Electoral Processes

   

How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

EUOECD
 
Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
10
Australia
The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is an independent statutory authority that oversees the registration of candidates and parties according to the registration provisions of Part XI of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The AEC is accountable for the conduct of elections to a cross-party parliamentary committee, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM). JSCEM inquiries into and reports on any issues relating to electoral laws and practices and their administration.

There are no significant barriers to registration for any potential candidate or party. A party requires a minimum of 500 members who are on the electoral roll. A candidate for a federal election must be an Australian citizen, without dual citizenship, at least 18 years old and must not be serving a prison sentence of 12 months or more, or be an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent.

There have been no changes to the laws relating to candidacy procedures in the period under review, and the process remains open, transparent and in line with international best practices. However, in October 2017, following revelations that at least seven parliamentarians held citizenship of another country – in most cases b ancestry rather than by birth – the High Court ruled that five parliamentarians were ineligible to serve as members of Australia’s parliament. This has generated considerable political instability, particularly since the citizenship status of many other parliamentarians remains uncertain.
Canada
The right to be a candidate in a federal election is laid down in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, with the associated procedures and responsibilities specified in the Canada Elections Act. There are virtually no restrictions on becoming a candidate for election. Almost all Canadian citizens 18 years old or over can present themselves as candidates for federal elections. Exceptions include members of provincial or territorial legislatures, certain judges, election officers, people who were candidates in a previous election but who did not conform to the expense-reporting rules, and persons imprisoned in a correctional institution. There is no cost to being a candidate in a federal election. A CAD 1,000 deposit is required, but this is reimbursed if the candidate’s official agent submits the electoral campaign return after the election within the prescribed time. Administrative procedures are not onerous (a nomination form is required containing signatures by either 50 or 100 people residing in the constituency in which the candidate wants to run, with the number depending on the electoral district’s population).
Czech Rep.
Electoral registration procedures are fair and transparent. To establish a political party, three citizens aged 18 or over need to submit the new party’s statutes to authorities, backed by 1,000 signatures. The 1991 law on political parties and movements establishes conditions to exclude parties lacking democratically elected organs or that aim to remove the democratic foundations of the state, restrict the freedoms of other parties, or threaten morality and public order. Calls to ban the Communist party have not faded, but no legal steps have been taken and there is no consensus that such measures are necessary. As of November 2017, there were 211 active political parties and political movements. Candidate lists of 31 political parties and movements were registered for the parliamentary elections in October 2017. Since 2012, the president of the Czech Republic is elected by citizens in a direct election. Any citizen with the right to vote who has reached 40 years of age is eligible to stand in the election for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
Citations:
OSCE/ OHDIR (2018): The Czech Republic: Parliamentary Elections, October 20-21, 2017. Election Assessment Mission Final Report. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/czech-republic/375073?download=true).
Denmark
The basic rule for candidacy procedures is laid out in section 30 of the Danish constitution: “Any person who is entitled to vote at general (parliamentary) elections shall be eligible for membership of the Folketinget, unless he has been convicted of an act which in the eyes of the public makes him unworthy to be a member of the Folketinget.” It is the unicameral parliament (Folketinget) itself, which, in the end, decides whether a conviction makes someone unworthy of membership. In practice, political parties play an important role in selecting candidates for elections. It is possible to run in an election in a personal capacity, but extremely difficult to be elected that way. Given the relatively high number of political parties, it is reasonably easy to become a candidate for a party. There is also the possibility of forming a new party. New parties have to collect a number of signatures to be able to run, corresponding to 1/175 of the number of votes cast at the last election.
Citations:
The Constitutional Act of Denmark of June 5, 1953, http://www.eu-oplysningen.dk/upload/application/pdf/0172b719/Constitution%20of%20Denmark.pdf (accessed 15 April 2013).

Henrik Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret I: Institutioner og regulering. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers‟ Forlag, 2005.

Jørgen Grønnegård Christensen og Jørgen Elklit (eds.) Det demokratiske system. 4. udgave. Hans Reitzels Forlag, 2016.
Estonia
The principles of fair and free elections are laid out in the Estonian constitution. Estonia has a proportional representation electoral system, which means that most candidates are registered within party lists. The composition of party lists is a matter of internal procedures that are set by the statute of the political party. Only officially registered political parties can nominate candidate lists in parliamentary elections. In order to be registered, a political party must have at least 500 permanent members, lists of whom are made public online. For each candidate, a deposit equal to the monthly minimum wage must be paid. In addition to political parties, two or more citizens can form an election coalition to participate in municipal elections. Every person who has the right to stand as a candidate may nominate him or herself as an independent candidate. Independent candidates can participate in parliamentary, local and European Parliament elections.

The largely ceremonial Estonian president is elected by the parliament or a special Electoral College composed of members of parliament and representatives of local councils. Candidates must be nominated by at least one-fifth of the serving members of parliament.
Citations:
Estonian National Electoral Committee https://www.valimised.ee/en
Finland
The electoral process in Finland is free and fair, and the country’s constitution grants Finnish citizens the right to participate in national elections and referendums. Registered political parties have the right to nominate candidates, though all voters have the right to influence the nomination process. Electoral associations of at least 100 enfranchised citizens also have the right of nomination. However, the role of these associations has been marginal. Candidates for presidential elections can be nominated by any political party that is represented in parliament at the time of nomination. Candidates may also be nominated by associations of at least 20,000 enfranchised citizens. President Sauli Niinistö, running for reelection in the 2018 elections, has preferred to be nominated by a voters’ association rather than a specific political party and collected thus more than 150,000 supportive signatures.

Presidential candidates must be Finnish citizens by birth, while young people under guardianship and those in active military service cannot stand as candidates in parliamentary elections. The procedure for registering political parties is regulated by the Party Law of 1969. Parties which fail to elect representatives to parliament in two successive elections are removed from the list of registered parties. However, by gathering signatures of 5,000 supporters, a party may be re-registered.
Citations:
Dag Anckar and Carsten Anckar, “Finland”, in Dieter Nohlen and Philip Stöver, eds. Elections in Europe. A Data Handbook, Nomos, 2010.
France
The electoral process is fair at all levels, and controls by ad hoc commissions or the judiciary ensure the smooth running of elections. There are some restrictions to assure that only serious candidates stand in presidential contests. These include a requirement that each potential candidate has to obtain 500 signatures of support from elected persons, such as mayors or senators, from a third of French départements, or counties, to prove his or her political relevance. In addition, candidates must pay a deposit of €15,000. But these restrictions do not limit the number or variety of political backgrounds of candidates. Further restrictions to limit abuses were implemented in 2017. Spending is capped and now includes expenses for the primaries. In most local and national elections, many candidates decide to run as they often can benefit from advantages that help facilitate the variety of candidates, such as the free provision of electoral materials or a partial reimbursement of expenses for candidates who win more than 5% of the vote. Electoral fraud is exceptional but financial cheating is frequent as evidenced by the condemnation of Nicolas Sarkozy for the hidden costs of his 2012 campaign. Some limitations are imposed on anti-constitutional parties. These restrictions, however, are exceptional.
Germany
Germany’s constitution ensures that members of the Bundestag, the country’s lower parliamentary house, are elected in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections for a legislative period of four years (Basic Law, Arts. 38, 39). Parties that defy the constitution can be prohibited by the Federal Constitutional Court.

