Draft Convention on the Election Standards, Election Rights and Freedoms (Explanatory Note)

CONVENTION

ON ELECTION STANDARDS, ELECTORAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

Explanatory Note
to the Draft Convention "On Election Standards, Electoral Rights and Freedoms"

The Convention "On Election Standards, Electoral Rights and Freedoms" was drafted with the aim of summarizing in a legally binding international-law act the experience of legal regulation and administration of democratic elections accumulated by the Council of Europe and various states; specifying and amplifying the basic provisions set forth in Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (entered into force in 1954) to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (November 4, 1950, entered into force on September 3, 1953) and in the other documents; defining the international-law features of the modern democratic electoral process in new integrated Europe.

The draft Convention consists of 27 articles which are grouped in four blocks. The first block deals with the standards of democratic elections, with the list of such standards including election principles: periodic and mandatory, free, genuine, fair, open and public elections based on universal and equal suffrage and held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures assuring to voters the freedom of voting with effective judicial protection, effective civic (public) and international monitoring.

This list also includes language guarantees, which is particularly important for ensuring participation in elections of national minorities and ethic groups, small indigenous peoples and nationalities. The principle of openness and publicity as an inalienable component of the mechanism of efficient management of state affairs keynotes all organizational elements of the modern electoral process. An important element of a new approach to the development of international election standards is introduction of a mechanism guaranteeing the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants.

The second block of the draft Convention defines the status of election participants and the technological infrastructure of the organization of the modern electoral process, the fundamentals of the mechanism assuring realization of equal legal possibilities for all election participants. The new approaches are based on a more efficient and concrete procedure of public monitoring of elections, on stronger judicial guarantees.

The draft Convention lays down the fundamentals of the status and powers of observers, candidates' agents, the procedure for filing complaints against violations of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants with courts and other bodies as well as the basic principles of information coverage of elections and election campaigns of candidates, political parties (coalitions) in the mass media and telecommunications media. In view of the fact that corruption is becoming one of the factors undermining the trust of citizens in institutions of state power, in elections generally, and the development of measures for preventing financial abuses must pass from the sphere of recommendations to the sphere of concrete international obligations the draft Convention lays down the general principles for the formation of a transparent funding mechanism of elections and election campaigns of candidates, political parties.

The third block of the draft Convention defines the parameters of the status and powers of international observers. The presence of international observers contributes to the publicity and openness of elections. On this basis international observers are granted wide and real powers and required to perform their functions and exercise their rights abiding by such principles as neutrality and impartiality, refusal to express any preferences for participants in the electoral process before the end of voting, non-interference in the electoral process.

The concluding block of the draft Convention sets forth the measures which must not be regarded as discriminatory in the legislative regulation of the national electoral process; it defines the obligations of the States Parties to the Convention and regulates the matters relating to the signing, ratification and entry into force of the Convention.

In general, introduction and concrete formulation of the European election standards will give a new political and legal impetus to synchronization and harmonization of the international and national legal realm, realization of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, preparation and administration of democratic elections. It will reduce certain inconsistency, separation and duplication of the relevant rules and recommendations contained in the documents of various international organizations, impart a binding international-law significance to the standards of democratic elections and to the measures guaranteeing the electoral rights and freedoms of participants in the electoral process.

Formulation of election standards, electoral rights and freedoms in the format of a European convention will make it possible to lay a more solid international legal foundation for the activity of the European Court of Human Rights which affords legal protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of a human being and a citizen.

The structure of the draft Convention and the headings of its articles are as follows:

Preamble

Article 1 Election Standards

Article 2 Free Elections

Article 3 Periodic and Mandatory Elections

Article 4 Genuine Elections

Article 5 Fair Elections

Article 6 Open and Public elections

Article 7 Official Language of Elections

Article 8 Universal Suffrage

Article 9 Equal Suffrage

Article 10 Direct Suffrage

Article 11 Secret Voting and Other Equivalent Forms of Guaranteeing Freedom of Voting

Article 12 Assurance of Equal Legal Conditions and Additional Possibilities for Participation in Elections

Article 13 Preparation and Administration of Elections by Independent Election Bodies

Article 14 Status of Political Party (Coalition), Candidate at Elections

Article 15 Status and Powers of National Observers, Agents or Candidates

Article 16 Funding of Elections and Election Campaigns of Candidates, Political Parties (Coalitions)

Article 17 Information Support of Elections and Election Campaigns of Candidates, Political Parties (Coalitions)

Article 18 Complaints Against and Responsibility for Violations of Electoral Rights and Freedoms, Elections Laws

Article 19 Status and Powers of International Observers

Article 20 Measures Not to Be Considered Discriminatory or Contrary to this Convention

Article 21 Obligations of States Parties to the Convention

Article 22 Rights Granted Irrespective of this Convention

Article 23 Signing, Ratification and Entry into Force of the Convention

Article 24 Accession

Article 25 Presentation of Information

Article 26 Denunciation

Article 27 Notification

CONVENTION

ON ELECTION STANDARDS, ELECTORAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

The Member States of the Council of Europe, parties to this Convention (hereinafter reffered to as the Parties),

considering the aims and principles of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

reaffirming the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which establish that the will of the people as expressed in periodic and genuine elections shall be the basis of the authority of government;

being convinced that the recognition, observance and protection of human and civil rights and freedoms, including the right to elect and be elected, is one of the supreme aims of the state and the international community, an inalienable condition for further strengthening of cooperation between the states and nations in the name of the realization and protection of ideals and principles which constitute their common democratic asset, ,

relying on the experience accumulated by the Council of Europe, other international organizations and also the Member States of the Council of Europe in guaranteeing and protecting the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen,

wishing to contribute to the development of democratic traditions of expression of the people's will in elections on the basis of real political pluralism and a multi-party system, in the conditions of the supremacy of the constitution (other fundamental laws of the state) and national laws relying on the universally accepted norms and principles of international law,

being convinced that democratic elections are one of the political and legal instruments of a stable civil society and sustainable development of a law-based state,

being resolved to implement the provisions of this Convention on the basis of the national legislation and the appropriate national policy,

have agreed as follows:

__________________

The Draft Convention On Election Standards, Electoral Rights and Freedoms was approved by the participants in the international conference of the Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials, which has a consultative status in the Council of Europe. The conference was held in Moscow on September 26 - 28, 2002 (Russian Federation).

