rights presented in item 5 of this document that the State commits itself not only to respect but “guarantee their full and free exercise,” according to Article 1.1 of the Convention. It must be pointed out that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in its Decision of July 29, 1988, in the case of Velásquez Rodríguez, has stated that Article 1.1 of the Convention: Article 1 (1) is essential in determining whether a violation of the human rights recognized by the Convention can be imputed to a State Party. In effect, that article charges the States Parties with the fundamental duty to respect and guarantee the rights recognized in the Convention. Any impairment of those rights which can be attributed under the rules of international law to the action or omission of any public authority constitutes an act imputable to the State, which assumes responsibility in the terms provided by the Convention.
- The procedural validity of texts submitted to a referendum Questions submitted to a referendum must respect: - unity of form: the same question must not combine a specifically-worded draft amendment with a generally-worded proposal or a question of principle; - unity of content: except in the case of total revision of a text (Constitution, law), there must be an intrinsic connection between the various parts of each question put to the vote, in order to guarantee the free suffrage of the voter, who must not be called to accept or refuse as a whole provisions without an intrinsic link; the revision of several chapters of a text at the same time is equivalent to a total revision; - unity of hierarchical level: it is desirable that the same question should not simultaneously apply to legislation of different hierarchical levels.
- Referendums on questions of principle or other generally-worded proposals should preferably not be binding. If they are binding, the subsequent procedure should be laid down in specific rules.
- The effects of legally binding or consultative referendums must be clearly specified in the Constitution or by law.
- The use of referendums must comply with the legal system as a whole, and especially the procedural rules. In particular, referendums cannot be held if the Constitution or a statute in conformity with the Constitution does not provide for them, for example where the text submitted to a referendum is a matter for Parliament’s exclusive jurisdiction.
- Stability of the law is crucial to credibility of the electoral process, which is itself vital to consolidating democracy. Rules which change frequently – and especially rules which are complicated – may confuse voters. Above all, voters may conclude, rightly or wrongly, that electoral law is simply a tool in the hands of the powerful, and that their own votes have little weight in deciding the results of elections.
- When a text is adopted by referendum at the request of an authority other than Parliament, it should be possible to revise it either by parliamentary means or by referendum, at the request of Parliament or a section of the electorate, after the expiry, where applicable, of the same period of time.
- In practice, however, it is not so much stability of the basic principles which needs protecting (they are not likely to be seriously challenged) as stability of some of the more specific rules of electoral law, especially those covering the electoral system per se, the composition of electoral commissions and the drawing of constituency boundaries. These three elements are often, rightly or wrongly, regarded as decisive factors in the election results, and care must be taken to avoid not only manipulation to the advantage of the party in power, but even the mere semblance of manipulation.