Elections are central to democratic politics, providing a direct link between government and citizens. At a general election, voters reach a verdict on the record of the party in office and the relative merits of the policies offered by rival political parties, express a political preference by voting for their favoured candidate and, thereby, choose representatives to act on their behalf in the decision-making process. Elections in a liberal democracy should be competitive, free and fair. A competitive election is one contested by a number of parties, presenting voters with a meaningful choice. It often used to be said that the British Prime Minister enjoyed a significant political advantage because he or she could decide upon the date of the general election. The Ministry of Justice is responsible for the conduct of general elections, as well as local elections in England and Wales. The Electoral Commission also maintains a register of political parties and scrutinises their funding.