Abstention in Election Law

Deliberate refusal on the part of a voter to vote on election day. Abstention can be considered a political statement if a boycott is clearly called for by voters and/or encouraged by political parties. But abstention can also be the result of a lack of interest in an election that seems less important than others and does not succeed in mobilising the electorate.

Abstention (in Voting)

Abstention by a State in voting in an organ of an international organization

can give rise to signifi cant legal problems. 'At one time abstentions were apparently

counted as negative votes, thus, among other things, preventing unanimity. But now

it would seem that, fi rstly, abstention is not regarded as preventing unanimity, as is shown

by the provisions of many constitutional instruments; secondly, that abstinence is regarded

as a failure to vote, which means that the abstainer is not regarded as “present and voting”;

and, thirdly, that in the S.C. when under Article 27(3) of the Charter the concurring votes of

the permanent members are required for a decision, abstention on the part of a permanent

member is not regarded as the absence of a concurring vote': Amerasinghe , Principles of

International Law of International Organizations (2nd ed.), 150–151. The I.C.J. offered

an explanation for this tacit amendment to the clear wording of art. 27(3) in the Namibia

Advisory Opinion 1971 I.C.J. Rep. 16 at 22: 'However, the proceedings of the Security

Council extending over a long period supply abundant evidence that presidential rulings

and the positions taken by members of the Council, in particular its permanent members,

have consistently and uniformly interpreted the practice of voluntary abstention by a permanent

member as not constituting a bar to the adoption of resolutions. By abstaining,

a member does not signify objection to the approval of what is being proposed; in order

to prevent the adoption of a resolution requiring unanimity of the permanent members, a

permanent member has only to cast a negative vote.' The justifi cation for abstention being

treated as not equivalent to a veto does not apply so easily where a permanent member

is absent when a vote is taken ( see absence (in voting) ), and the validity of resolutions

adopted in the absence of a permanent member is not fi nally resolved. See Goodrich, Hambro , and Simons , Charter of the United Nations (3rd ed.), 231; Stone , Legal Controls

of International Confl ict (2nd imp. rev.), 204–212; Kelsen , Recent Trends in the Law of the

United Nations ( 1951 ), 927–936; de Arechaga , Voting and the Handling of Disputes in the

Security Council ( 1978 ).[1]

Description of Abstention


See Also

  • Comity; Our Federalism
  • Federal Courts
  • Resources


    1. The entry “abstention (in voting)” in the Parry and Grant Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law (currently, the Encyclopaedic Dictionary of International Law, 2009), Oxford University Press


    See Also

    • Election Law
    • Electoral Laws
    • Electoral Legislation






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