In general, an incumbent has a political advantage over challengers at elections. Except when the timing of elections is determined by a constitution or by legislation, the incumbent may have the right to determine the date of an election.
For most political offices, the incumbent often has more name recognition due to their previous work in the office. Incumbents also have easier access to campaign finance, as well as government resources (such as the franking privilege) that can be indirectly used to boost the incumbent’s re-election campaign.
The word "incumbent" is derived from the Latin verb incumbere, literally meaning "to lean or lay upon" with the present participle stem incumbent-, "leaning a variant of encumber, while encumber is derived from the root cumber, most appropriately defined: "To occupy obstructively or inconveniently; to block fill up with what hinders freedom of motion or action; to burden, load."
However, there exist scenarios in which the incumbency factor itself leads to the downfall of the incumbent. Popularly known as the anti-incumbency factor, situations of this kind occur when the incumbent has proven himself not worthy of office during his tenure and the challengers demonstrate this to the voters. An anti-incumbency factor can also be responsible for bringing down incumbents who have been in office for many successive terms despite performance indicators, simply because the voters are convinced by the challengers of a need for change. It is also argued that the holders of extensively powerful offices are subject to immense pressure which leaves them politically impotent and unable to command enough public confidence for re-election; such is the case, for example, with the Presidency of France.
The incumbent is the current holder of an office or position, usually in relation to an election. For example, in an election for president, the incumbent is the person holding or acting in the office of president before the election, whether seeking re-election or not. In some situations, there may not be an incumbent at time of an election for that office or position (for example, when a new electoral division is created), in which case the office or position is regarded as vacant or open. In the United States, an election without an incumbent is referred to as an open seat or open contest.
Nick Panagakis, a pollster, coined what he dubbed the incumbent rule in 1989—that any voter who claims to be undecided towards the end of the election will probably end up voting for a challenger.
When newcomers look to fill an open office, voters tend to compare and contrast the candidates' qualifications, positions on political issues, and personal characteristics in a relatively straightforward way. Elections featuring an incumbent, on the other hand, are, as Guy Molyneux puts it, "fundamentally a referendum on the incumbent." Voters will first grapple with the record of the incumbent. Only if they decide to "fire" the incumbent do they begin to evaluate whether each of the challengers is an acceptable alternative.
In the United States, an election (especially for a single-member constituency in a legislature) in which an incumbent is not seeking re-election is often called an open seat; because of the lack of incumbency advantage, these are often amongst the most hotly contested races in any election. Also, an open contest is created when the term of office is limited, as in the case of terms of the U.S. president being restricted to two four-year terms, and the incumbent is prohibited from recontesting.
The incumbent's official title might be that of rector, vicar, "curate-in-charge" or "perpetual curate". The difference between these titles is now largely historical. Originally, an incumbent was either a rector who received all the tithes or a vicar who received only the small tithes (see Impropriation). Curate-in-charge and perpetual curate were later legal terms to meet the case when new parishes were created or chapels of ease established which were not supported by tithes.
The difference between collation and institution resides in the fact that when a patron presents a cleric for institution the bishop may examine him and refuse on good grounds to proceed. A negative decision may be contested in the courts and the Gorham Controversy was a case in point. If the bishop himself has chosen the cleric, this is unnecessary and the legal formalities are different. The bishop admits the incumbent to the spiritualities of the benefice by reading a written instrument bearing his episcopal seal committing the care or "cure" of souls to the priest who kneels before him while this is done and holds the seal.
The form of admission to office has two parts: the future incumbent is first authorised by the bishop to exercise the spiritual responsibilities (institution or collation - see below), the second puts him in possession of the "temporalities" (induction) which he receives at the hands of the archdeacon or his deputy. The two actions are often combined into one ceremony and the canons require the bishop to use his best endeavour to perform the ceremony in the parish church. However, this is not legally essential.
The current incumbent is Alan Smith, 10th Bishop of St Albans, who signs + Alan St Albans. His nomination was announced by Downing Street on 13 January 2009 following the retirement of Christopher Herbert.
The virtual incumbent or quasi-incumbent is the candidate in an election who campaigns as though he or she currently holds the office being contested, though the actual incumbent is not running for re-election. Traditionally, the quasi-incumbent will be the nominee from the party of the sitting office-holder. In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, however, virtual incumbency was also determined less formally, either by the policies of the actual candidates or the state of the polls.
In English ecclesiastical law, the term incumbent refers to the holder of a Church of England parochial charge or benefice. The term "benefice" originally denoted a grant of land for life in return for services. In church law, the duties were spiritual ("spiritualities") and some form of assets to generate revenue (the "temporalities") were permanently linked to the duties to ensure the support of the office holder. Historically, once in possession of the benefice, the holder had lifelong tenure unless he failed to provide the required minimum of spiritual services or committed a moral offence. With the passing of the Pastoral Measure 1968 and subsequent legislation, this no longer applies, and many ancient benefices have been joined together into a single new one.
The future incumbent is either nominated by the ordinary (normally the diocesan bishop) or the patron who owns the advowson. Originally, the parish concerned had no legal voice in the matter, but modern legislation established the need for consultation to take place.
Legally, the incumbent is a corporation sole i.e. "a legal entity vested in an individual and his successors by reason of his office" and any particular occupant had the right to receive the income and make use of its assets to support him in his ministry. Traditionally, these were the tithes, the glebe, fees, the parsonage house plus the church where his responsibilities were shared with the churchwardens, and if he was a rector, he had to finance the maintenance of the chancel from his own resources.
During a vacancy, the temporalities were normally administered by the churchwardens, who could disburse monies to cover the costs of providing spiritual attention and other legally recognized expenses until the new incumbent entered, when they had to pay any balance in hand over to him.
At one time, an incumbent might choose to enjoy the income of the benefice and appoint an assistant curate to discharge all the spiritual duties of the office at a lesser salary. This was a breach of the canons of 1604, but the abuse was only brought under control with the passing in 1838 of the Pluralities Act (1&2 Victoria, ch.106), which required residence unless the diocesan bishop granted a licence for non-residence for reasons specified in the same act and provided severe penalties for non-compliance.
Born in Kano on July 29, 1947, into the royal family of Omoba Adewunmi and Adejoke Dosunmu of Lagos Island, Abiola Dosunmu is the fourth Erelu Kuti of Lagos. She serves as the ceremonial queen mother, and reigns as regent of Lagos upon the death of an incumbent monarch until a substantive successor is chosen by the college of kingmakers. She has reigned for most of her life and holds a position that only princesses from the ruling houses can attain.
A total of 55 incumbent councillors were defending their seats for the same party they had stood for in 2009 (or in one of the five subsequent by-election). 41 were successful in retaining their seats, while 14 were not.