The Political Parties Act (Parteiengesetz, PPA) sets general criteria for the management of political parties and candidates. While independent candidates have to fulfill a signature gathering prerequisite (modest by international standards) in order to qualify for the ballot, parties must meet strict organizational requirements (PPA Section II). If parties have continuously held at least five seats in the Bundestag or a state parliamentary body (Landtag) during the last legislative period, they are allowed run in the election without any initial approval from the Federal Election Committee (Bundeswahlausschuss, FEC)
Greece
There is no discrimination in registration procedures and no potential candidates or parties are prevented from participating in elections. Exceptions include, for example, active military officers, who cannot run for office. Prison convicts are the only citizens that can face voting restrictions: prisoners serving either indefinite or life sentences are disqualified, otherwise the matter is left to the discretion of the sentencing court.

Before elections, parties and candidates are required to submit a petition to the highest civil and criminal court (Areios Pagos) which monitors formalities such as checking that no other parties have the same name.

The legality or fairness of elections is not challenged by parties nor candidates. Despite the acute political conflict with respect to the causes and management of the crisis, the conduct of electoral procedures in Greece is reliable. Indeed, the two parliamentary elections which took place in Greece in January and September 2015 were smoothly organized and, in budgetary terms, cost much less than previous national elections (the first cost approximately €50 million and the second around €35 million).
Citations:
Regulations for registering a candidate are listed in article 55 of the Constitution, while incompatibilities are listed in articles 56, 57 and 58. For the relevant provisions of the Constitution, translated into English, see http://www.venice.coe.int/VOTA/en/s tart.html [accessed on 11.05.2013].
Ireland
On 6 May 2016, 70 days after the general election, a minority government – the first since 1997 – was formed by the previous taoiseach, Enda Kenny. This Fine Gael-led minority government replaced the two-party coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party that had taken office in March 2011. The 2011 general election had focused on the weakness of the economy after the four economic crises that had enveloped the economy between 2008 and 2011, namely the property market crash, banking collapse, fiscal downturn and financial crisis. In the 2011 general election, a highly dissatisfied electorate voted overwhelmingly against Fianna Fáil and its coalition partners enabling the coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party to take office with the support of 113 of the 166 deputies.

Despite redressing the effects of the four economic crises and the return of high economic growth rates, the ruling coalition government was ousted from office. The outgoing Fine Gael-Labour Party coalition campaigned under the slogan of “let’s keep the recovery going.” However, this slogan failed to understand the experiences of a sizable proportion of the electorate. Many voters felt that they had not benefited from the apparent improvement in the economy. In the 2016 general election, the coalition government lost a combined 57 seats with Fine Gael losing 27 seats and the Labour Party losing 30 seats. Fianna Fáil, the bête noire of the electorate in the previous election, regained 25 seats and Sinn Féin, an Irish republican party, increased its number of seats to 23.

The election also marked the further rise in the number of independents to 23 seats and marginal parties, including the Anti-Austerity Alliance–People Before Profit (6 seats), the Social Democrats (3 seats) and the Greens (2 seats). The 2016 general election was characterized by the high level of fragmentation of the party system with historically low levels of support for the three largest parties. The combined proportion of votes won by Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party dropped to 56% from a long-term average of 84%.

The result of the 2016 general election has been described by leading political analysts, Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh of Trinity College Dublin, as the election that nobody won.

Notwithstanding this, the two leading center-right parties Fine Gael (49 seats) and Fianna Fáil (44 seats) had sufficient seats to form a center-right government. The outgoing taoiseach, Enda Kenny, offered his Fianna Fáil counterpart, Micheal Martin, a full partnership government. However, initial discussions failed. Eventually, over two months after the election, Fianna Fáil agreed to abstain on votes relating to parliamentary confidence and supply until the end of 2018 (with a provision to renew this arrangement). This enabled Kenny to form a Fine Gael minority government with the support of nine independent deputies, three of whom were given senior ministerial positions. The replacement of Kenny by Varadkar as Taoiseach in 2017 did not change this political arrangement. The threat of a general election in December 2017 was averted by the resignation of the Tanaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, on an issue relating to communications during the Garda whistleblower inquiry.

The impact of gender quotas significantly changed candidate selection processes for the 2016 general election. The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 encourages political parties to select at least 30% female candidates with the threshold rising to 40% by 2023. Parties that fail to reach this threshold lose half of their state funding. This reform had an immediate impact on the 2016 general election. In 2011, 15% of selected candidates were women. In 2016, this had increased to 29.6%. In terms of women elected as teachta dálas (members of parliament), the improvement was more modest, but still rose from 15% in 2011 to 22% in 2016.
Citations:
Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh (eds.) How Ireland Voted 2016 The Election that Nobody Won (Palgrave Macmillan published by Springer International, Switzerland, 2016)
Michael Gallagher, “Ireland’s Earthquake Election: Analysis of the Results,’ in Michael Marsh and Michael Gallagher (eds) How Ireland Voted 2011: The Full Story of Ireland’s Earthquake Election. London: Palgrave.
Fiach Kelly. “Kenny’s ceann comhairle move could bring trouble his way,’ The Irish Times, 9 Jan. 2016.

Fiona Buckley, Yvonne Galligan and Claire McGing, ’ Women and the Election: Assessing the Impact of Gender Quotas,’ in Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh (eds.) How Ireland Voted 2016 The Election that Nobody Won (Palgrave Macmillan).
Michael Marsh, David Farrell and Gail McElroy (2017, eds). A Conservative Revolution? Electoral Change in Twenty-First Century Ireland. Oxford University Press.
Luxembourg
The electoral law contains no restrictions on the registration of political parties. Furthermore, there are no restrictions regarding candidates, except the provision that persons deprived of their civic and political rights by a judicial decision are prevented from running. Candidate lists, complete or partial, are proposed for each of the four electoral districts by political parties, associations of candidates or individuals. The lists are supported either by at least 100 voters who are registered in the district, by an elected or departing member of parliament from the district, or by at least three members of the municipal council. The electoral lists may consist of single individuals who are not affiliated with a political party. Typically, single issues are the motivation in these cases. The total number of candidates on a list cannot exceed the number of seats allocated in the district.
Citations:
“Chambre des députés.” Le portal de l’actualité gouvermentale, 10 Sept. 2014, www.gouvernement.lu/1719091/chambre-deputes. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Elections.” Le guide administratif de l’Etat luxembourgeois, www.guichet.public.lu/citoyens/fr/citoyennete/elections/index.html. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Les institutions du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Le Service information et presse du gouvernement luxembourgeois, 2005. www.gouvernement.lu/1824230/A_propos_Institutions_politiques-FR.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Mémorial A n° 166 de 2009.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 21 July 2009, http://data.legilux.public.lu/file/eli-etat-leg-memorial-2009-166-fr-pdf.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Système électoral.” Le portal de l’actualité gouvermentale, 10 Sept. 2014, www.gouvernement.lu/1719337/systeme-electoral. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

Élections législatives, européennes et communales. Ministère d’État, 2016. www.data.legilux.public.lu/file/eli-etat-leg-recueil-elections-20161221-fr-pdf.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
New Zealand
The registration procedure for political parties and individual candidates in New Zealand, as specified in the 1993 Electoral Act, is fair and transparent. Following the Electoral (Administration) Amendment Act 2010, the tasks of the Electoral Commission and of the Chief Electoral Office have been combined within the Electoral Commission, which started work in October 2010.

