IDA human rights publication series

International Disability Alliance

Issue 1 - The Right to Vote and to Stand for Election March 2013

On 14 December 2012, the Croatian Parliament adopted the Act on Register of Voters, to restore to people deprived of their legal capacity their right to vote - a universal right as stipulated in the Constitution and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

Despite the fact that the Constitution recognises the right to vote for all Croatian citizens of age, in the previous electoral act, persons with disabilities who were placed under guardianship were struck from the electoral register. Adopting the Act on Register of Voters was the result of a campaign led by the Disability Ombudsperson in cooperation with associations of persons with psychosocial disabilities, self-advocates and the association for the promotion of a more active participation of citizens in elections.

The activities which led to aligning the national legislation with the CRPD, ratified by Croatia in 2007, started in December 2010. The Disability Ombudsperson brought to the public’s attention the barriers and challenges encountered by persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities in exercising their right to vote. Further awareness raising activities on the right to vote for

persons with disabilities were carried out over a series of meetings with relevant ministries and the state election committee in the wake of the Parliamentary elections in December 2011.

Government officials were surprised to discover that the electoral act failed to regulate the voting of these persons with disabilities while at the same time stipulating how persons in prisons could exercise their right to vote. In the draft proposal on the amendments of the Act on

Register of Voters, the government acknowledged the fact that the CRPD is a legally binding document placed above national laws, and proposed what in their view was a major step forward: the removal of blanket divestment of the right to vote and the introduction of a court proceedings for the individualised assessment of one’s voting capacity.

Drawing on the Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities with respect to Spain and Hungary, the Disability Ombudsperson emphasised that the individualised

assessment of one’s capacity to vote would be discriminatory, and demanded the full right to vote for all persons with disabilities, as stipulated by Article 29 of the CRPD. The support of the Ministry of

Youth and Social Policy was crucial to change this initial proposal to one requiring that all persons who had been previously struck off the register be re-entered on the electoral roll.

However, the battle is not yet over. To ensure that persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities can indeed exercise their right to vote, adequate supports before and during elections will have to be provided. The new act will be put to the test in the forthcoming elections for Croatian members of the European Parliament which will take place in May 2013.

Branka Meić is advisor to Croatia’s Disability Ombudsperson.