Election: Meaning, Qualifications And Functions

Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Election
2. Qualifications Of Election
3. Functions Of Election
Meaning Of Election
Election could be defined as a system whereby people are chosen as representatives for certain jobs by the electorate. The electorate on the hand is that fraction of the population of a state constitutionally and legally empowered to choose the representatives of the people into the legislature or to perform certain jobs. The electoral systems vary from country to country particularly in determining whom to give the franchise that is the right to vote during an election. There is no democratic country in the world where the electorate comprises the total population.
Qualifications Of Election
Each government has fixed certain qualifications, which must be satisfied for entrance into the electorate.
1. Age
Usually the minimum age for entrance into the electorate of many countries is twenty-one years. In Nigeria, the age limit is 18 years. In Brazil the age limit is 25 years. In Great Britain the legal voting for woman from 1921 until 1930 was thirty. Some minimum age limit is potently necessary, since a child is hardly competent to judge political issues and candidates.
2. Sex
Until recently, the electorate was limited to men. It was felt that woman, who did not engage in military affairs, were not entitled to enter politics; it was also believed that woman were intellectually inferior to men. It was thought that woman through participating in politics, might lose their fertility. In Catholic countries, it was alleged that woman would vote as instructed by their Priests.
During the 20th Century, however, one state after another has admitted woman to the electorate. This has occured because of the growing sexual, social and educational equality of the sexes. The recognition of woman’s accomplishment in war and the belief that woman would to some extent help to reform politics have compelled countries to admit woman to the electorate. In Nigeria woman from the Northern States had in the past been excluded from the electorates. Universal adult suffrage was fully introduced in Nigeria during the 1979 presidential elections. There is therefore no more discrimination in terms of sex before franchise is given.
3. Citizenship
Most countries demand that the individual posses citizenship to enter the electorate. Citizenship here implies both native born and naturalized. The logic here is that only people loyal to the state should select those to rule them. The assumption on the argument is that citizenship implies loyalty and patriotism to the state. Foreigners are therefore not allowed to exercise voting right until they have declared themselves citizens of a given country. In the United State citizenship and the suffrage are so closely related that an American risks the loss of his citizenship by voting in a foreign election.
4. Residence
Most countries require a certain period of residence in any district of the state before conferring the suffrage. Usually this residence is attested by registration with election officials. In Nigeria the period of residence is normally 12 months.
5. Registration
Most countries require a certain period of residence in any district of the state before conferring the suffrage. Usually this residence is attested by registration with election officials. In Nigeria the period of residence is normally 12 months.
6. As a rule, criminals, lunatics, bankrupts are not given the franchise. This means that to be given the franchise one must be of sound mind. One must no be a criminal and a bankrupt.
Functions Of Elections
Election performs the following functions in democratic states:
1. Election is the means by which the people choose and exercise some degree of control over their representative.
2. Election is the process through which the wishes of the majority of the people are translated into policy decisions.
3. It provides a medium for political participation for the vast majority of the people in government.
4. It creates a feeling of belonging for the governed, a degree of responsibility for government decision makers.
5. Election is a form of political communication between government and the governed- a means by which political decision-makers become sensitive to the electorate political demands.
6. Election is a means through which the government and political parties educate the electorate on important political issues.
7. Election is primarily a means of legitimizing the rights of rulers to govern. It makers for accountability on the part of the rulers.
The Need For Free And Fair Elections
1. To ensure peaceful change of government without violence, riot, thuggery and rigging in an election.
2. To ensure that the right candidates who are the choice of the majority are elected into office.
3. To enhance political participation, obedience and the support of the citizens in governance.
4. To avoid series of litigations, complaints, and disrespect for the constituted government based on the allegation of election rigging.
5. To maintain law and order, during and after elections.
6. To confer legitimacy on the leaders who are the real choice of the people.
7. To sustain democratic governance and prevent military intervention in politics.
8. To avoid waste of resources used in rigging elections and to maintain the values of justice, equity and good conscience in governance.