Who can call a general election? Rules explained as Boris Johnson resigns

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A political party wins a general election with an overall majority when it reaches 326 MPs

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A political party wins a general election by an overall majority when it reaches 326 MPs (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

Here’s what you need to know.

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Who can call new elections?

The UK is divided into 650 constituencies, with each area represented by one MP in Westminster. Every person in the UK has one vote to choose their preferred candidate.

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Under the first-past-the-post system, the candidate who receives the most votes automatically becomes MP for that constituency and wins a seat in the House of Commons.

A political party wins a general election with an overall majority when it reaches 326 MPs. The Queen then invites the leader of the party to form a new government, with the leader becoming the country’s prime minister.

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But if no single political party wins a majority — known as a hanging parliament — a coalition or minority government is formed.

When will the next general election take place?

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There is currently no date for the next federal election.

However, the maximum term for Parliament is five years.

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Due to a snap election, the current Parliament met for the first time on December 17, 2019 and will be automatically dissolved on December 17, 2024.

Election day would therefore likely take place 25 days later, in January 2025.

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Before the last federal election, the elections traditionally took place in May.

A general election could be held earlier if a snap poll were called beforehand, and that is exactly what happened in 2019 when Mr Johnson called a snap general election to increase his parliamentary majority and end months of deadlock over Brexit.

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After the MPs debated in Parliament, it was agreed that the elections would take place. Two thirds of the deputies had to vote in favor of early elections.

If the snap elections had not been called, a general election would have taken place in 2022 instead, since parliament is automatically dissolved every five years.

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Who can call early elections?

The decision to call snap elections normally rests with the prime minister, but until recently this was not the case.

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In 2011, legislation was passed stripping the prime minister of the power to hold snap elections, giving control to the House of Commons instead.

Under these rules, early elections could only be held under certain circumstances, such as when two-thirds of MPs agreed to hold them.

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However, after winning the 2019 election, the Conservatives introduced a new law called the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act 2022, which abolished the previous one and restored the Prime Minister’s power to call elections at a time of their choosing.

Could there be early elections?

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Mr Johnson’s announcement that he is stepping down means there will now be a leadership contest to replace him as Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister.

Tory leadership battles typically last two months and are held in two rounds.

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The next Tory leader is under no obligation to hold a general election, but he could if he wanted to.

For example, when Gordon Brown took over from Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007, he did not call snap elections.

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Labor would not be able to call a general election as they are not currently the party in power.

If a Prime Minister wants a snap election, he must make a ‘motion’ to the Queen to dissolve Parliament, which is the official term for closing Parliament in order to hold an election.

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Once an election was called, Election Day would likely be 25 days later.

MPs lose their status and stand for re-election if they decide to run again.

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