1. Political parties
political parties

2. Major elections

The UK general election

• Holding the election

• Holding a general election means electing the House of Commons, members of Parliament (MPs). Since 2011, general elections are held every 5 year. So the PM’s term lasts 5 years.
• The exception is called a snap election like those Theresa May called in May 2017 (instead of May 2020) or one Boris Johnson called in December 2019 due to the Brexit negotiations.

• Becoming PM by winning the general election

• In the 2019 UK general election, the Conservative Party won with 56% of the seats in the House of Commons. With more than 326 MPs, the Tories had a simple majority (majorité absolue) but only needed a simple plurality (majorité relative) to win the election.
=> The leader of the winning party, Boris Johnson, became PM and with a simple majority in the Commons, he could govern without forming a coalition.
Boris Johnson, however, only became PM officially after the Queen appointed him, it’s a formality, a convention but she has to do it as constitutionally the head of government is appointed by the head of state.

• Becoming PM without holding a general election

• Theresa May was PM before Boris Johnson. She resigned as PM and party leader because Parliament repeatedly refused to pass the Brexit deal she had agreed on with the EU. Her resignation became official with her visit to the Queen who accepted it -again a conventional but necessary formality
=> A leadership contest was organised inside the Conservative Party. Boris Johnson was elected leader of the Tory Party and subsequently became PM without any general election.

=> In the UK, the leader of the party in power is the PM, with or without a general election. Although the Queen has no real power, her role is essential when a PM resigns and is replaced by a new one.

The US presidential election

• Holding the election

• The US president is elected every 4 year => 4-year term. He/She can stand for re-election only once => 2 terms maximum.
• Presidential elections are held in November, the winner becomes the president-elect and will officially become president on Inauguration Day in January.
• To become the official party candidate, the contenders have to win their party primaries from January to June, then to win the party nomination in the summer party conventions where they will form the party official presidential tickets (president + vice-president -VP).

• Winning the election

• To become president, a candidate has to win a simple majority of the 538 electors of the electoral college. It’s an indirect election : American voters elect the electors of each state (the popular vote) who form the electoral college and in turn elect the president (electoral vote).
• What is unusual in the 2016 presidential election is that Donald Trump lost the popular vote with 47% of the votes to Hillary Clinton's 48%, but the popular vote is only symbolical and doesn't count because it's an indirect election.

• Forming a government

The president of the USA is both the head of state and the head of government, which means there is no PM in the USA. However, the president can't appoint the members of his/her government alone: he/she nominates them and the Senate confirms them because of the principle of checks and balances.

Notions & vocabulary

MPs: members of Parliament.
PM: prime minister.
a simple majority: majorité absolue.
a general election: une election législative (GE).
a snap election: une élection anticipée.
to nominate: nominer.
to appoint: nommer.
to resign: démissionner.
démissionner: un électeur.
an elector: un grand électeur dans un suffrage indirect.
Brexit: the UK leaving the EU after the 2016 referendum.