"Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 appears at first sight to differ from the other rights guaranteed in the Convention and Protocols, as it 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 rather than in terms of a particular right or freedom. However, the Court has established that it guarantees individual rights, including the right to vote and to stand for election (see Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, 2 March 1987, §§ 46-51, Series A no. 113). The Court has consistently highlighted the importance of the democratic principles underlying the interpretation and application of the Convention and has emphasised that the rights guaranteed under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are crucial to establishing and maintaining the foundations of an effective and meaningful democracy governed by the rule of law (ibid., § 47; see also Hirst v. the United Kingdom (no. 2) [GC], no. 74025/01, § 58, ECHR 2005-IX). "