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Topic: Election And Electoral process.
Lesson Objectives: by the end of the lesson, the learners should be Abe to:
- Define election and electoral process;
- State the functions of elections;
- State the merits and demerits of direct and indirect elections.
Election can be defined as the process of choosing a leader, member of Parliament, councillors, or other representatives by popular vote.
Electoral process refers to the way in which the people known as electorate of a country vote in those who will represent them in various positions of government.
Functions Of Election
- Election helps to enhance accountability in government. elections compel the representatives to implement policies and programs that meet the yearning and aspirations of people.
- Election helps to affect changes in government thereby ensuring continuity in government.
- It helps to back the ruling of those in government with legitimacy thereby making it lawful for them to exercise the authority on behalf of the citizenry.
- Election helps to choose political leaders that can pilot the affairs of the country on behalf of the masses.
- It helps to test popularity of political leaders and political parties that operate within a political system.
- It provides opportunity for people to exercise their political rights thereby accelerating the rate of political participation.
- Election helps to check government assesses as dictatorial tendencies could easily be checked.
Types Of Election
This is the type of election where the citizens vote for those that will represent them in government without allowing other people or representatives to vote on their behalf.
Merits Of Direct Election
- Direct elections help voters to be acquainted with their representatives.
- It boosts the practice of representative government.
- direct election raises the consciousness of the electorate especially if they are involved in the direct elections of their leaders.
- It is not prone to easy manipulation as all the voters cannot be easily bought over as is often the case in indirect election.
- It helps the people to elect leaders of their choice.
- Direct election is very democratic.
Demerits Of Direct Elections
- The electorate may not properly scrutinised the candidates before they vote.
- It is very expensive to conduct. this is because ballot papers polling booths that will ensure the smoothness of the election need to be constructed.
- There is always problem of organising people. This has often led to disorderliness in the conduct of elections.
- Since more enlightened voters do not participate in voting as in indirect elections it could lead to election of less popular candidates.
- Direct election is prone to violence and thuggery.
Indirect election is the kind of election whereby eligible voters elect representatives who would in turn elect the leaders on behalf of the people.
the real election is done by members of the electoral college which is a body of eligible voters that are given the privilege of electing people’s representatives.
Merits Of Indirect Elections
Indirect election help in the election of policy leaders.
indirect method of election is cheaper to operate because the number of voters is usually fewer compared to direct elections.
since the members of the electoral college are always enlightened there is tendency for electoral fraud to be reduced.
There is orderliness in conduct of indirect election.
indirect election enhances administrative efficiency in government because positions in government are filled with matured and qualified candidates.
Demerits Of Indirect Elections
Indirect election encourages bribery and corruption because members of the electoral college can easily be induced.
Indirect election leads to disenfranchisement of majority of voters.
It discourages political participation.
The representatives seem to be imposed on the people.
By-election is an election conducted to fill a vacancy caused by resignation, death etc. of a member of Parliament.
primary election refers to the type of election conducted for candidates from the same party wishing to contest election in the same constituency. This is done prior to general elections.
This is an act of referring important political matters like creation of states alteration of constitution etc. To the electorate for decision or approval.
Plebiscite is a system in which everyone in a country vote to decide an issue of national importance. It is a “yes” or “no” to answer a national question of importance.
Runoff election: this type of election is conducted to decide a winner and after the first election failed to produce a winner with absolute majority. This election is called second ballot.
General election is conducted among various political parties in a country in order to elect representatives of people into some government positions and offices at different levels within a given period.
An electoral college is a group of persons chosen by the vote of people to elect a leader or leaders into political offices. They can perform the role of the entire electorate especially if a general election is not able to produce a winner through absolute majority. For instance in Nigeria, elected members of the National assembly can serve as an electoral college to elect the president.
This type of election is advantageous in the sense that elections can easily be organised at less cost but it’s disadvantage is that it can easily be manipulated through bribery and corruption because members of the electoral college are few.
Election and Voter Responsibilities
Meaning of Election, Voting and Voter
During elections, candidates and political parties compete for the votes of the electorate or voting citizens.
Voting is the responsibility of a citizen in an election. It is the action of citizens by which they formally express their choices among candidates or alternative decisions. A voter is anyone who can exercise the right to vote. In Nigeria, he or she must be a citizen who is 18 years old and above and is duly registered to elect political office holders.