Article 1

Election Standards

1. The Parties believe that democratic elections are one of the supreme direct expressions of the power and will of the people, the basis of election of elective bodies and elective officials.

2. The Parties recognize that the election standards are the following:

    2.1. the right to elect and be elected to bodies of state power and bodies of local administration (bodies of local self-government), other bodies of popular (national) representation, elective state and municipal offices;

    2.2. free, periodic and mandatory, fair, genuine, free, open and public elections;

    2.3. participation in elections based on universal and equal suffrage, held by secret vote or by equivalent forms ensuring free expression of the voters' will;

    2.4. guarantees of realization as well as the judicial and other protection of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen;

    2.5. effective public control over and impartial international monitoring of elections.

Article 2

Free Elections

1. The supremacy of the constitution, other fundamental laws of a state, laws shall be the legal basis for holding free elections in accordance with the universally accepted principles and norms of international law, international treaties.

2. Elections shall be held on the basis of the constitution and also other statutory acts which are adopted by duly authorized bodies, officials and enter into force before the beginning of the election campaign so as to assure equal legal conditions and possibilities of full-fledged participation in elections to all election participants.

3. Observance of the principle of free elections makes it possible for voters and other election participants to choose, without coercion, threat of coercion or any other unlawful influence, whether to participate or not to participate in elections in the forms allowed by law and by lawful methods, without fear of punishment, influence or compulsion, specifically, depending on voting and election results.

4. Participation of a citizen in elections shall be free and voluntary. Nobody shall influence a citizen to compel him to participate or not to participate in elections and/or electoral actions (procedures). Nobody shall compel a voter to vote for or against any definite candidate (candidates), any definite list of candidates of a political party (coalition) or prevent a voter from freely expressing his will. No voter shall be compelled by anybody to declare how he intends to vote or has voted. It shall not be allowed to gather and/or publish (disseminate) personal information about voters who have or have not taken part in the voting.

5. Each voter shall be entitled to equal and free access to an election precinct and a polling station in order to exercise his right to participation in free voting.

6. The obligation of a citizen to participate in the voting laid down by the constitution and/or law does not constitute a restriction on the realization of the principle of free elections.

7. Foreign nationals, foreign legal entities, international political movements shall not be allowed to unlawfully participate in any activity with the calling and holding of elections, in the funding (including donation of funds) of the election campaign of candidates, political parties (coalitions) intending to participate or participating in elections, in the activity of other organizations which are directly or indirectly associated with a political party (coalition) or are under its influence or control and contribute to the achievement of the aims of a political party (coalition) in the course of the preparation and holding of elections.

Article 3

Periodic and Mandatory Elections

1. The Parties believe that elections must be held at reasonable intervals established by the constitution and/or law so that election of elective bodies and elective officials should be always based on the free will of the people (voters). As a rule, the period of powers of a legislative (representative) body, other representative bodies shall not exceed five years.

2. The time of the beginning and end of voting in elections as well as the duration of the voting period shall be established so as to provide the most favorable and equal legal conditions for the expression of the will of all voters.

3. No actions shall be taken or calls made that incite or aim to incite disruption, cancellation or postponement of elections called and held in accordance with the constitution and/or laws.

4. When a state of emergency or martial law has been imposed over the entire territory of a country or in some of its areas the constitution or laws may impose restrictions on the electoral rights and freedoms with the indication of their scope and period, and the date of elections may be postponed.

Article 4

Genuine Elections

1. Observance of the principle of genuine elections ensures determination of a freely expressed will of voters and its direct realization.

2. Genuine elections shall provide to voters a real and law-based possibility to elect candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions). In genuine elections there is real political pluralism, ideological diversity and a multi-party system realized through the functioning of political parties (coalitions) whose lawful activity is under the legal protection of the state.

3. In genuine elections voters shall have timely and free access to the information about candidates (lists of candidates), political parties (coalitions) and about the electoral process and a candidate (candidates), political parties (coalitions) shall have access to the mass media and telecommunications media on equal legal conditions.

4. Electoral actions and procedures shall be carried out in the procedure and within the periods that allow candidates, political parties (coalitions) and other election participants to organize a full-fledged election propaganda campaign.

5. Genuine elections shall ensure fair legal conditions for nomination, registration, refusal or cancellation of registration of candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions) and for participation of all political parties (coalitions) in the election campaign. Requirements to registration shall be established in good time before the commencement of the election campaign; they shall be clear, definite, free from any conditions which may serve as a basis for discriminatory restrictions or possible abuses and shall be applied in a uniform manner.

6. Each candidate and each political party (coalition) participating in elections shall be able to file complaints about violations of the election laws and appeal voting and election results in courts and/or other bodies in the procedure and within the period established by laws.

7. Elected persons who received the required number of votes, established by the constitution and/or laws, shall duly assume office in the procedure and within the period established by the constitution and/or laws, thereby admitting their responsibility to voters, and shall remain in office until the period of their powers expires or these powers are terminated otherwise in the procedure regulated by the constitution, laws in accordance with the democratic parliamentary and constitutional procedures.

