process by which a population chooses the holder of a public office
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An election is a way people can choose their candidate or their preferences in a representative democracy or other form of government.[1]

Today, an election in Germany is picking one of several options (or candidates). The notice tells voters to "fold each ballot paper several times and hand it in separately".
Each folded paper is dropped into a box.

Most democratic countries hold elections for their national legislature every few years. The elections select representatives for the local areas. These are called 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. They may be directly elected or elected by national legislature.

The legislature chooses the government, usually by majority vote in the legislature. Some democracies elect a president, who then selects the government. Most democratic countries also have regional, provincial or state elections and local elections.

There are different ways to organize an election. Voters might vote for an individual, or they might vote for a political party. This is because different countries use different voting systems.

As a foundation of democracy, voting in elections happens in most countries around the world. Whilst the process of electing an individual as a representative in a government can be simple, many election candidates spend large amounts of money on their campaigns. Higher household incomes, inflation and population growth have contributed to this trend of higher election spend.[2]

Every country around the world has different rules and regulations for voting in elections. The biggest differences amongst most major countries is the age in which an individual may vote and whether voting in an election is compulsory or not. People who are not citizens may not be allowed to vote. Argentina, Brazil and Austria are among the few countries where the legal voting age is 16.

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.

Vatican City is a theocracy: The pope (and a few high-ranking clerics) run the state. When the pope dies, or steps down, the cardinals select a new pope, through an election. When they are done, they will announce the result in a speech, called Habemus Papam (Latin: We have a pope)

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 may be prevented from using broadcasting, social media, or the newspapers. This means that the ruling president is not challenged. Elections which are fixed are sometimes called sham elections or show elections.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Countries where the candidates are elected with a very high approval rating usually use elections to hide a more autocratic form of government. When Saddam Hussein was elected president of Iraq in 1995, he got 99.96% approval. There were about 8.4 million valid votes, 3,052 people voted against him.[9][10] 99.47% of all people allowed to vote did so (this is called voting turnout).[11] Another example: Kim Jong-un was elected the leader of North Korea, in 2014, with 100% of the vote.

Psephology is the study of elections.


  1. "What is Election Campaign | IGI Global". www.igi-global.com. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  2. "Impact of Election Costs". 24 April 2019. Retrieved 2021-10-24.
  3. "Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote in his constituency". Independent.co.uk. 10 March 2014.
  4. Jamjoom, Mohammed (21 February 2012). "Yemen holds presidential election with one candidate". CNN.
  5. Sanchez, Raf; Samaan, Magdy (29 January 2018). "Egyptian opposition calls for boycott of elections after challengers are arrested and attacked". The Telegraph – via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  6. "Alexei Navalny latest: Russian opposition leader arrested ahead of presidential election | The Independent". Independent.co.uk. 22 February 2018.
  7. "RUSSIA: Justice in The Baltic". Time. 1940-08-19. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
  8. "Yes, There Are Elections in North Korea and Here's How They Work - The Atlantic". The Atlantic. 6 March 2014.
  9. Yahia, Latif; Wendl, Karl. I Was Saddam's Son, p.281-2. Arcade Publishing (1997), ISBN 1-55970-373-3
  10. "No Surprise in Iraqi Vote", The New York Times, October 17, 1995. Ibrahim declared: "It is an immortal day in the history of Arabism and Islam. It is a blow to the states that have harbored enmity toward Iraq and raised unjustified doubts about the legitimacy of its regime or the right of its people to choose the form of government they like."
  11. Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce; Root, Hilton L. Governing for Prosperity, p.62. Yale University Press (2000), ISBN 0-300-08018-2