Last updated

Preselection is the process by which a candidate is selected, usually by a political party, to contest an election for political office. It is also referred to as candidate selection. It is a fundamental function of political parties. The preselection process may involve the party's executive or leader selecting a candidate [1] or by some contested process. In countries that adopt Westminster-style responsible government, preselection is also the first step on the path to a position in the executive. The selected candidate is commonly referred to as the party's endorsed candidate.


Deselection or disendorsement is the opposite procedure, when the political party withdraws its support from one of its elected office-holders. The party may then select a replacement candidate at the subsequent election, or it may decide (or be compelled by the electoral timetable) to forgo contesting that seat (for example, the Liberal Party of Australia after Pauline Hanson was disendorsed just before the 1996 House of Representatives election, and likewise the Labour candidate for Moray, Stuart Maclennan, just before the 2010 UK general election). The deselected representative is usually free to still contest the election as an Independent or as a representative of another party.

Reselection is the procedure of requiring candidates to repeat the preselection process to retain the party's support.

An example of a preselection procedure that gains extensive media coverage is the selection of candidates for President of the United States, referred to by one observer as 'the wildest democratic political bazaar in the world'. [2] These are generally known as presidential primaries, but are actually a combination of primary elections, in which voters in a jurisdiction select candidates, and caucuses, in which candidates are selected by a narrower (but still potentially large) group of party members. [3] [4]

In other countries, a wide variety of preselection systems exist, though the majority involve members of a political party or party executive playing a role in selecting candidates to compete in elections. [5]


In politics, the preselection process is the process by which candidates who are members of a political party are selected by that party to contest an election for political office. It is a fundamental function of political parties, affecting 'representation, party cohesion, legislative behaviour and democratic stability.' [5] In countries that adopt Westminster-style responsible government, preselection is also the first step on the path to a position in the executive. [6]

In Australia, the term has been in common usage since the 1920s to describe the selection of candidates by political parties for public office. One usage of the term is in describing elected public officeholders in Westminster type party systems as being selected by the voters after being preselected by their parties. [7] It derives from Australian Labor Party preselection practices that were widely used by that party before 1955. [7] These involved a two step process of a preselection ballot or plebiscite of party members and affiliated trade unionists in the electorate being contested, and endorsement, which was normally a formality, by the state executive. The ALP, as well as in some states the Liberal Party, now uses a system in which votes in the plebiscite are combined with votes from delegates selected by the party organisation. [8]

Variables in the preselection process

Preselection can occur in a wide variety of ways, but four main variables characterise the range of systems:

In each case, it is possible to assess the variables on a scale from "open" to "closed" [9] or from "inclusive" to "exclusive". [5]

Eligibility to stand

Eligibility to be a candidate in preselection is frequently bound by rules set by a political party.

Preselection may also be affected by a jurisdiction's electoral system. In Indonesia, for example, there is a system of public and administrative scrutiny of draft candidate lists. This may include examination of issues such as personal character or internal party issues, and lead to candidates being eliminated. [10]

Membership of the preselecting body

Delegates to the historically significant 1912 Democratic National Convention. Balt. Conv. 1912 LOC 2163936972.jpg
Delegates to the historically significant 1912 Democratic National Convention.

The bodies that most commonly preselect candidates for political office (the selectors or "selectorate") [5] are party members or party organisations such as a party executive or candidate selection committee. [12] However, the selectors may be a broader group such as all voters or registered voters (as in some United States primary elections). Alternatively, there may be a more restricted group of selectors or selection may, in rare cases, be undertaken by an individual, such as a party leader.

