Politics in Minutes (2016)

Electoral systems

The process of electing representatives varies enormously from country to country. Some elections are for individual candidates on a ‘first-past-the-post’ basis, where the winner is simply the one with the most votes. But this can mean that minority parties never manage to gain an elected representative, despite having a proportion of popular support; and some candidates may be elected on substantially less than 50 per cent of the vote, implying that more people voted against than for them. So more complex systems of proportional representation, reflecting voter preferences, have been devised – although they are not without their critics. The leaders of parties are generally chosen by the party membership, rather than the population as a whole. Voters vote for the party of their choice, and the leader of the winning party generally becomes the prime minister or leader of the legislature. Presidents are typically elected separately from the members of the legislature, either by a direct popular election or as in the USA indirectly by a system of electoral colleges.

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Presidential elections in the USA.