Key questions:

  • What are the functions of elections?

  • What are the pros and cons of the FPTP system?

  • How do the other electoral systems used in the UK operate?

  • How important is social class in determining voting behaviour?

  • How significant are issues, leaders and election campaigns?

  • Elections are key in the democratic process.

  • Voting in elections is the main political activity for many people

  • Through electoral process, govts are chosen and can be held accountable.

  • Political parties issue manifestos - the policies they would introduce if they were elected into govt.

  • The winning party is expected to carry out the policies they want to and as they are elected in they have a mandate to do so.

Election” competitive process in which designated groups of people, the electorate, select individuals who will fill particular posts. Elections to public office are a central feature of the democratic process. The electorate consists of almost all the adult population. Members of the legislatures, and the executive in presidential systems, are chosen through elections.

Mandate” an authoritative instruction or command. The doctrine of the mandate gives the winning party the authority to press ahead with their manifesto. The mandate also implies that a govt should not introduce a major policy change unless it has been presented to the electorate.

Functions of an election

  • Representation

    • In a representative democracy elections enable a large group (electorate) to select a smaller group (representatives) to act on their behalf. In a direct democracy all eligible citizens take part in the decision making.

  • Choosing a government

    • Uk parliamentary system general elections determine the makeup of the HoC rather than the executive. The majority party in the HoC makes the govt. O general elections determine who takes the power. 2011 general election led to a coalition between Lib and Con because Con had a minority govt.

  • Participation

    • Voting is the key part of political participation for many of the electorate. Turnout in recent years has been lower than the post-war average.

  • Influence over policy

    • Elections allow citizens to have their policy preferences heard - however, they have limited scope to influence decisions. Election defeats can force a party to rethink its policies. Labour 1983 policy of unilateral disarmament (longest suicide note in history) was subsequently abandoned.

  • Accountability

    • Facing the electorate every five years is one way that the govt is held accountable for its performance in office. Also individual MPs can be held accountable, 2009 expenses scandal many MPs stood down rather than face the verdict of voters.

  • Citizen education

    • Election campaigns provide citizens with information on major political issues and the policies of the main parties. This enables citizens to make an informed decision on how to vote.

  • Legitimacy

    • Elections give legitimacy to the winning party and to the political system. By voting citizens give their consent to the system. The government can claim to be acting on the will of the people.

  • Elite recruitment

    • Political parties nominate candidates for election, provide them with campaign


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