Coronavirus and elections in selected Member States

17-06-2020

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries around the world that were or are due to organise elections or referendums, have had to decide whether to hold them as originally planned, introducing mitigating measures, put them on hold or postpone them to a later date. When deciding whether to continue with elections or not, decision-makers have needed to take into account a variety of legal, technical and sanitary parameters and implications, as well as constitutional arrangements, to ensure that democratic institutions function as they would in normal circumstances and to ensure people's fundamental rights and freedoms are upheld. While postponing an election may be the most feasible and responsible option from the public health perspective, the decision may open the door to other risks, including undermining people's trust in democracy and casting doubt on the regular nature of elections. However, as experts suggest, democracy can also be undermined by holding elections during the pandemic, as their free and fair nature might be questioned. In order to protect election staff and voters, health and safety procedures can be built into election-related procedures, and special voting arrangements can be introduced, such as postal or e-voting, that allow citizens to cast their votes remotely. These entail other technological, security and social challenges, however, that need to be taken into account. This briefing provides example of how selected EU Member States have dealt with elections and referendums that were due to take place during the coronavirus pandemic.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, many countries around the world that were or are due to organise elections or referendums, have had to decide whether to hold them as originally planned, introducing mitigating measures, put them on hold or postpone them to a later date. When deciding whether to continue with elections or not, decision-makers have needed to take into account a variety of legal, technical and sanitary parameters and implications, as well as constitutional arrangements, to ensure that democratic institutions function as they would in normal circumstances and to ensure people's fundamental rights and freedoms are upheld. While postponing an election may be the most feasible and responsible option from the public health perspective, the decision may open the door to other risks, including undermining people's trust in democracy and casting doubt on the regular nature of elections. However, as experts suggest, democracy can also be undermined by holding elections during the pandemic, as their free and fair nature might be questioned. In order to protect election staff and voters, health and safety procedures can be built into election-related procedures, and special voting arrangements can be introduced, such as postal or e-voting, that allow citizens to cast their votes remotely. These entail other technological, security and social challenges, however, that need to be taken into account. This briefing provides example of how selected EU Member States have dealt with elections and referendums that were due to take place during the coronavirus pandemic.