Election is known as the process of choosing candidates who will represent the people of a country in the government or in other positions.
The following are the types of elections:
1. General Election
This refers to many elections held simultaneously throughout a country to make final choice among candidates for all public offices to be filled at the time. In some countries voters may also vote directly on policy issue or constitutional amendments at the time of the general election. In some countries a national general election may also be held to fill only the office of the Chief Executive e.g. U.S.A.
Generally, general elections in democratic countries are contested on political party platforms. The political parties present major issues to the electorate.
The following major issues were involved in the 1979 General Elections in Nigeria:
a. Creation of more states: All the major political parties i.e. NPN, UPN, NPP, etc. were all agreed on the need to create more states. The disagreement was on the number to be creates and where they would be created.
b. New Capital Territory: This was another political issue. All the political parties were forced by the military posture in this regard to accept the change of the Federal Capital from Lagos to Abuja. Again the disagreement was on the time table for the movement. While the NPN favoured a rapid movement to Abuja, UPN would want such movement to be very slow.
c. Free Medical and Educational facilities: The proponent of this social reforms was the UPN. It was the view of the UPN that the economy, if well managed can sustain free medical attention for all and free education at all levels. The other political parties believed that the economy cannot presently carry such a “utopain” wish. The NPN in particular favoured what it called qualitative functional education rather than free education at all levels.
d. On foreign policy, all the political parties accepted to make Africa the center piece of their foreign policy if voted into power. However, unlike the NPN, the UPN and NPP favoured restoration of diplomatic relations with Israel.
e. Pardon for Mr. Ojukwu: This was another political issue. The NPN accepted the view that the secessionist leader, Odumegwu Ojukwu should be granted pardon but this would be after due consultations. The GNPP on the other hand advocates immediate and unconditional pardon. The UPN and NPP maintained sealed lips on the issue. In 1999 and 2003 the major issues were economic recovery, political restructuring, constitutional amendment, reconciliation and sustainable democracy.
2. Plurality Election
Plurality election system takes place in a single member constituency. It is a system whereby any candidate who scores majority votes in any constituency is declared the winner.
The system does not give minor political parties the opportunity to be represented in the legislature. Moreover, it is possible to elect into legislature a candidate who is actually not the popular choice of the electorate in the constituency.
3. Proportional Representation
This system is at times referred to as the list system. It is adopted in a country operating Multi-Member Constituency System. In this system voters vote for a political party rather than for specific candidates. After the voting, seats are assigned to political parties according to the proportion of votes they scored in relation to the total votes.
Proportional representation aids certain minor political parties by ensuring that they would be represented in the legislature. This system strengthens the power of the political party leaders who draw up the list.
It also prevent a situation where a candidate would be elected even though he is not the popular choice of the electorate. There are however, serious demerits of the system to be identified. This system is complex and difficult to operate. Confusion may likely arise. It is very expensive. It does not give the electorate the opportunity to determine the suitability of the candidates who would represent them in the legislature. It could be easily abused by the political party leaders.
4. Direct Election
Direct election is the type of election in which each qualified citizen exercises his right to vote for the candidate of his choice during an election. The 1979, 1983, 1993, 1999 and 2003 general elections in Nigeria came under this category.
Problems Of Direct Elections
There are many problems associated with this type of elections in all West African countries. These are:
1. Rigging of elections. This may happen when an elector votes many times or there could falsification of results. Electoral officers could be bribed.
2. Many at times, the Electoral Commission may be unable to provide a comprehensive register of voters. The result is that many voters may not find their names in the register of voters and cannot vote.
3. Furthermore, the electoral Commission may not provide adequate election materials. This may hinder voting and may bring voting to a complete halt.
4. Added to the above may be the inability of the Electoral Commission to provide adequate security for voting materials before, during and after elections. This situation could aid and abate rigging.
5. Another problem is that of government of the day using its power and resources to secure favourable results. The government can use the police, the armed forces, the appointment of electoral officers to its own advantage. The other political parties can as a result start to cause trouble.
6. There is also the problem of illiteracy. Some voters may be unable to identify party symbols and names.
5. Indirect Election
This is the type of election where voting of candidates into the legislature or public office is done by a special electoral body whose members themselves are directly elected. This system was adopted in France in the 5th Republic. In Nigeria, the Senate and House of representatives could be authorized to elect the president. If this happens, then the president could be said to have been indirectly elected by the people. This is because the people directly elect both the Senate and the House of Representative members.
Problems Of Indirect Election
The problems associated with this types of election is that:
1. It could be prone to lobbying because of the fewer number of the people involved.
2. Bribery can take place easily.
3. It is possible to elect a candidate who may in actual sense not be the popular choice of the people.
This type of election is usually held in a constituency or district where vacancy has occured in the legislature as a result of resignation or death or disqualification.
This is an election in which a major government proposal had been subjected to popular vote. For example the electorate could be required to decide through voting the amendment of a section of the Constitution or the creation of a new state. Referendum does not entail voting for a particular candidate.
8. Run-Off Election
This is a system where no candidate wins a clear majority in a general election, then a run-off election may be held between the two candidates with the highest votes. Example of a country which have adopted this system is France.
9. Proportional Election
This system of election is adopted in a country operating multi-member constituency. In this system voters vote for a political party rather than specific candidates and seats are assigned to the parties according to their proportion to the total votes. The system is at times referred to as the list system.