What is a General Election, who can I vote for and how are results decided?

Someone putting a vote in the box
-Credit: (Image: Getty)

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called a General Election for Thursday, July 4, 2024. This will decide what political party will run our country for the next five years.

In a rain-soaked address to the country outside 10 Downing Street, Mr Sunak announced that he had decided to call an election because the government had 'reached two major milestones' with the reduction of inflation and a growing economy.

On July 4 the country will go to the polls again to place their votes and have their say on who runs the country. Below, MyLondon has a breakdown of some of the pressing questions about the upcoming General Election.

READ MORE: London's new constituencies for General Election 2024 and the old ones they replaced

Rishi Sunak outside downing street
Rishi Sunak announced a General Election during a news conference outside 10 Downing Street on May 22, 2024 -Credit:Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

What is a General Election?

A General Election is the chance for all people to have their say on who runs the country, however, you are not voting for a Prime Minister directly, you are voting for your local MP who will represent your constituency in the House of Commons. The candidate with the most votes in your area becomes your MP and then the leader of the party that gets the most MPs in the country will then become the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Five years is the maximum term that Parliament can run for with the last election being held on December 12, 2019 and runs for five years from when Parliament first meets. Tuesday, December 17, 2019 was the first day Parliament met after the last election.

However, 25 working days are then allowed to prepare for the election. So the next election had to be held by January 28, 2025. The Prime Minister can call the election at a time of their choosing, within the five-year period. Mr Sunak became prime minister on 25 October 2022 when he succeeded Liz Truss, who took over from Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister gets permission from the King to dissolve parliament, ending their ability to pass legislation until the new parliament comes together after the election.

Polling station sign
You vote for who you want to be your local MP at polling stations -Credit:Yui Mok/PA Wire

Who can I vote for?

You can vote for your local MP who will be in charge of your local area (constituency). Each person who can legally vote has one vote to cast on who they want to run their constituency.

You can only vote for MPs in your constituency, not the PM directly. A list of candidates who are standing in your area can be found on the Electoral Commission website with the list of candidates being published in full after Friday, June 7 2024.

You can find out who will run for your local MP on the Electoral Commission website here.

Ballot boxes are emptied at Peterborough Arena, as counting begins across the UK for the local government elections. Picture date: Thursday May 5, 2022.
Each voter casts one vote for their local MP and the party with the most MPs becomes Prime Minister -Credit:PA Wire/PA Images

How are the results decided?

Our voting system is called 'first past the post' and this means that the candidate who received the most votes in a constituency becomes MP for that area. The party with the most MPs becomes the Prime Minister of the UK, however, you need to win with a majority of MPs to avoid a hung parliament.

There are 650 seats in parliament meaning you need 326 MPs so that you can pass legislation with your own MPs. If a party gets less than a majority then you have a hung parliament and the biggest party would usually create a coalition with another party so that you can pass legislation together.

Results are televised on TV with all major news outlets reporting on the results as soon as they know meaning you can stay up to date with them as they are announced.

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