Responsibilities of a Voter
There can be no election without voting. This is why when a very few people turnout on Election Day to vote we experience what is called low voter turnout. This is not healthy for democracy. Citizens must exercise their franchise. In other words, they must exercise their right to vote to sustain the electoral process and keep the democratic spirit alive, even when voting is inconvenient. They have to register once they are qualified to vote and go to the poll on Election Day to cast their vote. Thus, a voter has some responsibilities. These include;
i. Ensuring that his or her name is listed on the register of voters. This registration should be done in the area where that voter intends to cast his or her vote.
ii. He or she must behave in an orderly and peaceful manner by observing the laws and rules of voting. A voter is expected to wait for his or her turn on the queue, cast his or her vote peacefully without insulting or interfering with other voters, party officials and electoral personnel even when provoked. The voter should channel his or her grievances through appropriate authorities rather than resort to illegal actions.
iii. The voter must obey electoral laws and report cases of malpractices.
Types of Election
a. Primary Election: A primary election is an election by political parties to elect candidates that would represent the parties in a general election.
b. General Election: A general election is an election conducted all over the country to elect those who will govern the country for another term. General elections in Nigeria are conducted every four years. It is during the general elections that the president, vice-president, National Assembly members, governors and other officials are elected.
c. By-Election: A by-election is an election conducted to fill a vacant political office. After a general election, an elected official may die, resign or be disqualified and there exists the need to fill the vacant post. The election that is conducted in any of these instances is called a by-election. It is conducted in between general elections.
d. Referendum: A referendum is a vote involving an entire electorate asking the electorate to either accept or reject a proposal affecting everybody. It is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. For example, the electorate can be asked to accept or reject a new constitution, or whether to join an international organisation. The decision of the electorate after a referendum is final and binding.
e. Plebiscite: A plebiscite, like a referendum, is a ‘yes ‘ or ‘no’ vote on issues of national importance involving a whole of the electorate. However, unlike the referendum, it is not binding or final. It may be rejected by law-making body in a country.
f. Recall: A recall is an election to remove an already elected official from office. It may be that the official is not performing up to it’s constituency’s expectation or other reasons, and they want him or her replaced before the next general elections.
g. Indirect Election: An indirect election is one on which candidates for an office are not elected directly by voters, but through elected people who will choose on their behalf. The group of people who choose on behalf of the entire electorate are known as an ‘electorate college’s. The president of the United States of America is elected by an electoral college, not directly by the voters. However, the popularity of the president is helped if he also wins the popular vote which is by direct election.
Qualifications for Election
According to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria for instance, a person is qualified to stand for an elective position if he or she meets the following requirements:
i. Must be a citizen of Nigeria
ii. Must be mentally sane, that is, he/she is not lunatic
iii. Must be at least 30 years of age
iv. Must not have been convicted in a court of law
v. Should not have been declared bankrupt
vi. Must not be employed in the pubilc service
vii. Must not be a member of a secret society
viii. Must be a member of a registered political party
Procedures for Voting
Before you can vote in any election in Nigeria, you must first of all be a citizen of Nigeria, and must have attained the age of 18 years. The following procedure can then be followed:
i. Register your name in the voters’ register and collect a voter’s registration card
ii. On polling day, go to the polling station in the constituency you registered
iii. Collect the ballot paper(s)
iv. Put your thumbprint against the candidate’s name or party you intend to vote for
v. Fold ghe ballot paper(s) and drop into yhe ballot box
vi. Have an indelible ink applined on your finger
vii. Leave the polling station immediately and wait for the election that results.
Importance of Elections
Elections are the most fundamental instrument of citizen participation in a democracy. This is particularly the case where elections are competitive. This means that opposition parties and candidates enjoy freedom of speech, assembly and movement. They are therefore able to criticise government openly. Elections therefore enable citizens to choose between alternative policies and candidates. Elections in a democracy are usually not done to elect dictators or president-for-life. Elected officials must return to the people at prescribed intervals to seek the mandate to continue in office. Elections thus remind those in government that they are exercising power on behalf of the people who can withdraw their mandate if they do not perform. Indeed, elections enable the citizens to actually remove non-performing officials.
Those eligible to vote in an election must include a large proportion of the adult population. The right to vote should be extended to all groups in society. Racial, ethnic and religious minorities must not be excluded.
Elections enable citizens to reach an agreement with acceptable political leaders. Each time people vote, they hold public officers to account for their actions. Those who do not perform well or who fail to meet the people’s expectations are voted out of power.
Election periods are very exciting periods in a country’s political life. During election periods, there are campaigns and public discussion of issues by candidates on the radio, television and newspapers. Leaflets and posters are distributed so that the populace receive political education. Thus, people become aware of the alternative programmes of government and make their choice. Elections make peaceful change possible and prevent violent change of leaders.
Done studying? See previous lessons in Government.
Take a quick test for this lesson.
- Define the following terms: election, electoral process, a voter, and voting.
- What are the functions of elections?
- State the merits and demerits of direct and indirect elections.
- Mention five types of election and describe each of them.
- What are the requirements for a person to stand for an elected position in your country?
- Why are elections important?
- What are the procedures for voting?
- What are the responsibilities of a voter?
Questions answered correctly? Bravo!
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