CEE and NIS Regional Funds Adjudication of Grievances Conference: Final Report, October 2001 - September 30, 2002
With funding from USAID through its Europe and Euraisa cooperative agreement, IFES sponsored a regional conference entitled "Election Dispute Resolution: Judicial Authority and Independence," in Sofia, Bulgaria from April 26-27, 2002. The notion to host a conference of this nature was in response to a need to establish more transparent, efficient, and consistent procedures for resolving election disputes in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe. In June 2000, IFES held its first election dispute resolution conference in Ukraine which addressed similar concerns among the Ukrainian judiciary.
The IFES proposed conference was originally scheduled for October 19-20, 2001 . However, due to security concerns stemming from the September 11 attack on U.S. targets and the resulting limitations on US AID-funded travel, it was necessary to postpone the Adjudication Conference scheduled in Sofia, Bulgaria until April 2002.
In many of the countries of the former Soviet Union and Central and Eastern Europe, the judiciary is in the process of establishing its credibility as an independent body. Election dispute resolution is a key arena for conflict between all three branches of government. In many of these countries, the jurisdiction between the Central Election Commission (an administrative agency) and the courts is unclear; the executive and legislative, as well as individuals and political parties, all have a strong interest in how disputes are resolved. They may, therefore, attempt to distort the process, exploit vagaries, and apply pressure to the courts.
If courts succumb to political pressure regarding election disputes, then their credibility and independence are likely to be undermined in other areas. Although the prime motivating factor to yield to pressure may be self-interest, judges' lack of knowledge in how these issues are handled in other countries and confidence in how they could or should be resolved in their own countries also contribute to their willingness to bow to pressure. Judges often make poor decisions due to limited knowledge and experience in relation to these types of disputes. Creating a forum for judges to exchange ideas and learn how similar issues are addressed in other countries may lead to more just and independent judicial action in the electoral disputes arena. As such, the conference carried out in Bulgaria focused on the following targets:
• Providing an opportunity for judges to exchange ideas and learn about various methods of resolving electoral disputes;
• Familiarizing judges with their role in the electoral process, particularly in regards to time constraints for consideration of election related cases, so they are better prepared and more willing to meet their responsibilities;
• Identifying common legislative and procedural flaws that are perceived to hinder the efficient and fair resolution of election disputes; and
• Recommending general steps to take towards improving the transparency, efficiency, and consistency of procedures for resolving election disputes.
The following report summarizes the goals, findings and recommendations which developed out of the two day gathering in Sofia. Supreme and constitutional court judges from nineteen countries within the CEE and NIS were represented. All costs associated with sponsoring the conference were funded by IFES' E&E Cooperative agreement through both CEE and NIS regional funds. Through the two funding mechanisms, two representatives from each CEEINIS country were invited to attend in addition to international experts. (Central Asian participants were not allowed to participate at the instruction of the USAID Mission in Almaty). All activities described in this report were co-funded through both regional funds. The breakdown of funds per regional monies is detailed in the final financial reports.
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