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.
The right to be a candidate in a federal election is laid down in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 3), 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 stand 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 22 political groupings took part in the parliamentary elections in October 2021, 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 candidate must gain at least 50,000 confirmed signatures by citizens, 10 signatures by senators or 20 signatures by members of parliament.
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 which is currently approximately 22,000 signatures.
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.

In the spring of 2021, municipal elections were postponed by six weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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. Ten candidates were present in the 2012 election and 11 candidates in 2017. 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 because they benefit from equal access to the public media and from advantages 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 rare, but financial cheating is frequent, as evidenced by the condemnation of former President Nicolas Sarkozy for the hidden costs of his 2012 campaign. Some limitations are imposed on anti-constitutional parties. These restrictions, however, are exceptional and reviewed by the judiciary.
On 26 September 2021, elections were held to constitute the new German Bundestag. A total of 40 parties competed for the seats. A new record was with 6,211 candidates running either as independent candidates or as candidates from registered parties (Bundeswahlleiter 2021).

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), but the legal conditions required for such a ban are stringent. The last attempt to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) failed in 2017. 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.

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 for office without any initial approval from the Federal Election Committee (Bundeswahlausschuss).
Bundeswahlleiter (2021): So viele Wahlbewerberinnen und Wahlbewerber wie noch nie nehmen teil, Pressemitteilung Nr. 33/21 vom 31. August 2021.
The last national parliamentary elections took place in July 2019, after the regional and municipal elections of May 2019. There was a smooth government turnover in July 2019 with the formation of a single-party majority government.

In Greece, 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 who serve 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 long economic crisis of the 2010s, the conduct of electoral procedures in Greece has remained reliable throughout the crisis.
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 uses a system of proportional representation, single transferable vote, to elect members of parliament to the Oireachtas. The system is one that is highly localist in nature in a context where the political system is highly centralized. There are 160 members of parliament (reduced from 166 in 2020), who represent 39 constituencies. To run as a candidate in Irish elections, individuals must be over 21 and an Irish citizen. Generally, the political parties run competitive selection conventions to select candidates for each constituency. Independent candidates must present a nomination paper to the returning officer in the constituency where they want to stand (Citizens Information, 2022)

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 (then) 166 deputies.

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 (six seats), the Social Democrats (three seats) and the Greens (two 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 erstwhile 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, Micheál 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-led minority government with the support of nine independent deputies, three of whom were given senior ministerial positions. The replacement of Kenny by Leo 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 then tánaiste (deputy prime minister), Frances Fitzgerald, over an issue relating to communications during the Garda whistleblower inquiry. She was subsequently cleared of all wrongdoing.

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 teachtaí dála (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,” with voters casting their vote for candidates based on their party affiliation, political experience and profile more generally. (See McElroy 2018 for more detail).

The most recent general election was held on 8 February 2020, in the narrow window between the start of the new year and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was declared by the WHO on 12 March 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. Notably, the Labour Party, which had governed as the second largest party in the state as recently as 2016, remains on the political margins, with six seats. Female participation increased slightly, from 35 to 36 teachta dálas. Only one female candidate was elected in the five Cork constituencies, and none at all in Limerick and Tipperary. Sinn Féin had the largest number of female teachta dálas (13), followed by Fine Gael (6) and Fianna Fáil (5) (Connor, 2020).

Government formation proved problematic, not least because Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil refused to govern with Sinn Féin, while Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael also initially refused to govern together. More starkly, even if two of these three parties agreed to govern together, they would still fall short of the 80 teachta dálas needed to form a majority government.

Government formation concluded in June 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic and as the country was in a state of lockdown, with economic and social activity curtailed across Europe. The current government brings together a novel three-way alliance involving Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governing in full coalition together for the first time, alongside the Greens. Under the Programme for Government, the positions of taoiseach and tánaiste will rotate between the two main parties at the mid-point of the coalition agreement, December 2022. The coming together of the two traditional governing parties in Irish politics would have been a bigger story had it not been for the ongoing triple crises in healthcare, education and public finances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, and with the United Kingdom’s protracted withdrawal from the European Union continuing to play out.
Citizens Information (2022), ‘General Elections’, https://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/government_in_ireland/elections_and_referenda/national_elections/the_general_election.html
Connor, D., (2020), ‘Slight increase in number of female TDs elected’, RTE News, 11 February 2020, https://www.rte.ie/news/election-2020/2020/0211/1114578-female-tds/
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 and Michael Marsh (eds.) How Ireland Voted 2020 – The End of an Era (Palgrave Macmillan published by Springer International, Switzerland, 2020)

