In a parliamentary system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are chosen and it must be held every 5 years. The term is usually used to refer to elections held for a nation's primary legislative body, as distinguished from by-elections and local elections.
In presidential systems, the term refers to 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. A general election day may also include elections for local officials.
In Hong Kong
General elections in India are the largest exercise of democracy in the world. In 2004, Indian elections covered an electorate larger than 670 million people—over twice that of the next largest, the European Parliament elections—and declared expenditure has trebled since 1989 to almost $300 million, using more than 1 million electronic voting machines. The Election Commission of India coordinates the elections, which owing to the huge size of the electorate is conducted in a phased manner. In General Elections, the candidates are elected for the Lok Sabha and they are called MP's (Member of Parliament). The elections are held every 5 years.
In South Korea
In the United Kingdom
The term general election in the United Kingdom often refers to the election of Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons. Under the terms of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, the period between one general election and the next is fixed at 5 years, unless the Commons passes a motion of no confidence in the Government sooner than that or if the House of Commons, with the support of at least two thirds its members, resolves that an election should take place sooner.
The term maybe also be used to refer to an election to any democratically elected body in which all of the members are up for election. Section 2 of the Scotland Act 1998, for example, specifically refers to ordinary elections to the Scottish Parliament as general elections.
Originally, British elections took place over a period of several weeks, with individual constituencies holding polling on separate days. The Parliament Act 1911 introduced the requirement that an election should be held on a single day. There has been a convention since the 1930s that general elections in Britain should take place on a Thursday; the last general election to take place on any other weekday was that of 1931.
The five-year limit on the time of a Parliament can be varied by an Act of Parliament implemented by several bodies. This was done during both World Wars; the Parliament elected in December 1910 was prolonged to November 1918, and that elected in November 1935 lasted until June 1945. The House of Lords has an absolute veto on any Bill to extend the life of Parliament.
In the United States
In U.S. politics, general elections occur every four years and include the presidential election. Some parallels can be drawn between the general election in parliamentary systems and the biennial elections determining all House seats, although there is no analogue to "calling early elections" in the U.S., and the members of the elected U.S. Senate face elections of only one-third at a time at two-year intervals including during a general election.
- Scotland Act 1998 (c. 46) - 2. Ordinary general elections
- Chapter 5 of the Louisiana Election Code, incorporating Section 18:401 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes.