"The rights bestowed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are not absolute. There is room for “implied limitations” and Contracting States have a wide margin of appreciation in the sphere of elections (see Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt, cited above, § 52; Matthews v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 24833/94, § 63, ECHR 1999-I; and Labita v. Italy [GC], no. 26772/95, § 201, ECHR 2000-IV). It is, however, for the Court to determine in the last resort whether the requirements of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 have been complied with. In particular, 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, § 52, and Gitonas and Others v. Greece, 1 July 1997, § 39, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-IV). Such conditions must not thwart the free expression of the people in the choice of the legislature – in other words, they must reflect, or not run counter to, the concern to maintain the integrity and effectiveness of an electoral procedure aimed at identifying the will of the people through universal suffrage (see Hirst (no. 2), cited above, § 62). "