Electoral transparency, participation and accountability
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Contributors: National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)

The will of the people expressed freely through authentic elections is the foundation for the authority of democratic government. The obligation of governments to organize genuine elections, which must be based on universal and equal suffrage, is interwoven with the right of citizens to participate in government and public affairs, free of discrimination and without unreasonable restrictions.

The rights to vote and to seek election to public office are inseparable from these tenants recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and conventions that bind over 165 countries. In essence, citizens not only have a right to participate in elections, they have a right to know for themselves whether the electoral process is valid. That knowledge, which is the basis for public confidence in elections and their resulting governments, cannot be achieved without transparency and monitoring by electoral contestants, citizen organizations and the media.

Genuine elections require that state institutions be politically impartial and that they act effectively to ensure that electoral processes are proper, otherwise misfeasance and forces of corruption can prevent them from being either free or fair. Election administration is central in this respect, but a significant number of other governmental agencies, as well as those seeking to be elected and those that monitor/observe, are vital to achieving authentic elections.