Essay on Role of Elections in the US and UK Political Systems

Published: 2021/11/18
Number of words: 2591

Elections play a quintessential role in the U.S and U.K political systems, a reason why the countries have variant systems in terms of economics and foreign policy. Comparing the electoral systems between the two nations, it is apparent that both present the kind of practical information which aids in understanding the democratic divide between the two countries. It is interesting to note that elections in the two countries are different, whereby the U.S is torn between the senate, the House of Representatives and the presidency. In the U.K, on the other hand, the election is concerned with taking the prime minister to the office, with the only intersection between the two countries being the democracy and transparency that is involved in the process.

The role of general of presidential elections in the U.S and the United Kingdom is to fulfill the constitutional requirement of granting people the right to choose the kind of leaders that they desire. Elections play an important role in the fulfillment of democratic governance in the United States, whereby the decisions of the people reflect the aspirations of the entire society. In the country, therefore, the use of a college system of elections implies that the electorate delegates its powers to the learned and informed people because of the perception that they are likely to make a decision which is reflective of the perceptions of the entire society. In the U.K, it is the members of parliament that are elected during the general elections because the supreme ruler of the kingdom is the queen. Before the commencement of general elections on the United Kingdom, political parties select the kind of candidates who are deemed suitable for every constituency, but it is thrilling to note that the less influential parties are bound to have less representation or even none at all.

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Similarities between U.S and U.K Electoral Systems

One point of intersection between the U.S and U.K elections is that candidates are allowed to run independently. In the United States, however, they are construed as third-party candidates, and this justifies why a majority of them fail in the general elections. Trends between the two countries indicate that the existence of an opportunity to vie as third-party candidates is not an assurance of democracy because in the U.K, for instance, candidates are less likely to succeed on an independent ticket. In the U.S electoral system, on the other hand, one cannot rise to the presidency unless he or she is a Democrat or a Republican. In the United States history, independents have a long and rich history of vying for the highest office, but there is only a limited number of them that have recorded success. In the 1958 U.S elections, George Wallace went down in history as the first third-party candidate to win majority votes within the Electoral College, and he set precedence for other candidates such as Ross Perot who was awarded as the best performer in the popular vote category after garnering 19% of the total votes. There are several justifications which have been fronted to account for the failure of independent candidates to secure the top seat and other electoral positions in the United States. In the U.S, for example, there is an acute lack of an electoral base which could support such candidates in terms of finance and the general perception that they create in the public. Thomas Jefferson had mixed views about slavery, despite the fact that he understood the evil associated with it. By the time he was born, slavery had been existent in Virginia for more than 75 years. His attitudes towards blacks and slaves in particular are complex because there was a time when he construed people of color as inferior to the whites.Later in life, Jefferson came to the realization that servitude may have played a role in impacting the abilities associated with blacks. While serving as a young legislator in Virginia, he advocated for the establishment of a motion which could force the private citizens in the state to free all their slaves.

The American Political System

The American political system has its roots traced back to 1775-1785 during the period of the American Revolution which is also known as the war of independence this war saw to it that the 13 original colonies of Britain would finally gain their independence. It was during this period that the Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson.It took him 17 days to complete the document (Negrine, 1996, pg 44). The Congress at that period opted to declare the United States independent of Britain through a vote, and two days later on the 4th of July 1776, the same congress voted to adopt the declaration of independence hence making it the Independence Day.

In 1787 the American people opted to adopt the constitution and on it was enshrined the foundation of the American government, its structure purpose, and form. Over the years there have been 27 amendments to the constitution to have the American people enjoy their liberties and prohibit the power of the government. Key among those amendments is the bill of rights which offers protection for individual liberties. In 1789 George Washington a soldier cum politician became the first president of the United States of America and forged what was to be the modern day America (U.S. History and Historical Documents | USAGov). The united states have a population of about 325.7 million with a GDP of USD18.75 trillion which is an increase of about 2.3%.

The executive is one of the three arms of government enshrined in the constitution. The executive is headed by the president, and its main role is to oversee that all laws passed by the legislative arm of government are enforced and implemented. As the head of the executive all the executive powers are vested on the president, and as such the president ends up being the commander in chief of the United States America army, the president also serves in representing the United States foreign policy (Angelo, 2006, p 46).With the approval of the Senate, the president appoints secretaries of the cabinet, heads of various federal agencies and justices of the Supreme Court. It is also upon him without the approval of the Senate to appoint more than three hundred people to high-level positions in the government. The executive has a four-year term limit only to be extended if the same government is elected for another second term

The legislature is the other arm of the three arms of government in the United States the legislative arm is always referred to as the Congress. The main purpose of the legislative arm of government is to make laws. The Congress is divided into parts the senate and the House of Representatives (Esser, 2006, pg52). The senators are drawn from the states and are two from each state while the representatives are also drawn from the states, but their number varies and is dependent on the population and size of each state. There are 435 representatives whose main purpose is to discuss bills and decide whether or not they should become laws.

