Elections are the main form of political activity for many people. Through the electoral process governments are chosen and then held accountable for their record in office. Political parties issue manifestos that outline their polices they would like to introduce if in power.
Functions of elections
Representation- in reprehensive democracy elections enables the electorate to select representatives to act on their behalf. In a direct democracy all eligible citizens take part in diction making.
Choosing a government- In the UK general elections determine the composition of the House of Commons rather than executive. General elections normally determine who is in power because the majority party forms the government.
Participation- Voting is the key act of political participation for most citizens, but turnout in elections in recent years has been declining.
Influence over policy- elections should allow citizens to have their policy preferences heard but in truth they have limited say in policymaking. If a government loses an elections it can make them completely change there polices.
Accountability- the government in power facing the electorate in elections is facing accountability on how well they have done. Individual MPs who do something wrong such as the expenses scandal and step down take accountability.
Citizen education- election campaigns provide citizens with information on major political issues and the polices of the main parties, this makes citizens more informed.
Legitimacy- elections give legitimacy to the winning party and political system. The government can claim to be acting on the people’s behalf and represent the people.
Elite Recruitment- parties nominate candidates for elections and provide them with campaign resources.
Elections are a competitive process in which the electorate select individuals who will fill a post. Elections to the public office are a centre feature of the democratic process.
Legitimacy- a political system is legitimate when it is based on the consent of the people, winning an election is a legitimate government. Political actions are legitimate if they have followed the laws and procedures. Citizens in a liberal democracy accept the legitimacy of the government even if they do not vote for them.
Elections and democracy
In a liberal democracy elections should be competitive, free and fair. It should also mean that the voter has a meaningful choice between different political parties.
Free elections require freedom of speech, association, the right to join and stand for a party of your own choice and free press.
‘One person, one vote, one value’ is key criterion for a fair election. One vote should have the same worth as another mans vote.
Electoral law should be free from bias and overseen by an impartial judiciary.
Representation - The Process by which an individual or individuals act on behalf of a larger group
Delegate model- is an individual who is selected to act on behalf of others on the basis of clear instructions. They cannot break the instructions given to them. Examples of these are trade union delegates.
Trustee model- Edmund Burke MP suggested the trustee model, MPs follow this system. Once elected they are free to decide how the vote should be cast on their individual judgement.
Constituency representation- MPs are expected to protect and advance the collective interests of their constituency they represent, and the individuals in that constituency. The MP may lobby to the government about a issue in that constituency, they also should be in