Elections are a central feature of democracy. For elections to express the will of the electorate, they must be ‘free and fair’.
‘Free’ means that all those entitled to vote have the right to be registered and to vote and must be free to make their choice. An election is considered ‘free’ when you can decide whether or not to vote and vote freely for the candidate or party of your choice without fear or intimidation. A ‘free’ election is also one where you are confident that who you vote for remains your secret.
‘Fair’ means that all registered political parties have an equal right to contest the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies. This gives them a fair chance to convince voters to vote for them. A fair election is also one in which all voters have an equal opportunity to register, where all votes are counted, and where the announced results reflect the actual vote totals.
Free and fair elections are also an important step toward economic empowerment. As USAID states, “Critical development efforts cannot succeed without a legitimate and democratically elected government that is responsive and accountable to its citizens.”
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