This refers to the event in the United Kingdom when all the members of the House of Commons must put themselves up for reelection.

These days a general election must happen at least every five years. The leader of Her Majesty's Government may call a general election at any time, and in practice they often call it at four years if the conditions are favourable. In fact going to five often indicates that the government is not sure of winning and want to hold onto power as long as possible.

Elections in the UK are traditionally held on a Thursday (I don't know why - probably to cause maximum disruption to the working week knowing polititians).

In the lead up to a general election there is all kinds of shenanigans. The local groups for each major party in each of the constituencies must nominate their candidate (very rarely is the sitting candidate not renominated). However almost anyone who has the deposit and can get the signatures of suffficient constituents can stand in the election.

British elections are held on a Thursday for the following historical reasons:
  • Friday was traditionally the day when the working man got paid; the money in his pocket might embue him to look uncharacteristically favourably upon his employer if the election were held then
  • On Sundays all "decent folk" went to church, where they might be over-influenced by the preachings of their vicars
Thus Thursday was chosen as the day furthest from the meddling influence of the Church (those pesky religious types, preaching peace and love and other such socialist doctrines), yet before a pocketful of shillings could swing popular opinion in another direction. As with many things which are now tradition this reasoning could be just so much bullshit.

As to those who are disbarred from standing as a Member of Parliament, it is quite a small list:

  • Undischarged bankrupts
  • Peers of the Realm
  • The mentally ill
Criminals are not disbarred and there have been notable occasions when prisoners in jail (in particular members of the IRA) have been elected to Parliament.

General elections occur in any country with a parliamentary democracy, such as Canada or the UK. Canada, where the Prime Minister is the leader of the governing political party in the House of Commons, must have a general federal election every five years. Canada's most recent federal election was held only three and a half years into the previous mandate, in theory due to the high standing of the governing federal Liberals, who were subsequently re-elected.

To call a Canadian general election, the Prime Minster asks the Governor General, Her Majesty the Queen's representative in Canada, to dissolve Parliament, thus calling the election.

To be eligible to vote in a Canadian general election, one must be a Canadian citizen and over the age of 18 years. A person who is incarcerated for more than two years in a federal institution is not allowed to vote.

Canadian general elections are overseen by Elections Canada, which reports directly to Parliament.

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