Holding free and fair elections is a pillar of democracy. Any doubt about the fairness and transparency of an election can undermine the legitimacy of the elected leaders and incite citizens to protest or work against the government.
No international law prescribes what makes an election process free and fair. However, organizations observing elections have set standards for determining the validity of an election.
Those standards and principles have been devised on the basis of the declaration of international human rights to which the government of Afghanistan is a signatory.
The essential standards and principles are:
+All men and women who have completed the age required for a voter (18 in Afghanistan), should be provided the opportunity to vote so that they may decide at their own free will.
+Election officials should regularly review the lists of voters and update them
+All votes are equal. Voting rights are given to individuals, not to geographical areas.
+The voters see the ballot paper themselves and decide independently.
+Voters are safe from every kind of attack and threat while registering to vote and casting their vote.
+Choosing among candidates is a foremost right of a voter and if there is only one candidate, the elections are not considered fair.
+The voters have access to information about the election through free media.
+The government has set laws about participation of political parties in elections.
+The elections laws and principles are published on a wide scale so that all individuals are informed about them.
+Candidates are free to talk to the people, and consider themselves safe during and after the elections. They should not be subject to threats because of their candidature and position.
+Candidates do not incite violence.
+Nonpartisan officials administer the elections. Internal and external observers independently monitor the elections.
+The government devises an independent process for vote counting.
+The government supports the winner of elections in handing over the reins of authority. The transition of power is peaceful.
These principles have developed so that people can trust in the polling process and its results.
If elections are free and fair, then the elected officials take charge of the government with the support of the people.
This is why participation of national and international observers and close attention by the news media is of great importance. Observers and journalists monitor the elections step by step and point out any violation of the election laws.
A country that wants to ensure democracy should follow these principles and standards.