What is the Purpose of Primary Elections?

4 min readDec 5, 2022


Primary elections are the classical way to shortlist potential candidates before they run for the actual office. This way, voters have the upper hand in deciding who would represent them and who would stay aside.

In some democracies, there is no concept of primary elections, and the tickets of the political party are distributed by the leader of that party.

This way, the so-called leader acts as an authoritative figure within the party and cherry-picks the candidates who are dearest to them to represent different constituencies. This initiates the debate on what are the benefits of primary elections. Let’s look at them one by one.

Primary elections empower voters

Primary elections increase voter participation in the decision-making process. There are different alternate systems with which this system can be compared.

For Instance, within the United States, some states use a caucus system where general voters are not allowed to pick candidates in the primary elections.

This gives absolute powers to the party’s leadership and those involved within the caucus, hence disenfranchising the general public.

Similarly, there is yet another method in practice, especially in the democracies of the third world country, where no such concept of primary elections exists.

In these countries, party leaders have much authority to give the representation of the political party to one specific candidate. This empowers the leader to the extent that he/she can bestow the people of his choice to the maximum.

And as one party has one leader, a single person is empowered to nominate candidates from all over the country. This sort of politics encourages political dynasties where career politicians with a lot of money end up having great influence in the elections.

Contrary to this, primary elections help the general voters understand what are the pros and cons of having a specific person in the elections, ultimately giving them more opportunity to participate in voter-centric democracies.

Once candidates win primary elections, they still have to impress voters to gain enough votes in the actual elections. This binds them to study the needs of voters and act accordingly.

Open primaries help win voters’ narrative

States that conduct open primaries can give politicians a nightmare mostly. Any voter from that state can vote for a candidate by crossing the party lines.

This forces politicians to make their policies to lure bipartisan voters, hence incorporating the popular narrative to the maximum in the policies of candidates.

Certainly, this sort of open election discourages politicians from going to either extreme, as most of them try to find a middle ground so that they can gain attention from voters of both parties.

In these types of scenarios, the significance of swing voters increases, who are critical to winning elections.

Increases diversity in politics

In a country like America, where only two parties are significant in elections, the need to incorporate diversity in politics is more than ever.

While it is hard to increase the relevance of third-party candidates due to some of the inherent flaws in the electoral college, primary elections help candidates from diverse backgrounds to thrive in politics.

For Instance, in a crowded political field, many candidates come within a party who are cent percent different from other candidates of the same party, which increases diversity within the party primaries and hence the country.

Seeing this, many aspiring politicians who differ from the core party ideologies can make their way in primaries thinking that they would be able to make it to the national horizon.

This way the need to vote in primary elections increases so that the top candidate can come to represent the party.

Final Thoughts

However, at a time when primary elections have too many benefits, they can be detrimental to democracies as well. For Instance, political parties and interest groups can launch an all-out assault on the candidates who seem to challenge the status quo.

This they can do by encouraging voters to vote for the least favorite candidates of the opposing political party so that their probability of winning elections can be reduced.





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