Characteristics of a Free and Fair Election
Free, democratic and fair elections are important principles of that characterize a credible electoral system. In Article 81, the Kenyan constitution in discussing representation of the people recognizes these principles mainly because in any democracy, elections are at the core.
In a free and fair election, every person who is of age and willing to vote has the right to register as a voter and vote. It also means that all registered political parties have equal rights to contest in an election. In addition, all votes cast are counted and the results demonstrate the will of the people. Below are six important aspects that depict free and fair elections:
1. Secret Ballot
The secrecy of the ballot means that during an election each vote cast remains anonymous and voters mark ballot papers in a private space without attempting to influence each other in terms of who a candidate votes for. This secrecy is critical in countering ill feelings because people do not get to know who voted for who.
2. Violence and Corruption Free
For elections to be seen as free and fair, they need to be free of violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption. There need not be fighting or use of force with the intention of swaying voters to vote in a certain way. Those involved in the electoral process should also avoid any misconduct that would amount to corruption.
3. Conducted by an Independent Body
Elections should be conducted by an independent body for them to be considered free and fair. In Kenya for instance, Chapter 15 of the Constitution of Kenya tasks the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) with the responsibility of conducting elections including referenda, general and by-elections.
Transparency is critical in building trust and confidence of stakeholders and the general public that an election process is indeed free and fair. A transparent election is one that is open and can easily be inspected or observed by relevant stakeholders including political parties, observers and even voters. The stakeholders should be able to confidently verify there were no irregularities in the process of conducting elections.
Elections should be conducted in an impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable way. There should be no bias by the administrators and all aspirants should be treated equally with fairness.
Accuracy should also be observed to ensure tallying of all votes cast is done correctly so that the results are a true reflection the will of the people. Institutions responsible for managing elections need to carry their responsibilities as expected and be accountable to the public for elections to be free and fair.