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Created by Sour Piseth August 11, 2012 - Category: Society
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In 1994, when the IPU published its Free and Fair Elections study and adopted a
Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections, few would have imagined the
extent to which ‘freeness’and ‘fairness’would become universally recognized as the
standard by which the quality of elections is to be judged.
The centrality of free and fair elections to democracy was subsequently
reconfirmed by IPU Members in 1997 when they adopted the Universal Declaration
on Democracy, stipulating that “The key element in the exercise of democracy is the
holding of free and fair elections at regular intervals enabling the people’s will to be
The first edition of Free and Fair Elections defined the constituent elements
of a free and fair election with reference to the rules and standards of international law
and State practice. The impact of the study, as well as the continuing relevance of the
Declaration, was widely acknowledged by electoral experts at an International Round
Table on Electoral Standards convened by the IPU in November 2004.
Yet the significant growth in the science and practice of elections since 1994,
including an expansion in the field of actors, calls for an examination of recent devel-
opments in electoral standards. It is therefore right that the IPU should seek to make a
further contribution to the understanding and the implementation of the concept of free
and fair elections.
This second edition of Free and Fair Elections contains two distinct parts.
The four entirely new chapters in Part 1 review developments in international law and
practice since 1994 and make a general assessment of the influence of the IPU
Declaration and study in the development and consolidation of legal norms. The final
chapter of Part 1 sets out a number of issues that are emerging - or are likely to emerge
- in the field of electoral standards. Accountability, participation and representation,
including women’s representation, are among the issues that were identified at the
International Round Table on Electoral Standards and are developed here. In Part 2,
the full text of the 1994 study is republished with only minor corrections.
The IPU hopes that this new, expanded edition will continue to be of interest
to all those involved in ensuring the quality of elections, including parliaments, elec-
tion management bodies, electoral observers and election-related NGOs. It is hoped
that it will also be a precious tool for scholars of international law and electoral sys-
I would like to thank most warmly the author, Guy Goodwin-Gill, for his will-
ingness to return to the work begun in 1994 and for his comprehensive analysis of recent
developments. My thanks also go to the participants in the International Round Table on
Electoral Standards, and to the Ford Foundation for their generous and ongoing finan-
cial support to the IPU’s work on election standard setting.
Anders B. Johnsson
Secretary General — Inter-Parliamentary Union

This document has been released into the public domain.