Indirect election

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Indirect election is a process in which voters in an election do not choose between candidates for an office but rather elect persons who will then make the choice. It is one of the oldest form of elections and is still used today for many upper houses and presidents.

Some examples of indirectly elected bodies and individuals include:

  • the election of the US President is an indirect election. Voters elect the electoral college, which then elects the President. The President of Germany is similarly elected by a Federal Convention convened for that purpose. India and several other countries have a President or other largely ceremonial head of state elected by their parliament.
  • the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, OSCE, the WEU and NATO - in all of these cases, voters elect national parliamentarians, who in turn elect some of their own members to the assembly
  • the German Bundesrat, where voters elect the Landtag members, who then elect the state government, which then appoints its members to the Bundesrat
  • most bodies formed of representatives of national governments, e.g. the United Nations General Assembly, can be considered indirectly elected (assuming the national governments are democratically elected in the first place)
  • the Indian Rajya Sabha (upper house of parliament) is indirectly elected, largely by state legislatures; Manmohan Singh was a member of the Rajya Sabha but chosen by the majority party in the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) as the Prime Minister (2004- ); as such, Singh as Prime Minister had never won a direct or popular election; introduced as a "technocrat"
  • the United States Senate was indirectly elected by state legislatures until, after a number of attempts over the previous century, the 17th amendment to the constitution was ratified in 1913.
  • the election of the government in most parliamentary systems - the voters elect the parliamentarians, who then elect the government including most prominently the prime minister from among themselves

Many republics with parliamentary systems elect their president indirectly (Germany, Italy, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, India, Israel).

In a Westminster system, the leader of the majority party in the parliament almost always becomes the prime minister. Therefore, it could be said that the prime minister is elected indirectly.

In Spain, the Congress of Deputies votes on a motion of confidence of the king's nominee (customarily the party leader whose party controls the Congress) and the nominee's political manifesto, an example of an indirect election of the Prime Minister of Spain.

Indirect political elections have been used for lesser national offices, as well. In the United States, most members of the Senate were elected by the legislatures of the states until 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment instituted direct elections for those office-holders. In France, election to the upper house of Parliament, the Sénat, is indirect, with the electors (called "grands électeurs") being local elected representatives.

The Electoral College of the United States, whose task is to elect a president, is a form of indirect election. However, electors rarely change their actual vote from their pledged vote, and this factor has never made the difference in an election.

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