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 considered fair and have not been contested or subject to public debate. The formal requirements for starting a new party is the registration of a unique name and the support of 5,000 persons with the right to vote. Parties nominate candidates for elections. After being elected, a candidate may change their party membership without losing their position.
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, the rules for the registration of parties were tightened. Since then, parties have had to prove they have functional party bodies and a certain number of members. This law was promoted by the Slovak National Party (SNS), a junior coalition partner in the Pellegrini government, and was aimed at weakening major opposition parties such as Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), We are Family – Boris Kollár (Sme-Rodina – Boris Kollár) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). However, these parties have refrained from challenging the provision, as they have had no problems recruiting the new members needed for fulfilling the minimum requirements.
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. Slovenian citizens may compete for a parliamentary seat if they are at least 18 years old and their legal capacity is not constrained.
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 (Karlsson and Gilljam, 2014). Since 1998, voters have had the ability to indicate preferences not just for a particular party but also for specific candidates. Despite this, 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 (Oscarsson and Holmberg 2014). Finally, voters increasingly identify with a coalition of parties rather than one individual political party (Einhorn and Logue, 2003).
Einhorn, Eric S, and John Logue. 2003. “Modern Welfare States: Scandinavian Politics and Policy in the Global Age.” 2nd ed. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Karlsson, David, and Michael Gilljam. 2014. “Svenska Politiker. Om de Folkvalda i Riksdag, Landsting och Kommun.” Stockholm: Santérus.

Oscarsson, Henrik, and Sören Holmberg. 2014. “Svenska Väljare.” Stockholm: Wolters Kluwer.
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 25% of the total population 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 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 free, fair and competitive 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 (e.g., the Communist Party). Persons younger than 18 years of age cannot stand as a parliamentary candidate and there is a considerably higher age requirement for presidential candidates. Given that citizens over the age of 16 can vote, this means that not all citizens who enjoy full voting rights can stand for election. However, this tension clearly results from Austria’s international frontrunner position at the level of active voting rights. The threshold of 18 years old for election candidates in Austria is no lower than in any other democratic regime.

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. Yet, voting rights for non-citizens are extremely rare in other countries, too. Thus, this cannot be considered a specifically Austrian deficiency. That said, passive voting rights for European Parliament elections in Austria are more restrictive than in several other countries. While in Germany and many other EU member states, any EU citizen can stand as a European Parliament candidate, passive voting rights in Austria are conditioned on having active voting rights (i.e., holding Austrian nationality).

Theoretically, while there is equal opportunity for every Austrian citizen (aged 18 or older) to stand as a candidate, there are obvious de facto limitations. As in other full-blown party government regimes that use party lists for elections, the Austrian parties are in a powerful gatekeeper position. Recent research on the composition of these lists identified major shortcomings, particularly the under-representation of women and younger candidates.
Bulgaria’s present electoral code has been in force since 2014. Registration processes for parties and candidates are fair and transparent. Candidate registration requires a candidate to be registered as a member of a party, coalition of parties or nominating committee. 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 for public office, unless they are EU citizens running for office in municipal or European Parliament elections. A constitutional clause prohibits the formation of “ethnically based and religious” parties, but because it cannot be applied retroactively, it has no impact on the existence of parties in place before the first post-Communist elections (June 1990), such as the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) representing Bulgarian Turks and Muslims.
The Bulgarian constitution does not allow Bulgarian citizens with dual citizenship to run as candidates or serve in office, a requirement which runs against international best practices. This became relevant in the case of Prime Minister Kiril Petkov, whose status as a dual citizen of Bulgaria and Canada became the object of a Constitutional Court case in the fall of 2021. Petkov, who had served as minister of the economy under Stefan Yanev’s caretaker government in the summer of 2021 and was elected as prime minister by parliament following the November 2021 elections, renounced his Canadian citizenship in April 2021. However, because the procedure was not formally complete until August 2021, the court retroactively overturned his appointment as minister of the economy, effectively upholding the constitutional ban on citizens with foreign passports running for public office. No changes in this area are anticipated for the near future.

Contrary to best practices and OSCE recommendations, voter registration remains strict with regard to those who fail to meet the registration deadlines.
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. Article 60 of Law 18,556 entrusts the Electoral Service (SERVEL) with administering, supervising and overseeing the electoral registration process, as well as with preparing and updating the electoral rolls and electoral act. Moreover, this entity has the power to supervise and oversee compliance with the rules governing political parties, including their autonomy and financing. As an institution, SERVEL is recognized as being an important authority for Chile’s democracy and election processes. Since 2013, significant reforms have rendered electoral provisions more transparent and inclusive, and have 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 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 districts and constituencies for the election of deputies (from 60 to 28).
- A reduction in the number of districts and constituencies for the election of senators (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 16 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, a further electoral law (Law No. 20,990) introduced the direct popular election of the top executive in the country’s 16 administrative regions. With the goal of fostering decentralization and citizen participation, the regional mayors (Intendentes Regionales), which had previously been designated by the central government, were replaced by elected regional governors (Gobernadores Regionales). 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 second round (runoff) between the two candidates with the most first-round votes.

The new electoral provisions for Congress were first applied in the legislative elections of November 2017, and in that year’s presidential elections. The first direct regional governor elections had originally been scheduled for October 2020, but were postponed to May 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The legal basis for the election of Constitutional Convention members was established through the modification of Law 21,200 in December 2019. The Constitutional Convention is composed of 155 members, which were elected by popular vote in May 2021, using the same (28) districts that are used to elect deputies. Special rules were applied in this particular election to facilitate the participation of independent candidates and to ensure gender balance. In addition, 17 seats in the Convention were reserved for representatives of native peoples.
Chilean Electoral Service (Servicio Electoral de Chile - Servel), www.servel.cl, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On the electoral system:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional – BCN), https://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/nuevo-sistema-electoral-para-elecciones-parlamentarias-(fin-del-sistema-binominal), last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On Regional Governors:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional – BCN), https://www.bcn.cl/leyfacil/recurso/eleccion-democratica-de-gobernadores-regionales, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On the election of the Constitutional Convention:
Library of the National Congress (Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional – BCN), https://www.bcn.cl/leychile/navegar?idNorma=1140340, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

On the electoral process of the Constitutional Convention:
Gobierno de Chile, https://www.gob.cl/procesoconstituyente/#convencion, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Ricardo Gamboa/Mauricio Morales, 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, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Claudia Zilla, Franziska F. N. Schreiber, The Constitutional Process in Chile. The South American Country Is Searching for a New Social Contract, SWP Comment 2020/C 17, 06.04.2020, doi:10.18449/2020C17, https://www.swp-berlin.org/en/publication/the-constitutional-process-in-chile, last accessed: 16 February 2022.
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. After the 2021 local elections, independent mayors controlled 130 cities and municipalities. They won 41 more seats than four years ago, and pushed the SDP to the position of the third-strongest political force at the local government level. HDZ remained the strongest political party at the local level, winning 250 out of 556 mayorships in cities and municipalities, and 15 out of 20 county-prefect positions.
OSCE/ODIHR (2019): Needs Assessment Mission Report Republic of Croatia: Presidential Election 22 December 2019. Warsaw, 5-6 (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/croatia/440501).

OSCE/ODIHR (2020): Election Assessment Mission Final Report Republic of Croatia: Parliamentary Elections 5 July 2020. Warsaw. 28 September (https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/b/4/465120_0.pdf)
Registration requirements for candidates are minimal and relate to citizenship, age, mental soundness and criminal record. The president of the republic must belong to the Greek community. Citizens of other EU member states have voting and eligibility rights in local elections. Eligibility to vote and contest a seat in European Parliament elections was extended to Turkish Cypriots residing in areas not under the government’s control in 2014. 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 be president is 35. Th eligibility age was reduced from 25 to 21 for municipal and community councilors, and European Parliamentarians in 2013, and for deputies in 2019. Candidate registration procedures are clearly defined, reasonable, and open to media and public review. A candidate must be proposed and supported by registered voters: Two voters 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 is returned to candidates who meet vote thresholds specific to each election type.

An example of discrimination is the higher thresholds to enter parliament for party alliances.
1. The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, https://www.constituteproject.org/constitution/Cyprus_2013.pdf?lang=en
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. Christophoros Christophorou, Parties and coalitions, un undemocratic law provision, 2021, https://www.eklektor.org/parties-and-coalitions-un-undemocratic-law-provision/
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 seat in 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 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 due to a record 15 parties running for parliament in 2013. In the 2016 elections, parties that did not reach the 5% threshold received a combined 5.7% of the total vote and 4.7% in the 2021 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).
The registration procedure is fair and no unreasonable exclusion exists. In order to present a list of candidates, new parties without parliamentary representation have to collect between 400 and 1,500 signatures, depending on the size of the electoral district. Parties already represented in parliament are exonerated from this duty.

The age to qualify for local political office is the age of maturity (18 years); for the Chamber of Deputies, it is 25 years; and for the Senate, it is 40 years.

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 selecting candidates vary from party to party, but the use of primaries is increasing, especially among center-left parties, making them more open and democratic.
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. 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 being 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 lifelong ban for those who have committed a crime in a state of mental disorder should be lifted.

From 2020, lists of candidates may no longer be submitted by associations of voters in municipal elections, but only by registered political parties, registered associations of registered political parties, or two or more registered political parties that have not joined a registered association of political parties. In the past, voter associations did not require such a large number of members of the legal structure of the party to run in municipal elections, which is now presenting a challenge to small regional parties.

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court is considering a constitutional complaint filed by a small regional party that has complained that the state funding for parties (which has increased by 2% in 2020 for the Saeima election) is unfair to small local parties that want to participate in a single local government election, and not only cannot compete with the recipients of funding at the national level, but are also forced by law to maintain the legal form of the party.
1. The Saeima Election Law, Article 5 and 6, Available at: https://www.cvk.lv/pub/public/30870.html, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

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 accessed: 04.01.2022.

4. Ivars Ijabs (2018), 2018 Parliamentary Elections in Latvia, Available at: http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/baltikum/14739.pdf, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

5. Official Gazette ‘Latvijas Vēstnesis’ (2021) Municipal councils will elect a smaller number of members, Available (in Latvian): https://lvportals.lv/skaidrojumi/323898-pasvaldibu-domes-turpmak-veles-mazaku-deputatu-skaitu-2021, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.
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 and 2020 parliamentary elections as well as the 2019 presidential elections. Independent candidates as well as party-affiliated candidates can stand for election. The so-called public electoral committees, which can take part in the elections and compete with political parties, but face less demanding requirements for registration, can participate in the 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. In 2021, the parliament agreed to consider changes to the constitution that would allow for an impeached person to run for a parliamentary seat after 10 years. Following the 2019 presidential 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.

Due to demographic changes, in 2019, two additional constituencies were established – one in Vilnius and one for Lithuanians living abroad – and two rural constituencies were abolished. 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 Lithuania, Parliamentary Elections, 11 and 25 October 2020: Final Report, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/477730

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 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, namely the lack of an official national minimum threshold; the fact that candidates are no longer listed alphabetically, giving an advantage to certain candidates; and the lack of correctives to encourage the election of female candidates. The latter has been partially addressed. At the next election, if the percentage of women elected falls below 40%, a corrective measure will come into play. However, this corrective mechanism only comes into play for the two major parties and is, therefore, said to militate against the interests of smaller parties. 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. As a result of the introduction of the new gender correction mechanism, a minimum of four members from the 10-member electoral commission must now be women.
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.
Malta Today 10/09/21 Women are on Malta electoral commission after legal changes
Malta Today 28/02/20 Gender mechanism only serves big parties AD Says as government welcomes PN agreement
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 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 (Miller 2005). 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 (McCulloch 2018).
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, one new political party was formally registered: Volt Portugal in June 2020. The January 2022 legislative elections will be contested by 22 different lists, one more than in 2019 and the highest total yet since democratization.
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, 2020 and 2021. After the 2019 elections, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights expressed a high level of confidence in the framework and management of parliamentary elections in Spain.

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. However, Spanish procedures for registering candidates are fair, and everyone (including those who have been prosecuted for serious criminal offenses and even fugitives) has the opportunity to become an election candidate without restriction or discrimination.

In September 2020, the Supreme Court disqualified incumbent Catalan president Quim Torra from office, from holding any elected office and from exercising government powers. He had been convicted by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia in late 2019 of violating electoral law and disobeying orders from the National Electoral Board by failing to remove separatist symbols from public buildings. This argument also applied to Catalan regional member of parliament Pau Juvillà in December 2021, when the same regional court disqualified him for displaying pro-independence symbols during the electoral period, ordering his removal as member of parliament.
OSCE (2019), Spain Early Parliamentary Elections, https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/spain/416252

Barrat Esteve, Jordi (2021), Spanish Regional Elections During the COVID-19 Pandemic, International IDEA, https://www.idea.int/sites/default/files/spanish-regional-elections-during-the-covid-19-pandemic.pdf
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. In 2019, this index ranked the Netherlands at seventh place, with 61 out of 70 points, after all the Nordic countries and Germany. Based on data from Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer – EU 2021 on perceptions of electoral integrity, the Netherlands fell at fourth place (after Finland, Sweden and Denmark).