The Electoral Act specifies that registered political parties follow democratic procedures when selecting parliamentary candidates. While the two major parties adopt a mixture of delegate and committee systems when making their selections, the Greens give their membership the final say. The other small parties by contrast tend to be more centralized both in the way they select constituency candidates and in the compilation of their party lists. Since the Act was passed, there has been only one formal challenge alleging that proper procedures had not been followed. The resulting judicial challenge was unsuccessful.
Citations:
Annual Report of the Electoral Commission for the year ended 30 June 2016 (Wellington: Electoral Commission 2016).
Electoral Act 1993 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2012).
Changes to Electoral Act introduced. 22 September 2016 (https://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/changes-electoral-act-introduced) (accessed 3 December, 2016).
Electoral (Administration) Amendment Act 2010 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2010).
Edwards, Bryce, 2016. Political Roundup: What’s wrong with local government? New Zealand Herald. 27 September 2016 (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=11717848).
Norway
Procedures for registering candidates and political parties are considered to be fair, and have not been questioned or debated publicly in recent years. No candidate or party faces discrimination. The only requirement for starting a party is that at least 5,000 signatures from Norwegian citizens who have the right to vote must be collected. Parties nominate candidates.
Poland
Regulations governing the electoral process were consolidated within the election code in January 2011. Provisions regarding the registration of parties and candidates are liberal and ensure a fair registration procedure. Every Polish citizen has the right to stand for election. Senators need to be at least 30 years old, while presidential candidates must be at least 35. Candidates for the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish parliament) can be proposed by organizations such as parties or by voters themselves. A group of 1,000 individual citizens or more can form a so-called electoral committee by signing the proper documentation and submitting it to the National Electoral Commission. Parties representing ethnic minorities receive favorable treatment, as they are allowed to collect fewer signatures than required of “normal” parties in order to take part in elections. The election code also introduced a gender quota, mandating that men and women each must account for at least 35% of Sejm candidate lists. There were no signs of discrimination against specific candidates and parties in any of the last elections held – the presidential elections in May 2015 and the parliamentary elections in October 2015. Under the PiS government, electoral law was not an issue until the end of 2018 when the PiS pushed for changes in the rules for the local elections, and for the selection of the National Election Commission (Państwowa Komisja Wyborzca, PKW) and its executive body, the National Election Office (Krajowe Biuro Wyborcze, KBW).
Citations:
Markowski, R. (2016): The Polish Parliamentary Election of 2015: A Free and Fair Election That Results in Unfair Consequences, in: West European Politics 39(6), 1311-1322.

OSCE/ODIHR (2016): Election Assessment Mission Final Report Poland: Parliamentary Elections 25 October 2015, Warsaw, 8-9 (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/217961?download=true).

Marcinkiewicz, K., M. Stegmaier (2018): Democratic Elections in Poland Face a New Threat, in: Washington Post, January 11, 2017 (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/01/11/free-elections-in-poland-face-new-threats-from-a-new-electoral-reform-bill/?utm_term=.6589640ce394).

N.N. (2018): Poland’s Ruling Plans Legal Changes Ahead of 2018 Local Elections, in: Reuters, November 10 (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-poland-politics-election/polands-ruling-party-plans-legal-changes-ahead-of-2018-local-elections-idUSKBN1DA2EX?il=0).
Slovakia
The procedures for registering candidates and parties in Slovakia are fair and transparent. Candidates for presidency must be nominated by at least 15 members of the unicameral National Council or document support from at least 15,000 voters. While independent candidates cannot run for office, candidate lists for parliamentary elections can be nominated by registered political parties, movements and coalitions. For registration, the nominating organizations must obtain 10,000 signatures and make a deposit of €17,000, which is returned only to candidate lists that receive at least 2% of the vote.

While the procedures for registering candidates and parties remained unchanged in the period under review, other elements of election law have undergone change. In February 2017, parliament changed the rules for regional elections. Starting in 2022, regional elections will be held together with municipal elections. Consequently, the terms of regional members of parliament and governors elected in early November 2017 were extended from four to five years. More controversial was the abolition of the second voting round in the elections of regional governors, which was implemented in the 2017 elections. At least in the 2017 elections, however, these fears have turned out be unjustified, as Marián Kotleba, the extremist governor of the Banská Bystrica region, was not re-elected.
Citations:
Minarechová, R. (2017): Election changes may help extremists, in: Slovak Spectator, December 20, 201620.12.2016 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20411692/election-changes-may-help-extremists.html).
Slovenia
In Slovenia, the legal provisions for registering candidates and parties provide for a fair registration procedure for both national (parliamentary, presidential) and local (mayoral, council) elections. Registration requirements are straightforward and not very demanding. Establishing a party requires only 200 signatures. The registration requirements for national parliamentary elections favor parties represented in parliament. Unlike non-parliamentary parties or non-party lists, they are not required to collect voter signatures. Candidates for the presidency must document support from at least ten members of parliament or 5,000 voters. When they are backed by at least one political party, three members of parliament or 3,000 signatures are sufficient. At local elections, a candidate for mayor and candidate or list of candidates for a municipal council can be proposed either by political parties or by a specified number of voters, which is dependent on the size of a municipality. Candidate lists both for national parliamentary elections and municipal assembly elections must respect a gender quota. On each list of candidates, neither gender should be represented by less than 40% of the total number of candidates on the list. Nine candidates ran for office in the presidential elections in October and November 2017.
Citations:
OSCE/ OHDIR (2017): Republic of Slovenia: Presidential Election, 22 October 2017. Needs Assessment Mission Report. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/slovenia/346866?download=true).
Sweden
During the period under review, the electoral process was free and fair. Parties or candidates were not treated differently on any grounds.

Candidates are selected and ranked within the party organizations with essentially no public rules guiding the process. Political representation in Sweden is overwhelmingly collective representation. Since 1998, there has been the opportunity to indicate preferences not just for a particular party but also for specific candidates, but voters tend to vote for parties rather than for individual candidates. This culture of representation gives parties a central role in candidate selection. Against that backdrop it is perhaps not very surprising that indicating preferences for specific candidates has, with a few exceptions, not had a major impact on outcomes.
Citations:
Bengtsson, Åsa et al. (2014), The Nordic Voter. Myths of Exceptionalism (Colchester: ECPR Press).

Karlsson, D. and M. Gilljam (2014), Svenska politiker. Om de folkvalda i riksdag, landsting och kommun (Stockholm: Santérus).

Oscarsson, H. and S. Holmberg (2014), Svenska väljare (Stockholm: Wolters Kluwer).
Switzerland
There are no doubts that Switzerland’s formal procedures correspond closely to the democratic ideal. However, some challenges have emerged due to the country’s small size, its strong dependence on other countries, the opportunities to free ride in the international and particularly European communities, and the extremely large share of immigrant workers.

With regard to active and passive voting rights, there is the obvious challenge that in 2016 25% of the total population and 31% of the country’s civilian workforce held foreign citizenship, a much higher share than in other countries. Furthermore, the rules governing naturalization are rather strict, making the acquisition of Swiss citizenship costly, time-consuming and even insulting for applicants. Thus, the strict rules governing naturalization and the sheer size of the foreign population transform the “quantitative” problem of every modern democracy (that some adult inhabitants face discrimination on grounds of their nationality) into a qualitative problem: If more than a quarter of the social product is produced by foreigners, and if almost a quarter of the voting-age population is not entitled to vote or to run for public office, the legitimacy of parliament and government to rule on behalf of the total population (which is hugely more than the citizen base) is arguably called into question. Others argue, however, that while the economy is globalized, democracy functions only on the basis of a national society that identifies itself in terms of citizenship. This includes the (constitutional) right to define who is eligible for citizenship. According to this view, migration certainly creates new problems, in that the “demos” and the resident population do not coincide.

