Independent Candidates in National and European Elections

15-04-2013

Independent candidates remain marginal vote-getters in the vast majority of elections in which they compete. However, they do regularly win seats in legislative assemblies in a number of European countries, and occasionally achieve surprise victories in others. Half of the EU member states currently grant ballot access to independents in national legislative elections, while only a quarter of member states allow non-party candidates in European Parliament elections. Ballot access requirements for independents vary widely across EU-27 but tend to be more stringent for European elections than for national elections. Independent candidates perform better in systems with plurality rule or preferential voting compared to party-list PR systems. They win seats in single-member districts and low-magnitude multi-member districts. Although independents are expected to benefit from electoral rules that make politics more candidate-centered, the performance of non-party candidates does not depend on the modality of lists (open or closed). The vote for independents has elements of a protest vote. Voters who vote for independent candidates tend to be more critical of the government and less satisfied with the way democracy works in their country than party-voters. They are also less likely to feel close to any political party. When independent candidates are elected to office, they frequently join parties and parliamentary party groups. Thus, independence is often not a principled position but a temporary status resulting from circumstantial choices made by individuals competing for political office.

Independent candidates remain marginal vote-getters in the vast majority of elections in which they compete. However, they do regularly win seats in legislative assemblies in a number of European countries, and occasionally achieve surprise victories in others. Half of the EU member states currently grant ballot access to independents in national legislative elections, while only a quarter of member states allow non-party candidates in European Parliament elections. Ballot access requirements for independents vary widely across EU-27 but tend to be more stringent for European elections than for national elections. Independent candidates perform better in systems with plurality rule or preferential voting compared to party-list PR systems. They win seats in single-member districts and low-magnitude multi-member districts. Although independents are expected to benefit from electoral rules that make politics more candidate-centered, the performance of non-party candidates does not depend on the modality of lists (open or closed). The vote for independents has elements of a protest vote. Voters who vote for independent candidates tend to be more critical of the government and less satisfied with the way democracy works in their country than party-voters. They are also less likely to feel close to any political party. When independent candidates are elected to office, they frequently join parties and parliamentary party groups. Thus, independence is often not a principled position but a temporary status resulting from circumstantial choices made by individuals competing for political office.

Auteur externe

Piret Ehin, Ülle Madise, Mihkel Solvak, Rein Taagepera, Kristjan Vassil and Priit Vinkel