Restricted Suffrage | Definition, Pros & Cons

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Restricted Suffrage or Limited Franchise | Definition, Advantages and Disadvantages

Restricted or Limited suffrage means that the right to vote is restricted only to male adults or people who possess certain special qualifications. During the apartheid era in South Africa, for example, the right to vote was granted only to the White (Afrikaner). The black people who constituted the majority of the population were disenfranchised.

What is Franchise?
Franchise is 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 the 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.
Restricted Franchise
Restricted Franchise

In Restricted Suffrage, the right to vote or be voted for is poorly restricted. Only the qualified voters are allowed to vote or stand to be voted for in the system. The criteria for voting and to be voted for depend on the following;

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 and South Africa, only the white had the right to vote and be voted for in a society dominated by racial discrimination.

Resident Qualifications
A number of months or years an individual has lived in a particular area in a particular area will determine his right to vote.

In some countries, the level of education is a determining factor in the exercise of one’s franchise.

Religion is also a deciding factor in some countries.

Property Acquired
In some countries of the world, size of property which an individual has, will qualify him to vote or before death for him in elections.

Poverty can deny citizens the right to vote or be fitted for in a political system.

Advantages of Restricted Franchise / Suffrage

The proponents of restricted franchise usually make the following arguments in support of it.

  1. The right to vote should only be granted to those who can properly exercised the right. It is assumed, for example, that criminals and people of unsound mind are not capable of properly exercising the franchise.
  2. Women should be prevented from voting because they are likely to follow the voting patterns of their husbands or fathers. This argument is frivolous and subjective because no evidence is provided to support it. With increased access to education, women are likely to assume more important role in politics.
  3. The right to vote should only be given to those who understand the meaning and importance of voting.
  4. People who have property have a big stake in society and only short people should be granted the right to vote.
  5. The right to vote should be withheld from the people who have not resided for long time in a particular place as they would not have a good knowledge of the candidates and the most important local political issues in the area.

Disadvantages of Restricted Franchise / Suffrage

Restricted suffrage or limited franchise has been criticized on the following grounds.

  1. It is undemocratic.
  2. Restricted suffrage constitutes a discrimination against women.
  3. There is no empirical evidence to support the claim that property owners have more stake in society than the common people.
  4. It is possible to be educated and still be uninformed. Indeed, evidence has shown that people who generally have only the vaguest notions of what the issues in our elections are and what the party differences on them are. A survey in Britain shows that only about 10% of the electorate vote on the basis of issues. But in Socialist States where there is more political education and a greater democratization of the franchise, the people are better informed about political issues.
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