Judicial protections of electoral rights: Resume of the 18th Annual Conference of the Association of European Election Officials
 
 

It has been the 18th time so far that the Annual Conference of the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO) was organized. In 2009 participants of the professional yearly gathering discussed the ‘Judicial protections of electoral rights’.

On the 18th Annual Conference 15 ACEEEO member countries’ representatives were present. All together with these ACEEEO member countires participants have come from 32 countries from all over the world. Within this more than 150 participants we were glad to welcome also representatives of different international organizations, such as for example IFES (International Foundation for Electoral Systems), OSCE/ODIHR, European Commission, International IDEA, UNDP, USAID and also representative of the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.  
Participants and organizers of the conference were honored with special and high-ranking lecturers and guests, namely for example Dr. Peter Paczolay, President of the Constitutional Court of Hungary and member of the Venice Commission, Mr. Pierre Garrone, Head of the Division of the Venice Commission, Mr. Harutyunyan Gagik, President of the Constitutional Court of Armenia, Mr. William Sweeny, President/CEO of the IFES and Mr. William Hybl, Vice-Chairman of the Board of directors of the IFES.
 On the first day of the Conference (3rd September 2009) participants listened presentations on the judicial protection of electoral rights from different points of view. These persentations and debates, with the participation of election experts and professionals, made possible the most comprehensive discussion of the main topic of the conference: not only from the aspect of the courts and the law, but also from the point of view of election organizers, mass media and citizens who participte in election processes. All presentations are available on the website of the Associaton (www.aceeeo.org).
 
On the second conference day (4th September 2009), on the basis of the previous day’s presentations two simultaneous worskhop talked over the judicial protection of electoral rights on a deeper and more personal level. This day’s speciality was that one of the workshops chosed the BRIDGE thematics (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections – www.bridge-project.org) to brighten and negotiate difficulties and problems of the election commissions. This short insight into a BRIDGE course proved to be very interesting, amusing and it provided the election professional participants with an unexpected activity that they openly accepted. ACEEEO, as associate partner and regional centre of Central and Eastern Europe of ACE Electoral Knowledge Network (www.aceproject.org), and partner of the International IDEA also received the possibility to popularize BRDIGE project among its member countries. Moreover, in case of a need the Association could involve election commissions to participate in such formation. This is the background of this short BRDIGE presentation that was structured and moderated by the help of the Armenian ACE Regional Centre, the RBI.
           

Beside the new methods the conference also gave the possibility to discuss more scientific parts of the election processes: with the leadership of Mr. Andras Keil, researcher of the Hungarian “Republikon Intézet” (Republican Institute) sociologists from 5 different countries were discussing the reasons of regressing participation in elections by analyzing voters’ habits in election processes. The participating sociologists have drafted their final recommendations that are also available on the Association’s website.

On the third conference day, the General Assembly meeting of the Association took place (5th September 2009) together with exposition of the “Recommendations of the 18th ACEEEO conference regarding the Judicial Protections of Electoral Rights”. In the frame of the General Assembly meeting the professional and financial annual report of the Association were presented, and the General Assembly voted for the place of the upcoming Executive Board meeting in 2010 and the for the place and subject of the 19th annual conference of the Association. One of the most important results of the General Assembly meeting was the acceptance of setting up a Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) that in 2010-2011 would work out the refreshment of the strategy of the Association to the following 5 years’ period. According to the decision of the General Assembly the 19th annual conference of the Association will be held in Georgia, in September 2009, and the subject in focus is going to be the analysis of the voters’ registration. It will be in Georgia then that the results of the 2 years long project of the Association, entitled: “Developing accurate voters’ list in transitional democracies”, supported by the UNDEF will be presented to the public. A decision was made also of the place of the 20th jubilee anniversary conference of the ACEEEO that will be organized in Budapest, Hungary in 2011.

The annual conference of 2009 of the ACEEEO elucidated more the important impartial and non-political role of the Association in the political life of Europe. Guests and delegations of the conference had to leave all their political related conflicts that might exist between some countries outside of the borders of Armenia. Thanks to Mr. Sweeny, the new president of the IFES, the most important quality of the Association was emphasized several times during the discussions. This so important value stands in the equal rights of the members of the Association as much as in its functionning that matches to the principles of democracy.

The excellent hospitality of the Central Election Commission of Armenia has to be mentioned also as much as the lovely cultural programs they have organized for the participants. Thank You, for being the partners of the ACEEEO Secretariat in the organizational process of the 18th ACEEEO conference. And thank for all participants, who have come to Yerevan to discuss these important questions of the rights of voters. See you next year in Georgia!