To date, Switzerland has dealt with these problems somewhat slowly and hesitantly. For example, some notable liberalizing changes were adopted with regard to naturalization (e.g., costs have been substantially reduced) and with regard to passive voting rights in some cantons and local communities
USA
Procedures for registering parties and candidates are fair and nondiscriminatory. State governments determine the requirements for ballot access, so the details vary across states. All states, however, require a party or candidate to collect signatures on a petition and to file the petition by a specified deadline. Parties and candidates who meet the requirements are included on the ballots. In addition to the dominant Democratic and Republican parties, several minor parties or independent candidates are often included. In some cases, the ballot-access requirements may be a burden for smaller parties or independent candidates. But the single-member-district, plurality-election system precludes victory by such participants anyway. In general, ballot access has not been controversial, and no major problems regarding ballot access have been reported in recent elections. In the 2016 presidential election, a Green party candidate who received about 1% of the popular vote was on the ballot in regions accounting for 480 out of the total available 538 electoral votes. Libertarian party candidate Gary Johnson was on the ballot in all 50 states.
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Austria
The Austrian constitution and the laws based on the constitution are consonant with the framework of liberal democracy. They provide the conditions for fair, competitive, and free elections. Parties based on the ideology of National Socialism are excluded from participation, but there has never been an attempt to exclude other parties considered to be outside the accepted mainstream of democracy (such as the Communist Party). Persons younger than 16 years of age cannot vote or stand for office.

There is ongoing debate on how best to handle the system of proportional representation that is enshrined in the Austrian constitution. The system contains a 4% electoral threshold; parties must receive at least this share of the national vote in order to gain a parliament seat, a policy ostensibly designed to minimize the deconcentrating tendency of proportional representation systems. Nevertheless, critics of the system argue that proportional representation as implemented in Austria prevents clear majorities, thus making it difficult to obtain a direct mandate to govern from the voters. Coalitions are a necessity. A system based on single-member constituencies would increase the possibility that single-party governments could be elected, but at the cost of limiting smaller parties’ chances for survival. Thus, though the current system is criticized for undermining the efficiency of government, it is considered to be more democratic than the alternatives.

The elections of a new federal president in 2016 has inspired a heated debate about technicalities of the electoral process. The results of the second round of the presidential elections was declared illegal by the Constitutional Court due to some irregularities and then postponed again because some absentee ballots were not properly sealed. But this did not imply that the procedure was viewed as a failure. On the contrary, this can be seen as proof that the constitutional checks and balances are working.
Bulgaria
Elections in Bulgaria are regulated by the electoral code of 2014. Registration of parties and candidates is broadly fair and transparent. The registration of candidates requires a prospective candidate to be registered as a member of a party, coalition of parties or nominating committee with the Central Electoral Commission. The individual must then be registered as a candidate by the respective party or committee. For the registration of parties or nominating committees, a bank deposit and a certain number of citizen signatures are required. While these requirements are reasonable, what is more controversial are the personal requirements for candidates, partly enshrined in the Bulgarian constitution. Under the present legislation, people holding citizenship of a country outside the European Union are not allowed to run in elections. Citizens of other EU member countries can only run in elections for municipal councils and the European Parliament. While this provision has not yet played any role in practice, it may violate the European Convention on Human Rights. Another often-criticized constitutional clause prohibits the formation of “ethnically based” parties, which has been used in the past to try to stop a party registering for election, although this attempt was ultimately struck down by the courts.

In the case of the presidential elections in November 2016, there were 24 candidates, three of whom were refused registration by the central electoral commission. The three refusals were based on failure by the nominating committees to demonstrate the required number of citizens’ signatures supporting the nomination. None of the refused candidates were perceived as viable, so their exclusion did not have a meaningful effect. Having 21 running candidates for president in a country of seven million indicates relatively liberal candidate registration.

In the case of the early parliamentary elections in March 2017, there were 18 parties and nine coalitions registered. Six parties and coalitions were denied registration for the elections. In one case, the reason was a change in the name of the party, the party appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court, won the appeal and was registered. In the other five cases, the reason for refusal of registration was the insufficient number of citizen signatures secured by the respective party or coalition. In all cases, the refusals were upheld by the court.
Citations:
OSCE/ OHDIR (2016): Republic of Bulgaria: Presidential Election 2016. Needs Assessment Mission Report. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/office-for-democratic-institutions-and-human-rights/elections/bulgaria/248771?download=true).

OSCE/ OHDIR (2017): Republic of Bulgaria: Early Parliamentary Elections, 17 March 2017. Limited Election Observation Mission, Final Report Warsaw. (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/bulgaria/327171?download=true).
Chile
In general terms, candidates and parties are not discriminated against in the registration process. Electoral procedures are very reliable and there is no ideological bias.

Beginning with the 2013 presidential election, a non-compulsory primary-election system (primarias) for the designation of presidential candidates was established. The 2013 presidential and congressional elections showed a slight improvement due to the fact that one of the two main coalitions, the former Concertación – now renamed Nueva Mayoría – broadened its ideological spectrum in order to integrate several small leftist parties (Partido Comunista; Izquierda Ciudadana; Movimiento Amplio Social). Under the second government of Michelle Bachelet, these political forces were also assigned ministerial responsibility. This can be regarded as an improvement within Chilean democracy in general.

Also, the Electoral Service (Servicio Electoral de Chile, SERVEL) has been assigned a wider range of oversight mechanisms regarding registration procedures. It has also been given more autonomy from other state organs, with the aim of ensuring more efficient monitoring of the registration process and of political-party and campaign financing. To a certain degree, this shift can be seen as a response to the electoral fraud that occurred in 2013, when two independent candidates forged signatures in order to meet the candidate-registration threshold. Both were found guilty in 2014.

In April 2015, a new electoral law (Law No. 20,840) was enacted that replaced the 25-year-old binominal electoral system for parliamentary elections with a system of “proportional and inclusive representation.” The allocation of seats continues to based on the D’Hondt method, but now in multimember districts of smaller magnitude (3 to 8 deputies and 2 to 5 senators). Further changes include the following:

- An increase in the overall number of deputies (from 120 to 155) and senators (from 38 to 50);
- A reduction in the number of districts and constituencies for the election of the Chamber of Deputies (from 60 to 28);
- A reduction in the number of districts and constituencies for the election of the Senate (from 19 to 15);
- The introduction of a gender quota applied to party lists: neither males nor females may exceed 60% of the total number of candidates presented by a party (up to 2029);
- An increase in the amount of state reimbursement for each vote received by female candidates and the introduction of a gender bonus of about $20,000 for each woman elected as deputy or senator (up to 2029);
- A lowering of the requirements for creating parties. The number of signatures parties must collect decreased from 0.5% of the voters in the last election for the Chamber of Deputies in 8 of the 15 regions or in 3 geographically contiguous regions to only 0.25%, but limited to the region in which they are registered;
- The introduction of the M+1 rule: unlike the binominal system, each party list must now include as many candidates as seats are to be distributed, plus one. As before, the lists are open.
- Electoral pacts between parties are only allowed at the national level.
In December 2016, another electoral law (Law No. 20,990) was enacted which introduced the direct popular election of the executive branch of the twelve regions in which the country is administratively divided. The former “Intendentes” which were designated by the central government will be replaced by elected “Gobernadores Regionales” in order the foster decentralization and citizen participation. The office term will be four years and only one consecutive reelection possible. To be elected, a candidate requires at least 40% of the valid votes in the first round or more than 50% in the runoff (second round between the two candidates with the most votes).
The new electoral system for congress was first applied in the legislative elections of November 2017 (beyond the review period) together with the presidential election. The first direct election of regional governors will take place in 2020.
Citations:
http://www.gob.cl/2015/04/27/fin-al-binominal-conoce-el-nuevo-sistema-electoral/

http://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/nuevo-sistema-electoral-para-elecciones-parlamentarias-%28fin-del-sistema-binominal%29

http://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/nuevo-sistema-electoral-para-elecciones-parlamentarias-%28fin-del-sistema-binominal%29

