Fixed-term election

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A fixed-term election is an election that occurs on a set date, and cannot be changed by a majority of incumbent politicians.

Fixed-term elections are common for most mayors and for directly elected governors and presidents, but less common for prime ministers and parliaments in a parliamentary system of government.


  • Congressional elections in the United States occur every two years on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November; presidential elections take place at alternating congressional elections.
  • Elections to the European Parliament occur every five years in June. The exact date depends on the conventions of each country.
  • Norway and Switzerland are rare cases where the parliament that chooses the cabinet serves an absolutely fixed (invariable) term. The Swiss parliament, unlike the Norwegian one (but like the US Congress), cannot remove the executive government in mid-term via a no-confidence vote.
  • In Canada, the federal government and several provinces have fixed-term elections although the federal law, and that of some provinces, still allows elections to be held before the end of a term if the government loses the confidence of the house or the governor general is advised to dissolve parliament.
  • Germany and the Australian states and territory of New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) have semi-fixed terms in that dissolution at any time in mid-term is allowed only to resolve a serious deadlock. In Germany, in 1982–83 and again in 2005, the incumbent Chancellor manipulated this provision by arranging for MPs from his own side to support a no-confidence motion to obtain an early election. The German Federal Constitutional Court controversially allowed this manoeuvre but warned that it might block a future dissolution of the Bundestag that went against the spirit of the German constitution.
  • The Australian Senate has a semi-fixed term that can be cut short only by a double dissolution under Section 57 of the Australian constitution, used if there is a prolonged deadlock over a Bill supported by the Australian House of Representatives. After a double dissolution election, to restore rotation, newly elected Senators' terms are backdated to the previous 1 July so that they serve less than three or six years. The House of Representatives has a maximum of only three years but no minimum, so elections for the two houses sometimes get out of sync.
  • In the United Kingdom, the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 set elections for Parliament on the first Thursday in May every five years. Elections to the devolved parliaments are held on the first Thursday in May every four years. Like Canada, Germany, and Australia, provision is made for non-confidence votes. Though however in the United Kingdom, a committee must consider the Act in 2020 and whether or not it should be repealed.
  • In Hong Kong, the Chief Executive is elected every five years and the Legislative Council is elected every four years. Under some circumstances the Chief Executive may dissolve the Legislative Council, and under some other circumstances the Chief Executive is obliged to resign. In 2005 it was resolved that if the office of the Chief Executive is left vacant, the successor serves only the remainder of the term of his or her predecessor.

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