Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO)

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This text was prepared for the purpose of introducing the Association of European Election Officials (ACEEEO). Summarizing the last more than two decades it also intends to show the professional and organizational events of the Association from the early beginning – 1991 – till the present days


The first five years – establishment


With the collapse of communism and socialism, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe suffered from a lack of knowledge of administration. One of the greatest threats to the newly established democracies of the region was the lack of permanent election structures. The Association was created to combat the above mentioned threats by strengthening the democratic election institutions. The purpose of ACEEEO was to raise the consciousness of decision makers in all of the countries of the region with regard to the critical need to institutionalize the election process.

In the years 1989 to 1990 the multi-party elections became institutionalized in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of the democratization process. In the countries within this region the one-party elections ceased to exist at different rates and the elections themselves have gained real content. The administrators concerned with the preparatory activities and the performance of the elections, as their mission in life, were all witnesses of this historical process. As a consequence of the above mentioned facts, election administrators gathered in Budapest, Hungary in a Symposium of the Central European Electoral Systems, organized by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and the Hungarian National Election Office at the end of July of 1991. The participants discussed their experiences gathered in connection with the political and legal issues of the first democratic elections, as well as the necessity of those technical and technological conditions, which are essential for the holding of free elections. This historical meeting led to the establishment of the Association of Central and Eastern European Election Officials (ACEEEO) in 1991.

Participants of the conference - directed by their resolve for the future institutionalisation of the co-operation of countries within the region in the interest of free, fair and democratic elections - founded ACEEEO as a non-governmental and non-profit organisation that is independent of political parties and governments. The founding protocol was signed by the election officials from Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Yugoslavia, and in the next 5 years, elections experts from Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, and Ukraine joined their circle. The protocol declaring the foundation of ACEEEO was assured of the support of the “Free Elections” Bureau in Warsaw of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as IFES.

The Founding Fathers of the ACEEEO determined the Association’s mission as follows: providing a non-partisan forum, independent of national governments, for the exchange of information among election officials and experts throughout the region covered by the Association to discuss and act upon ways to promote open and transparent elections with the objective of supporting good governance and democracy. One of the main agreements was to hold a yearly conference about theoretical and practical issues relating to elections, providing opportunity to discuss and exchange experiences and methods.

According to the constitution of the Association, members of the Association gathered in Hungary in 1992 and in 1993. The main topic of the 1992 meeting was to discuss election laws of different countries and to collect these laws in English and in Russian. In the same year the ACEEEO Documentation Centre was established and furnished in Budapest, Hungary. At the conference of 1993, members agreed to lay down conditions regarding the fair organisation of elections and proposed to the member countries to create non-governmental organizations, foundations and civic associations beside the official election bodies in their countries, for the support of elections and also to monitor the fairness of them. This year the Secretariat enlarged the collection of the Documentation Centre. At the same time the ACEEEO started negotiations with the Association for Electoral Administrators (AEA) of the United Kingdom and built up a fruitful cooperation with the Association. As a consequence, in 1994, the Association observed the European parliamentary elections in Great Britain.

Three years after the first Symposium, the Association held its first Annual Conference in Ukraine, in 1994. Apart from discussing their own election processes the election officials touched on the issues and problems that surfaced at the meeting. The Kiev meeting underscored that a major threat to democracy is the ad-hoc nature of election administration in many of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. To promote stability in the electoral process, the Association set itself a new aim that is to encourage the creation of permanent election bodies throughout the region and ensure that governmental institutions are aware of the advantages of the supportive roles these bodies can play in the overall development of the region’s electoral systems.

The first electronic newsletter entitled “Free Elections” was issued this year. 1995 was important in the life of the Association, because one of the main projects, the participation in election observation missions, got started. The annual conference in Hungary was opened by the President of Hungary where the first exhibition was held with the title “Using technical devices and computers at elections”. This conference focused on election technology. Since then, every year the ACEEEO organizes the Exhibition of the Suppliers of Election Equipment and Services.

To sum it up, the first five years was about establishing the ACEEEO and proving the necessity of such an organization. During these years the ACEEEO established its Documentation Centre, gathered election officials from the region and consolidated its existence. All this was supported by the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES).