Electoral Processes


How fair are procedures for registering candidates and parties?

Legal regulations provide for a fair registration procedure for all elections; candidates and parties are not discriminated against.
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 holds 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 were 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 by ancestry rather than by birth – the High Court ruled that five parliamentarians were ineligible to serve as members of Australia’s parliament. This generated considerable political instability.
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).
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. There are occasional calls to ban the Communist party, but no legal steps have been taken, and there is no consensus that such measures are necessary. A total of 39 political groupings took part in the elections to the European Parliament in May 2019, and no conflicts over the registration of candidates occurred.

Since 2012, the president of Czechia has been elected by citizens in a direct election. Any citizen with the right to vote who has reached 40 years of age is eligible to run for election for a maximum of two consecutive five-year terms.
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.
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.
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, the 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.
Estonian National Electoral Committee https://www.valimised.ee/en
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, who was re-elected by an overwhelming majority in the 2018 elections, preferred to be nominated by a voters’ association rather than a specific political party and collected more than 150,000 supportive signatures for this purpose.

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.
Dag Anckar and Carsten Anckar, “Finland,” in Dieter Nohlen and Philip Stöver, eds. Elections in Europe. A Data Handbook, Nomos, 2010.
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.
On 24 September 2017, elections were held to constitute the new German Bundestag. A total of 42 parties and 111 independent candidates contested the elections. 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 (Bundesverfassungsgericht). On January 2017, following a complaint by the Länder governments about the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), the Federal Constitutional Court decided that while the party is without any doubt unconstitutional in its program and actions, there are no indications that the party will succeed in achieving its anti-constitutional aims. Therefore the suit to ban the NPD failed.

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).
There is no discrimination in registration procedures nor are potential candidates or parties prevented from participating in elections. Exceptions include 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 three parliamentary elections that took place in Greece in January and September 2015 and July 2019 were smoothly organized, and in budgetary terms, cost much less than previous national elections.
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].
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 tánaiste, Frances Fitzgerald, on an issue relating to communications during the Garda whistleblower inquiry. She was subsequently cleared of all wrong-doing.

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. Interestingly the adoption of quotas did not change voting behavior. The Irish electorate (with the partial exception of supporters of Fianna Fáil) appear to be largely “gender blind:” people cast their vote for candidates based on their party affiliation, political experience and quality more generally. (See McElroy 2018 for more detail).

A general election was held on 8 February 2020. The results show a continuing fragmentation of the Irish party system, which now has three medium-sized parties and no “large” parties. Sinn Féin attracted the most votes winning 24.5% of the popular vote, by far their best ever result (winning 37 seats). Fianna Fáil took 22% of the vote and 38 seats. Fine Gael, which led the outgoing government, placed third with 21% of the vote and 35 seats. Six other small parties won seats as did 19 independents. At the time of reporting, government formation is problematic, not least because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are so far refusing to govern with Sinn Féin, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are also saying they will not govern together. Further, even if any two of these three parties did agree to govern together, they would still be short of the 80 teachta dálas needed to form a majority government.
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.
Michael Marsh, David Farrell and Theresa Reidy (2018, eds). The Post-Crisis Irish Voter. Manchester University Press.
Gail McElroy (2018) ‘The Impact of Gender Quotas on Voting Behaviour in 2016,’ in Marsh, Farrell and Ready (2018, eds – listed above).
Procedures for registering candidates and political parties are fair and have not been contested or subject to public debate in several 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.
The procedures for registering candidates and parties in Slovakia are fair and transparent. Regulations governing the electoral process were consolidated in the 2014 election code. Provisions regarding the registration of parties and candidates are liberal and ensure a fair registration procedure. 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. In October 2018, parliament passed an amendment to the Act on Political Parties which changed the rules for the registration of parties for parliamentary elections and elections to the European Parliament. Under these new rules, the parties have to prove they have enough members and functional party bodies. That is, there must be twice as many members as the number of candidates on the slate or they need to have at least 45 members who, at the same time, are delegates of the party council. Promoted by the Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior coalition partner, the amendment was directed against parties that lack a formal membership base, such as Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), and We are Family – Boris Kollár (Sme rodina – Boris Kollár), or against parties that have less than 100 party members, such as Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). No affected party has yet challenged the amendment on grounds of discrimination, instead affected parties have recruited new members to fulfill the minimum requirement.
In Slovenia, the legal provisions for registering candidates and parties provide for a fair registration procedure for both national (parliamentary, presidential), local (mayoral, council) and sub-local (village or city district 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. Local elections in November 2018 saw 688 mayoral candidates (only 14.5% of which were female candidates) and 22,314 candidates for municipal councilors (45.7% female candidates), whereas 14 political parties and lists proposed 103 candidates at the elections to the European Parliament at the end of May 2019.
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.
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).

Oscarsson, Henrik (2017) Det svenska partisystemet i förändring, in: Ulrika Andersson, Jonas Ohlsson,
Henrik Oscarsson, Maria Oskarson (eds.): Larmar och gör sig till, Göteborgs universitet: SOM-institutet, 411-427.
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 2019 25% of the total population and 31% of the country’s civilian workforce held foreign citizenship, a much higher share than in other countries. The strict rules governing naturalization and 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 almost a third 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 vastly 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.
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 an 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.

During the 2019 electoral campaign, the political exclusion of legal non-citizen residents (about one million people) became an issue for the first time in Austria. As the majority in parliament has been extremely hesitant to ease access to Austrian citizenship, there is a contradiction between the democratic principle that “everybody within a community must have the right to participate in the political process” and the reality of a legal structure which prevents a significant number of legal residents from participating in the political process.
The present electoral code in Bulgaria has been in force since 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. For the registration of parties or nominating committees, a bank deposit and a certain number of citizen signatures are required. Citizens of other countries cannot run in elections, with the exception of citizens of EU countries in municipal and European Parliament elections. A constitutional clause prohibits the formation of “ethnically based” parties, but Constitutional Court rulings through the years have rendered this irrelevant in practice.

For the European Parliament elections held in May 2019, one out of 28 applying parties, coalitions and individual-candidate committees was denied registration due to the fact that the forms used to collect citizen signatures did not comply with the published requirements. In the municipal elections held in October and November 2019, no significant reports of candidate registration denials were reported. The only comparatively prominent case reported was when two individual candidates for the mayoral and municipal council elections in Sofia were rejected by the municipal electoral commission because they had submitted their documentation seven minutes after the deadline. However, this decision was ultimately reversed by the Central Electoral Commission.
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. Since 2013, significant reforms have rendered electoral provisions more transparent and inclusive, and made electoral institutions stronger and more autonomous.

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 is still based on the D’Hondt method, but this now takes take place in multimember districts of smaller magnitude (three to eight deputies and two to five 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 Chamber of Deputies districts and constituencies (from 60 to 28).
- A reduction in the number of Senate districts and constituencies (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 (valid through 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 to create 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 eight of the 15 regions or in three 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 allowed only at the national level.
In December 2016, another electoral law (Law No. 20,990) introduced the direct popular election of the top executive in the country’s 12 administrative regions. The regional mayors (Intendentes Regionales), which were designated by the central government, are being replaced by elected regional governors (Gobernadores Regionales), with the goal of fostering decentralization and citizen participation. The newly created office has a term of four years, with 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 (a second round between the two candidates with the most first-round votes).
The new electoral system for Congress was first applied in the legislative elections of November 2017 together with the presidential election. The first direct election of regional governors will take place in 2020.


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



Candidacy procedures are largely fair and do not suffer from major procedural restrictions. However, participation in the elections to the national parliament and to local assemblies 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. However, the number of required signatures does not represent a major hurdle to the functioning of the democratic process. Prospective presidential candidates need to secure the support of at least 10,000 voters to stand in a presidential election. In parliamentary elections, only 500 signatures are required from the respective electoral unit for the candidacy of an independent list to be valid. In the case of local elections, the number ranges from 25 to 2,500, depending on the size of the locality. Over the last couple of years, the number of independent mayors and lists have surged. Since the 2017 local elections, independent mayors control 21 out of 128 cities and 76 out of 428 municipalities. One often criticized peculiarity of Croatian electoral law is that candidate lists can be headed by people who are not actually candidates.
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).

OSCE/ODIHR (2019): Needs Asssment Mission Report Republic of Croatia: Presidential Election 22 December 2019. Warsaw, 5-6 (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/croatia/440501).
Registration requirements for candidates are minimal and relate 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, the eligibility to vote and run for office in European parliamentary elections has been extended to Turkish Cypriots residing in areas not under the government’s 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 and 25 for a member of 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 must be proposed and supported by registered voters: the required number is two for local elections, four for parliamentary elections, and, since 2016, one voter proposing and 100 supporting a candidacy 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.
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
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 so-called 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. This minimum threshold is the same as in Germany, but 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 was the largest share of unrepresented votes in Iceland’s modern history. A result that was due mainly to a record 15 parties running for parliament in 2013. Since 2013, this rate has declined. In the 2016 elections, parties that did not reach the 5% threshold received a combined 5.7% of the total vote. This rate further declined to only 1.6% of the total vote in the 2017 elections.
Bengtsson, Å., Hansen, K. M., Harðarson, Ó. T., Narud, H. M. and 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).
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.
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 or upper house of parliament have to pay a deposit of JPY 3 million (around €25,000, plus a deposit of JPY 6 million if also running on the party list). This deposit is returned if certain conditions are met in terms of vote shares received (individual candidates) or the number of seats won (party list). 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.
Leo Lin, The High Cost of Running for Office, Tokyo Review, 28 August 2017, http://www.tokyoreview.net/2017/08/election-deposits-japan/
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. For example, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) report on the 2018 general election expressed full confidence and trust in the professionalism and impartiality of election administration at all levels, but noted that consideration should be given to introducing special measures in the legal framework to promote female candidates. In addition, it was recommended that the blanket restriction on candidacy rights of citizens who have committed an intentional crime should be revised and that the life-long ban for those who have committed a crime in a state of mental disorder should be lifted.
1. The Saeima Election Law, Article 5 and 6, Available at: https://www.cvk.lv/pub/public/30870.html, Last assessed: 04.11.2019

2. OSCE: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Parliamentary Elections 6 October 2018:
ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report, Available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/latvia/409344?download=true, Last assessed: 04.11.2019

3. Valts Kalniņš (2011), Assessment of National Integrity System, p.99, Published by DELNA, Available at: https://www.transparency.org/files/content/pressrelease/20120309_Latvia_NIS_EN.pdf, Last assessed: 04.01.2019

4. Ivars Ijabs (2018), 2018 Parliamentary Elections in Latvia, Available at: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/baltikum/14739.pdf, Last assessed: 04.01.2019
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 2016 parliamentary elections and 2019 presidential elections. Independent candidates as well as party-affiliated candidates can stand for election. So-called public election committees, which can take part in the elections and compete with political parties, but face less demanding requirements for registration, have recently became, especially in municipal and European parliament elections.

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 dual citizenship. The court also ruled that the lifetime ban on standing for elected office on impeached former President Rolandas Paksas was disproportionate. However, this ban has not been lifted, as votes in 2015 and 2018 in the Lithuanian parliament on his electoral eligibility failed. As a consequence, Paksas was unable to run in the 2016 parliamentary elections or the 2019 presidential elections. Furthermore, although the process for candidate registration was assessed to be administratively inclusive during the 2019 presidential elections, there were no women among the registered candidates. Following these elections, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) suggested removing restrictions barring people with dual citizenship from standing as candidates.

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. One major change involved the establishment of two additional constituencies in Vilnius, where the number of voters has been constantly increasing. Since 18 single-candidate constituencies were no longer the required size due to ongoing demographic changes, the Central Electoral Commission announced another revision proposal in October 2019. This proposal involved the establishment of one additional constituency in Vilnius, and one constituency for Lithuanians living abroad, along with the abolishment of two rural constituencies. The decision to allow electoral committees to stand in municipal elections was a hotly debated issue during the 2015 and 2019 elections, as these committees are not regulated as tightly as political parties, and critics say their existence has contributed to the further decline of the already weak political parties.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report on the 2019 presidential election in Lithuania, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/433352?download=true
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
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”].
Elections are regulated by the constitution and the General Elections Act. Malta uses a single transferable vote (STV) system. 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 national minimum threshold; the fact that candidates are listed alphabetically, giving an advantage to certain candidates; the lack of correctives to encourage the election of female candidates; and the fact that multiple candidates from the same party can be elected in the same district, placing too much power in the hands of canvassers. The present electoral law does not allow coalitions of parties to contest elections formally, but does not prevent parties from arriving at pre-election agreements regarding future coalitions. Recent provisions ensure greater proportionality; however, the reality is that this has only increased the dominance of the two main parties. Each of the two main parties receive €100,000 annually, which may be used for campaigning. There has been increased calls to ban party funding from the private sector and replace it with a more developed system of state funding. Meetings of the electoral commission are closed and there is an absence of representatives from non-parliamentary parties. On the issue of equal gender representation, the government has appointed a commission to study the issue, and new gender-parity laws are now in the pipeline.
Malta Today 05/07/17 Now is the time for Electoral reform
OSCE/ODIHR (2017) Election Assessment Mission Final Report – Malta
Lejn Rapprezentanza Ugwali – Kummissjoni Mahtur mill-Prim Ministru ta’ Malta, OPM.
New Zealand
New Zealand has a rich history of free and fair elections and the electoral process is characterized by a very high level of integrity. 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 Election Integrity Project, which measures each state of the electoral cycle by standardized 100-point scores, rated the integrity quality of 2017 parliamentary election as “very high” and noted especially high quality in the areas of party registration, candidate procedure, district boundaries, vote counting and autonomy of the election management body. However, deficits were noted in regard to voter registration, media access for political parties and campaign financing.
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. In September 2018, parliament passed a controversial amendment to the Electoral Integrity Bill (so-called “waka-jumping” bill). The bill requires that members of parliament who are expelled from or quit their party will automatically lose their seat, thereby triggering a by-election. Critics argue that this amendment will enable political parties to limit freedom of speech and ignore or reverse the will of voters. Supporters, on the other hand, argue that allowing parliamentarians to leave their parties while remaining in parliament distorts the proportionality of parliament and frustrates the will of affected voters.
Miller, Raymond, ‘Selecting Candidates,’ in Miller, Party Politics in New Zealand, Oxford, 2005, pp 109-126.
Norris, Pippa, Thomas Wynter and Sarah Cameron. March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/
McCulloch, Craig. 27 September 2018. Waka-jumping bill passes into law after heated debate. https://www.radionz.co.nz/news/political/367427/waka-jumping-bill-passes-into-law-after-heated-debate
New Zealand Parliament. Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/bills-proposed-laws/document/BILL_75706/electoral-integrity-amendment-bill
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 are aligned with the political-party law (Lei dos Partidos Políticos), which requires that parties’ internal operations must conform to “the principles of democratic organization and management” (Article 5) and feature several internal bodies (Articles 24 – 27).

However, these requirements do not prevent parties from forming and contesting elections. During the period under review, two new political parties were formally registered: Chega (Enough) in April 2019 and Reagir Incluir Reciclar (React Include Recycle) in May 2019. This raises the total to 25 registered political parties, of which 13 were registered in the last 10 years. The 2019 legislative elections were contested by 21 different lists, the highest total yet since democratization.

A new law was passed during the current review period, which, following the 2019 legislative elections, will encourage parity for women in political positions and in the administration. This law is likely to improve procedures for registering candidates.
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 registration of parties, see: Tribunal Constitucional, “Partidos registados e suas denominações, siglas e símbolos,” available online at: http://www.tribunalconstitucional.pt/tc/partidos.html

Spain’s legal and administrative regulations for validating party lists and candidacies is fair and flexible. This was again demonstrated during the national and regional elections in 2019. In 2019, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressed a high level of confidence in the framework and management of the parliamentary elections.

Almost every Spanish adult is eligible to run for public office. 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.

The European Parliament and national elections in Catalonia in April/May 2019 were a special case, since several candidates were being held in custody awaiting trial during the elections, while others had fled the country. In October 2019, the Supreme Court sentenced nine Catalan separatist leaders to between nine and 13 years in prison after finding them guilty of sedition in connection with the illegal referendum of October 2017. The independence leaders are also barred from holding public office for between one and nine years.

However, this case shows that Spanish procedures for registering candidates are fair and that everyone (including those prosecuted for serious criminal offenses and even fugitives) has the opportunity to become an election candidate without restriction or discrimination.
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Spain Early Parliamentary Elections, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/spain/416252
With a score of 80 out of 100 points the Netherlands ranked 8 out of 158 countries in the March 2018 Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Index, after Denmark (score 86), Finland, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Germany and Costa Rica. 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.
P. Norris et al., March 2018. Corruption and Coercion: the Year in Elections, 2017

Eerlijke verkiezingen (eerlijke verkiezingen.nl, consulted 24 October 2018)

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 ten 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 to the House of Commons, namely those in the police, the armed forces, judges, and members of the House of Lords who sit and vote 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 are subject to bankruptcy or debt relief restriction orders, because this is tantamount to a second punishment for financial mismanagement and thus discriminating against them.
With rare exceptions, procedures for registering parties and candidates are fair and nondiscriminatory. State governments determine the requirements for ballot access. All states 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 some cases, the ballot-access requirements may be a burden for smaller parties or independent candidates.

In general, ballot access has not been controversial, and no major problems regarding ballot access have been reported in recent elections. In 2019, however, Republican party organizations in four states (Arizona, Kansas, Nevada and South Carolina) moved to cancel their 2020 primary elections, and thus protect President Trump from effective challenge to his nomination for a second term. Because the political parties set their own rules and procedures for nominating candidates, the national Republican party will undoubtedly accept the change, even though it severely compromises the democratic character of candidate selection within the party.
A few restrictions on election procedures discriminate against a small number of candidates and parties.
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. Following successive reforms, gender rules are now quite specific, with mandatory quotas for electoral lists at all electoral levels (i.e., local, provincial, regional, federal and European). These rules are abided by the parties, though there remains overall a higher proportion of male candidates at the top of party lists (i.e., with a much higher chance of being elected).
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, constitutes a general, free, equal, discrete, direct and proportional elections, to be held every four years. The Basic Law promises an 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 of over a three-month period in the seven years prior to his/her nomination (unless authorized by the head of the central elections committee). If the nominee held a prominent public office (as specified in the written law) he or she must wait until the expiration of the cooling period. 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 clauses: if they reject Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, if they support another country’s armed battle against Israel and/or supports a terror organization, or if they incite racism.

Due to its significant weight in the electoral process, the committee is chaired by a High Court of Justice 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 High Court of Justice. In the September 2019 elections, the committee disqualified the nomination of candidate Ofer Cassif (“Hadash”). The decision was reversed by the High Court of Justice. However, at the same time, the court barred the candidacy of another candidate, Michael Ben-Ari, from running in the elections. The banning of Ben-Ari, the leader of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, marked the first time in Israel’s history that a candidate approved by the committee was banned from standing in an election.

The 2016 Suspension Law allows for the suspension of a Knesset member if a supermajority of the Knesset vote that the individual has deviated from the behavior expected of a member of the Knesset. The law drew much criticism, mostly from opposition members, but also from some members of the coalition. Most of the criticism revolved around the claim that the Knesset lacks the authority to suspend a member and that this authority should be given to the court. In addition, some raised concerns that the vote to suspend a member will be mostly influenced by political considerations and “will severely weaken Israel’s democratic character.” However, the law has never used against any member of the Knesset.
Azolai, Moran. “The Suspension Law was approved in the Knesset,” 29.03.16, 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

Hezki, Baruch. “Bill to bar Supreme Court from deciding who can run for Knesset,” 26.10.17, Arutz Sheva: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/237241

Hobal, Ravital, “The majority of the judges rejected the petition regarding the election threshold,” 14.1.15, Haaraz (Hebrew): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/elections/.premium-1.2538960

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

Norris, P., Wynter, T and Cameron, S. (2018). “Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017,” The Electoral Integrity Project, https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017

Shamir, Michal and Margal, Keren (2009). “Notions on threat and disqualification of lists and nominees for the Knesset: from Yardur to the 2003 election, Mishpat & Mimshal 8, pp. 119-154 (Hebrew).

“Summary of laws relating to the general elections,” from the Knesset official website (Hebrew)

Staff, ToI. “High Court Bars Far-right Party Leader Ben Ari From Running In Elections,” 17.3.2019, The Times of Israel:
The October 2018 parliamentary elections highlighted a number of problems in Luxembourg’s electoral system. Overall, the electoral system is strong and fair. However, small parties are at a disadvantage. This is due both to the division of the country into four electoral districts, and to the method of calculation used to determine the allocation of seats.

The division of Luxembourg into four electoral districts is outdated and urgently needs to be revised. It excludes smaller parties and reduces their chances of winning representation in parliament. In the East district, the conservative Alternative Democratic Reform Party narrowly missed securing a mandate despite receiving 9.58% of the votes. In addition, the Pirates (7%) and Déi Lénk (3.3%) did not receive any seats. This means that around 20% of the votes cast in the East district were disregarded. However, despite its serious loss of eight percentage points, the Christian Social People’s Party (CSV) was able to retain its three seats in the East.

A total of 37,000 people were registered on the electoral rolls in the East district for the 2018 parliamentary elections. In the Center district, 73,000 were registered, almost twice as many eligible voters as in the East. As a result, there are three times as many members of parliament for the Center district (21) as for the East district (7).
“Élections législatives 2018.” https://elections.public.lu/fr/elections-legislatives/2018/resultats.html. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

Fehlen, Fernand: “Wahlsystem und politische Kultur.” Forum, September 2013. https://forum.lu/pdf/artikel/7695_332_Fehlen.pdf. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

“Robert Mehlen veut contester le résultat des élections devant la justice.” http://5minutes.rtl.lu/grande-region/laune/1254993.html. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
The electoral process is supervised by an autonomous agency, the Instituto Nacional Electoral (INE), following a constitutional reform in 2014 and the creation in 1990 of the Instituto Federal Electoral. INE is responsible for the registration of parties, candidates and voters, and for administering elections.

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 but the requirements for participating are high. To appear on the ballot, independent presidential candidates must collect more than 850,000 signatures nationally and obtain the support of at least 1% of registered voters in 17 states. In the 2018 elections, 48 independent candidates announced their candidacy for the presidency, but only two, Margarita Zavala and Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, managed to fulfill the requirements. After Zavala withdrew in May 2018, Rodríguez Calderón was the only independent candidate left, receiving 5.23% of votes in the presidential elections. María de Jesús Patricio Martínez – an independent candidate who was supported by indigenous groups and the Zapatista movement, but who failed to fulfill the criteria – criticized the process for being unfairly biased against the poor.

Close linkages between some candidates and organized crime, especially at the subnational level, as well as violence and corruption continue to undermine the integrity of the political system and the electoral process. Under the current government, this structural challenge is unlikely to change.
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.
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.

In terms of registration, there were no signs of discrimination against specific candidates or parties in the local elections in 2018, and the European Parliament and parliamentary elections in 2019. However, the new rules on the mode of selection of the National Election Commission (Państwowa Komisja Wyborzca, PKW) and its executive body, the National Election Office (Krajowe Biuro Wyborcze, KBW), which came into effect after the 2019 parliamentary elections, have raised concerns about the government’s greater influence over these two bodies. First, the members of the PKW are no longer judges, instead, seven out of nine members are members of parliament. Second, the head of the KBW is selected by the PKW from a list of three candidates nominated by the minister of the interior. Third, the minister of the interior is responsible for nominating the 100 commissioners who manage elections on the ground.
Bodalska, B. (2018): Polish EP electoral code change potential flashpoint between Brussels and Warsaw, in: euractiv, July 31 (https://www.euractiv.com/section/future-eu/news/polish-ep-electoral-code-change-potential-flashpoint-between-brussels-and-warsaw/).

OSCE/ODIHR (2020): Limited Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Parliamentary Elections 13 October 2019. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/446371).

Sadurski, W. (2018): Who will Count the Votes in Poland? in: Verfassungsblog, February 26 (https://verfassungsblog.de/who-will-count-the-votes-in-poland/).
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. A proposal to switch to a mixed-member proportional representation system was recently floated, with the rationale of providing a fairer registration procedure and in order to better reflect voters’ preferences. However, the two majority parties have proved lukewarm toward this idea, seeing it as a potential threat to their vested interests.
While the National Security Law allows state authorities to block the registration of so-called pro-North Korean parties and candidates, there is no evidence that this had any real impact in the 2017 presidential elections. However, the controversial decision of the Constitutional Court to disband the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) for being pro-North Korean in 2014 remains in force.
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
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.

In the European Parliamentary elections of May 2019, a total of 465 candidates from 23 political parties and seven independent candidates competed for 32 seats in the next European Parliament. As of September 29, 2019, 14 candidates representing 13 parties and one independent were competing for the presidency.

A major problem that has not been addressed in the period under review, 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 are discriminated against 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 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 has favored a surge in candidacies, with the evident aim of confounding voters and weakening the opposition. Right before the 2018 parliamentary elections there were about two hundred registered parties. Because individuals can sign up for several parties, many parties succeeded in collecting enough signatures to appear on the ballot. In some cases, the list of signatures for one party was simply copied by another. As a result, the party list was not transparent for many citizens, even more so as the names of some of the pseudo or fake parties were similar to those of opposition parties. Similarly, many candidates running in relatively big numbers in single member districts just picked up the money and disturbed the voters on the opposition side by causing uncertainty. Election commissions at both the central and constituency level largely failed to address cases of alleged signature fraud. While the votes for phantom parties cannot account for the Fidesz victory as such, the presence of phantom parties may have been critical to Fidesz being able to regain a two-thirds majority in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

In the case of the October 2019 municipal elections, the opposition parties agreed to select just one candidate in all places. This meant hundreds of pre-election processes from the lord mayor of Budapest to town council candidates. In order to weaken the opposition, Fidesz continued its strategy of confounding voters by increasing the number of candidates. The most spectacular example was in Budapest, where two fake candidates were presented for the post of the lord mayor. Their popular support was minimal, but they produced big scandals that allowed Fidesz to ridicule the opposition campaign for allegedly arranging a “circus.”
Some unreasonable restrictions on election procedures exist that discriminate against many candidates and parties.
The legal groundwork for fair and orderly elections and the prevention of discrimination against any party or candidate are provided for in 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. 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 the co-mayoral practices of the HDP. 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. The Supreme Board of Election (YSK) authorizes the final list of candidates for presidential, parliamentary and local elections in accordance with the eligibility rules prescribed by the constitution (Articles 76 and 101), and the presidential election, deputies election and local administration elections laws. Eligibility criteria include a prescribed level of education (i.e., primary school for parliamentary and local elections, and higher education for presidential candidates), legal capacity and criminal records (e.g., having been sentenced to prison for certain crimes). Each citizen can object to presumptive candidates within the period announced by the YSK, which makes the final decision on any objections.

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 (ECHR) found the 10% electoral threshold to be excessive, but not in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Protocol 1 Article 3. As of November 2019, there were 75 registered political parties. The Party Law (Article 90/2) was amended in order to enable parties to form pre-electoral alliances in March 2018. The share of the representation of valid votes rose to 98% and resulted in overrepresentation of big parties (8%) and underrepresentation of small parties (6%) in this parliament.

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 for which notarization is not required in the 2018 elections.

During the state of emergency period, dozens of elected HDP mayors (mainly heads of local administrations in provincial capitals, districts and smaller localities) were ousted from office by presidential decree and replaced by state officials. As of December 2018, prior to the post-state of emergency local elections, 50 of them remained in prison. In 2019, HDP mayoral and local council candidates continue to face the threat, if elected, of being removed from office by presidential decree. This practice by state authorities may have led some potential candidates to abstain, informally undermining the fairness of elections.
Seçimlerin Temel Hükümleri ve Seçmen Kütükleri Hakkında Kanun İle Bazı Kanunlarda Değişiklik Yapılmasına Dair Kanun, 16 March 2018, http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2018/03/20180316-28.htm, (accessed 27 October 2018)

Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey, https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng-press#%22itemid%22:[%22003-6255331-8141045%22] (accessed 20 November 2018)

SBE, 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)

SBE, Decision 543, 12 November 2013, http://www.ysk.gov.tr/ysk/docs/Kararlar/2013Pdf/2013-543.pdf (accessed 5 November 2014)
Faaliyette olan siyasi partiler, https://www.yargitaycb.gov.tr/documents/ek1-1567773818.pdf (accessed 1 November 2019)

OSCE – ODIHR, Early Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Republic of Turkey 24 June 2018, ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/397046?download=true (accessed 27 October 2018)

“Danıştay’dan “eş başkanlık” uygulamasının durdurulmasına onay,” 23.03.2016, http://www.haberturk.com/gundem/haber/1213998-danistaydan-es-baskanlik-uygulamasinin-durdurulmasina-onay
(accessed 7 October 2017)

Al-Monitor.com (2019) How the Kurdish factor had a boomerang effect in Erdoğan’s election defeat, 11 April 2019, https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/04/turkey-kurdish-factor-boomerang-effect-in-election.html
Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
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