Article 5

Fair Elections

1. Observance of the principle of fair elections ensures equal legal conditions to all election participants.

2. Fair elections shall guarantee:

    2.1. universal and equal suffrage;

    2.2. equal legal conditions for participation of each candidate or each political party (coalition) in an election campaign;

    2.4. honest performance of electoral actions and electoral procedures provided for by laws, specifically during voting and vote counting; rapid provision of full information about all voting results, beginning from the level of election precincts, including provision of the possibility for observers to receive official copies of protocols of voting and/or election results from election bodies with subsequent official publication of all voting and election results within a reasonable time;

    2.5. organization of the electoral process by impartial election bodies (other bodies duly authorized therefor by law), working collectively, openly, publicly and independently within the scope of competence and powers granted to them by the constitution and/or laws;

    2.6. quick and effective adjudication by courts and other bodies and officials, duly authorized by law, of complaints and statements about violation of election laws, including violation of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, a candidate (candidates), political parties (coalitions) and other election participants, within the time frame of various stages and procedures of the electoral process.

Article 6

Open and Public Elections

1. Elections shall be prepared and held openly and publicly.

2. Decisions of bodies and officials, which are adopted within the scope of their competence and relate to the calling, preparation and administration of elections, the assurance and protection of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants, shall be officially published or made known to the general public by other methods in the procedure and within the period established by laws.

3. Statutory acts affecting the electoral rights, freedoms and obligations of a human being and a citizen shall not be applicable until they are officially published.

4. Statutory acts which restrict the electoral rights and freedoms of a citizen and do not conflict with the international obligations of a state shall have no retroactive legal force.

5. Observance of the principle of open and public elections must ensure creation of legal conditions for the exercise of effective public control over, and for impartial international monitoring of, elections.

6. Realization of the principle of open and public elections shall not extend to the secrecy of will expression and voting of a voter.

Article 7

Official Language of Elections

Elections shall be called, prepared and administered with the use of the national language and, in the cases and in the procedure established by the constitution and/or laws, other statutory acts, also with the use of official languages of the parts of the territory of a state, languages of small peoples and nationalities, national minorities and ethnic groups in the territories of their compact settlement.

Article 8

Universal Suffrage

1. Observance of the principle of universal suffrage means the following:

    1.1. each citizen who has attained to the age established by the constitution and/or law has the right to elect and be elected to the bodies of state power and local self-government, other bodies of popular (national) representation, elective offices on the terms and in the order provided for by the constitution and/or laws, other statutory acts and this right is realized irrespective of any discriminatory restrictions and privileges, including those based on physical or other disabilities (infirmities) of a person (invalidity, etc.). The right to elect may be granted to a person who has attained to the age of majority, when the person is able independently and in the full degree exercise his rights and discharge his duties; the right to be elected may be granted upon attainment to the aforementioned age but such age shall not be older than 25 years unless otherwise provided by the constitution and/or laws with respect to candidates for certain elective offices, in particular, the office of Head of the State and/or the highest-ranking official of a territorial unit within a federative (federal) state, candidates to parliaments ;

    1.2. possibility and/or mandatory possession of the citizenship;

    1.3. residence of the voter in the territory where the elections are held; the requirement to the period of residence may be imposed only at regional and/or local elections and such period of residence shall not exceed six months, unless a longer and more reasonable period is established to assure electoral rights of the representatives of national minorities and/or ethnic groups of voters, voters of the given territory as a whole;

    1.4. the right to elect and be elected is enjoyable by citizens who lawfully reside (stay) outside the territory of their state;

    1.5. everyone has the right of free access to an effective, impartial and equitable procedure of state registration of voters or other voter registration established by law, on the basis of the documents and information indicated in laws and to the documentary information about himself (personal data), including such information on computer-readable media, the right to correct this information to ensure its completeness and accuracy, and also the right to know who and why uses or have used this information, to whom it has been supplied. A voter has a guaranteed right to receive information about his inclusion on a voter list and appeal, in a court and/or in some other procedure established by law, the refusal to include him on, or his removal from, a voter list or any inaccuracy in the information about voters. Registration of voters may be carried out on a permanent (regular) basis and the information about voters shall be updated at least once a year or within other reasonable periods conditioned by the nature of the voter registration procedure and its realization. Voter lists shall be made available for examination and additional correction. Voters who settled down in the territory of an election precinct after the voter lists had been made available for examination and voters who were not put on the voter list without any valid reasons shall be additionally included by the election body on the voter list (or additional voter list);

    1.6. the right to elect and be elected shall not be enjoyable by persons who have not attained to the age established by the constitution and/or laws. The electoral rights and freedoms, including the right to elect and/or be elected, may be restricted by law for persons pronounced by a court to be incapable and persons serving a criminal sentence which has come into legal force.

2. Neither shall discriminatory restrictions, such as non-inclusion on voter lists or in other electoral documents, be allowed in respect of persons who do not have the minimum educational level, do not speak the national language or on other similar grounds and such persons shall not be prevented from the exercise of their right of access to documentary information (personal data) about themselves.

Article 9

Equal Suffrage

1. Observance of the principle of equal suffrage means the following:

    1.1. each voter has one vote or the same number of votes as other voters; his vote has the same weight as votes of other voters and the equal weight of a voter's vote cannot be affected by the electoral system used in the state;

    1.2. when voting is conducted on the basis of (single-mandate and/or multi-mandate) territorial constituencies and election precincts these constituencies and precincts shall be formed on a fair basis, so that voting results should reflect most accurately and fully the will of the voters who participated in the voting. One of the principles to be used in the formation of constituencies and precincts may be the equal number of voters, with a minimum allowable deviation from an average representation quota for a constituency and with due regard to compact settlement of national minorities and ethnic groups;

    1.3. all citizens shall have equal legal conditions for nomination of their candidatures at elections and for participation in nomination of candidates.

