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Resolution adopted by consensus* by the 124th IPU Assembly
(Panama, 20 April 2011)

The 124th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Recalling the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1981 African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, which, inter alia, provide that every citizen, regardless of gender, religion or race, has a right to take part in the conduct of public affairs directly or through freely chosen representatives, and that the will of the people should be expressed through free and fair elections based on universal and equal suffrage and secret ballots, in the full exercise of sovereignty of the people, so as to constitute the basis for legitimate and credible authority of government,

Recognizing that free and fair elections as a prerequisite for the peaceful transfer of power are the cornerstone of democratic practice,

Aware that the smooth transfer of power requires respect for the rule of law, transparent political and electoral institutions, a strong civil society and free and impartial media,

Considering that different countries are at different stages of democratic consolidation, but that all countries need to continue to strive to establish laws that provide optimal conditions for the holding of free and fair elections,

Underscoring that an effective electoral framework should entrench a series of basic elements, including periodic free and fair elections, secret ballots, a competitive and inclusive electoral process, equal and balanced access to the media and to State resources for all political parties, broad-based voting rights, a reliable voter registration process, and an independent and impartial election management body entrusted with organizing free and fair elections,

Expressing deep concern over the increase in electoral violence experienced in several countries in recent years for a variety of reasons: socio-economic disparities; gender inequality; ideological differences; weak governing institutions; inadequate or inappropriate power-sharing mechanisms; electoral systems that create real or perceived inequalities or marginalization; abuses perpetrated by military and/or security forces; unsound statutory and regulatory frameworks; lack of transparency; insufficient civic and voter education; poor transitional mechanisms; absence of sound electoral laws; lack of trust and confidence in election management bodies, of adequate measures to enfranchise eligible voters and of a level playing field; lack of fair, transparent, expeditious, effective and accessible dispute resolution systems; widespread corruption; uncontrolled proliferation of firearms; polarization of community, ethnic or religious identities; international interference in internal electoral processes,

Noting the importance of credible and effective election management bodies that have the confidence of election stakeholders and the wider public, and that operate according to the principles of independence of action, impartiality, integrity, transparency, financial probity, accountability, professionalism, equal access, sustainability and cost-effectiveness,

Underscoring the crucial role played by national and international election observers and monitors in encouraging participation and in providing independent election assessments and a measure of transparency and accountability to the process, with due regard for the principle of sovereignty, national integrity and relevant national legislation,

Also underscoring the importance of ensuring that electoral management bodies and elections observers include women and have clear gender-equality objectives,

Concerned that women voters and candidates are disproportionately affected by electoral violence and are often vulnerable targets, or are deterred from participating in the political process by a climate of intimidation,

Stressing the need to define gender-based electoral violence, carry out research and develop indicators in order to assess the scope of the problem and monitor the situation,

Underscoring that gender-based electoral violence occurs prior to, during and after elections and includes physical violence and verbal abuse, and that the media’s portrayal of women candidates can often be disrespectful and disparaging,

Noting that holding elections in conditions of instability and political fragility, particularly in post-conflict and post-crisis contexts, has often failed to produce credible and legitimate outcomes,

Underscoring that, during the peace-building process, only the national political will, expressed at free and fair elections, can lend full legitimacy to permanent national institutions,

Welcoming the IPU Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections and the Universal Declaration on Democracy, which underscore the need to ensure transparency of the electoral process and thus promote good governance and the rule of law,

Acknowledging the 2005 Declaration and Code of Conduct for International Election Observation endorsed by a host of organizations, including the United Nations and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in addition to the IPU,

Underscoring the role and responsibility of parliaments and parliamentarians in shaping a sound and comprehensive legislative framework aimed at preventing electoral violence and ensuring a smooth transition of power once elections are over,

