Genuine Elections That Reflect the Free Expression of the Will of the People

The obligation to hold genuine elections that reflect the free expression of the will of the electors was first established in article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and was subsequently included in article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. [1] While the notion of “genuine” elections lies at the heart of all democratic elections, the treaties provide little guidance about what actually constitutes a genuine election. However, it is widely understood to mean periodic elections that offer voters a real choice [2] in an openly competitive environment, held by universal and equal suffrage and by secret ballot. Any measures to undermine the will of the people will render an election unfair. [3]

This obligation is overarching, meaning it is applicable to all constituent parts of the electoral cycle, and its fulfillment requires that other essential fundamental rights are protected and fulfilled. [4]