On the initiative of the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES) the election experts of Central and Eastern European countries held a conference in Budapest in 1991 to discuss the technical conditions to free, democratic and fair elections.
The significance of the conference was emphasized by the fact that this was the period when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe held their first free elections. Although the countries in the region had already held elections based on general suffrage before, multi-party elections were still novel to the region. It was the first time that the citizens had been given the opportunity to elect their parliament and government by casting votes.
1990 and 1991 were the first years when citizens in the region could freely express their political opinions and when the first fair - that is fraud-free - elections could be organised.
There are several criteria for free, democratic and fair elections: a basic issue is whether the given country is to introduce a multi-party system, one in which the parties intend to base their political powers on a parliament not the use of weapons, but through citizens' votes. Another prerequisite is that elections should be governed both by constitution and law, thus creating the proper guarantees of voting. Fair elections also require the operation of a properly trained election body (state leaders, civil servants and judges) in the country, one, which adheres to the statutes of law.
Purpose of the Budapest conference of 1991 was expanding the expertise of election officials as well as increasing the demand for legality and technical skills. The IFES initiative was well received in the countries of the region: election professionals from twenty countries took part in the conference. The participants discussed the experience gained at the first democratic elections of the different countries, as well as the need for the technical conditions required for organising free elections.