Suspension or exclusion of participatory rights is prohibited except on grounds established by law and which are objective and reasonable.
- Partisan and Nonpartisan Observation of Vote Counting and Tabulation
- Counting Cast Ballots
- The Legal Framework and Election Management
- The Legal Framework and Dispute Resolution
- The Legal Framework for Electoral Systems and Boundary Delimitation
- International Human Rights Obligations and the Legal Framework
- The Legal Framework and Voter Education
- Every citizen had the right to be elected, subject only to reasonable restrictions
- The vote-counting process was transparent and observable
- Vote counting and tabulation processes protected the right to be elected
- The laws regulating elections were equally enforced and were not arbitrarily applied
- The legal framework for elections was consistent with international human rights
- The principles of rule of law were promoted
- Laws and procedures were not arbitrarily applied
- Any restrictions placed on fundamental rights were reasonable and objective
- Participatory rights were protected at the highest level of the law (the constitution)
- The Court points out that Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 does not, like other provisions of the Convention, specify or limit the aims which a restriction must pursue. A wide range of purposes may therefore be compatible with Article 3 (see, for example, Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 34, ECHR 2002-II).
- Any conditions which apply to the exercise of the rights protected by article 25 should be based on objective and reasonable criteria. For example, it may be reasonable to require a higher age for election or appointment to particular offices than for exercising the right to vote, which should be available to every adult citizen. The exercise of these rights by citizens may not be suspended or excluded except on grounds which are established by law and which are objective and reasonable. For example, established mental incapacity may be a ground for denying a person the right to vote or to hold office.
- The Committee considers that the evaluation of any restrictions must be effected on a case-by-case basis, having regard in particular to the purpose of such restrictions and the principle of proportionality.
- In this regard, the Committee notes that article 25 of the Covenant secures to every citizen the right and the opportunity to be elected at genuine periodic elections without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2, paragraph 1, including political opinion.
- In the case of Podkolzina v. Latvia, the Court stated that the right to stand as a candidate in an election, which is guaranteed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 and is inherent in the concept of a truly democratic regime, would only be illusory if one could be arbitrarily deprived of it at any moment. Consequently, while it is true that States have a wide margin of appreciation when establishing eligibility conditions in the abstract, the principle that rights must be effective requires that the eligibility procedure contain sufficient safeguards to prevent arbitrary decisions (see Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 35, ECHR 2002-II). Although originally stated in connection with the conditions on eligibility to stand for election, the principle requiring prevention of arbitrariness is equally relevant in other situations where the effectiveness of individual electoral rights is at stake (see, mutatis mutandis, Kovach v. Ukraine, no. 39424/02, § 55, ECHR 2008‑...).
- While this margin of appreciation is wide, it is certainly not all-embracing: the rules governing the electoral system “should not be such as to exclude some persons or groups of persons from participating in the political life of the country and, in particular, in the choice of the legislature, a right guaranteed by both the Convention and the Constitutions of all Contracting States” (ibid.). 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 restrictions imposed do not thwart the free expression of the opinion of the people.
- The Court considers that, irrespective of whether or not the request was made outside the legal time frame for the registration of candidacies submitted by political parties, the decision of IFE not to accept the alleged victim’s request constituted, for the effects of this Court’s competence, an act enforcing the law, since this negative was based, first, on the provisions of Article 177 of the COFIPE concerning the legal time frames for the registration of candidacies and, second, on the provisions of Article 175 of COFIPE, concerning candidacies by means of political parties, and this authority had indicated the legal impossibility of accepting Mr. Castañeda Gutman’s request. This decision, based on the constitutional and legal provisions that regulate the matter, issued by the competent administrative authority hat ruled on the legal issue filed before it, with the specific and concrete effect of not allowing the registration of the candidacy, was the act enforcing the law, and was even considered as such by the domestic courts.
- In this regard, the Committee recalls its General Comment on article 25, according to which the exercise of the rights protected by article 25 may not be suspended or excluded except on grounds which are established by law and which are objective and reasonable. The Committee notes that article 68, part 6, of the Electoral Code, gives a right to electoral commissions to refuse registering a candidate when he or she submits data that does not “correspond to reality”, including biographic data and information on income and property.
- The applicant was entitled under Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to stand for election in fair and democratic conditions, regardless of whether ultimately he won or lost. In the present case, Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 requires the Court not to ascertain merely that the election outcome as such was not prejudiced, but to verify that the applicant's individual right to stand for election was not deprived of its effectiveness and that its essence had not been impaired.
- As to parliamentary elections, the Court notes that the rights safeguarded by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are not absolute but subject to restrictions. The Contracting States have a wide margin of appreciation to make the right to vote subject to conditions, but it is for the Court to determine in the last resort whether the requirements 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. In particular, such conditions must not thwart “the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature” (see the Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium judgment of 2 March 1987, Series A no. 113, p. 23, § 52, and Matthews v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 24833/94, § 63, ECHR 1999-I).
- Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 enshrines a principle that is characteristic of an effective political democracy and is accordingly of prime importance in the Convention system (see Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, 2 March 1987, § 47, Series A no. 113). This Article would appear at first to differ from the other provisions of the Convention and its Protocols, as it is phrased in terms of the obligation of the High Contracting Parties to hold elections under conditions 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 (ibid., §§ 46-51).
- 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, among other things, that the conditions in which individual rights are exercised in the course of the electoral process do not curtail the rights in question to such an extent as to impair their very essence and deprive them of their effectiveness (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).
- There is room for implied limitations and Contracting States must be given a wide margin of appreciation in this sphere (Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, judgment of 2 March 1987, Series A no. 113, p. 23 § 52). The State’s margin of appreciation, however, is not unlimited. It is for the Court to determine in the last resort whether the requirements of Protocol No. 1 have been complied with. It has to satisfy itself that any such 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. In particular, such conditions must not thwart “the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature” (see Gitonas and Others v. Greece, judgment of 1 July 1997, Reports of Judgments and Decisions 1997-IV, p. 233, § 39; Matthews v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 24833/94, § 63, ECHR 1999-I; Podkolzina v. Latvia, no. 46726/99, § 33, ECHR 2002-II; and Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt, cited above, p. 23, § 52).
- This standard of tolerance does not prevent a democratic society from taking steps to protect itself against activities intended to destroy the rights or freedoms set forth in the Convention. Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, which enshrines the individual's capacity to influence the composition of the legislature, does not therefore exclude the possibility of restrictions on electoral rights being imposed on an individual who has, for example, seriously abused a public position or whose conduct has threatened to undermine the rule of law or democratic foundations (see, for example, X v. the Netherlands, cited above, and, mutatis mutandis, Glimmerveen and Hagenbeek v. the Netherlands, nos. 8348/78 and 8406/78, Commission decision of 11 October 1979, Decisions and Reports 18, where the Commission declared inadmissible two applications concerning the refusal to allow the applicants, who were the leaders of a proscribed organisation with racist and xenophobic traits, to stand for election). The severe measure of disenfranchisement must not, however, be resorted to lightly and the principle of proportionality requires a discernible and sufficient link between the sanction and the conduct and circumstances of the individual concerned.
- Residence requirements have previously found to be justified by the following factors: firstly, the assumption that a non-resident citizen is less directly or less continually concerned with his country’s day-to-day problems and has less knowledge of them; secondly, the fact that it is impracticable for the parliamentary candidates to present the different electoral issues to citizens abroad and that non-resident citizens have no influence on the selection of candidates or on the formulation of their electoral programmes; thirdly, the close connection between the right to vote in parliamentary elections and the fact of being directly affected by the acts of the political bodies so elected; and, fourthly, the legitimate concern the legislature may have to limit the influence of citizens living abroad in elections on issues which, while admittedly fundamental, primarily affect persons living in the country. Even where it may be possible that the applicant has not severed ties with his country of origin and that some of the factors indicated above are therefore inapplicable to this case, the law cannot always take account of every individual case but must lay down a general rule.
- Free elections and freedom of expression, and particularly the freedom of political debate, form the foundation of any democracy (see Mathieu-Mohin and Clerfayt v. Belgium, 2 March 1987, § 47, Series A no. 113, and Lingens v. Austria, 8 July 1986, §§ 41 and 42, Series A no. 103). The rights bestowed by Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 are not absolute. There is room for implied limitations and Contracting States must be allowed a wide margin of appreciation in this sphere since there are numerous ways of organising and running electoral systems and a wealth of differences, inter alia, in historical development, cultural diversity and political thought within Europe which it is for each Contracting State to mould into their own democratic vision (see Lykourezos v. Greece, no. 33554/03, § 51, ECHR 2006-VIII).
- Tak[e] proactive measures to eliminate all barriers in law and in practice that prevent or hinder citizens, in particular women, persons belonging to marginalized groups or minorities, persons with disabilities and persons in vulnerable situations, from participating fully in effectively in political and public affairs, including, inter alia, reviewing and repealing measures that unreasonably restrict the right to participate in public affairs, and considering adopting, on the basis of reliable data on participation, temporary special measure, including legislative acts, aimed at increasing the participation of underrepresented groups in all aspects of political and public life;
- Democratic elections are not possible without respect for human rights, in particular freedom of expression and of the press, freedom of circulation inside the country, freedom of assembly and freedom of association for political purposes, including the creation of political parties. b. Restrictions of these freedoms must have a basis in law, be in the public interest and comply with the principle of proportionality.