2. Voters shall vote in election precincts at polling stations equipped for voting by election bodies.

3. In the cases and in the procedure provided for by law a voter may be given an opportunity to exercise his right to elect using such forms of voting as voting outside a polling station, postal voting, voting on the basis of an absentee certificate, early voting, voting on the basis of a power of attorney or other forms of voting which assure maximum convenience to voters, including persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities) or persons staying at a hospital, at an old people's home or at some other place where they stay temporarily or permanently, and free and secret personal expression of their will.

4. A candidate shall not take advantage of his position or official status to gain election and for nomination and/or election of other candidates, lists of candidates. The list of violations of the principle of equal suffrage and the responsibility for such violations are established by law.

Article 10

Direct Suffrage

1. Observance of the principle of direct suffrage means that at elections to the national legislative body (parliament), regional, local and other representative bodies voters directly vote for the candidate, candidates, list of candidates they want to be elected or against the candidate, candidates, list of candidates.

2. All deputy mandates of one of the chambers of the national legislative body (parliament) shall be open to free competition between candidates and/or lists of candidates in the course of general elections.

3. If the parliament consists of two chambers and some of or all mandates of the other chamber of the parliament are not open to free competition between candidates and/or lists of candidates in the course of general elections and also if elective offices are not filled directly in the course of general elections, this does not contradict the provisions of this Convention.

Article 11

Secret Voting and Other Equivalent Forms Guaranteeing Freedom of Voting

1. The rights of citizens to secret voting shall not be restricted or infringed in any way and by anything.

2. Elections shall be held by secret voting or by other equivalent forms of voting which ensure free and secret expression of the voter's will.

3. Observance of the principle of secret and free voting in the forms established by law means exclusion of any kind of control whatsoever over the expression of voters' will and provision of equal legal conditions for making a free choice between candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions).

Article 12

Assurance of Equal Legal Conditions and Additional Possibilities
for Participation in Elections

1. The Parties recognize the need to take further measures, including legislative measures, to assure to women fair and real legal conditions, equal to those enjoyed by men, for realization of the right to elect and be elected to elective bodies and elective offices both personally and as a candidate (on the list of candidates) of a political party (coalition) in accordance with the conditions and procedure provided for by the constitution and/or laws, other statutory acts.

2. The Parties also recognize the need to take further measures, including legislative measures, to guarantee persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities) and other categories of the population (representatives of indigenous and small peoples, nationalities, other national minorities, ethnic groups) additional conditions, if they need them, for participation in elections, specifically for realization of the right to elect and be elected personally or as representatives of a political party (coalition), to participate in the voting with the aid of persons indicated in laws.

Article 13

Preparation and Administration of Elections by Independent Election Bodies

1. Preparation and administration of elections, including determination and official publication of the voting and election results, safekeeping of electoral documents (ballots, protocols) up to the expiry of their safekeeping periods, assurance of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants, shall be carried out by collective election bodies headed by the central election body, acting independently, impartially, within the scope of competence and powers established by the constitution and/or laws, other statutory acts..

2. The procedure for the formation of election bodies, their powers and the period of these powers, organization of their activity as well as the grounds, procedure and period for dissolution of an election body or early termination of the powers of its member (members) shall be established by law. As a rule members of election bodies shall be persons who are knowledgeable in the field of organization of the electoral process or have experience in the preparation and administration of elections, including representatives of political parties (coalitions), national minorities and ethnic groups.

3. Resolutions of election bodies shall be adopted by a majority and, in the cases provided by law, qualified majority of the whole number of votes of members of the election body.

4. No structures (bodies, organizations) shall be formed or allowed to operate which supersede the election bodies indicated in Paragraph 1 of this article, or perform fully or partially their functions, or obstruct or unlawfully interfere with their lawful activity, or otherwise appropriate the status, functions and powers of the said election bodies.

5. Members of an election body shall not be bound by any decisions and other documents of political parties (coalitions) to which they belong and which nominated them to the election body. During their term of office as members of a permanent election body, its members may suspend their membership in a political party (coalition) or other political organizations. The bodies and officials that appointed members of an election body have no a right to recall them.

6. Any decision, action (omission) of an election body may be appealed in the election body specified by law and/or in a court, in the procedure provided for by law. A higher election body may reverse the decision of a lower election body if this decision conflicts with law or has been taken in violation of the established competence, and may either take a decision on the substance of the matter set forth in the appeal or send the relevant documents for new consideration to the lower election body whose decision was reversed.

Article 14

Status of Political Party (Coalition), Candidate at Elections

1. Each citizen, individually or together with other persons, shall be entitled to:

    (a) freely express political views and political preferences;

    (b) seek election to elective offices, personally or as a representative of a political party (coalition), i.e., nominate and/or propose his candidature for nomination as a candidate, on the list of candidates of a political party (coalition);

    (c) search for, obtain and communicate information about the electoral process and make a sound personal choice;

    (d) freely travel over the country and/or the territory of the constituency (the territory where elections are held), while participating in an election campaign on an equitable basis with other election participants;

2. Each citizen shall be entitled, on the equal conditions with other citizens, to join or, together with other persons, to organize a political party (coalition) on a lawful basis for the purpose of participation in elections, including such participation in the form of nomination of candidates, lists of candidates.

3. Each candidate and each political party (coalition) shall be entitled to have their political and electoral rights and freedoms safeguarded by law and protected.

