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Stewart DICKSON: “We must continue to raise awareness about misuse of administrative resources and its threat for the fairness of elections”

Elections Tirana, Albania 10 April 2018
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Stewart DICKSON: “We must continue to raise awareness about misuse of administrative resources and its threat for the fairness of elections”

“For some 15 years now, the Congress has been systematically involved in the observation of grassroots’ elections in the member States of the Council of Europe. This activity, which complements the regular monitoring of the European Charter of Local Self-Government, shows that many states have made considerable progress over the years,” stated Stewart DICKSON (United Kingdom, ILDG), Congress Thematic Spokesperson on the observation of local and regional elections and Member of the Council for Democratic Elections, addressing the Parliamentary Seminar on the misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes, in Tirana, on 10 April 2018. “At the same time, we have identified recurring issues such as the misuse of administrative resources during elections,” he explained, stressing the close links that exist in municipalities between incumbents, candidates, public employees and voters.

Mr DICKSON presented an overview of the Congress activities in this field, in particular its report on the role of local and regional elected representatives and public officials, as well as, the Checklist for compliance with international standards and good practices preventing misuse of administrative resources during electoral processes at local and regional level, approved by the Congress in 2017. These texts complement the work carried out by the Venice Commission and OSCE/ODIHR and their “Joint Guidelines for Preventing and Responding to the Misuse of Administrative Resources during Electoral Processes”.

Based on the Checklist, the Congress has just launched a new Practical Guide for local and regional politicians and public officials with the title “Administrative resources and fair elections”.  This booklet aims at giving a practical understanding of the phenomenon. It contains the Checklist but also a number of practice examples that were reported to the Congress observers during electoral missions.

Through this whole work, the Congress is pursuing three major objectives: identifying risk areas of potential misuse of administrative resources, empowering local and regional stakeholders to better understand this phenomenon and detecting specific instances of such malpractice and promoting preventive action at the grassroots’ level, including voluntary declarations, codes of conduct and awareness-raising activities.

Stewart DICKSON also highlighted the need to strengthen the legal framework at all levels, in particular through the ratification and implementation of international treaties, the provisions in the Constitution and the national laws, the limitations to discretionary powers, and the regulations concerning impartiality or neutrality of civil servants and public officials.

“The Checklist also helps you to identify concrete instances of misuse of administrative resources, in order to make this phenomenon more comprehensible to ordinary people. It focuses on various specificities of misuse, such as its scale and frequency, its consequences, the degree of awareness about it, and the effectiveness of remedies,” he explained.

“Generally speaking, parts of the Checklist and of the Practical Guide serve as a compilation of criteria and examples to draw a dividing line between what is still “acceptable” in terms of use of administrative resources during elections – and what is simply unacceptable (or forbidden?) and thus blatant misuse,” DICKSON concluded.

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The Seminar was jointly organised by three Council of Europe bodies – the Parliamentary Assembly, the Venice Commission and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities – for the parliaments of Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Participants included experts from the Venice Commission, PACE and Congress members with extensive experience of observing elections, and representatives of local authorities, civil society and other international partner organisations.

The seminar – the latest in a series of PACE activities to support the work of national parliaments – also forms part of the Council of Europe’s wider programme of assistance for the two countries concerned.

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