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

Transparency International, People see low political integrity throughout EU (transparency.org)

P. Norris, M. Grömping, 2019, Perception of Electoral Integrity

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 discriminates against them.

Leaving the European Union has prompted the necessity to determine voting and candidacy rights for EU citizens. The proposal in the current Election Bill, however, has been criticized by the House of Commons Public Administration Committee Report on the bill, which states that the bill is too complex and likely to lead to confusion.
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. Ballot access is organized by the states and the requirements differ between the states. They all require a specific amount of signatures to get on the ballot.
In 2021, three states changed their Ballot Access requirements (New Jersey, New York and Virginia). In all three states, the requirements to ballot access were reduced. In New Jersey, the files can now be sent in electronically while New York has lowered the petition signature requirements for unaffiliated candidates, and Virginia lowered its signature requirements for statewide petitions.
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. This Basic Law promises an equal opportunity for each Israeli citizen to elect and to be elected under certain reasonable restraints, namely being a citizen over the age of 21, with no record of incarceration over a three-month period in the seven years prior to his/her nomination. Nominees who held a prominent public office (as specified in the written law) must wait a cooling period. More controversially, the Basic Law: The Knesset authorizes the Central Elections Committee to reject a nominee or a list if they reject Israel’s Jewish and democratic identity, if they support another country or terrorist organization’s armed conflict against Israel, or if they incite racism.

The Central Elections Committee is chaired by a High Court of Justice judge and is assembled by Knesset members according to the prevailing seat allocation in the Knesset. Therefore, it is mainly a political body. Nevertheless, any decision to disqualify a nominee must be authorized by the Supreme Court, which in many cases overrules the committee’s decisions.
“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

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

“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:
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 €23,000, 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 small parties and independent candidates. The large amount required for such a deposit also discourages younger candidates, who generally find it more difficult to secure such funds. The minimum age for candidates, set at 25 for the lower house and 30 for the upper house, could also be lowered, although in other countries such as the United States, the minimum age to run for office ranges from 18 to 35, depending on the state.
Leo Lin, The High Cost of Running for Office, Tokyo Review, 28 August 2017, http://www.tokyoreview.net/2017/08/election-deposits-japan/

Michael MacArthur Bosack, How the LDP keeps winning, The Japan Times, 12 October 2021, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2021/10/12/commentary/japan-commentary/how-ldp-wins/
Legislative elections in Luxembourg are governed by the constitution and by electoral law. The country has a unicameral system (Chamber of Deputies), and the length of deputies’ term is five years. The country has four electoral districts (South, Center, North and East), and the cities Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, Diekirch and Grevenmacher are their respective capitals. According to the constitution, the Chamber has 60 seats. Electoral law sets the number of deputies to be elected in each district, as follows: South with 23 deputies, the Center with 21 deputies, the North with nine deputies and the East with seven deputies. Deputies are elected using a list-based voting system, according to the rules of proportional representation, by universal suffrage, with voting being direct and secret.
“Press release by the Prime Minister, Minister of State, on the result of the signature collection for a referendum on the proposal to revise Chapter VI of the Constitution.” Official elections website of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg (5 January 2022). https://elections.public.lu/en/actualites/2022/resultat-signatures-referendum.html. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Élections législatives, communales et européennes.” Official elections website of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. http://data.legilux.public.lu/file/eli-etat-leg-recueil-elections-20180625-fr-pdf.pdf. Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Bettel fragt, die Fraktionen antworten.” Luxemburger Wort, 4 March 2020.
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.

The 2019 changes to the mode of selecting members 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 parliamentary elections in the same year, have increased the government’s 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 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.

There was no formal discrimination against specific candidates in the 2020 presidential election (OSCE/ ODIHR 2020, 13-14). The PKW ultimately approved the candidatures of 11 candidates, one following the annulment of a PKW rejection by the Supreme Court. The quarrels over the timing and the procedure of the presidential election complicated preparations for the election. At the same time, the postponement allowed the Civic Platform (PO), the main opposition party, to change its candidate. In May 2020, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, the previous nominee, was replaced by Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw.
OSCE/ ODIHR (2020): Special Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Presidential Election, 28 June and 12 July 2020. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/464601).
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 December 2021, the age of eligibility for running for parliamentary and regional office was lowered from 25 to 18. Also in 2021, the revised Article 6 of the Political Funds Act took effect, allowing (preliminary) candidates for local council elections (in addition to local government heads) to designate supporters’ groups for the purposes of campaign fundraising.

