Q&A: The UK political system explained
快3彩票When does an election happen?
The UK has no written constitution. Instead the country's electoral system is based on a series of parliamentary acts dating back to the 17th century, when men wore the sort of tights and wigs still donned on ceremonial occasions by some officials of the Houses of Parliament.
快3彩票A general election is when voters nationwide choose lawmakers who will sit in the House of Commons, the lower chamber which initiates and approves legislation.
快3彩票An election must take place, by law, at least every five years. That said, governments can call an election at any time during their term. They could also be forced into an election if they lose a majority of lawmakers in the Commons.
Who calls an election?
The starting gun in a general election is traditionally fired when the prime minister travels to Buckingham Palace to ask the queen, the UK's head of state, to dissolve parliament by royal proclamation.
An election must then take place within weeks. Since 1979, elections have been held between April and June. It is customary for an election to be held on a Thursday. The vote is conducted through the "first past the post" system whereby the candidate in each constituency with the most votes wins the seat.
快3彩票If the queen is the head of state, then how come the UK a democracy?
快3彩票Although the UK is a monarchy, the powers of the reigning head of state have gradually dwindled since King Charles I was beheaded in 1649 following the English Civil War between Royalists and Parliamentarians.
快3彩票Today, the monarch's role is largely ceremonial and mostly restricted to state functions and appearing on stamps and banknotes. But the monarch still retains formal powers and opens parliament each year.
How does parliament function?
快3彩票The job of parliament is to make laws, scrutinize the actions of the government and debate issues of the day. The Commons -- which has green benches -- currently consists of 650 directly elected lawmakers known as Members of Parliament or MPs who each represent a geographical constituency.
The upper house, the Lords -- which has red benches -- is mostly appointed by the government with members serving for life. Its main duty is to vote on legislation passed by the Commons and, when necessary, to send it back for further debate.
快3彩票In certain circumstances the government can force through legislation passed by the Commons but rejected by the Lords.
快3彩票How is an election decided?