Ricardo Gamboa/Mauricio Morales 2016: Country Note. Chile’s 2015 Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of the Game, Latin American Politics and Society, 11 October 2016, 126-144. DOI: 10.1111/laps.12005, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/laps.12005/Abstract

http://www.gob.cl/consiste-la-eleccion-directa-gobernadores-regionales-aprobada-este-miercoles/

https://www.leychile.cl/Navegar?idNorma=1098725

https://www.efe.com/efe/america/politica/bachelet-promulga-una-ley-que-permitira-la-eleccion-directa-de-gobernadores-regionales/20000035-3136356#
Croatia
Candidacy procedures are largely fair and do not suffer from major procedural restrictions. However, participation in parliamentary elections is easier for registered parties than for independent lists. Whereas the latter must collect a certain number of signatures, political parties must do so only for the presidential elections, as well as in local elections for prefects and mayors. A legal amendment which would have introduced uniform requirements was repealed by the Constitutional Court in a controversial decision shortly before the parliamentary elections in November 2015. One peculiarity of Croatian electoral law is that candidate lists can be headed by people who are not actually candidates.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2016): Election Assessment Mission Final Report Republic of Croatia: Parliamentary Elections 8 November 2015, Warsaw, 8-9 (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/croatia/223631?download=true).
Cyprus
Requirements for the registration of candidates are minimal, relating to citizenship, age, mental soundness and criminal record. Candidates for the presidency of the republic must belong to the Greek community. Citizens of other EU states have voting rights and are eligible to run for office in local elections. Since 2014, voting rights and the eligibility to run for office in European parliamentary elections are conditionally extended to Turkish Cypriots residing in areas not under the government’s effective control. Citizens of non-EU countries have no voting rights. Simultaneously holding a public office and/or a post in the public service and/or a ministerial portfolio and/or an elected office is constitutionally prohibited.

The eligibility age to run for president is 35 years-old, and 25 for parliament. The eligibility age for municipal and community councils, and the European Parliament was reduced from 25 to 21 years-old (2013). Candidate registration procedures are clearly defined, reasonable and open to media and public review. Candidacies can be proposed and supported by a small number of registered voters: two for local elections, four for parliamentary elections, and, since 2016, 100 for presidential elections.

A financial deposit is also required from candidates running for office, ranging from €85 (community elections) to €2,000 for presidential elections. This sum is returned to candidates who meet vote thresholds specific to each election type.
Citations:
1. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, http://www.presidency.gov.cy/presidency/presidency.nsf/all/1003AEDD83EED9C7C225756F0023C6AD/$file/CY_Constitution.pdf
2. The Law on the Election of the members of the House of Representatives, L.72/1979, in Greek, http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1979_1_72/full.html
3. The Municipalities Law, 11/1985, unofficial English translation available at, http://www.ucm.org.cy/DocumentStrea m.aspx?ObjectID=966
4. The Communities Law, 86(I)/1999, available in Greek at, http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1999_1_86/full.html
5. The Law on the Election of Members of the European Parliament 10(I)/2004, available in Greek at http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2004_1_10/full.html
Iceland
Most Icelandic citizens aged 18 years or over can run for parliament. Exceptions include Supreme Court justices and adult individuals convicted of a serious felony or sentenced to four months or more in custody. For local elections, with the exception of the minimum age limit, these restrictions do not apply. Citizens of other Nordic countries with three years’ consecutive residence in Iceland can stand as candidates in local elections. The registration process for candidates and parties is transparent and fair.

The minimum 5% share of the national vote required to get leveling seats (jöfnunarþingsæti) in parliament was set in 2000. In addition to this 5% threshold, parties can win a seat by securing a majority of the vote within a constituency seat. This minimum threshold is the same as in Germany and higher than in the other Nordic countries (Sweden and Norway 4%, Denmark 2%).

A consequence of this system is that many votes fail to directly influence the results. As many as 12% of the votes in 2013 won no parliamentary representation, as they went to candidates or parties that failed to win a constituency seat or polled less than 5% of the national vote. This is the largest unrepresented vote share in Iceland’s modern history. This result was due mainly to a record 15 parties running for parliament in 2013.

In the October 2016 parliamentary election, the Independence Party won 33% of the seats in parliament with 29% of the vote, enabling the party to form a majority government based on 47% of the vote. Parties that did not reach the 5% threshold received a total of 5.7% of the vote in 2016.

In the October 2017 parliamentary election, the Independence Party won 25% of the seats in parliament with 25% of the vote, but the Progressive Party won 13% of the seats with 11% of the votes. At the same time, Samfylkingin (Social Democrats) won 11% of the seats with 12% of the votes. Parties that did not reach the 5% threshold received a total of 1.6% of the vote in 2017. Consequently, the system did not significantly distort the outcome in 2017 as was the case in 2013 and the effect of the voting system was smaller.
Citations:
Bengtsson Å, Hansen K M, Harðarson Ó T, Narud H M & Oscarsson H (2014): The Nordic Voter. Myths of exceptionalism. Essex. ECPR Press.
Lög um kosningar til Alþingis nr. 24/2000 (Law on parliamentary elections nr. 24/2000).
Lög um breytingar á lögum um kosningum til Alþingis nr. 16/2009 (Law on changes in law on parliamentary elections nr. 24/2000).
Lög um kosningar til sveitarstjórna nr. 5/1998 (Law on local elections nr. 5/1998).
Italy
The registration procedure is fair and no unreasonable exclusion exists. The number of signatures requested for registration of parties creates some obstacles to new and small parties, but similar small obstacles are accepted in many democracies to avoid non-serious candidacies. The validity of the process is controlled by independent judicial offices. From time to time there have been disputes over the validity of some of the signatures collected by the largest parties. The procedures for the choice of candidates vary from party to party, but there is an increasing use of primaries to make them more open and democratic.

The old electoral system was based on closed electoral lists in large districts. Consequently, voters had no option of expressing a preference for a single candidate, but had to accept the whole party ticket. The new electoral law, approved in November 2017, envisages a mixed electoral system for both chamber and senate. One-third of the members of parliament will be elected in single-member districts; the other two-thirds will be elected through a proportional system in small multi-member districts.
Japan
Japan has a fair and open election system with transparent conditions for the registration of candidates. Candidates running in local electoral districts for the Lower House or the Upper House have to pay a deposit of JPY 3 million (about €22,400, plus an additional deposit of JPY 6 million if also running on the party list). This deposit is returned if the candidate receives at least one-tenth of the valid votes cast in the electoral district. The deposit is meant to deter candidatures that are not serious, but in effect presents a hurdle for independent candidates. The minimum age for candidates is 25 for the Lower House and 30 for the Upper House.
Citations:
Leo Lin, The High Cost of Running for Office, Tokyo Review, 28 August 2017, http://www.tokyoreview.net/2017/08/election-deposits-japan/
Latvia
Candidacy procedures provide everyone with an equal opportunity to be an election candidate. Some restrictions, related to Latvia’s Soviet past, are in place.

While political parties are the only organizations with the right to submit candidate lists for parliamentary elections, multiparty electoral coalitions have not been abolished and are indeed the rule. At the local government level, this party-list restriction applies to all large municipalities. However, candidates in small municipalities (less than 5,000 residents) have the right to form voters’ associations and submit nonpartisan lists. The restriction to partisan lists has been deemed limiting by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Registration as a political party is open to any group with at least 200 founding members. In 2016, a new threshold was set, which requires political parties to have at least 500 members before standing in national parliamentary elections.