In 2019, the parliamentary election process was reformed to distribute proportional representation seats to better reflect voter preferences and boost the presence of minor parties. The aim was to compensate smaller parties for their disadvantage vis-à-vis large parties due to the first-past-the-poll races in electoral districts. Unfortunately, the reform actually worsened the situation, because in a legally dubious move, former members of major parties created satellite parties to help major parties benefit from the new election system. Thus, the two satellite parties connected to the major parties won 36 of 47 proportional representation seats in the April 2020 parliamentary elections, while truly independent parties fared poorly.

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.
Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2009, New York: Freedom House
The Guardian. 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
Hanelt, Etienne. “In the Orbit of Democracy: Satellite Parties in South Korea’s 2020 Parliamentary Election.” Politics Blog. Oxford University, June 8, 2021. https://blog.politics.ox.ac.uk/in-the-orbit-of-democracy-satellite-parties-in-south-koreas-2020-parliamentary-election/.
Lee, Hae-a. “Assembly Passes Bill on Lowering Age of Candidacy for Parliament to 18.” Yonhap News Agency, December 31, 2021. https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20211231003200315.
Public Officials Election Act, Act No. 9974, Jan. 25, 2010
정치자금법 (Political Funds Act), 법률 제17885호, 2021. 1. 5., Accessed January 29, 2022, https://www.law.go.kr/
헌법재판소 (Constitutional Court), 2018헌마301·430(병합), 2019.12.27., Accessed January 29, 2022, https://ccourt.go.kr/
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.
In September 2020, an attempt to register Mexico Libre, a new party created by former President Felipe Calderón and his wife, Margarita Zavala, was rejected by the INE national electoral institute. Zavala claimed that the government put pressure on INE to make this decision so as to avoid competition.

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. The midterm elections in 2021 are considered to have been some of the most violent polls in recent Mexican history. Dozens of candidates of all political parties were killed during the campaign. Estimated numbers range from 34 to 140, with the killings usually linked to organized crime. 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.
There have been no substantial developments in candidacy procedures that would have had an impact on the 2020 or 2021 parliamentary and local elections in Romania. Like most parliamentary systems, political parties put forward their candidate for respective ridings, while other individuals are permitted to run as independents. In the 2020 local elections, there were 18 candidates on the ballot for the Bucharest mayoral race, with five of those candidates running as independents. Candidates are finalized by the Central Election Bureau in advance of the election.

Freedom House’s 2021 report noted that Romania’s electoral laws and frameworks generally provide for fair and competitive elections. This is supported by the Central Election Bureau, which includes judges and political representatives, as well as the Permanent Electoral Authority, which manages voter registration, campaign finance and logistics. The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe observers who monitored the 2020 parliamentary elections noted the complexity of the legal framework.
Each Orbán government, since the first came to office in 2010, has repeatedly changed electoral procedures and skewed them to improve the chances for Fidesz. They have done so without consulting the opposition and often with little notice. For some time, the government has sought to confound voters and to weaken the opposition by favoring a surge in candidacies and phantom parties by lowering and not enforcing registration requirements. Before the 2022 parliamentary elections, the government somehow changed course. At the end of 2020, the Fidesz majority in parliament passed an electoral law reform, which dramatically increased the number of constituencies in which parties must field a candidate in order to participate in the election of the 93 out of 199 members of parliament that are elected in a nationwide proportional contest. Justified as an attempt to reduce the number of shadow parties, this reform aimed to weaken the fragmented parliamentary opposition. As the six main opposition parties succeeded in uniting behind a single candidate in each constituency, it has failed to do so. However, the new provisions have been a major obstacle to the formation of new parties beyond the two main camps, and have been criticized for fostering polarization and limiting pluralism.
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 is 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. 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 laws governing presidential elections, deputies’ elections and local-administration elections.

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 the lack of a criminal record (e.g., having been sentenced to prison for certain crimes). Any citizen can object to presumptive candidates within the period announced by the YSK, which makes the final decision on any objections.

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 presidential candidates if they collect at least 100.000 signatures for which notarization is not required in the 2018 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.

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
Discriminating registration procedures for elections are widespread and prevent a large number of potential candidates or parties from participating.
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