In the United States, the Presidential election is determined by individual popular votes of each State, and the candidate needs at least 270 of these electoral votes to be declared the winner (for the sake of this question, let's not worry about if no candidate receives a majority). Each State's electoral votes equals the amount of members in the Congress for that State.

Are there any other countries in the world that hold a national election not decided by a popular vote of the entire country?

  • 5
    What constitutes a national election to you? Depending on your definition most parliamentary systems with plurality winner by voting area could count.
    – origimbo
    Nov 6, 2020 at 14:57
  • A plurality election would still be a national election if all votes across the country are treated equally. Plurality or majority both would count as a national election, to me. Pardon if that's not the technical definition. Also, I know many Prime Ministers are elected by the Parliament, so I would be not so interested in those elections for the sake of this question. Nov 6, 2020 at 15:45
  • 1
    I am most interested in the countries listed as direct election of the head of state or head of government in this list. Nov 6, 2020 at 15:48
  • 1
    @origimbo or even parliamentary systems with single member electorates with any voting system, including preferential voting. In Australia in 1998 the ALP won the two party preferred vote, but the Coalition won the election 80 seats to 67, with only 1 independent.
    – Golden Cuy
    Nov 7, 2020 at 4:57

2 Answers 2


From HowStuffWorks.com

Burma (aka Myanmar): This Asian nation has a complicated system in which three presidential candidates are chosen by the Presidential Electoral College, which consists of members of the lower and upper houses of the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or Assembly of the Union and members of the nation's military. The full assembly then picks a president, and the two who lose become vice-presidents. The real power in the government, though, is held by the state counselor, which is similar to a prime minister.

Burundi: This small east African nation uses an electoral system to elect representatives to its Inama Nkenguzamateka, or Senate. 36 of the body's 43 legislators are indirectly elected by a college of provincial councils that use a three-round voting system. In the first two rounds, a candidate must get a two-thirds majority, while the final round is determined by a simple majority.

Estonia: This tiny former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea chooses its president through an even more complicated system than the U.S. Estonia's Parliament votes on presidential candidates, but if none of them manage to secure two-thirds of the vote after three rounds, an electoral college consisting of both members of Parliament and local council members chooses between the two candidates who got the highest number of votes. If that doesn't result in a clear winner, the decision goes back to the entire Parliament.

India: The south Asian nation picks its president and vice-president indirectly through an electoral college consisting of members of both houses of the Indian Parliament. Under the Indian system, the presidency is a largely ceremonial role akin to a monarch, since the office has no actual executive powers, according to this BBC article. The real authority goes to the nation's Prime Minister.

Madagascar: This island nation off the East African coast relies upon an electoral college of municipal, communal, regional and provincial leaders to pick 42 of the 63 members of its Antenimieran-Doholona, or Senate. The remainder are chosen by the nation's president.

Nepal: In the mountainous Asian nation, 56 of the 59 members of its National Assembly are elected by an electoral college of state and municipal government leaders.

Pakistan: The south Asian nation's president is selected by an electoral college, consisting of members of the Senate, National Assembly and provincial assemblies.

Trinidad and Tobago: The Caribbean island nation's president is picked by an electoral college of selected Senate and House of Representatives members.

Vanuatu: The small south Pacific archipelago's president is elected by an electoral college consisting of Parliament and presidents of the nation's six provinces.

Vatican City: The tiny European state's political leader is the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church. The Pope is elected, usually for life, by the College of Cardinals, an international group of high church leaders who were appointed by a previous Pope.

  • I originally thought this was going to answer my question, but I have now reviewed each country, and none of them are very similar to the US. It seems that no other countries have popular votes of states/territories/regions and then calculate that into something other than a straight popular vote. This may be as close we get though! Nov 11, 2020 at 3:36
  • 1
    It is worth noting that at the time we adopted it no other country in the world had a system for electing their executive via direct popular vote. Likely for logistical reasons, but also Monarchies were much more popular in the day. The EC was a middle ground between letting congress pick the president and a popular vote.
    – JohnFx
    Nov 11, 2020 at 19:59

The German President (the head of state, as opposed to the Chancellor who is the head of Government) gets elected by the Federal Convention, which consists of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of representatives of the State parliaments. Quite convoluted, and not based on a general election immediately beforehand.

As mentioned in the comments, the Chancellor is elected by the members of the Bundestag. Again not a direct election of the head of government.

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