Types of Elections

Election is a means of choosing and electing choice representatives to the Nigerian federal government and the various states in Nigeria. During the electoral process, Nigerians for instance, elect a representative to the office of the President at the federal level as a head of state, a Governor is elected across the 36 states in Nigeria and representatives for the legislature (the National Assembly).

The president (head of state) is elected by the people. The House of Representatives and the Senate are the two chambers of the National Assembly. Recall that the House of Representatives has 360 members which are elected for a four-year term in single-seat constituencies and there are 109 members in the senate members elected as senate members.

Nigeria operates a multi-party system. Often, two or three parties are the strongest and a third party that is electorally successful. The election in Nigeria is held every 4 years and often holds in the month of February. Handing over of the old government to the newly elected government takes place in the month of May.

This lesson describes the different types of elections:

1. Primary Election

primary election is the process by which voters, either the general public (open primary) or members of a political party (closed primary), can indicate their preference for a candidate in an upcoming general election or by-election, thus narrowing the field of candidates.

Primaries are used in various countries throughout the world. Its origins can be traced to the progressive movement in the United States, which aimed to take the power of candidate nomination from party leaders to the people. Political parties control the method of nomination of candidates for office in the name of the party. Other methods of selecting candidates include caucuses, conventions, and nomination meetings.

Where primary elections are organized by parties, not the administration, two types of primaries can generally be distinguished:

  • Closed primary: (synonyms: internal primaries, party primaries) In the case of closed primaries, internal primaries, or party primaries, only party members can vote.
  • Open primary: All voters can take part in an open primary and may cast votes on a ballot of any party. The party may require them to express their support to the party’s values and pay a small contribution to the costs of the primary.

The primary election is organized by all the individual political parties to select each party’s nominee/representative for the general election.

In the United States, when the primary elections are ongoing, separate party ballots are printed, ballot boxes are provided and the voter must choose between the ballot with interested Democrats running against other Democrats or the one on which Republicans run against other Republicans (all in the same party).

For example, if three or more candidates vying for a position, and if none receives majority votes, then a second primary election or runoff election is held between the two candidates with the highest number of votes in the first primary election held. The winner of this runoff election becomes the party nominee/representative.

In Nigeria, the statewide primary election is held in June of even-numbered years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday.

2. General Election

general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation’s primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.

In presidential systems, a general election is a regularly scheduled election where both the president, and either “a class” of or all members of the national legislature are elected at the same time but can also involve special elections held to fill prematurely vacated positions. A general election day may also include elections for local officials.

The term originates in the elections in the United Kingdom for the House of Commons started on November 26 1962.

general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen. The term is usually used to mean the elections held for a nation’s primary legislative body. In the United Kingdom when Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and a general election is held.

In India, the elections held to elect the members of the Lok Sabha after expiry of the Parliamentary Elections. Earlier up to 1957 simultaneous elections were held for both the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. However, on account of early dismissal and mid-term elections the two got separated.

In U.S. politics, general elections are elections held at any level (e.g. city, county, congressional district, state) that typically involve competition between at least two parties. General elections occur every two to six years (depending on the positions being filled with most positions good for four years) and include the presidential election, but unlike parliamentary systems the term can also refer to special elections that fill out positions prematurely vacated by the previous office holder (e.g. through death, resignation, etc.).

In Nigeria, the general election is held to determine and decide which political party, or candidates will occupy each office that are open for election. In addition, an eligible voter may split the ballot paper to select candidates from all parties on the ballot. However, a voter may choose only one candidate per office in the general election.

3. Local Election

In many parts of the world, local elections take place to select office-holders in local government, such as mayors, councillors and local government chairmen. Elections to positions within a city or town are often known as “municipal elections”. Their form and conduct vary widely across jurisdictions.

In Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, local elections have proven to be easier to achieve than larger scale ones that affect the national or federal government. By giving voice to people on the smaller scales of government, over such issues as water supply, power, and sewer systems, confidence is thought to be built to eventually reform higher levels of government.

In the UK the term local elections refers to county, unitary authority, borough, district, city, town and parish elections. These take place on the first Thursday of May every year. Councillors generally sit for four years. The number of independent (non-party) Councillors has declined over the past forty years – nowadays the overwhelming majority of local Councillors belong to one of the major parties.

4. Special Election

Special elections are held in extraordinary situations such as the necessity to fill a vacancy that occurs during the term for which a person was elected, or when a referendum is held on some particular question or proposition such as the issuance of bonds.

A by-election or bye-election is a type of special election. A general election is the name of an election for all members of an elected body. A bye-election is the name of an election for just some members. A bye-election could be needed if a member dies or resigns while in political office. They are also used if a person is removed from office for some reason, for example he/she is guilty of a crime or is not qualified to be a member anymore.

By-elections, also spelled bye-elections (known as special elections in the United States and the Philippines, and bypolls in India), are used to fill elected offices that have become vacant between general elections.

In most cases, these elections occur after the incumbent dies or resigns, but they also occur when the incumbent becomes ineligible to continue in office (because of a recall, ennoblement, criminal conviction, or failure to maintain a minimum attendance). Less commonly, these elections have been called when a constituency election is invalidated by voting irregularities. In the United States, these contests have been called “special elections” because they do not always occur on Election Day like regular congressional elections. 

5. Direct and Indirect Election

Direct election is a system of choosing political officeholders in which the voters directly cast ballots for the person, persons, or political party that they desire to see elected. The method by which the winner or winners of a direct election are chosen depends upon the electoral system used. 

Examples of directly elected bodies are the European Parliament (since 1979) and the United States House of Representatives. The MPs (members of parliament), MLAs (members of legislature) and members of the local bodies are elected by direct election. By contrast, in an indirect election, the voters elect a body which in turn elects the officeholder in question. A major advantage of direct election is that it guarantees that the people will have the ultimate choice of who will represent them.

direct election is an election in which people vote directly for the person, persons or political party that they want to see elected to a political position. The opposite is an indirect election, in which the voters elect a group of people who in turn elects the officeholder in question.

An indirect election is an election in which voters do not choose between candidates for an office, but elect people who then choose. It is one of the oldest forms of elections, and is still used today for many presidents, cabinets, upper houses, and supranational legislatures. Presidents and prime ministers can be indirectly elected by parliaments or by a special body convened solely for that purpose.

The election of the executive government in most parliamentary systems is indirect. Upper houses, especially of federal republics, can be indirectly elected by state legislatures or state governments. 

The election of the United States President and the Vice President is indirect election. Voters elect the Electoral College, which then elects the President. The Electoral College is a controversial issue in American politics, as the Electoral College vote may not agree with the popular vote. Also, the President of Germany is similarly elected through indirect election by a Federal Convention.

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This is a lesson from the tutorial, Electoral Systems and Processes and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

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