"While Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 is phrased in terms of the obligation of the High Contracting Party to hold elections which ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people, the Court's case-law establishes that it guarantees individual rights, including the right to vote and to stand for election. Although those rights are central to democracy and the rule of law, they are not absolute and may be subject to limitations. The Contracting States have a wide margin of appreciation in this sphere, but it is for the Court to determine in the last resort whether the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 have been complied with: it has to satisfy itself that the conditions do not curtail the rights in question to such an extent as to impair their very essence and deprive them of their effectiveness; that they are imposed in pursuit of a legitimate aim; and that the means employed are not disproportionate (see Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt, cited above, p. 23, § 52; and more recently, Matthews v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 24833/94, § 63, ECHR 1999-I; Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 201, ECHR 2000-IV; and Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 33, ECHR 2002-II). "