Voters must be offered a real choice.
- Authentic elections provide voters with a possibility based on the constitution and the laws to choose between candidates. With authentic elections, there are a real political pluralism, an ideological variety and a multi-party system that are exercised through functioning of political parties, which legal activities are under a legal protection of the state.
- The participating States recall their commitment to the rule of law in the Document of the Copenhagen Meeting and affirm their dedication to supporting and advancing those principles of justice which form the basis of the rule of law. In particular, they again reaffirm that democracy is an inherent element in the rule of law and that pluralism is important in regard to political organizations.
- Still unusual for established West European democracies is the possibility of casting a negative vote (“against all”). The negative vote system stems from the communist tradition of non-competitive elections and is still used in a number of Council of Europe member states. It gives voters the possibility of expressing their annoyance with the candidates and parties/blocs on the ballot paper. In this way, however, political and party apathy in the population can be strengthened if the voters are able to simply reject candidates and parties instead of making the (often not easy) decision as to who is better (or best of the worst) candidate or party. As a matter of principle, voters should be encouraged to vote for their preferred candidate or party and thereby take the responsibility for the body that is being elected (see, for example, CDL-AD(2003)021, para. 31; CDL-AD(2005)027, para. 23; CDL-AD(2006)002rev, para. 78).
- A genuine election requires an open and inclusive registration process for political parties and candidates from across the political spectrum, contributing to presentation of a real choice to the electorate.
- Democratic elections can only take place within a pluralistic environment, which has a range of political views and interests.