4. The States Parties to this Convention shall make arrangements for informing citizens and other election participants about the legislative requirements to the procedure for nomination and registration of candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions), about the status of candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections, about the periods for the performance of electoral actions and procedures and also about the statutory acts and their provisions relating to the preparation and administration of elections.

5. In the cases and in the procedure provided for by laws nomination and registration of candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions) may be carried out by collection of the number of voters' signatures established by law or payment of an electoral (monetary) deposit or by means of other procedures which take into account, among other things, the parliamentary status of a political party (coalition), the number of votes received by a political party at the previous elections to the national legislative body (parliament).

The number of signatures established by law shall not exceed 2 percent of the number of voters in the given constituency; the size of the electoral deposit shall not be burdensome for the candidate, political party (coalition). The law shall specify the minimum number (percentage) of votes that has to be received by a candidate, list of candidates of a political party (coalition) for the electoral deposit to be returned.

The law shall fully and clearly establish the duration of the signature collection period, the deadline for submission of the signatures for verification as well as the procedure for verification of signatures and for pronouncing them to be bona fide or otherwise. The law may provide for verification of all signatures or for selective verification of a fixed quota thereof.

6. A decision to register a candidate, lists of candidates of a political party (coalition) participating in elections may be reversed by courts and/or election bodies in the procedure and within the periods established by laws.

7. The States Parties to this Convention may legislatively establish the number (quota) of votes required by political parties (coalitions) to participate in the distribution of deputy mandates in accordance with the voting results at elections. The procedures regulating vote counting, determination of voting and election results, declaration of a person to be elected and distribution of mandates between candidates, lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions) shall be established by law.

Article 15

Status and Powers of National Observers, Agents of Candidates

1. Each candidate and/or each political party (coalition), other election participants indicated in laws shall be entitled, observing the procedure and conditions established by laws, to appoint their observers to be present at election bodies during voting, vote counting and determination of election results as well as in other cases provided by law. .

2. National observers may also be appointed by non-governmental public organizations.

3. The rights and obligations of observers and agents of candidates shall be defined by law and other statutory acts adopted by the bodies which call and/or administer elections.

4. Observers, agents shall be granted the following basic rights:

    4.1. to examine election documents(with the exception of documents which affect the interests of national security or contain confidential information about voters), receive information about the number of voters on voter lists and the number of voters who took part in the voting as provided by Paragraph 2, Article 9 of this Convention;

    4.2. to be present at the office of the election body and at the polling station and observe the collective (public) work, including meetings of the election body, and also the voting, other electoral procedures;

    4.3. to be present at early voting, voting outside the polling station, other forms of voting provided for by laws;

    4.4. to observe vote counting under conditions in which the contents of ballots can be seen;

    4.5. to watch an election body drawing up protocols of voting and election results and other election documents, examine the protocols of voting and election results, make copies of the said protocols or receive such copies from the election body;

    4.6. to make proposals and comments to an election body concerning organization of voting, vote counting, determination of voting and election results and make statements about violation of election laws, including violation of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants.

5. The Parties believe that the necessary and equal legal conditions must be created for all national observers to monitor the provisions for the integrity and transparency of the electoral process and also the conduct of voting, performance of electoral actions and electoral procedures connected with the determination of the voting and election results. Simultaneous presence at a polling station of two and more observers representing one of candidates, one of political parties (coalitions), one of other election participants and also one of non-government public organizations may be prohibited by law.

6. No restrictions other than those established by Paragraph 5 of this article shall be established in respect of the presence at the office of an election body, at a polling station and the activity of national observers from one of election participants or from one of non-government public organizations.

Article 16

Funding of Elections and Election Campaigns of Candidates, Political Parties
(Coalitions)

1. The activities connected with the calling, preparation and administration of elections shall be funded from the budget and the budget funds shall be allocated and made available to election bodies in due time and in an amount sufficient for organizing and administering elections in accordance with the requirements of election laws.

2. The state shall allocate budget funds to candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections for the conduct of their election campaigns in the cases and in the procedure provided for by the constitution and/or laws, other statutory acts, on a fair basis, promptly and fully, and shall allow them to form their own election funds during the election period to finance their election campaigns, such funds being formed by candidates and/or political parties (coalitions) using their own money and voluntary donations from natural persons and/or national legal entities.

3. Allocation of budget funds to political parties (coalitions) participating in elections for the conduct of their election campaigns may be carried out depending on the number of votes received by a political party (coalition) at the previous elections to the national legislative body (parliament), or the status of a parliamentary political party (coalition), or the total number of registered candidates nominated by a political party (coalition), or the number of constituencies where the candidates nominated by a political party (coalition) have been registered, or other conditions stipulated by laws.

4. To create equal conditions for all candidates, political parties (coalitions) the Parties shall establish a reasonable maximum size of the election fund of a candidate, a political party (coalition), which they may spend on the conduct of their own election campaigns.

5. In accordance with law the Parties shall ensure openness and transparency of all monetary donations to candidates, political parties (coalitions) and their expenditures so as to exclude donations prohibited by law or donations exceeding the size established by law and unlawful expenditures of the resources of election funds.

6. Subject to law, other statutory legal acts, candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections shall, at the intervals established by law, submit to the bodies and officials, designated by law, the information and reports concerning receipt of all donations to their election funds, the donors, all expenditures made by them from these funds to finance their election campaign and shall arrange for publication of such information and reports, unless this duty is imposed by law on election bodies. .

7. The powers to control or oversee compliance with the rules, periods and procedures for campaign funding of candidates, political parties (coalitions) shall be vested by the Parties in officials or election bodies or in a special body to be established for this purpose, subject to law

8. The grounds and the procedures shall be established by law for bringing to responsibility candidates, political parties (coalitions) for violation of legal norms regulating the formation of their own election funds, receipt of money to and expenditure of money from such funds and for the use of any other sums contributed to their own election funds otherwise than in accordance with law.

