Franchise may be defined as the political rights of qualified adult (male and female) citizens of a given country, to vote and be voted for, in any political election. Everybody can vote in a system, those that are qualified to vote are referred to as the electorate, and those to be voted for are called candidates. However, the right to vote and be voted for, differs from country to country.
TYPES OF FRANCHISE
There are two main types of franchise and they are:
- Limited or restricted franchise.
- Unlimited franchise or Universal adult suffrage.
Limited or Restricted Franchise
The right to vote or be voted for here is purely restrictive. Only the qualified voters are allowed to vote or stand to be voted for in a political system. The criteria for voting and to be voted for may depend on the following.
- Sex: In some countries, only the male may be allowed to vote or contest elections.
- Race or Colour: Race or colour can determine the right to vote. For example, formerly in South Africa, only the whites had the right to vote and be voted for in a society dominated by racial discrimination.
- Residential qualification: A number of months or years an individual has lived in. a particular area will determine his right to vote.
- Education: In some countries the level of education is a determining factor in the exercise of one’s franchise.
- Religion: Religion is also a deciding factor in some countries.
- Property acquired: In some countries of the world, size of property an individual has, will qualify him to vote or be voted for in elections.
- Poverty: Poverty can deny citizens the right to vote or be voted for in a political system.
Demerits or shortcomings of limited franchise
- Limited political education: Many people due to limited political education are excluded from voting and being voted for in any election.
- The opportunity of voting: is not given to adults that are qualified.
- No popular choice: Those elected are not popularly elected. The reason is because, it is not a reflection of the people’s choice.
- The system is unconstitutional: It is undemocratic, unconstitutional. The political rights of the people are denied them.
- Disenfranchisement: As long as the majority are disenfranchised their interests in politics and on issues of the state are killed.
- The system is unrepresentative: The representatives in the system are only representing the interests of a few and not the majority.
Merits of limited or restricted franchise
- Mature and informed minds: Opportunity of voting is better for the matured and informed minds.
- Property: Contesting election demands enough resources for proper planning, organisation and execution.
- Make use of qualified candidates: A few, that are contesting in this system, are better qualified than those of the universal suffrage.
Unlimited franchise or universal adult suffrage
This type of franchise is the most popular and universally acknowledged. It is constitutional and democratic. All qualified adults (men and women) are allowed to vote and be voted for in this system. However, there are still some qualifications to be met by individuals before voting. The conditions or qualifications are not restrictive as in limited franchise. The following are some of the qualifications or conditions required to vote in this system.
- Age: Age is one of the qualifications necessary for voting. In Nigeria, for example only 18 years and above can vote. In Britain, U.S.A, also 18 years, Germany 20 years, India 21 years.
- Citizenship: Only the legal citizens and those that are citizens through naturalisation are qualified to vote and be voted for in most democratic systems.
- Registration: Citizens can only vote in a system, if they are properly registered, and issued with voters cards.
- Sanity: A voter must have all the senses in an acceptable manner before he or she can vote.
- Bankruptcy: Those declared bankrupt can not vote or be voted for.
- Residence: In some countries, voters must have lived up to a stipulated number of years or months before voting could be done, in that country.
- Alien: Non-citizens are not allowed to vote or to be voted for.
- Criminals: Criminals and those with criminal records may be disqualified from voting in some political systems.
- Under age: In Nigeria, for example those below 18 years cannot vote and be voted for in any election.
- Insanity: Insane person cannot vote in any political election.
Note: The last six points mentioned- Bankruptcy, Residence, Alien, Criminals, Underage, Insanity, etc, are some of the conditions that can disqualify an individual from voting in any political elections.
Merits of Universal Adult Suffrage
- Equality of votes: There is equality of voting. Every qualified adult has one vote. Infact, it is one man, one vote.
- It makes for full participation: Opportunity is created for qualified citizens to exercise their voting rights in the political system.
- Popularly elected representatives: As far as the majority have exercised their franchise, the elected representatives is a reflection of popular choice.
- No discrimination: This method does not allow for discrimination based on race, religion, sex, wealth, etc.
- It is democratic and constitutional: It is more democratic and makes for full participation of the majority of the citizens in the decision making process of the country.
- Legitimacy: This method makes for a stable legitimate government.
Demerits of Universal Adult Suffrage
- Lack of political education: The majority of the voters do not properly understand the manifesto and suitability or otherwise of the candidates before the elections. Lack of political education could work against the system.
- Illiteracy: The majority of the voters (male and female) are illiterates and the possibility of voting blindly cannot be ruled out.
- Electoral malpractices: The involvement of many people in voting is capable of producing electoral malpractices, cheating, violence, etc.
- Intimidation of opponents: It can bring about victimization, intimidation of political opponents in the system.
- No true representation: The elected representatives may not be true representatives of the people because, the voters were influenced and so they voted wrongly.
TYPES OF SUFFRAGE
- Adult suffrage: It involves the voting of adults (men and women), having the necessary qualifications.
- Male suffrage: It is a system where only adult male can vote.
- Tax-payers suffrage: Those who have been paying their taxes constantly can only vote.
- Property suffrage: Those people with enormous assets and wealth are allowed to vote.
CONDITIONS NECESSARY FOR ELIGIBILITY AS CANDIDATES FOR ELECTIONS
Age: In some countries, 25 years of age may be the minimum age for candidates seeking election into House of Representatives and 35 years of age for the presidential e.g. Nigeria.
Residential qualification: The individual must have lived in the country or community for a number of years or months as stipulated in the constitution of the country.
Payment of tax: He must be ready to provide the evidence of payment of tax at least for some years.
No criminal record: He must not be found to have been involved in any criminal case or to have been imprisoned for any criminal offence.
Bankruptcy: The individual with a case of bankruptcy cannot contest.
Educational qualification: Educational qualification is another condition for standing as a candidate for any election. In some countries, e.g. Nigeria, for any elective post e.g. into the parliament, the individual must have a minimum of West African School Certificate.
Citizenship: Candidates for any elective post in many countries must be citizens of that country.
Sanity: The individual must not be insane, this is a pre-requisite for candidacy in any election.
Registered member of a political party: The individual must be a registered member of a political party before he can contest for any elective post.
Nomination papers: All necessary papers for the election must be deposited with the electoral body at the right time and even before the commencement of any election.
Deposit for the election: The citizen is required to pay a specified amount of deposit to the appropriate body before contesting.