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Parliamentary Elections and the Constituency System

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General elections

When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and a general election is held. Each constituency in the UK elects one MP (Member of Parliament) to a seat in the House of Commons. The political party that wins a majority of seats in the House of Commons usually forms the Government.

How often are general elections held?

General elections are held at least every five years although not all Parliaments run for the whole five year period.

How does it work?

MPs are elected from a choice of candidates by a simple majority system in which each person casts one vote. The candidate with the most votes then becomes the MP for that constituency.

Candidates may be from a political party registered with the Electoral Commission or they may stand as an 'Independent' rather than represent a registered party.

Where do people vote?

Most voting takes place in polling stations but anyone eligible to vote can apply for a postal vote. British citizens living abroad are also entitled to a postal vote as long as they have been living abroad for less than 15 years.

General elections

When Parliament is dissolved every seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant and a general election is held.

By-elections

A by-election takes place when a seat in the House of Commons becomes vacant between general elections

Parliamentary constituencies

The UK is currently divided into 646 parliamentary constituencies, each of which is represented by one MP in the House of Commons.

Last general election

The last general election in the UK took place on 5 May 2005:

General Election 2005 (PDF)

More on this subject

Parliamentary Elections

Election timetables