Article 17

Information Support of Elections and Election Campaigns of Candidates,
Political Parties (Coalitions)

1. The Parties shall ensure in compliance with laws the freedom of the search for, collection, dissemination of information about elections, candidates, lists of candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections, other election participants indicated in laws and impartial information coverage of the purpose, preparation and progress of elections, election campaigns of candidates, political parties (coalitions) in the national mass media and telecommunications media.

2. The Parties believe that state-owned mass media or mass media with partial state and/or municipal participation must ensure a balanced information coverage of elections, election campaigns of candidates, political parties (coalitions), without any political or other, including ideological, bias and preferences.

3. The Parties shall assure to citizens, candidates, political parties (coalitions) which nominated registered candidates (lists of candidates) the freedom of propaganda activity conducted in any form allowed by law and by lawful methods, in the procedure and at the time provided for by laws, in the conditions of real pluralism of opinions, absence of censorship and arbitrary or discriminatory suppression of electoral information. No purposeful direct or indirect defamation of candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections shall be allowed in the mass media and telecommunications media.

4. Fair, equal and non-discriminatory legal conditions, established by law for access to the mass media and telecommunications media, shall be assured to all candidates, political parties (coalitions), participating in elections, for the conduct of their election campaigns, including presentation of their election programs (platforms), proclamation of slogans and appeals. In the cases and in the procedure provided for by laws air time and/or space in print media may be provided, on an equitable basis and free of charge, to all candidates, political parties participating in elections to conduct their election campaigns, including presentation of their election programs (platforms). Paid air time and paid space in print media shall be provided to candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections directly by the mass media, on the terms and conditions and in the procedure provided for by laws, and shall be paid for by candidates, political parties (coalitions) from their own election funds.

5. In the conduct of propaganda activity no abuse of the freedom of assembly, freedom of associations, freedom of speech and freedom of mass media shall be allowed, including calls for a violent seizure of power, violent change of the state system and violation of the territorial integrity of a state, calls directed at propaganda of war, terrorist or other violent acts inciting social, racial, gender, national, ethnic, religious hatred and enmity.

6. The Parties shall use their best efforts make the electoral information indicated by law available to representatives of national minorities, ethnic groups in their native language.

7. The Parties shall strive to assure to persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities) full access to special information materials prepared and published with the use of budget financing, which present information about candidates, lists of candidates, political parties (coalitions) and their election programs (platforms), other participants in the election campaign and also a possibility to mark the ballot and vote without the aid of the persons indicated by law.

Article 18

Complaints Against and Responsibility for Violation of Electoral Rights and Freedomsх

1. The national constitutional, civil, administrative and criminal judicial procedures shall ensure a legitimate and public nature of elections; protection and realization of electoral rights and freedoms of citizens, candidates, political parties (coalitions) participating in elections, other election participants; law enforcement practices based on democratic principles of organization of the electoral process..

2. In the event of violation of the election standards, the electoral rights and freedoms proclaimed in this Convention the injured person or persons, political party (coalition) or bodies, organizations, officials involved in the electoral process under law shall be entitled to prompt and effective protection of, submission of complaints to, and restoration of violated rights by the judicial and administrative bodies and also, in the cases and in the procedure provided for by laws and other statutory acts, the election bodies and other bodies, and the persons guilty of unlawful actions (omissions) shall bear responsibility in accordance with law.

3. The time limits for lodging complaints, procedure for adjudication of disputes connected with protection of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, other election participants, and the division of powers between judicial and other bodies, including election bodies, in adjudication of such disputes shall be clearly and exhaustively laid down by law and shall ensure fair adjudication of election disputes within the periods and stages of an election campaign, performance of electoral actions and procedures. The person (persons) who lodged a complaint shall have the right and the possibility to participate in its consideration by an election body. The Parties believe that election disputes connected with the protection of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants; violation of the rules for inclusion of a person on the voter list; unlawful refusal of registration and annulment of registration of a candidate, political party (coalition); unlawful contribution of money to and expenditure of money from the own election fund of a candidate, political party (coalition) or use of other funds which are not provided for by law; abuse of the freedom of speech and mass information in the course of election campaigns conducted by candidates, political parties (coalitions); invalidation of the voting and election results must be dealt with mainly by courts of law.

4. The period for protection and/or restoration of violated rights and freedoms of election participants shall be commensurate with the timeframe of the performance of electoral actions and the conduct of an election campaign as a whole and shall be determined with due regard to the need to ensure timely adjudication of complaints of election participants. This period shall not lead to postponement of elections or electoral actions and procedures, shall not violate the integrity of the electoral process and shall not in any way affect the actual expression of the will of citizens.

5. The activity of persons and bodies aimed at disclosure of confidential information about voters, other election participants; falsification of vote counting, voting and election results; prevention of a human being and a citizen from freely exercising his electoral rights and freedoms, including the right to secrecy of voting, assumption or occupation of an elective office and the activity of persons and bodies aimed at or resulting in violation of the universal principles and norms of international law in the field of the conduct of democratic elections shall be punishable by law.

Article 19

Status and Powers of International Observers

1. The Parties reaffirm that the presence of international observers is conducive to openness and publicity of elections, observance of international obligations of states with regard to holding of democratic elections. They shall strive to promote access of international observers to electoral processes at levels lower than the national level, down to local elections.

2. The activity of international observers shall be regulated by the laws of the country where they work, the international obligations of a state, this Convention.