System used by the body to make the choice

Preselection may take place by a system of voting by the selectors (examples include United States primaries and most major Australian political party preselections), or there may be a system of appointment, such as through decision by a selection committee. [13]

Additional rules governing preselection

Some preselections are governed by additional rules that may serve to ensure a particular composition amongst candidates as a whole, or to facilitate other party objectives such as decentralisation of decision-making. [5] In several countries including Australia and Canada, candidate selection is normally conducted by internal party processes at the constituency or electorate level. [14] However it can be possible for a regional or national party body or leader to intervene to ensure a particular candidate is preselected, [15] [16] and there may be party rules governing the composition of the body of candidates as a whole that may require modification of preselection processes or outcomes, such as to implement policies directed toward gender balance. Gender balance objectives have been set by the Australian Labor Party [17] [18] and the German Social Democratic Party. [5] In Belgium, the Belgian Christian Social party set rules aimed at ensuring balanced preselection of Flemish and Francophone candidates. [5]

In the ACT Liberal party in Australia, candidates for the 2016 election were required to pay a A$3,500 "nomination fee". [19] There were 25 nominations for five seats. In Australia, public office-holders are required to resign those offices before nominating at a preselection. For example, the Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Tim Wilson, resigned that office in February 2016 before nominating for the Liberal Party. [20]

Preselection controversies and scandals

Preselection within all major Australian political parties has been the subject of accounts of "branch stacking" and abuse of process. [21] While affecting both major parties, [22] [23] [24] the Australian Labor Party was most severely affected in the state of Queensland, in incidents that led to the resignation of three members of the Queensland Parliament. [25] The resignations were related to allegations or admissions of electoral fraud resulting from attempts to "branch stack": to bring supporters into a party branch or electorate to assist a candidate in their bid to win party preselection.


See also

Related Research Articles

Australian Labor Party Federal political party in Australia

The Australian Labor Party (ALP), also simply known as Labor and historically spelt Labour, is the major centre-left political party in Australia, one of two major parties in Australian politics, along with the centre-right Liberal Party of Australia. It has been in Opposition in the federal parliament since the 2013 election. The ALP is a federal party, with political branches in each state and territory. They are currently in government in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory. The Labor Party is the oldest political party in Australia.

Election Process by which a population chooses the holder of a public office

An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold public office.

Primary elections, often abbreviated to primaries, are a process by which voters can indicate their preference for their party's candidate, or a candidate in general, in an upcoming general election, local election, or by-election. Depending on the country and administrative divisions within the country, voters might consist of the general public in what is called an open primary, or solely the members of a political party in what is called a closed primary. In addition to these, there are other variants on primaries that are used by many countries holding elections throughout the world.

Democratic Labour Party (Australia)

The Democratic Labour Party (DLP), formerly the Democratic Labor Party, is an Australian political party. It broke off from the Australian Labor Party (ALP) as a result of the 1955 ALP split, originally under the name Australian Labor Party (Anti-Communist), and was renamed the Democratic Labor Party in 1957. In 1962, the Queensland Labor Party, a breakaway party of the Queensland branch of the Australian Labor Party, became the Queensland branch of the DLP.

A candidate, or nominee, is the prospective recipient of an award or honor, or a person seeking or being considered for some kind of position; for example:

Elections in Australia Overview of the procedure of elections in Australia

Elections in Australia take place periodically to elect the legislature of the Commonwealth of Australia, as well as for each Australian state and territory and for local government councils. Elections in all jurisdictions follow similar principles, though there are minor variations between them. The elections for the Australian Parliament are held under the federal electoral system, which is uniform throughout the country, and the elections for state and territory Parliaments are held under the electoral system of each state and territory.

Branch stacking is a term used in Australian politics to describe the act of recruiting or signing up members for a local branch of a political party for the principal purpose of influencing the outcome of internal preselection of candidates for public office, or of inordinately influencing the party's policy.

Edmund Denis (Ed) Casey was best known as the leader of the Australian Labor Party in Queensland between 1978 and 1982. He also served as Primary Industries Minister in the government of Wayne Goss between 1989 and 1995. Casey was the member for Mackay in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland between 1969 and 1995.

This article provides details on candidates who stood at the 2007 Australian federal election.

