The Problem With The Way We Elect A Prime Minister

And How We Can Fix It

Abhinav Dholepat


Boris Johnson Announcing His Candidacy for the Conservative Party Leadership

In Parliamentary Democracies, the people vote for a member of parliament in their riding (Constituency). A government is formed by the single largest party or a party that can form a stable coalition. The Prime minister is the leader of said party or coalition. While the nature of the election and the exact way the people vote (First past the post vs a ranked ballot vs other methods) is a popular debate topic; the leadership race (the process by which a Prime Ministerial candidate is chosen by a party) is generally discussed less often, sometimes only when a major leadership race is underway (for example: Boris Johnson’s recent conservative leadership race).

The Problem With Leadership Elections Now

Living in Canada, a lot of emphasis is placed on the current leadership race for the Conservative Party of Canada. In Canada (similar to other parliamentary democracies such as UK, Australia and Israel) the leadership races for all parties occur in a similar fashion. A party leadership race occurs when the previous leader leaves office for retirement, resigns due to an election loss, or like the current conservative party leader, Andrew Sheer, a scandal and subsequent election loss. This period spent in office is not defined. For example William Lyon Mackenzie King was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada for 29 Years despite election losses in between. On the other hand, Michael Howard became the leader of the conservative party unopposed in 2003 had to resign in 2005 as the result of a badly run general election campaign.

This lack of a definition is antithetical to the definition of a government of the people. By not having defined term for a leader, a scandal or the resignation of a leader can lead to the creation of power vacuums. On the other hand the longer a leader is in power, the Political Party slowly comes under their influence — who can change policy and run the party with forced unity in the legislature (members who oppose the leaderships view are expelled from the party). This causes the leader’s personality to have a higher level of influence than the policy or actions of the political party. This personality is bound to develop in any democratic process. A good example being Trump in…