Legal Dictionary

general election

Definition of general election


general election (plural general elections)

  1. An election, usually held at regular intervals, in which candidates are elected in all or most constituencies of a nation.

Further reading

In a parliamentary political system, a general election is an election in which all or most members of a given political body are up for election. 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.

The term originates in the United Kingdom general elections for the House of Commons.

In the United Kingdom

Crowds wait outside Leeds Town Hall to see the result of the 1880 general election. The people of Leeds elected a Liberal candidate.

The General elections in United Kingdom refer to the election of Members of Parliament (MPs) to the House of Commons; these must be held 5 years after the first session of the new parliament, (usually within 5 years and 1 month of the last one to due to the time it takes for parliament to assemble and the election campaign), but are often held before that time as it is up to the parties in government when to call a general election. The current Labour Party government have held general elections every four years since coming to power in May 1997 and thereafter in June 2001 and May 2005. Therefore another election is not legally obliged to occur until June 2010.

General elections in Britain traditionally take place on a Thursday; the last general election not on a Thursday was that of 1931.

The five year limit on the time of a Parliament can be varied by an Act of Parliament. 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 a Parliament.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


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