The Central Election Commission (Centrālā Vēlēšanu Komisija, CVK) oversees the organization of elections. International observers have consistently recognized Latvia’s elections as free and fair.
Citations:
1. The Saeima Election Law, Article 5 and 6, Available at: http://web.cvk.lv/pub/public/28126. html, Last assessed: 17.05.2013

2. Report on Parliamentary Elections, 2011, p. 1, Available at: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections /Latvia/86363, Last assessed: 17.05.2013

3. Valts Kalniņš (2011), Assessment of National Integrity System, p.99, Published by DELNA, Available at: http://www.transparency.org/whatwed o/pub/national_integrity_system_ass essment_latvia, Last assessed: 21.05.2013.

4. Report on Parliamentary Elections 2011, p.1, Available at: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections /Latvia/86363, Last assessed: 17.05.2013
Lithuania
Lithuania’s regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections. In general, neither individual candidates nor parties are discriminated against. Minimal requirements for establishing a political party and registering candidacies produced a large number of candidates, and a broad choice of political alternatives in the 2012 and 2016 parliamentary elections. Independent candidates as well as party-affiliated candidates can stand for election. However, a few provisions should be noted. The provision that “any citizen … who is not bound by an oath or pledge to a foreign state… may be elected” does not conform to the evolving jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on matters of dual citizenship. The court also ruled that a lifetime ban on standing for elected office on impeached, former president Rolandas Paksas was disproportionate. However, this restriction is yet to be lifted, as a 2015 vote on his electoral eligibility was unsuccessful. Therefore, Paksas was not able to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections and subsequently resigned as the leader of the Party Order and Justice. In response to an inquiry initiated by a group of parliamentarians, the Constitutional Court ruled that the territorial boundaries of single-candidate constituencies should be redrawn to reduce population differences that had developed over time due to demographic changes and migration from the provinces to the capital. The decision of the Constitutional Court was implemented in December 2015, when the new constituencies were announced. A major change related to the establishment of two additional constituencies in Vilnius, where the number of voters has been constantly increasing.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true
ECHR judgment of Jan. 6 of 2011 on Case of Paksas v. Lithuania, http://hudoc.echr.coe.int/sites/eng/pages/search.aspx?i=001-102617#“itemid”:[“001-102617”].
Malta
Elections are regulated by the constitution and the General Elections Act. The system used in Malta is the Single Transferable Vote (STV). Candidates can stand either as independents or as members of a political party. Parties can field as many candidates as they wish, and candidates may choose to stand in two electoral districts. If elected in both districts, a candidate will cede their second seat. The vacated seat is then assigned to the candidate with the most second preference votes on the ballot. The system allows for a diversity of candidates and restrictions are minimal, though legal restrictions based on residency, certain official functions and court judgments exist. There have been persistent calls for electoral system reform on the basis of several issues. These include the lack of an official minimum threshold, absence of national quotas for parties to gain access to parliament, candidates are listed alphabetically, lack of correctives to encourage the election of female candidates and multiple candidates from the same party can be elected in the same district, the latter placing too much power in the hands of canvassers. The present electoral law also does not allow a formal coalition of parties to contest the election. Recent provisions to ensure proportionality only increase bipartisanship; ballots only include colored logos for the two main parties. There is also no state funding for parties, though the two main parties receive €100,000 annually, which may be used for campaigning. Meetings of the electoral commission are closed and there is an absence of representatives from non-parliamentary parties.
Citations:
Malta Today 05/07/17 Now is the time for Electoral reform
OSCE/ODIHR (2017) Election Assessment Mission Final Report - Malta
Portugal
Individuals and political parties enjoy largely equal opportunities, both de jure and de facto, to register for and run in elections. Parties espousing racist, fascist or regionalist values are all constitutionally prohibited, as are parties whose names are directly related to specific religions.

While individual citizens can run in municipal elections, they are barred from contesting legislative elections, where only registered political parties can present candidates. The requirements for registering a party are relatively onerous. To be formed, parties must acquire the legally verified signatures of 7,500 voters. Moreover, they must ensure that their internal party rules and statutes conform to the political-party law, which requires that parties’ internal functioning must conform to “the principles of democratic organization and management” (Article 5 of the Political Party Law – Lei dos Partidos Políticos), and defines several internal bodies that parties must have (Articles 24-27).

However, these requirements do not prevent parties and lists from forming and contesting elections. Indeed, the local elections of October 2017 were contested by 18 parties and some 30 citizen lists, a significant increase vis-à-vis the preceding local elections.
Citations:
On the laws see, for example, Eleição da Assembleia da República 1 / Outubro/1995: Legislação eleitoral actualizada e anotada (Lisbon: STAPE/MAI, 1995); and Lei dos Partidos Políticos (Political Party Law) – Lei Orgânica n.º 2/2003, de 22 de Agosto, com as alterações introduzidas pela Lei Orgânica n.º 2/2008, de 14 de Maio. For the parties and coalitions in the parliamentary elections of 4 October 2015 see Expresso of 22 August 2015.For the results of the elections see “General Election in Portugal 04 October 2015,” Fondation Robert Schuman.
Spain
Spain’s legal and administrative regulations for validating party lists and candidacies (basically, Organic Law 5/1985 on the electoral regime and Organic Law 6/2002 on parties) is fair and flexible. This was demonstrated in the elections of 2015 and 2016 when new parties, such as Podemos and Ciudadanos, participated for the first time in the general elections with each winning one-third of seats in the parliament. To participate, parties and coalitions must simply present a series of documents to the Register of Political Parties at the Ministry of Interior. Virtually every Spanish adult is eligible to run for public office. Non-Spanish EU citizens are eligible to run in local and European Parliament elections. In local elections, non-EU citizens whose countries reciprocally allow Spaniards to be candidates are also eligible. Legislation on gender parity (Organic Law 3/2007) requires party electoral lists to have a balanced gender representation, with each sex accounting for at least 40% of the total number of candidates. Fair and nondiscriminatory registration is protected by a number of guarantees overseen both by the electoral administration and the courts, including the Constitutional Court through a fast-track procedure. The only restrictions on candidacies contained in the electoral law apply to specific public figures (the royal family, some public officials, judges, police officers and members of the military) and those who have been convicted of a crime. In the 2000s, legislation was passed making it possible to declare parties illegal if they were “irrefutably” deemed to be associated with conduct “incompatible with democracy, prejudicial to constitutional values, democracy and human rights” (a provision introduced to suspend parties directly or indirectly connected with ETA terrorism in the Basque Autonomous Community).
Citations:
August 2016, The Washington Post: “Pro-independence Basque leader*s election candidacy blocked”
https://www.washingtonpos t.com/world/europe/pro-independence -basque-leaders-election-candidacy- blocked/2016/08/24/4d6345d0-69ec-11 e6-91cb-ecb5418830e9_story.html

July 2016, The Economist: “Revolution cancelled”
http://www.economist.co m/news/europe/21701516-another-cent re-right-government-weaker-one-revo lution-cancelled
Netherlands
With a score of 79 out of 100 points the Netherlands ranked 9 out of 158 countries in the mid-2017 Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Index, after Denmark (score 86), Finland, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Costa Rica, Germany and Estonia. Its highest scores are in the areas of electoral laws and electoral procedures; somewhat lower scores are in the areas of voter registration and party and candidacy registration. The country’s electoral law and articles 53 through 56 of the constitution detail the basic procedures for free elections at the European, national, provincial and municipal levels. The independence of the Election Council (Kiesraad) responsible for supervising elections is stipulated by law. All Dutch citizens residing in the Netherlands are equally entitled to run for election, although some restrictions apply in cases where the candidate suffers from a mental disorder, a court order has deprived the individual of eligibility for election, or a candidate’s party name is believed to endanger public order. Anyone possessing citizenship – even minors – can start a political party with minimal legal but considerable financial constraints. Some argue that party-membership and party-caucus rules strongly diminish formal equality with regard to electoral-system accessibility. Political parties with elected members receive state money (subsidies and other benefits), while qualifying as a new party necessitates payment of a considerable entry fee. The country tolerates one political party, the Party for Freedom, which is blatantly un-democratic in its internal organization, with only one member - the leader of the party.
Citations:
Perception of Electoral Integrity Index, 2017 (poseidon01.ssrn.com, sites.google.com, consulted September 2017)

