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Articles From The Magazine Elections Today

VOL. 7, # 4, 1998


Update on Association Activities

Regional election administration organizations are working to improve and professionalize electoral processes around the globe. In this column, Elections Today reports on recent activities of these organizations.



Talking on a New Direction for the Next Century: Dr. Zoltan Toth, Hungary's chief electoral official, once joked that skeptics initially suspected that the Association for Central and Eastern European Election Officials (ACEEEO) was to be an electoral «Warsaw Pact.» Instead, electoral officials in the region foresaw a growing need to share their experiences as they faced the new challenge of conducting their first national and local multi-party elections.

Over the last seven years, Central and Eastern Europe have witnessed significant changes as members have begun to move beyond their initial post-Soviet era elections. Faced with issues brought on by these new realities, the ACEEEO considered new steps toward financial and institutional sustainability at its 1997 conference in Moscow. The first significant changes to the original Association agreement were made there when a special session of the Executive Board moved to have the terms «Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia» struck from the agreement in response to the region's new political reality. With new applications for membership from Georgia and Belarus, more work on the structure of the Association and its charter was required.

The ACEEEO gathered the chief electoral officials from Austria, Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, and Ukraine in Gyor, Hungary for a meeting of the Association's Executive Board in June 1998. Based on feedback from its membership, the Executive Board opted for a completely new ACEEEO charter. In addition to clarifying decision-making and operational processes, the new document assigns various levels of membership and a structure of dues for electoral institutions, non-governmental organizations, and individuals. The official adoption of the Charter in November 1998 at an ACEEEO Conference in Lithuania will formally introduce this new institutional direction.

The ACEEEO has been a vehicle for encouraging electoral reform by introducing new election technologies, and sharing innovative ways to counter election fraud and increase overall transparency in the process. One of the most notable achievements of the Association has been the institution of permanent election commissions in several member-states, such as Moldova, Ukraine, and Croatia. The necessity for developing independent and permanent commissions was one of the main topics at the 1994 ACEEEO conference in Kyiv and continues to be an important goal of the Association. In addition, the joint IFES-ACEEEO publication of the 1995 Election Law Compendium of Central and Eastern Europe was cited as a major catalyst for revising Ukraine's parliamentary election laws.

A significant challenge for any regional association is in implementing activities which take place between conferences and board meetings. In Gyor, board members determined priority activities for the Association through the end of the century The most significant of these in the short term is fulfilling a request by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to field more than 100 election professionals to observe September 1998 elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Board also reconfirmed its commitment to make its Budapest-based Documentation Center more comprehensive and user-friendly for its members.

Finally, the ACEEEO General Secretariat introduced a new initiative at the meeting called «Euro-votes.» This proposed long-term project would include establishing an electoral training and study center at Eotvos Lorand University for election officials, observers, and other participants in the electoral process from throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

Just as the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have each used their individual experiences to improve their own election systems, the ACEEEO is building on seven years of experience to enhance its ability to facilitate the development of freer, fairer, and more transparent election processes throughout the region. By adopting a new Charter and implementing professional training, exchange, and election observation initiatives, the Association seeks to establish itself in the twenty-first century as a truly effective and sustainable regional institution.

For more information on this association see: www.ifes.org/


IFES International Advisory Council

Fulfilling a goal set by its Board of Directors in 1997, the Intenational Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) has established an International Advisory Council (LAC) to collaborate with the IFES staff and Board in strengthening relationships with election authorities, educational and research institutions, non-governmental organizations, legislatures, multilateral institutions, and the media around the world. The founding members of the IAC are:

    Dr. Laura Velasquez, Director, Political Reform Project, Ministry of the Interior, Argentina

    Mr. Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada

    H.E. Eugenia Charles, former Prime Minister, Dominica

    Dr. Pierre Cornillon, former Secretary-General, Inter-Parliamentarv Union

    Dr. K/ Afari-Gvan, Chairman, Electoral Commission of Ghana

    Prof. Rei Shiratori, Director, Research Institute of Social Sciences, Tokai University, and Chairman, Institute for Political Studies in Japan

    Ms. Grace Githu, Executive Director, Institute for Education in Democracy, Kenya

    H.E. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, former President, Nicaragua

    Dr. Rosa Marina Zelava Velasquez, President, Supreme Electoral Council, Nicaragua

    Mr. J. Marsh Thomson, Chairman, IFES Philippines Advisory Council

    Dr. Alexander Ivanchenko, Chairman, Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation

The Advisory Council held its first meeting on June 9, 1998 to review the draft IFES Strategic Plan and to discuss ways in which they could support the work of the IFES staff. Jean-Pierre Kingslev and Dame Eugenia Charles, who are also members of the IFES Board of Directors, chaired the meeting.

F. Clifton White Resource Center Advisory Council

The F. Clifton White Resource Center's new advisory council met for the first time on September 1, 1998. The Resource Center Advisory Council will assist the Resource Center staff in ensuring that the collections include the latest and best materials available on elections, civic participation, and related democracy and governance fields; increasing the impact of the collections; and identifying non-traditional sources of funding for the Resource Center.