3. International observers shall be granted visas to enter a state in the procedure established by the laws of this state and, if they have a relevant invitation, shall be accredited by the appropriate election body or some other body duly authorized by law. Invitations may be extended by bodies duly authorized to do so by law after official publication of the decision to call the elections.

4. The central election body or other organs (officials) authorized by law shall issue international observers with an accreditation card of the established form.

5. Election bodies, bodies of state power, bodies of local administration (local self-government), their officials shall, within the scope of their competence, render the necessary assistance to international observers.

6. International observers shall carry on their activity by themselves and independently, abiding by the principles of political neutrality and impartiality The activity of international observers shall be supported materially and financially by the organization which sent them and/or out of their own resources.

7. International observers may:

    7.1. have access to all documents (except for documents which affect the interests of national security or contain confidential information about voters) regulating the electoral process; receive these documents and the necessary information and official copies of the election documents indicated in laws;

    7.2. establish contacts with political parties (coalitions), candidates, private persons, officials of election bodies, other bodies and persons indicated in laws;

    7.3. freely visit election precincts, offices of election bodies, polling stations; be present at voting conducted at the place of residence of a voter (outside the polling station);

    7.4. observe the progress of voting, vote counting and determination of voting and election results under conditions in which these procedures are observable;

    7.5. acquaint themselves with the progress and results of adjudication of complaints (applications) and grievances relating to violation of election laws, including violation of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants;

    7.6. inform officials of election bodies about their observations without interfering in the work of the bodies in charge of preparation and administration of elections;

    7.7. publicize their opinion about the preparation and administration of elections after the end of voting;

    7.8. present to election officials their conclusions concerning the results of monitoring of the preparation and administration of election; assurance of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, other election participants; observance of international obligations of the state relating to the holding of democratic elections.

8. International observers shall not use their status to engage in any activity unrelated to monitoring of elections; interfere in the electoral process, poll voters on voting day to find out how they intend to vote or have voted; take part in voting, vote-counting, determination of voting and election results. The Parties reserve the right to withdraw accreditation of international observers who violate laws, other statutory acts, universally accepted principles and norms of international law, provisions of this Convention.

Article 20

Measures Not to Be Considered Discriminatory or Contrary to this Convention

1. The electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen may be restricted by law only in so far as necessary for the protection of morality, health, rights and legitimate interests of other persons, safeguarding of national security and public order, prevention of crime.

2. The electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, other election participants listed in this Convention may be restricted by the constitution and/or law without being considered discriminatory if they provide for:

    2.1. reasonable requirements to the exercise to restriction of the right to participation in elections or the right of access to elective offices, including restrictions imposed by law on the electoral rights, freedoms and obligations, for a person pronounced to be incapable by a court, a person serving a criminal sentence which has come into a legal force;

    2.2. measures establishing a reasonable period which has to elapse before naturalized persons may exercise their electoral rights, freedoms and/or obligations provided a liberal policy in respect of naturalization is pursued in the meantime;

    2.3. special measures, including legislative allocation of a quota of deputy mandates, taken to ensure an adequate representation of some part of a country's population, primarily national minorities and ethnic groups, which, owing to political, economic, religious, social, historical and cultural conditions, is deprived of a possibility to enjoy the political and electoral rights and freedoms on an equitable basis with the rest of the population, as well as additional guarantees assuring equal possibilities for the realization of the electoral rights and freedoms to separate categories of voters, primarily women, persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities), including such possibilities for inclusion on lists of candidates of political parties (coalitions);

3. Restrictions on nomination and/or registration of candidates, lists of candidates, creation and activity of political parties (coalitions), the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen may be imposed in the interests of national security, maintenance of public order, protection of public well-being and morals and protection of civil rights and freedoms. Such restrictions shall conform to the international obligations of a state.

4. Restrictions connected with participation in the election campaign of candidates running for re-election to an elective body or elective office for a new term shall be established by constitutions and/or laws, other statutory acts. Compliance with the established restrictions shall not prevent deputies, elected officials from exercising their powers and fulfilling their obligations to the voters.

5. A restriction established by law on the incompatibility of possession by a person of a deputy mandate or occupation of an elective office with the status of a serviceman, churchman, employee of a body of executive power, judge, prosecutor shall not be contrary to the provisions of Article 8 of this Convention.

Article 21

Obligations of States Parties to the Convention

1. The Parties shall take legislative and other measures to strengthen the guarantees of realization of the electoral rights and freedoms for holding democratic elections and realizing the provisions of this Convention.

2. The Parties undertake:

    2.1. to guarantee protection of the democratic principles and norms of electoral law, the democratic nature of elections, voluntary and free expression of citizens' will at elections, well-grounded requirements to declaring elections legitimate (declaring elections to have taken place and valid);

    2.2. to strive for creation of a system of legal, organizational, financial (budgetary), informational, technological and other guarantees of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen in the preparation and administration of elections of all levels; to take the necessary measures, including legislative measures, to assure to women, persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities), representatives of small nations and nationalities, other national minorities and ethnic groups additional possibilities for participation in elections, including participation in voting and assurance of secret voting, the exercise of the right to be elected;

    2.3. to establish an effective and non-discriminatory procedure for registration of voters based on clear criteria, such as citizenship, age, place of residence, availability of the main document certifying the identity of a citizen;

    2.4. to establish legislatively the responsibility of persons and organizations furnishing information about voters for the accuracy, fullness and timely presentation of such information, for ensuring confidentiality of the personal data as prescribed by law;

    2.5. to ensure that the law and national policy should be directed to separation of the party and the state, that election campaigns should be conducted in the atmosphere of freedom, responsibility, transparency and honesty allowing parties (coalitions) and candidates freely to present their political views and opinions, their election programs (platforms) and allowing voters to get acquainted with and discuss them and vote "for" or "against" freely, without any fear of punishment or any kind of persecution; to prevent the state, administrative and other resources and possibilities, including state and municipal servants, from being used to express the preference or create privileges or restrictions for separate candidates, separate political parties (coalitions) participating in elections.