Sixth Party System Sixth Party System is development of electoral politics in the United States, 1980–2016

The Sixth Party System is the era in United States politics following the Fifth Party System. As with any periodization, opinions differ on when the Sixth Party System may have begun, with suggested dates ranging from the late 1960s or 1970 to the 1990s and beyond. Nonetheless, there is agreement among scholars that the Sixth Party System features strong division between the Democratic and Republican parties, which are rooted in socio-economic, class, cultural and racial issues, and the proper role of government.

2005 Werriwa by-election

The 2005 Werriwa by-election was held in the Australian electorate of Werriwa in south-western Sydney on 19 March 2005, after the resignation of Labor MP Mark Latham, who had represented the electorate since 1994. Latham had been federal Opposition Leader since 2 December 2003 and led Labor to defeat at the 2004 election. He had become increasingly dissatisfied with politics and was struggling with recurring pancreatitis. He announced his resignation from parliament on 18 January 2005.

2002 Cunningham by-election

The 2002 Cunningham by-election was held in the Australian electorate of Cunningham in New South Wales on 19 October 2002. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of the sitting member, the Australian Labor Party's Stephen Martin on 16 August 2002. The writ for the by-election was issued on 16 September 2002.

Pippa Norris Political scientist

Pippa Norris is a comparative political scientist. She is the McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and she has served as the Australian Laureate Fellow and Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney, and Director of the Electoral Integrity Project.

A by-election for the Australian House of Representatives division of Werriwa was held on 28 January 1994. It was triggered by the resignation of sitting Labor Party member and former minister John Kerin.

2014 Victorian state election

The 2014 Victorian state election, held on Saturday, 29 November 2014, was for the 58th Parliament of Victoria. All 88 seats in the Victorian Legislative Assembly and 40 seats in the Victorian Legislative Council were up for election. The incumbent centre-right Coalition minority government, led by Liberal Party leader and Premier Denis Napthine and National Party leader and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, was defeated by the centre-left Labor Party opposition, led by Daniel Andrews. The Greens won two lower house seats, their first Legislative Assembly seats in a Victorian state election, whilst increasing their share of upper house seats. The new Andrews Ministry was sworn in on 4 December 2014.

2018 Victorian state election Election for the 59th Parliament of Victoria

The 2018 Victorian state election was held on Saturday, 24 November 2018 to elect the 59th Parliament of Victoria. All 88 seats in the Legislative Assembly and all 40 seats in the Legislative Council were up for election. The first-term incumbent Labor government, led by Premier Daniel Andrews, won a second four-year term, defeating the Liberal/National Coalition opposition, led by Opposition Leader Matthew Guy. Minor party the Greens led by Samantha Ratnam also contested the election.

The Australian Labor Party , commonly known as Victorian Labor, is the semi-autonomous Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). The Victorian branch comprises two major wings: the parliamentary wing and the organisational wing. The parliamentary wing comprising all elected party members in the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, which when they meet collectively constitute the party caucus. The parliamentary leader is elected from and by the caucus, and party factions have a strong influence in the election of the leader. The leader's position is dependent on the continuing support of the caucus and the leader may be deposed by failing to win a vote of confidence of parliamentary members. By convention, the premier sits in the Legislative Assembly, and is the leader of the party controlling a majority in that house. The party leader also typically is a member of the Assembly, though this is not a strict party constitutional requirement.

2021 Western Australian state election State general election for Western Australia, held on 13 March 2021

The 2021 Western Australian state election was conducted on Saturday 13 March 2021 to elect members to the Parliament of Western Australia, where all 59 seats in the Legislative Assembly and all 36 seats in the Legislative Council were up for election.

2021 Tasmanian state election

The 2021 Tasmanian state election is scheduled to be held on 1 May 2021 to elect all 25 members to the Tasmanian House of Assembly and 3 of the 15 seats in the Tasmanian Legislative Council.

