Free, Fair, and Regular Elections: Essential Principles
“Where democratic institutions are weak, elections are easily used by violent and dictatorial political groups to manipulate the will of the people and seize control of the government.”
“Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives… The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
Article 21, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
If consent of the governed is the most fundamental concept of democracy, its most essential right is that of citizens to choose their leaders in free, fair, and regular elections. Other rights are fundamental to democracy. Indeed, elections alone are insufficient to sustain it.
Photo: Suffragettes marching down Fifth Avenue, New York, 1917
Yet the right to elect one’s representatives and to influence the political direction of one’s government is democracy’s indispensable political foundation. Without free elections, there is neither the possibility for citizens to express their will nor the opportunity for citizens to change their leaders, address wrongs, or protest the limitation of their rights. Elections establish the citizenry’s and the individual’s political rights. They are the ongoing representation of the consent of the governed (see “Consent of the Governed”).
Around the world, including in the United States, millions of people have braved violence, intimidation, and other obstacles to demand the right to express their will through the ballot box. Often, students and youth have played leading roles in this worldwide epic, from the Otpor resistance movement in Serbia, which helped to overthrow the dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, to the students of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, who occupied the capital’s central square and mobilized resistance to reverse the fraudulent presidential election of 2004. In the United States itself, young people played a pivotal role in the civil rights movement, including the hundreds of students who challenged segregation throughout the South and those who registered blacks to vote in Mississippi during the “Freedom Summer” of 1964
via Democracy Web | Free, Fair, and Regular Elections: Essential Principles to read more of the article.
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Free, Fair, and Regular
Controversy and Abuse in Democracies
The Insufficiency and Abuse of Elections