Primary elections – What it is, definition and concept | 2023

Primary elections are those that are carried out within the political parties themselves to choose the candidates that will represent them in any election.

The so-called primaries are internal elections of the political parties themselves. These are carried out so that a vast majority of people (only affiliates, or not) choose the candidate that will represent them in certain elections.

Both for a mayor’s office, a state or region, or the government of the nation. This form of designation confronts the classic “hand-picked” election, whereby it is the party leadership itself that unilaterally chooses the candidate.

The main advantage that primary elections offer us is the transparency and democratization of the organization. Since, in this way, a very valid and prepared person can run as a candidate, but who does not have the favor of the leadership.

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The legal consecration of these practices depends on each country, not all have the same regulation, so we have to go to the specific case of each one.

In Spain, article 6 of the constitution says that the internal structure and functioning of political parties must be democratic. Here we clearly find a strong legal argument for it to be mandatory, but it is not.

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Despite the fact that one of the big parties has practiced them during its democratic history, the PSOE, its greatest rival, the Popular Party, has not always carried out these practices.

On the other hand, in the United States, primary elections are a true phenomenon. They are the most important after those who definitely elect the president of the country. Throughout the 20th century, each State incorporated its obligation into legislation.

In them, a large number of candidates present themselves and discuss their proposals and lines that the country must follow under their mandate. Subsequently, in each State, there is a vote in which those who have the right to vote choose their candidate. Finally, the winner will compete with the other candidates of other parties in the presidential elections.

On the other hand, in Argentina the use of primaries in the election of candidates is mandatory as of 2009. This is done through Law 26,571: Law for the democratization of political representation, transparency and electoral equity. Its article 14 modifies article 29 of the Organic Law of Political Parties, stating the following: “For the appointment of candidates for national elective positions, the system of open, simultaneous and compulsory primary elections will be applied throughout the territory of the Nation.”

Types of primaries

The primary elections, according to those who choose the candidates, can be of several types:

  • open: In them, any person with the right to vote in national elections can vote for the candidate of the party they want, without having to be affiliated with said formation.
  • closed: Contrary to the previous ones, it is necessary to be affiliated with the party to vote in its internal elections, and also be up to date with the payment of membership fees. Although this limits the vote, it ensures that only those who sympathize with the party vote in the process, limiting strategies to demolish the adversary.
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Advantages of Primary Elections

Primary elections have a number of advantages over other designation systems:

  • The candidate is chosen with increased popular support: Given that the parties want to maximize their votes, who better than the future voters to decide which candidate can be the most popularly supported.
  • Greater internal democracy: Although the parties are oligarchic structures, the primaries when it comes to designating a candidate makes it easier for anyone to present themselves if they have relevant support.
  • Greater transparency: That these processes are open and of public knowledge increases transparency and decreases the chances of corruption, since the future candidate can escape the control of the leadership.

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