Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

General Elections

General elections in the UK allow the public to vote for representatives who will sit in the House of Commons as members of parliament. In general elections, all 650 seats in the House of Commons are voted upon, with each seat representing a single constituency within the UK.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 states that general elections are to be held every 5 years on the first Thursday in May. However, the act provides the following two circumstances under which a general election can be held at a time other than the fixed 5 year intervals:

  • A motion of no confidence has been passed against the government and 14 days have elapsed without the passage of a confidence motion in a new government.
  • A motion for holding a general election has been passed by a qualified majority of two thirds of the total number of seats in the House of Commons (434 of 650)

Prior to 2011, the Prime Minister was able to call a general election at any time during the 5 year interval, which meant not all parliaments lasted for the entire 5 year period.

See also: Election Campaign, Parliament


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