POLVOA41/S28 All You Wanted to Know about Elections - But Never Dared to Ask (POMLFCS1) 5–10 ECTS
Implementation is also a part of open university teaching
Period I Period II Period III Period IV
Language of instruction
Type or level of studies
Intermediate studies
Course unit descriptions in the curriculum
Degree Programme in Politics
Political Science
Faculty of Management

Learning outcomes

On completion of the course, students will have:
- gained a critical appreciation of the varying role of elections in contemporary political systems
- gained a familiarity with the political science debate about major electoral trends in representative democracies
- gained an understanding of the basic electoral dynamics, strategies and actors in selected political systems

General description

It is a fair bet that on any day of the year there will be an election somewhere, whether at the local, regional, national or supranational level. Somebody whispered to me that there is a general election coming up in Finland. But what is the point of elections? What do they decide – if anything? Few candidates like them, many voters dislike them and they are expensive at public expense. This course offers a fundamental examination of the multiple aspects of elections and the electoral process, with primary reference to contemporary representative democracies.

Indicative Content

  1. The framework of electoral rules. The impact of the voting system rules on candidate selection and candidate election. Plurality, preferential and mixed member systems
  2. Election campaigns. How much do national party campaigns really affect voters? Has there been a ‘presidentialisation’ of election campaigns? Do candidate campaigns in the constituency really matter?
  3. The mediatisation of elections. Are the media (print/broadcast) decisive electoral actors? Do the media determine the campaign agenda? What about the role of the so-called social media?
  4. The digitalisation of elections. How far does this varying from one country to another? Voting Advice Application. Video blogs. How do individual candidates communicate digitally with prospective voters?
  5. Electoral outcomes. Do elections decide who governs? If not, who does? If elections do not determine who governs, what do they decide? Descriptive representation. Can we distinguish between ‘decisive’ and ‘indecisive’ elections?

Course Schedule

March 5 Why hold elections?

March 7 What should elections seek to achieve?

March 12 Do electoral actors play by the rules?

March 14 Do campaigns matter?

March 19 Have elections become more personalised?

March 21 Are elections decisive?

March 26 Do elections change the direction of policies?

March 28 Concluding Discussion: So what else did you want to know about elections but have’nt dared to ask?

Enrolment for University Studies

Email registration essential by 25 February


David Arter, Teacher responsible


5-Mar-2019 – 28-Mar-2019
Lectures 16 hours
Tue 5-Mar-2019 - 26-Mar-2019 weekly at 12-14, Linna K113
Thu 7-Mar-2019 - 28-Mar-2019 weekly at 14-16, Main building A32


Numeric 1-5.

Evaluation criteria

Compulsory course attendance and course diary

Further information

Compulsory preceding studies: POLPOP02 Introduction to Political Science, or equivalent studies at sending institution (exchange students).

5 ECTS for Bachelor's level completion (POLVOA41)
10 ECTS for Master's level completion (POLVOS28)

Further information from the teacher at the beginning of the course.