Most democratic countries hold new elections for their national legislature every few years. What elections do is select representatives for the local areas. These are called MPs (Members of Parliament) in the British parliamentary system. Parliamentary systems may have a head of government and a head of state, but sometimes the two posts are held by the same person.
The legislature chooses the government, usually by majority vote in the legislature. Some democracies elect a president, who then selects the government. Many democratic countries also have regional, provincial or state elections.
There are different ways to organize an election in different countries. Voters might vote for an individual, or they might vote for a political party (party list). This is because different countries use different voting systems.
Countries that are not democracies can also hold elections. This is usually done to let the people choose a local representative (like a mayor). Also many countries call themselves democracies, but behind the scenes have a more autocratic form of government.
Elections keep a democratic country functioning, as they give people the right to select their own government. However, there are ways a government can "fix" elections. Opposition candidates are permitted in former USSR countries, but they are usually prevented from using broadcasting or the newspapers. This means that, in effect, the ruling president is never challenged. Elections which are fixed are sometimes called sham elections or show elections.
Psephology is the study of elections.
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