  1. Calls upon parliaments, where necessary, to undertake constitutional and legislative reform, building on international obligations and commitments and taking into account local realities, so as to provide a sound legal framework for free and fair elections that includes the adoption of electoral systems that provide for representative and inclusive outcomes, and for the smooth transfer of power;
  2. Urges parliaments to conduct such electoral reform through a comprehensive, inclusive and open debate that fosters the broadest possible involvement of all stakeholders, authorities, political parties, media and civil society organizations in the electoral process;
  3. Encourages national election management bodies to make greater efforts to ensure sustainability and cost-effectiveness, as well as the use of appropriate cutting-edge technologies, in particular information and communication technology, so as to make the electoral process people-friendly, efficient and safe from malpractice, while ensuring transparency and public confidence;
  4. Also encourages electoral management bodies and election observers to pay specific attention to women’s participation in the electoral process, as voters and as candidates, and invites electoral management bodies to develop gender guidelines and tools for their members;
  5. Urges parliaments to enact legislation giving strong regulatory, investigative and prosecutorial powers to independent and impartial election management bodies so that they can safeguard the integrity and transparency of the electoral process by preventing instances of electoral fraud, intimidation and other improprieties and reporting them to the competent authorities;
  6. Encourages parliaments, election management bodies, election monitors, civil society groups and international agencies, while respecting the sovereignty of each country, to work together between elections to plan for future elections, evaluate the outcomes and experiences of past elections, identify weaknesses in a given country’s electoral apparatus and election legislation, and to take steps to redress such weaknesses, train election officials, update and strengthen voter registries, and educate voters;
  7. Calls upon parliaments to enact legislation to ensure that political parties and candidates conduct their election campaigns according to prescribed norms, and that the election machinery functions in a non-partisan and professional manner to encourage a level playing field as well as a violence-free electoral and political environment, including through the application of harsh sanctions against perpetrators of such violence;
  8. Also calls upon parliaments to consider formulating a legislative framework for the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns, and for the conduct of the campaigns themselves, in order to ensure that conditions of safety, order and transparency prevail and that the maximum number of citizens participate in the vote;
  9. Urges all governments to redouble their efforts to ensure active and wider citizen participation in elections through an inclusive voter registration process that effectively accommodates both women and men, the disabled, national minorities, indigenous peoples, citizens living abroad, internally displaced persons, the homeless and other vulnerable groups;
  10. Encourages parliaments to consider good practices and modalities in order to ensure the participation of citizens living abroad in the political process of their home countries;
  11. Urges parliaments and governments to put in place legislation and independent, fair, transparent, expeditious and accessible electoral dispute settlement mechanisms that have the confidence of election stakeholders and the wider public;
  12. Invites parliaments to organize study, awareness and discussion days on political rights and violence-free politics, in particular during election periods;
  13. Also urges parliaments to develop legislation that, as appropriate, can regulate and guide the implementation of election results and the peaceful transition to a new government;
  14. Further urges all the parties concerned in situations where countries are emerging from a crisis, or from violent community, ethnic or religious tensions, to conclude an inclusive political accord to allow the peaceful conduct of free and fair elections in the framework of institutions that are respectful of minority interests;
  15. Calls up on parliaments and governments to ensure access by election observers and monitors, both national and international, taking into account local needs and the provisions of the law, to observe national elections, in keeping with international obligations, commitments and principles;
  16. Also urges parliaments to draw up regulations establishing equal access to the mass media - both public and private - during election campaigns;
  17. Encourages the deployment of election observation and monitoring missions from national, regional and international organizations well in advance of elections and for as long as possible after election results are announced;
  18. Also encourages enhanced cooperation among election monitoring and observation missions from different national, regional and international organizations, taking into account local legislation;
  19. Invites the United Nations and other relevant international organizations and partners to incorporate into their peace-building strategies, from the outset, human and financial assistance measures aimed at strengthening or establishing a set of democratic institutions, in particular a parliament elected through free and fair elections;
  20. Urges parliaments in countries with a history of electoral violence to enact specific legislation restricting the use of firearms and live ammunition, and guaranteeing that military and security institutions and agents remain neutral and are not subject to manipulation for electoral purposes;
  21. Invites parliaments and governments to enact strict and stringent laws prohibiting any attempt to destabilize the electoral process and providing for the prosecution of the perpetrators of acts of violence;
  22. Appeals to civil society organizations, media groups, experts, academic institutions, human rights agencies and international organizations to sensitize citizens to their constitutional rights and obligations regarding elections, including through comprehensive civic and voter education programmes;
  23. Urges parliaments and governments to promote among citizens, in particular youth, a culture of respect for the rule of law and a sense of political tolerance for diverse and opposing views;
  24. Calls upon parliaments to enact appropriate legislation to guarantee the fundamental rights of citizens in the political process, including the right of individuals to cast secret ballots, the right to open information and freedom of expression, and the right to peaceful public demonstration;
  25. Urges parliaments to amend election laws so as to incorporate genuine mechanisms for free and fair elections that conform to international democratic obligations and principles;
  26. Calls upon parliaments to ensure that, until political violence against women is eliminated and women are empowered both economically and politically, women’s representation accounts for at least 30 per cent of parliamentary seats;
  27. Urges parliaments and governments to ensure that electoral laws are stable and predictable by codifying them or enacting them in statute law and by entrenching the basic principles of electoral democracy and the right to vote and to run for office in the national constitution so as to prevent manipulation of election rules;
  28. Further urges governments to ensure that constituencies are drawn up in a way that is predictable, transparent and not subject to change close to elections, so as to avoid manipulation of electoral systems;
  29. Appeals to the United Nations, other relevant international organizations and development partners to provide the support and sustainable, cost-effective technical assistance needed to build the capacity of national election management bodies, including improved working conditions for their staff, thereby encouraging appropriate electoral reforms, and to promote better voter and civic education, particularly in emerging democracies;
  30. Calls for greater cooperation between the United Nations and the IPU on the prevention of electoral violence, the smooth and peaceful transition of political power, and the implementation throughout the electoral cycle of relevant recommendations made by election observation missions, wherever they are deployed.

* The following delegations expressed a reservation on the following words of preambular paragraph 6, "international interference in internal electoral processes": Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cambodia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Jordan, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

The following delegations expressed a reservation on the following words of preambular paragraph 8, "with due regard for the principle of sovereignty, national integrity and relevant national legislation": Belgium, Canada and Sweden.

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