Abstract Although multiparty elections are not explicitly required by international human rights instruments or the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), certain human rights provisions have been interpreted as leading to such a requirement. While a democratic interpretation of human rights law has been settled in the ECHR framework, it remains disputable at the universal level. Despite numerous references to democracy in the documents adopted in the UN framework in the post-Cold War era, this article argues that an explicit link between international human rights law and multiparty elections has yet to be established. On the other hand, such a link has been developed by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Multiparty elections are considered to be part of the European public order. Moreover, the ECtHR has shown that it understands democracy beyond the existence of electoral procedures. But the role and understanding of democracy within the ECHR cannot be universalized.