Forgive me if I'm naive of the election workings of other countries, I tried to find a good synopsis of vote schedule\triggers around the world, but had no success.

Here in America, our major national voting is on a standard schedule (4 for the biggest office), and others like Germany (~ 4 yrs) and Australia (~ 3 yrs) seem to match. I looked further into parliamentary systems and saw that general elections have also been triggered by prime ministers, but still took place at regular intervals regardless (~ 5 yrs apart in UK, ~ 4 yrs in Denmark and Japan). With votes for prime ministers being more irregular, being based upon situations when votes of no confidence came up.

I am wondering if any system places the power to call elections into the hands of the constituents themselves, perhaps with some modified form of petition (with more numerous voting offices continually staffed allowing people to easily update their position on holding new elections), which then kicks off an election when a percentage is hit. (obviously with a restriction on how regularly elections may be called). But, also ideally, with a significantly longer period between required elections (more like a decade).

I could imagine such a setup might prevent wasteful elections with insignificant support for change, allow for more direct accountability, potentially foster longer stretches where things really get done, and perhaps diminish posturing for the next election cycle.

On the other hand, it might see many of the same issues that bring term limits to the forefront, perhaps favor corruption, oligarchy, and dictatorship, and increase concerns about access (id requirements, distance and time difficulty of voting sites).

But regardless of the merits or consequences, I would like to know if there are examples of a system of this kind (a primarily popularity triggered election system) being utilized in modern times? Or if not, whether there have been movements for such (and does it perhaps have a more concise term!)?

(Recall elections seem the closest I've found, but appears they're typically reserved for special circumstances, rather than fundamental to design)

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    There are plenty of examples for countries where the government decides if and when to do an election. But these are usually not the countries you would consider very democratic.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 11:15
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    It sounds like a very impractical system: What prevents the voters on the losing side of an election from immediately starting a petition to trigger another one?
    – Cyrus
    Commented Jul 22, 2016 at 11:35
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    This used to be the case in the UK, before the fixed-term parliament act Commented Jul 25, 2016 at 7:02
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    Spain. in Spain the government can concede and infinitely loop through elections, being formed a "temoporary government" without limited powers in the meanwhile. That's what happened from late 2015 to early 2017, actually.
    – CptEric
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 9:26
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    @BladorthinTheGrey although, as we've seen recently, the term fixed by the act is far from absolutely fixed.
    – phoog
    Commented May 8, 2017 at 14:53

1 Answer 1


It is fairly common in parliamentary systems for elections to be triggered at the request of the government, usually with some upper limit to prevent a government remaining indefinitely. This was the situation prior to the Fixed Term Parliament Act in the UK.

There are no countries that hold elections in response to petitions. The problem would seem to be setting the level at which an election is called.

Suppose in a country of 10 million voters. has 6 million supporting the Red party and 4 Million supporting the Blue. Then there is no real chance of Blue winning. So in your system you would want to suppress elections. If a petition of 1 million signatures is needed, Blue could still get that. So you set the level at 4.5 million signatures to prevent elections being held every 4 weeks

On the other hand if Blue and Red were split 48:52. This is close and in your system an you would want an election. Nevertheless, Blue would have to get nearly every single supporter out just to get the election called.

Getting the system balanced so that elections are called only when required would be difficult.

There would then be the problem of "mid-term malaise" In a 4-year cycle, the government can take unpopular decisions in the first couple of years and governments usually dip in the polls at mid-term. During the last year, the government becomes more focused on popularity, and its polling picks up. If the government would face election every time its polling drops below 52% it would have to constantly be on an "election footing" and could never take necessary but unpopular decisions, like raising taxes.

A system like the one you describe doesn't exist and would be very hard to operate.

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    Even after the Fixed Term Parliament act, based on a 2/3 vote of MPs, a new election can be called early ( as happened in 2017 ), also if there is a no-confidence vote. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 7:18

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