Eerlijke verkiezingen (eerlijke verkiezingen.nl, consulted 26 October 2015)
UK
In the United Kingdom, procedures for registering candidates and parties can generally be considered fair and without regulatory discrimination. The process of registration is uncomplicated, and the information required is offered by the state and easily accessible. No restrictions or regulations exist on party programs, but there are regulations limiting the choice of party name, which must not be obscene, offensive or misleading. The party emblem should also avoid these qualities. Registration as a candidate requires a deposit of £500 and the support of at least 10 voters. Support from a party is not necessary, as candidates can run as independents, and many candidates do take advantage of this provision. Very occasionally, a candidate standing on a single issue achieves election, even in national elections.

Members of certain groups are not allowed to stand for election, namely those in the police, the armed forces, civil servants, judges and hereditary members of the House of Lords who retain a seat there. While this may be considered reasonably necessary in a democracy (although no such restrictions are in place in many similar democracies), it seems harder to justify the exclusion of people who have undergone bankruptcy or debt relief restriction orders because this is tantamount to a second punishment for financial mismanagement and thus discriminating against them.
 
A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
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Belgium
Standard legal restrictions, such as requiring a certain number of signatures before an individual may run as a candidate, are fair and are effective in controlling the number of candidates in any election. The same holds for parties, which can be relatively easily registered and at very little cost, even in a single constituency (or electoral “arrondissement”). In practice, however, such restrictions may represent a higher hurdle for smaller or local parties or candidates. One reason is that the registration process has been mastered by the more established parties, but poses more of a challenge for individual candidates. Most political parties offer a broad diversity of candidates along the dimensions of gender, age and ethnicity. Gender rules are quite specific, with mandatory quotas for electoral lists at all electoral levels (local, provincial, regional, federal and European).
Israel
Israel is an electoral democracy. While it does not have an official constitution, one of its basic laws (“The Knesset,” 1958), which holds special standing in the Israeli legal framework, provides for general, free, equal, discrete, direct and proportional elections, to be held every four years. The basic law promises equal opportunity for each Israeli citizen (as well as Jewish settlers in the territories) to elect and to be elected under certain reasonable restraints. To be elected for the Knesset, a candidate has to be a citizen over the age of 21, with no incarceration totaling more than a three-month period in the seven years prior to his/her nomination (unless authorized by the head of the Central Elections Committee(CEC)). If the nominee has held a prominent public office (as specified in the written law) he or she must wait until the expiration of a waiting period before running. Under the party law of 1992, the general elections are led by the Central Elections Committee, which is in charge of organizing the actual elections procedurally and tallying the final votes. The committee is also authorized to reject a nominee or a list based on three potential causes: 1) the rejection of Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity; 2) the provision of support for another country’s armed battle against Israel and/or a terror organization; and 3) incitement of racism. Israel is ranked first in the Middle East in the Electoral Integrity Project’s Perceptions of Electoral Integrity listing, and 22nd in the global ranking (with an especially high score for electoral procedures).

Due to its significant weight in the electoral process the CEC is chaired by a Supreme Court judge and is assembled according to a proportional system. This allows each faction in the Knesset to be represented. In addition, the formation of the group is meant to balance the political aspect of the committee with a judicial one to ensure proper conduct. In order to disqualify a nominee, the committee must receive authorization from the Supreme Court. In the 2015 elections the committee disqualified the nomination of parliament member Hanin Zohaby (Balad), and the extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel (Yachad), claiming that they were in breach of article 2 and 3 respectively of the Knesset basic law. Both decisions were reversed by the Supreme Court. Out of 12 disqualifications made by the central committee, the Supreme Court only upheld three: the socialist list (1964), kah (1988, 1992) and Kahana (1988). Recently, a bill was introduced in the Knesset suggesting that the Supreme Court be barred from ruling on CEC decisions regarding candidates’ electoral eligibility.

Another notable feature of the electoral landscape is the suspension law enacted in 2016. This law allows the suspension of a Knesset member if a supermajority of the Knesset votes that this member has deviated from appropriate behavior. The law drew much criticism, mostly from opposition members, but also from some members of the coalition. Most of the criticism revolved around the assertion that the Knesset lacks the authority to suspend a member, and that this authority should instead be given to a court. In addition, some critics raised concerns that votes to suspend a member would be influenced by political considerations, and that the law would “severely weaken Israel’s democratic character.”
Citations:
Azolai, Moran. “The Suspension Law was approved in the Knesset,” 29.03.2016, Ynet (Hebrew): http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4784299,00.html
“Basic Laws: ‘The Knesset’” Knesset official website: www.knesset.gov.il/description/eng/ eng-mimshal_yesod1.htm (English)

Fuchs, Amir. “MK Suspension Bill: Anti-Democratic to the Core,” 06.06.2016 https://en.idi.org.il/articles/2357

Hezki, Baruch. “Bill to bar Supreme Court from deciding who can run for Knesset,” 26.10.2017, Arutz Sheva: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/237241

Hobal, Ravital, “The majority of the judges rejected the petition regarding the election threshold,” 14.1.2015, Haarez (Hebrew): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/elections/.premium-1.2538960

Htoka, Shusi. “Rivlin: the Suspension Law – an example of problematic understanding of the democracy,” 15.02.16: http://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q1_2016/Article-5450e808bd5e251004.htm


Norris, P. and Grömping, M. (2017). “Populist threats to electoral integrity: The Year in Elections, 2016-2017,” The Electoral Integrity Project, https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2016/


Shamir, Michal and Margal, Keren, “Notions on threat and disqualification of lists and nominees for the Knesset: from Yardur to the 2003 election, Mishpat & Mimshal 8, tashsa, pp. 119-154 (Hebrew).

“Summary of laws relating to the general elections,” from the Knesset official website (Hebrew)
Mexico
While in principle the process for registering political parties is open and transparent, high registration requirements as well as a bureaucratic and lengthy registration process create a strong status quo bias. To meet the requirements for registering a new national political party, organizations must demonstrate a minimum of 3,000 members, representation in at least 20 of the 32 states, and a minimum of 300 members in at least 200 electoral districts. Historically, the high barriers for party formation have served to discourage new and small political groups from challenging the established parties.

Since 2015, independent candidates have been allowed to run for office in national elections. This may increase the choices available to voters, but how this plays out in practice and whether independent candidacies can be translated into meaningful political and policy alternatives remains to be seen. In anticipation of the 2018 federal elections, several independent candidates seek to challenge the extremely unpopular incumbent PRI for the presidency. To appear on the ballot, independent candidates for the presidency must collect more than 850,000 signatures nationally and obtain the support of at least 1% of registered voters in 17 states. As of early November 2017, even the top five independent candidates had a long way to go before clearing this hurdle.

Close linkages between some candidates and organized crime, especially at the subnational level, continue to undermine the integrity of the political system.
Citations:
Harbers, Imke and Matthew C. Ingram “On the engineerability of political parties: evidence from Mexico.” In:, I. van Biezen, and H. M. ten Napel. Regulating political parties: European democracies in comparative perspective (2014): 253-277.

