Political Rights

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With a rise in global movements that call for widespread availability of human rights in general, people all around the world have been concerning themselves with the liberties a common man must uphold. The rising dissent amongst the communities of people of color and religious and ethnic minorities in each country calls for a deep understanding of the rights a human being is supposed to have. Amongst the fundamental basic human rights prescribed by the United Nations, political rights happen to be one of them. And since political rights generally aren’t looked at holistically, and they are explained on a  micro-level whenever they are explained, the conceptuality behind the concept remains hidden from many. Thus we intend to deeply analyze the concept of political rights and the factors revolving around it.

A Short History Lesson

Though the Greeks and the Romans have said to have given their citizens some form of political rights, the proper formulation of them could be dated back to the Magna Carta of the thirteenth century, or even the Rights of the Englishmen. Despite those early developments, the modern terminology we see today was properly implemented back when the Bill of Rights was being written in the United States, and simultaneously, the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in the land of France. Such developments pioneered a way for these rights to pave a way into the universally accepted set of rights, but it wasn’t up until the 20th century when the entire world accepted them as basic rights. Though everyone now considers these rights to be of vital importance, governments giving their citizens access to it is an entirely different matter.

Civil vs Political

Before dwelling into the details of political rights, we will necessarily need to distinguish political rights from civil rights. Presumably used interchangeably, they definitely happen to be interlinked, but one cannot equate the two to each other. Civil rights exist in a universal setting, where a human should be entitled to those rights even if he does not happen to be a citizen of the country. Whereas political rights are concerned with the rights of the residents residing within the jurisdiction of a government, therefore they cannot be extended to everyone on the planet. The concept of liberty entails both of these rights within itself, therefore the link between the two causes some confusion. Having made that clear, we can now look into what sort of rights are referred to as political rights.

Between the two, civil rights were established before political rights, as pointed out by several historians including the famed civil rights historian T.H Marshal. He basis his ranking on the codification of these rights, and as it is known until a particular right has not been codified, it might exist in theory, but its implementation would be far away from being made. Now when almost all of the countries, especially democratic nations have these rights infringed in their political system, their implementation becomes much more possible.  

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

The most elaborate and groundbreaking set of political rights is listed in the United Nation’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, where 53 of its articles are distributed amongst six different parts. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was drafted in 1954, right after the San Francisco conference. It remained in discussion for several years amongst its members, and it was thereafter adopted in 1966. The General Assembly discussed its components at depth and considering it allowed for countries to make their amendments when converting it into domestic laws, pretty much no major voice of dissent was raised against it. It has been ratified and adopted by almost all of the countries, except for a few monarchies including the Saudi Arab and the United Arab Emirates. Looking into their domestic matters, one could, therefore, see that these countries barely allow their nationals to practice any form of activities allowed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Political rights could contain a variety of components, but the main theme behind these sets of rights is the way a citizen is allowed to interact with its government. Within the wide spectrum of feeling with the government, a wide variety of rights are included, namely being but not limited to; the right to free speech, the right to protest against a government or its policies, the right to show dissent, the accessibility to run for or hold office within any branch of the government, and many more that concern the same line of workings. Therefore, it also seems logical to only have the citizens included in the people who can avail of these rights.

Furthermore, generally assuming that democracies are fundamentally governments made by the pupils of the general public, there should be little to no stopping in a citizen receiving their political rights. It seems obvious for the monarchies and dictatorships to bar their citizens from political rights, but in theory, democracies seem to be very different. While the matter of fact is, a lot of political right violations happening around the world happen in very large democracies. Some of them are backed by loopholes in the domestic laws, while some of them are placed by current governments to propagate their agenda. And since many countries have created interpretive declarations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they do not follow it wholly.


To conclude, while considering the possibilities of enhancing access to political rights, we must remember that it works in a domino effect. The more a nation is allowed to receive such rights, the more voices could be raised asking for further compensation. If voices of dissent are quenched at the very beginning, there is barely any chance for the political rights to progress in that particular area. Additionally, considering the global political scenario, there is little any country could do to directly influence any other nation’s rights, therefore it could only be the residents of the country that get such rights for themselves.

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