Party switching

Party-switching is any change in political party affiliation of a partisan public figure, usually one currently holding elected office.

Party switching also occurs quite commonly in Brazil,[1] Italy, Romania, Ukraine, India, Malaysia and the Philippines.


It is rare in Australia for a member of a major party to switch to another political party. It is more common for a member of parliament to become an independent or form their own minor political party. Notable individual party switchers at federal level include:

Mass defections took place on several occasions in the 20th century due to Australian Labor Party (ALP) splits – in 1916 (to the National Labor Party, including the sitting prime minister Billy Hughes), in 1931 (to Lang Labor), in 1940 (to the Non-Communist Labor Party), and in 1955 (to the Anti-Communist Labor Party).


In Italy, party-switching is more common than in other Western European parliamentary democracies, with nearly 25% of members of the Italian Chamber of Deputies switching parties at least once during the 1996 to 2001 legislative term.[2] A 2004 article in the Journal of Politics posited that party-switching in Italy "most likely is motivated by party labels that provide little information about policy goals and that pit copartisans against each other in the effort to serve constituent needs."[2]

New ZealandEdit

Party switching in New Zealand gained currency during the end of the 1980s, and even more so in the late 1990s after mixed member proportional representation was implemented. In particular, the phrase "waka-jumping" entered the public consciousness in 1998 when then-Prime Minister Jenny Shipley expelled the New Zealand First party from the ruling coalition government, and several New Zealand First MPs resigned from the party and stayed loyal to the government.[citation needed] In response to these defections, the Electoral Integrity Act was passed in 2001, which later expired in 2005. A proposal to replace the Act failed in 2005[3] but was successful in 2018.[4] A private members' bill to repeal the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2018 was considered in 2020 and is currently before the Select Committee.[5]


In Nicaragua some major party switches occurred between 2002 and 2006 when the two major political parties, the Constitutional Liberal Party and the Sandinista National Liberation Front, formed a pact and members of both parties left to form new parties or make alliances with smaller ones.


Party-switching "has become the norm, the practice" in the Philippines, according to Julio Teehankee, a political science professor in De La Salle University. During midterm elections, politicians usually attach themselves to the party of the ruling president. This has led to transactional dealings, and parties are identified more on personalities instead of platforms. Aside from party-switching, internal squabbles within parties lead to formation of new ones. Vice President Jejomar Binay, elected under PDP–Laban, formed his own United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) as his party for his 2016 presidential campaign. Ex-Lakas members who do not want to join the then ruling Liberal Party in 2013 joined together to form the National Unity Party.[6]

An example would be boxer Manny Pacquiao's first foray into politics saw him losing in 2007 congressional race in South Cotabato under the Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino. He then won as congressman in the neighboring province of Sarangani under the Nacionalista Party in 2010, but switched over to the then ruling Liberal Party. Pacquiao then joined Binay's PDP–Laban and followed him to UNA when he won as senator in 2016.[7] Pacquiao then rejoined the now ruling PDP–Laban after the elections.[8]


In the Russian Federation, party switching is considered illegal in the State Duma and is highly frowned upon. After major party switches during the Boris Yeltsin Presidency, party switching was declared illegal in the State Duma, and can result in a forced resignation of the State Duma representative by the chairman of their ex-political party. However, there is an exception. If a member of the State Duma is considered an Independent politician, he or she may be permitted to join and switch to a party at any time. They may not switch after that. After a forced resignation, the State Duma representative can run again in future elections, as their new party's whip. The chairman of the political party can choose to replace the party switcher with whomever they choose. Party merging, however, is not illegal and can be seen when a big amount of political parties merged into United Russia, the current ruling party of Russia.


Party switching is not unusual in Turkey, but Kubilay Uygun is known for his repeated switching during his single term in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (1995 – 1999). He resigned from his party seven times and served four different parties, finishing as an independent.


In Ukraine, the imperative mandate provision of the Ukrainian Constitution banned party switching in Parliament from 2004 to 2010. The mandate stipulated that the constitution and laws of Ukraine obliged members of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's Parliament, to remain members of the parliamentary faction or bloc in which they were elected.[9]

This was evident during the 2007 Ukrainian political crisis where members of the opposition crossed party lines with plans to undermine Presidential authority and move towards the 300 constitutional majority.

United StatesEdit

Party-switching in the United States Congress (for example, from the Republican Party and Democratic parties, or vice versa) is relatively rare. Over the period 1947 to 1997, there were only 20 members of the House of Representatives and Senate who switched parties.[2] Periods of a high degree of party-switching (among both elected officials and citizens) are linked to periods of partisan realignment.[10][11]

After the 1994 elections (in which Republicans gained control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in four decades), five House Democrats and two Senate Democrats switched to the Republicans.[10] Another notable switch took place in 2001 when Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont defected from the Republican Party to become a political independent, which placed the Senate in Democratic control.[12]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Hott, H. A. C. F.; Sakurai, S. N. (2020). "Party switching and political outcomes: evidence from Brazilian municipalities". Public Choice. 0: 1–36. doi:10.1007/s11127-020-00786-6.
  2. ^ a b c Heller, William B.; Mershon, Carol (2005). "Party Switching in the Italian Chamber of Deputies, 1996–2001". The Journal of Politics. 67 (2): 536–559. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00328.x. JSTOR 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00328.x. S2CID 154383326.
  3. ^ "Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill - New Zealand Parliament". Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  4. ^ "Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill - New Zealand Parliament". Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  5. ^ "Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill - New Zealand Parliament". Retrieved 2020-08-10.
  6. ^ "Party switching: 'Perversion' of political system". Rappler. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  7. ^ II, Antonio Montalvan (2017-08-07). "Manny Pacquiao's reckless metamorphosis". Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  8. ^ "Pacquiao returns to PDP-Laban". GMA News Online. Retrieved 2020-10-01.
  9. ^ Rada Approves Cancellation Of Rule That Bans Deputies From Switching Factions Archived 2010-10-09 at the Wayback Machine, The Financial (October 8, 2010)
  10. ^ a b David Castle & Patrick J. Fett, "Member Goals and Party Switching in the U.S. Congress" in Congress on Display, Congress at Work (ed. William T. Bianco: University of Michigan Press, 2000), p. 231.
  11. ^ Antoine Yoshinaka, Crossing the Aisle: Party Switching by US Legislators in the Postwar Era (Cambridge University Press, 2016), p. 12.
  12. ^ Langer, Emily (August 18, 2014). "James M. Jeffords, Vermont Republican who became independent, dies at 80". The Washington Post.