Vázquez del Mercado, Salvador “As angry voters reject major parties, Mexico’s 2018 presidential race grows chaotic.” The Conversation. Blogpost available at: https://theconversation.com/as-angry-voters-reject-major-parties-mexicos-2018-presidential-race-grows-chaotic-86040.
South Korea
The National Election Commissions, an independent constitutional organ, manages the system of election bodies. Registration of candidates and parties at the national, regional and local levels is done in a free and transparent manner. However, deposit requirements for persons applying as candidates are relatively high, as are ages of eligibility for office.

In mid-December 2014, the Constitutional Court ruled in a controversial decision that the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) had undermined democracy and worked toward the achievement of North Korean-style socialism. The party, founded in late 2011, had five serving lawmakers, all of whom were deprived of their parliamentary seats. This was the first time a political party had been dissolved by a court or government order since 1958.

Although the National Security Law allows state authorities to block the registration of so-called left-wing or pro-North Korean parties and candidates, there is no evidence that this had a real impact in the 2017 presidential elections.
Citations:
Public Officials Election Act, Act No. 9974, Jan. 25, 2010 Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2009, New York: Freedom House
The Guardian 2014. South Korea court orders breakup of ‘pro-North’ left-wing party. Dissolution of Unified Progressive party raises questions of South’s commitment to democracy, 19 December 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/19/south-korea-lefwing-unified-progressive-party-pro-north
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Romania
Electoral legislation was amended in the first half of 2015 with an eye to the local and parliamentary elections in 2016. One amendment substantially lowered the typically high stakes involved in establishing a political party. Moreover, the requirement to submit financial deposits for candidate registration was lifted, and citizens have been allowed to support multiple candidates and parties with their signatures. Partly as a result of these changes, the number of parties participating in the parliamentary elections in December 2016 was relatively high.

A major problem has been the candidacy rules for the four deputies and two senators elected by the Romanian diaspora. As criticized by the Federation of Romanians’ Associations in Europe and others, diaspora candidates were discriminated against in the 2016 parliamentary elections because they were required to collect 6,090 signatures rather than 1,000 to enter the race. Moreover, their electoral colleges extend across several countries, impeding the collection of required signatures.

The conservative-liberal PNL has been the only party with explicit integrity requirements for its candidates. Introduced in 2015, the criteria are as follows: candidates may not have been members or collaborators of the communist political police, the Securitate, and may not have held positions in the former Communist Party; Candidates cannot have hired a family member or first-degree relative to public office, hold conflicting business interests or have lied in their declaration of assets or interests; Candidates may not hold any racist, chauvinistic, xenophobic, or discriminatory attitudes nor have debts to the local budget older than one year, or degrees or diplomas attained through plagiarism; and finally, candidates may never have been found guilty of corruption, offenses committed with intent or violence, nor be taken to court for a bribe-related offense, or any other criminal offense committed with intent. The application of these criteria disqualified 100 out of 1,100 PNL mayors from re-election. The other parties have refrained from adopting similar requirement.
Citations:
OSCE/ODIHR (2016): Needs Assessment Mission Report: Romania, Parliamentary Elections 11 December 2016, Warsaw, 6 (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/romania/278346?download=true).
Turkey
The Turkish constitution, Law 298 on the basic principles of elections and the electoral registry, Law 2839 on deputies’ elections, and Law 2972 on local-administration elections lay the legal groundwork for fair and orderly elections and prevent discrimination against any political party or candidate. However, the relative freedom given to each political party’s central executive committee in determining party candidates (by Law 2820 on political parties, Article 37) renders the candidate-nomination process rather centralized, anti-democratic and exclusionary. The parliament weakened the centralization of political parties’ leadership to some extent in 2014 with the passage of a law permitting co-leadership structures. However, administrative courts and the Council of State stopped these practices.

The nationwide 10% electoral threshold for parliamentary elections (Law 2839 on deputies’ elections, Article 33) is a major obstacle for all small political parties. In 2008, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found the 10% electoral threshold to be excessive, but not in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ (ECHR) Protocol 1 Article 3. As of November 2015, there were 100 registered political parties, although only 20 participated in the 7 June 2015 parliamentary elections, and 16 in the subsequent 1 November 2015 elections. The share of the representation of valid votes rose to 92% during the last two parliamentary elections. Parties’ executive boards typically determine their parties’ candidate lists, with the exception of the Republican People’s Party, which holds a primary-election vote. An independent candidate who secures a majority of votes in his or her electoral district is allowed to take a parliamentary seat without regard to the nationwide threshold.

According to the constitutional amendments of 2017 (Article 101/3), political parties that either individually or as a coalition gained at least 5% of the total votes in the last parliamentary election can nominate a presidential candidate. In addition, independents can run as a presidential candidate if they collect at least 100,000 signatures certified by a public notary, which creates a financial obstacle for candidates. It is not yet clear whether a notarization for each signature will be required. However, if a notary is required, the cost of collecting 100,000 signatures to the candidate is likely to be around TYR 15 million (€3.3 million).

Presidential candidates are not asked to pay a nomination fee; however, political parties require parliamentary candidates to pay a fee ranging from €185 to €2,800. Women candidates are generally asked to pay half or less of the fee required from male candidates. Most political parties do not ask for a nomination fee from disabled candidates. Independent candidates face greater obstacles, as they must submit a nomination petition along with a fee of about €3,279 (TRY 10,167). This fee is held by the revenue department of the provincial election board where the candidate is standing for election. If the independent candidate fails to be elected, this fee is registered as revenue by the Treasury.
Citations:
Gençkaya, Ömer Faruk, Umut Gündüz and Damla Cihangir-Tetik, Political Finance and Transparency İstanbul: Transparency International Turkey Chapter, 2016. http://www.seffaflik.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Siyasetin-Finansman%C4%B1-EN.pdf (accessed 16 January 2016)
Supreme Board of Election, Decision 3237, 12 July 2014, http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/content/conn/YSKUCM/path/Contribution%20Folders/Kararlar/2014-3237.pdf (accessed 5 November 2014)
Supreme Board of Election, Decision 543, 12 November 2013, http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/docs/Kararlar/2013Pdf/2013-543.pdf (accessed 5 November 2014)
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, INTERIM REPORT 28 September – 21 October 2015, 23 October 2015, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/194216?download=true (accessed 27 October 2015)
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights NEEDS ASSESSMENT MISSION REPORT 14 – 17 April, 27 April 2015, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/153211?download=true (accessed 27 October 2015)
“100 bin oyla adaylık için dudak uçuklatan noter faturası,” 23 July 2017, http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/siyaset/787433/100_bin_oyla_adaylik_icin_dudak_ucuklatan_noter_faturasi.html
“Danıştay’dan “eş başkanlık” uygulamasının durdurulmasına onay,” 23.03.2016, http://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/1213998-danistaydan-es-baskanlik-uygulamasinin-durdurulmasina-onay
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Hungary
The far-reaching changes to Hungary’s electoral law in the run-up to the April 2014 parliamentary elections included amendments to registration procedures. The combination of decreased registration requirements and generous public funding for candidates and party lists led to a surge in candidacies. A record-high 53 parties took part in the elections, 18 of which were able to form a national list. The governing Fidesz party actively promoted this associated fragmentation with the evident aim of confounding voters and weakening the opposition. The registration process suffered from a lack of transparency. Election commissions at both the central and constituency level largely failed to address cases of alleged signature fraud. Since the 2014 elections, the controversial procedures have been left unchanged. At the same time, the number of registered parties has further grown. In autumn 2017, there were 219 registered parties and 171 parties under registration.
 
Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
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Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
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