The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and United Kingdom Law

By David Harris; Sarah Joseph | Go to book overview

16
Rights of Political Participation
SARAH JOSEPH
Article 25
a. Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in Article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:
b. To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;
c. To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;
d. To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.

INTRODUCTION

Article 25 of the Covenant confers political rights upon citizens of states parties, enabling people to participate in various ways in public affairs.1 The demise in the late 1980s and early 1990s of authoritarian regimes in favour of parliamentary democracy, in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Africa, has dramatically increased the level of international agreement over the interpretation of the right to political participation.2 This chapter will not embark on any detailed analysis of the various theories of political participation, such as liberal democratic theories, Marxist theories, or theories from the Third World.3 It will postulate on the likely meaning given to Article 25 of the Covenant by the Human Rights Committee.4

____________________
1
Nowak, M., UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: CCPR Commentary ( Kehl, 1993), 436. The equivalent right under the ECHR, Art. 3 of the 1st Protocol (P1), is expressed in much narrower language than Art. 25, ICCPR. The Strasbourg organs have read into this Art. several unenunciated rights, such as the right to vote: see Fox, G., "'The Right to Political Participation in international Law'", 17 Yale Jnl of Int. L 539 at 560-5.
2
Fox, id., 540, 559, and 607; contrast Steiner, H., "'Political Participation as a Human Right'" ( 1988) 1 Harv. HRY 77 at 84, who then characterized the right to political participation as 'at the extreme end of contention' in interpretation.
3
See Steiner, n. 2 above, for analysis of different theories of political participation.
4
Nevertheless, readers may detect a bias towards the dominant liberal theory in the commentary.

-535-

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