Politics in Minutes (2016)

Elections and representation

For a democracy to be a true reflection of the wishes of its citizens, there have to be regular opportunities for them to vote in elections. This is often enshrined in the constitution, which specifies either a fixed term of office for a national government, or at least a maximum length of time before an election is called. With regular national elections, perhaps every three or five years, the government is made accountable to the electorate. Typically, a country is divided into electoral districts or constituencies, which elect representatives to seats in a parliament or assembly for that term of office, but in some circumstances, such as the death of a representative, a local by-election will be held. Of course, citizens can be involved in political activity at any time, but it is only in these elections that the voter actually has a say in government. Increased use of referendums on constitutional or urgent matters, and the right for voters in an electoral district to call a vote of no confidence in an elected representative have been suggested as ways of improving voter involvement between elections.