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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
An election is a formal decision making process by which the population chooses an individual to hold a public office. They are the usual mechanism used to operate a representative democracy.
Elections are held for a variety of reasons. They determine the membership of a Parliament, Assembly, Council or Congress. They give a government legitimacy and authority – giving the elected government a mandate. They make government accountable, and ensure that it reflects the views of the electorate. They change a government peacefully. They allow the ordinary citizen to participate, choosing between alternative political programmes. Finally, they increase political awareness.
In order to promote democracy, elections need to be held fairly regularly, with universal suffrage (broadly, one person, one vote) using a secret ballot. Parties and individual candidates need to be free to campaign, with voters spared intimidation or ballot rigging. The electoral system should link (albeit perhaps roughly) votes cast and seats gained, and a reasonable number of voters turn out to vote.