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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 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'. 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.
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.
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.' In countries that adopt Westminster-style responsible government, preselection is also the first step on the path to a position in the executive.
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. It derives from Australian Labor Party preselection practices that were widely used by that party before 1955. 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.
Variables in the preselection process
Preselection can occur in a wide variety of ways, but four main variables characterise the range of systems:
- Eligibility to stand
- Membership of the preselecting body
- System used by the body to make the choice
- Additional rules determining composition of candidates as a group.
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.
Membership of the preselecting body
The bodies that most commonly preselect candidates for political office (the selectors or "selectorate") are party members or party organisations such as a party executive or candidate selection committee. 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.
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. In several countries including Australia and Canada, candidate selection is normally conducted by internal party processes at the constituency or electorate level. However it can be possible for a regional or national party body or leader to intervene to ensure a particular candidate is preselected, 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 and the German Social Democratic Party. In Belgium, the Belgian Christian Social party set rules aimed at ensuring balanced preselection of Flemish and Francophone candidates.
In the ACT Liberal party in Australia, candidates for the 2016 election were required to pay a A$3,500 "nomination fee". 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.
Preselection controversies and scandals
Preselection within all major Australian political parties has been the subject of accounts of "branch stacking" and abuse of process. While affecting both major parties, 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. 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.
- Presumptive nominee
- Primary election
- Prospective parliamentary candidate
- United States presidential primary
- Candidate deselection (Labour Party)
- Malcolm Turnbull steps in to protect two sitting NSW MPs
- 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.
- Kenneth Jost, 'Electing the President', Congressional Quarterly Researcher, Vol. 17, No. 15, 2007, pp. 337–360.
- James Lengle, Diana Owen and Molly Sonner, 'Divisive Primaries and Democratic Electoral Prospects', Journal of Politics, Vol. 57, 1995, pp. 370–383.
- Reuven Hazan, 'Candidate Selection', in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies 2, Sage Publications, London, 2002
- Michael Rush, The selection of parliamentary candidates, Nelson, London, 1969, p. 9.
- Lyle Allan, 'Candidate Pre-selection in Australian Politics,' Journal for Students of Year 12 Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4, April 1989, p.18.
- 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.
- Raymond Miller, Party Politics in New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 2005.
- 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
- Arthur S. Link, 'The Baltimore Convention of 1912', The American Historical Review, Vol. 50, No. 4, 1945, pp. 691–713.
- Pippa Norris, 'Legislative Recruitment', in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies, Sage Publications, 1996, pp. 192–193.
- Of course, selection committees may themselves be governed internally by voting rules, however this need not necessarily be the case.
- 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.
- 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.
- ABC News, 14 April 2016: Tony Abbott criticises Liberal Party pre-selection process, confirms he's not endorsing Bronwyn Bishop
- Australian Labor Party, National Constitution of the ALP Archived 2007-08-29 at the Wayback Machine, 2007, Item B 10, retrieved January 2008.
- Labor's affirmative action laws invoked in messy preselection fight for Wills
- Liberal leader Jeremy Hanson defends $3300 preselection nomination fee
- Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson to seek Goldstein preselection
- 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)
- Scott Emerson, 'Liberals stack on internal poll row', The Australian, 2 Mar 2000.
- Sam Strutt, '"Most knew" of ALP vote stacking', Australian Financial Review, 5 Dec 2000.
- Fred Brenchley, 'Stacks of trouble', The Bulletin, Vol. 118, No. 6232, 11 Jul 2000
- Bernard Lagan, 'Labor reeling after third rorts scalp', Sydney Morning Herald, 11 Jan 2001.
- M. Gallagher and M. Marsh (eds), Candidate Selection in Comparative Perspective: The Secret Garden of Politics, Sage, London, 1988.
- Reuven Hazan, 'Candidate Selection', in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds), Comparing Democracies 2, Sage Publications, London, 2002, pp. 108–126.
- Kenneth Janda, Adopting Party Law, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, Washington, USA, 2005.
- Graeme Orr, 'Overseeing the Gatekeepers: Should the Preselection of Political Candidates be Regulated?', Public Law Review, Vol. 12, 2001, pp. 89–94.
- A. Ranney, 'Candidate Selection',in D. Butler et al. (eds), Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive national Elections, American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC, 1981, pp. 75–106.
- Lyle Allan, 'Candidate Pre-selection in Australian Politics,' Journal for Students of Year 12 Politics, Vol. 16, No. 4, April 1989, pp. 18–24.
- Gary Johns, 'Parties, probity and preselection', IPA Review, Vol. 53, No. 1, 2001, pp. 18–19.
- Marian Simms, 'Parliament and party preselection: parties and the secret garden of politics', Legislative Studies, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1993, pp 42–47.
- 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, pp. 97–190.
- Raymond Miller, Party Politics in New Zealand, Oxford University Press, 2005, Chapter 6: 'Selecting Candidates'.
- Austin Ranney, Pathways to Parliament. Candidate Selection in Britain, Macmillan, London, 1965.
- Michael Rush, The selection of parliamentary candidates, Nelson, London, 1969.
- D. Denver, 'Britain: Centralised Parties with Decentralised Selection', in M. Gallagher and M. Marsh (eds), Candidate Selection in Comparative Perspective: The Secret Garden of Politics, Sage, London, 1988, pp. 47–71.
- 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, pp. 31–44.