Founding members of the Resource Center Advisory Council are:

    Richard Katz (chair). Professor of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

    Gary Cox, Professor of Political Science, University of California/San Diego

    Shaheen Mozaffar, Associate Professor of Political Science, Bridgewater State College

    Louis Massicotte, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Montreal

    Bernard Owen, Center for the Comparative Study of Elections, University of Paris

    David Farrell, Lecturer in Political Science, University of Manchester

    Gabriel Murillo, Professor of Political Science, University of the Andes (Colombia)

    Torquato Jardim, Election Lawyer and former member of the Superior Electoral Tribunal, BraziL

IFES Board of Directors

Patricia Hutar, Secretary of the IFES Board of Directors since the organization's founding in 1987, has been named Vice Chair of the Board, filling the vacancy left by the death of David Jones earlier this year. Ms. Hutar was Director of the Office of International Medicine of the American Medical Association from 1978 to 1996. Active in U.S. politics since the early 1960s, Ms. Hutar was co-chair of the Young Republican National Federation in 1961 -63 and of the Republican National Committee in 1964-65 and was president of the National Federation of Republican Women in 1976-77. During the 1970s, Ms. Hutar participated in a number of other UN conferences, including the Regional Consultation for Latin America on the Integration of Women in Development, and was U.S. Representative to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women from 1974 to 1977.

Ambassador Leon Weil was selected to succeed Ms. Hutar as Secretary of the Board. Judv Black, Chairman of the Board of the American Council of Young Political Leaders, has joined the IFES Board. Ms. Black has had an active career in government relations and was President Reagan's liaison to elected state officials throughout the United States from 1987 to 1989.


More than ever, administrators in a constant «state of readiness»

MMP and Referenda in New Zealand

by Phil Whelan

In each edition, Elections Today provides an opportunity for the head of one electoral commission to offer an opinion on the election-related issues facing their country Phil Whelan focuses on the implementation of New Zealand's new «Mixed Member Proportional System» and on Referenda Legislation.

In October 1996, New Zealand held its first general election under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system. It is «mixed member» because of the normally 120 members, sixty-five are constituency candidates elected by a first-past-the-post (FPP) electorate vote, and the remaining fifty-five are elected from party lists.

The new system brought with it many new challenges and the need to revisit many electoral procedures. Polling officials had to undergo comprehensive training because of the significant change in the way votes were cast and counted on election night. Detailed advertising campaigns were organized to educate voters on the new system. New forms and stationery were needed. Public interest and expectations were high. We, as an office, were forced to deal with a great deal of change in the way we operated and planned for upcoming electoral events.

In line with the introduction of MMP was a decrease in the number of electorates from ninety-nine to sixty-five. This required extensive work by the Representation Commission in creating new electoral districts. Mid-August of this year saw the completion of the second round of boundary-setting under MMP carried out by the Representation Commission. Electoral boundaries are reviewed after each five-yearly national Census of Population and Dwellings. Based on increased population figures from the last census, carried out in 1996, the Representation Commission was charged with creating two additional electorates. An important part of the boundary-setting process is public consultation. The Commission is required to publish the proposed electoral boundaries in the New Zealand Gazette and make maps available for public viewing. Members of the public are invited to submit objections and counter-objections to the proposed boundaries, and the Commission is required to consider the objections before gazetting the final boundaries. The new boundaries and electorates will come in to effect when the next general election is held, scheduled for some time in late 1999.

Eighteen months after its introduction, MMP is still the subject of much talk and consternation from the public and the media alike. Forming the new government after the 1996 general election was a longer process than it had been in the past under FPP It also saw the need for parties to enter into coalition agreements in order gain a majority in Parliament. These factors, along with the small majority held by the current coalition government, have led some to feel that an MMP government is in a more precarious position than one formed under FPP As election officials, we are in a constant state of readiness to conduct a general election- more so now than we have ever been in the past.

The Electoral Act 1993 that brought MMP into existence requires that a select committee be established in the year 2000 to review, among other things, whether there should be a further referendum on changes to the electoral system. The select committee is required to report back to the House no later than July 1,2002. Then, perhaps, there will be another referendum and the possibility of further change.

While conducting general elections is our core business, we are also responsible for conducting national referenda. New Zealand has legislation in the form of the Citizen's Initiated Referenda Act 1993 which provides for a non-binding referendum to be held on any matter if requested by a petition signed by at least ten percent of registered electors. The first referendum conducted under this legislation was held in December 1995. Conducting referenda provides us with excellent opportunities to test new processes and technology in the running of national ballots. Last year, we held our first national referendum conducted by postal ballot. New scanning technologies were utilized in the processing of ballot papers, and this enabled us to provide a result within hours of the close of the poll. Lessons learned from the difficulties encountered and rewards gained from the conduct of such polls are invaluable in assisting us in the efficient running of general elections.

Phil Whelan is Chief Electoral Officer of New Zealand

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