Section 3: Key Election Process Categories Legal Framework for Elections
What is the legal framework for elections and why is it important?
The term “legal framework for elections” generally refers to the combination of legislation and rules related to elections in a given country. A legal framework for elections includes the applicable provisions in the constitution, the electoral law and other laws that affect elections, such as a law on political parties. It also includes any regulations attached to the electoral law and other relevant laws, as well as relevant instructions and regulations issued by the responsible EMB. The make-up of the legal framework for elections varies considerably across different countries. This guide does not go into specific legal framework “data” because of this variation. The legal framework determines the “rules of the game” for different phases of an election process, including the areas described in this section of the report. Thus, it is in the direct interests of electoral contestants and citizens to ensure that the rules for electoral competition, as well as the way those rules are enforced, guarantee that a genuine democratic election takes place. Information about the legal framework, and any changes to it, should be open to citizens. Opportunities for public input into reform processes is also important. In assessing or reforming the legal framework for elections, actors concerned – whether EMBs, government bodies, civil society groups or political parties – should consider what the framework means for the transparency, inclusiveness and accountability of each part of the electoral cycle, including the other 15 categories explored in this section of the report. They might ask:
- Are representatives of parties, candidates, referenda and ballot initiative groups granted timely, effective access to all elements of the election process, including relevant data?
- What are the voter eligibility criteria set forth in the constitution, law and regulations? Do the criteria fit international principles concerning limiting restrictions to age of majority, citizenship and residency?
- What are the requirements set forth in the constitution and the election law concerning eligibility to seek elected offices? Are they consistent with each other? Are they consistent with international principles concerning the right to seek election and nondiscrimination?
- Do the law and regulations set clear procedures for the filing of electoral complaints, challenges or other legal actions concerning all elements of the election process?
NDI’s Promoting Legal Frameworks for Democratic Elections guide explores considerations and goals for the legal framework for the entire electoral cycle in more depth and provides many more illustrative questions.