The judiciary is another of the three arms of government its main purpose is to interpret the law fairly and impartially. Interpretation of the law by the judiciary includes giving out punishments to those who are guilty of breaking the law. It is also upon the judiciary to put in check the other two arms of government so that they do not have too much power that may lead to infringement of the United States people’s rights and freedoms (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum). Therefore the judiciary mainly checks and balances the other two organs of government (Jackson, and Lilleker, 2013). The judiciary’s main body is the Supreme Court that is host to a nine-judge bench once appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court the judges can serve for a lifetime. The Supreme Court in its quest to ensure justice is upheld has other lower courts to assist it appropriately hence leaving it to handle only delicate matters

Britain’s Political System

The British political system has been one that has involved a political shift of power from the King to the national parliament and one that has been seen as representing the ordinary people. Over the past 1000 years, Britain was never colonized and hence made its political system a little bit different from other nations more specifically the United States. The shift in power from the king to parliament started way back in 1215 when the then king signed a Magna Carta with the barons that saw him share his power and the first representative assembly was in 1295. The British bicameral system of commons and lords came into play in 1341(Darlington n.p). The British bill of rights was developed in 1689 and is still in use today and on it is limited to the powers of the crown, freedom of speech, requirement for elections and ability to petition a monarch. Funny enough the constitution of Britain is unwritten and is mainly based on tradition, custom and common law. Britain has a population of 65.64 million and a GDP of USD2.619 trillion.

Being a constitutional monarch Britain’s official head of state is the queen although her powers are limited by the constitution and her leadership today is considered more of ceremonial, this is mainly because for over 200 years the powers have not been used (Mustad n.p). The executive arm of the government is headed by the prime minister who is chosen as the leader of the party with the majority. It is upon the prime minister to take responsibility for all the policies and decisions by the British government (Jackson, and Lilleker, 2013). The prime minister, therefore, appoints the government officials to head various departments. The prime minister also acts as a liaison with the monarchs

The British parliamentary system is what the legislation is all about, and it is one of the oldest in the world. The legislature is made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The house of lords is made up of two archbishops, 24 bishops all from the Church of England. It is also made up of life peers who are hereditary to the throne. The house of commons is made up of 650 members of parliament who are elected after five years. The main task of parliament is lawmaking and putting to task the prime minister and his or her ministers. The house of commons is headed by a speaker while the house of lords is headed by the Lord Chancellor

The judiciary makes up the final third of the arms of government. It mainly consists of a court system that is led at the top by the Supreme Court. The judges of all these courts may be considered supreme considering there are no laws written down where the citizens can go to for reference hence have to be reliant on the judge’s interpretation of the law. To check and balance itself systems are in place to make sure judgments are fair and unbiased. The judges are appointed by individuals who are experts and are outside the judiciary to avoid any sense of biasness.

Although the political framework of Great Britain and the United States are similar in some way, they also have differences between them. Darlington points out that the British political system is essentially a multi-party democracy, while the American one is hugely based on a two-party democracy. The American system also has two levels of government which are equally powerful and have different designated roles to play; this is what is often referred to as a federal system. For Britain, there is only one legislative body making it a unitary system. To impose necessary checks on the government the prime minister and the ministers are answerable to the parliament and as such the parliament can vote against the government. For the American political system, it is not easy to remove a sitting president, although parliament may vote to impeach one the judiciary too will also have to be involved.

While the United States political system is relatively enthused through the British political system, they both differ in various substantial aspects. Most importantly, Britain exercises a democratic parliamentary government which is headed by a queen and a prime minister, while in the US is a federal constitutional state which has three governmental branches: he executive, the legislative as well as the judicial: which share powers. Despite the differences between the two political systems, they have many features in common, such as the two national parliaments and prominent political parties.

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In the United States, the tenure of the president, the senator or the congressman is renowned specifically as four, six and two years in that order, where the dates for polls are accurately set. In Britain on the other hand, the tenure for the members of the House of Commons, is usually at five years, but customarily the prime minister may call for an election before the end of the five years: tenure. In the US the participants for the presidency: the congress as well as the House of Representatives and other positions which are below the federal level are chosen through the primaries in which the registered Republicans and the Democrats voters take part and elect their candidate from their respective parties in the main elections exercise (Chen, and Bouvain, 2009). In Britain, they don’t have the structure of primaries where a choice of their candidates is usually limited to the certain participants of the related political party.

In the US, the Republicans and the Democrats control the federal and the state elections where the independent candidates only secure a small share of votes. In Britain, the Conservative and the Labour parties are the core political parties, win a lower and abate proportion of the overall number of votes. The emergent portion is taken by the envoys of Liberal Democratic Party as well as the United Kingdom Democratic Party at the nationwide level and through the enjoys of Scottish and Welsh Nationalist Parties at the decentralized levels (Chen, and Bouvain, 2009).


Unlike the US, Britain has no fundamental written constitution which can be categorized as a constitution. The United Kingdom constitution has traditionally been the creed of legislative sovereignty. The statues that are passed through legislature are the Britain’s supreme and the ultimate foundation of law, the Legislature can only change the constitution through passing a new Act of Parliament.


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Esser, F. and D’Angelo, P., 2006. Framing the press and publicity process in US, British, and German general election campaigns: A comparative study of metacoverage. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 11(3), pp.44-66.

Negrine, R. and Papathanassopoulos, S., 1996. The “Americanization” of political communication: a critique. Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 1(2), pp.45-62.

Aarts, K., Blais, A. and Schmitt, H. eds., 2013. Political leaders and democratic elections. OUP Oxford.

McNair, B., 2017. An introduction to political communication. Routledge.

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