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In the media I hear politicians say things such as "we have a mandate" and "the opposition has a mandate". What exactly does it mean when a particular party of government has a mandate?

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In a democracy a politician can claim a 'mandate' if their policy has been concretely backed by the electorate - for example, if the policy is in the manifesto that the party stood on, successfully, for election. Another example could be a policy backed by referendum.

From the OED:

the authority to carry out a policy, regarded as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election: he called an election to seek a mandate for his policies

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    Just to be clear - "have a mandate" is a pretty wishy-washy term, used by anyone who feels like it (from a guy who won 80% of the vote, to one who won just under 53%). – user4012 Sep 25 '13 at 16:58
  • "You have no mandate" is a criticism that likewise doesn't seem to carry that much real weight, at least here in the UK. – EleventhDoctor Sep 26 '13 at 8:55
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    In practice, if a party has to say it has a mandate - then it usually doesn't. – LateralFractal Jan 22 '15 at 10:17

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