The Tasmanian Liberal League was a political party in the Australian state of Tasmania. It was founded in 1909 and merged into the Nationalist Party in 1917. During its existence it formed a two-party system in the Parliament of Tasmania with the Australian Labor Party (ALP). Although the league was created in the same year as the federal Liberal Party, there were no formal ties between the two.


  1. Malcolm Turnbull steps in to protect two sitting NSW MPs
  2. John Haskell, 'A Quarter Century of Direct Democracy in Presidential Nomination Campaigns: What's the Verdict?', in Robert DiClerico (ed.), Political Parties, Campaigns, and Elections, Prentice Hall, NJ, 2000, p. 31.
  3. Kenneth Jost, 'Electing the President', Congressional Quarterly Researcher, Vol. 17, No. 15, 2007, pp. 337–360.
  4. James Lengle, Diana Owen and Molly Sonner, 'Divisive Primaries and Democratic Electoral Prospects', Journal of Politics, Vol. 57, 1995, pp. 370–383.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Reuven Hazan, 'Candidate Selection', in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies 2, Sage Publications, London, 2002
  6. Michael Rush, The selection of parliamentary candidates, Nelson, London, 1969, p. 9.
  7. 1 2 Lyle Allan, 'Candidate Pre-selection in Australian Politics,' Journal for Students of Year 12 Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4, April 1989, p.18.
  8. Lyle Allan, 'Ethnic Recruitment or Ethnic Branch Stacking? Factionalism and Ethnicity in the Victorian ALP,' People and Place, Vol. 8, No. 1, April 2000, p.28.
  9. Raymond Miller, Party Politics in New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 2005.
  10. Graham Hassall, 'Introduction: Systems of Representation in Asia-Pacific Constitutions – A Comparative Analysis', in Graham Hassall and Cheryl Saunders (eds), The People's Representatives: Electoral Systems in the Asia-Pacific Region, Allen & Unwin, 1997, pp. 12–13
  11. Arthur S. Link, 'The Baltimore Convention of 1912', The American Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, 1945, pp. 691–713.
  12. Pippa Norris, 'Legislative Recruitment', in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies, Sage Publications, 1996, pp. 192–193.
  13. Of course, selection committees may themselves be governed internally by voting rules, however this need not necessarily be the case.
  14. See, for example, R.K. Carty and Lynda Erickson, 'Candidate Nomination in Canada's National Political Parties', In Herman Bakvis (ed.), Canadian Political Parties: Leaders, Candidates and Organisation, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing Research studies, Volume 13, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1991, p. 110.
  15. However much such an intervention may be resented. See R.K. Carty and Lynda Erickson, 'Candidate Nomination in Canada's National Political Parties', In Herman Bakvis (ed.), Canadian Political Parties: Leaders, Candidates and Organisation, Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing Research studies, Volume 13, Dundurn Press, Toronto, 1991, p. 110.
  16. ABC News, 14 April 2016: Tony Abbott criticises Liberal Party pre-selection process, confirms he's not endorsing Bronwyn Bishop
  17. Australian Labor Party, National Constitution of the ALP Archived 2007-08-29 at the Wayback Machine , 2007, Item B 10, retrieved January 2008.
  18. Labor's affirmative action laws invoked in messy preselection fight for Wills
  19. Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson defends $3300 preselection nomination fee
  20. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson to seek Goldstein preselection
  21. Anika Gauja, 'Enforcing democracy? Towards a regulatory regime for the implementation of intra-party democracy Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine ', Democratic Audit of Australia, Discussion Paper 14/06 (April 2006)
  22. Scott Emerson, 'Liberals stack on internal poll row', The Australian, 2 Mar 2000.
  23. Sam Strutt, '"Most knew" of ALP vote stacking', Australian Financial Review, 5 Dec 2000.
  24. Fred Brenchley, 'Stacks of trouble', The Bulletin, Vol. 118, No. 6232, 11 Jul 2000
  25. Bernard Lagan, 'Labor reeling after third rorts scalp', Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jan 2001.

Further reading




New Zealand

United Kingdom

United States