    2.6. to develop, introduce and/or use new information and computer technologies and technical and technological standards which contribute to assurance of the openness and publicity of elections, performance of the voter registration procedure, rapid and accurate determination of voting and election results beginning from the level of election precincts and the verification of these results, and raise the trust of voters, candidates, political parties (coalitions), other election participants in electoral procedures and elections in general;

    2.7. to adopt national programs and participate in drafting and adoption of international programs of civic education and training; to make arrangements for acquainting citizens and other election participants with electoral procedures and rules, for raising their legal and electoral culture and for improving professional qualifications of election officials, paying special attention to provision of information to and/or training of persons with physical and other disabilities (infirmities);

    2.8. to promote cooperation between the election bodies of the States Parties to this Convention;

    2.9. to take legislative measures to extend the list of election bodies working on a permanent basis;

    2.10. to promote, for the exchange of information, creation of a unified databank containing information about national election laws, participants in the electoral process, international observers, law enforcement and judicial practices, legislative proposals to improve the election system as well as other information relating to the organization of the electoral process, assurance of the electoral rights and freedoms of election participants;

    2.11. to strive to abolish, as proper conditions appear, the existing restrictions on the electoral rights and freedoms or the existing privileges in this sphere which are provided for by the constitution and/or law and are not contrary to the international obligations of a state, so that participants in the electoral process should have the best possibilities and equal legal conditions for a legitimate political competition at elections;

    2.12. to strive to make the right to elect and be elected at elections to bodies of local administration (bodies of local self-government) enjoyable by foreign nationals and stateless persons who reside permanently on lawful grounds in the territory of the State Party to this Convention, provided they meet the same criteria as citizens of the state;

    2.13. to take legislative measures to regulate the list of violations of the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, other election participants as well as the grounds and procedure for bringing to responsibility the persons who use coercion, fraud, threats, forgery, technical means and technologies or other methods to prevent free exercise by a human being and a citizen, other election participants of the electoral rights and freedoms.

    2.14. to take measures to ensure that the election campaign is conducted in the conditions of public safety and calmness, to thwart any attempts at violence, intimidation or similar actions or threats in the course of elections.

Article 22

Rights Granted Irrespective of this Convention

1. Nothing in this Convention prevents the states from, or restricts them in, the fulfillment of their international obligations relating to the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, other election participants assumed under international treaties and agreements to which they are a party.

2. The exercise of the rights set forth in this Convention shall not hinder the exercise of universal human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons

3. Nothing in this Convention shall interfere with the efforts of the States to promote the electoral rights and freedoms of a human being and a citizen, all election participants, including candidates, political parties (coalitions), and to strengthen the guarantees for realization of the electoral rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention.

4. Nothing in this Convention may be interpreted as allowing any activity which runs counter to the objectives and principles of the Council of Europe, including the principles of the respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence of states..

Article 23

Signing, Ratification and Entry into Force of the Convention

1. This Convention shall be open for signature by Member States of the Council of Europe. Before the date of its entry into force this Convention shall be also open for signature by any other state invited to sign it by the Committee of Ministers. This Convention shall be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. The instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval of this Convention shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

2. This Convention shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the elapse of three months from the date as of which fifteen members of the Council of Europe express their consent to be bound by this Convention in accordance with the provisions of Paragraph 1 of Article 23.

3. For any other state which subsequently expresses its consent to be bound by the provisions of this Convention it shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the elapse of three months from the date at which the instrument of its rectification, acceptance or approval was deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Article 24

Accession

1. After entry into force of this Convention and consultations with the Contracting States the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe may, by a decision adopted by a majority vote as provided in Paragraph "d", Article 20 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, make a proposal to accede to the Convention to any state, which is not a member of the Council of Europe but was invited to sign the Convention in accordance with Paragraph 1 of Article 23 and has not yet done so, or to any other state which is not a member of the Council of Europe.

2. For any state acceding to this Convention it shall enter into force on the first day of the month following the elapse of three months from the date at which an instrument of accession was deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Article 25

Presentation of Information

1. Within one year of entry into force of this Convention in respect of any Contracting Party, this Party shall present to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe the full information concerning the legislative and other measures taken by way of implementation of the provisions of this Convention.

2. The Parties shall keep the Secretary General of the Council of Europe informed about the measures which they take to ensure realization of the election standards, electoral rights and freedoms, provisions of this Convention.

Article 26

Denunciation

1. Any Party may denounce this Convention at any time by serving a notice of denunciation on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

2. Denunciation shall take effect on the first day of the month following the last month of a six-month period which elapses from the day on which the Secretary General of the Council of Europe received the notice indicated in Paragraph 1 of this article.

Article 27

Notification

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify Member States of the Council of Europe, other states which signed this Convention and all states which acceded thereto of the following:

    (1) any signature of the Convention;

    (2) the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance or accession;

    (3) the date of entry into force of this Convention in accordance with Paragraphs 2, 3 of Article 23 and Paragraph 2 of Article 24;

    (4) any other act, notification or communication relating to this Convention;

In witness whereof, the undersigned, being duly authorized thereto, have signed this Convention.

Done in Strasbourg, this day of____________ , in English and in French, both texts being equally authentic, in a single original which shall remain deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit a certified copy to each Member State of the Council of Europe and to each state invited to sign or accede to this Convention.