Is it permissible for an elected independent candidate or elected representative of a political party to switch his party he is elected from to a more politically advantageous party at his own will ? Is it his right to do so after his election?

Is not a fresh re-election process mandatory? Is change of political party not a betrayal of trust reposed by the electorate in a leader or party he represents in a democratic setup?

What is the practice in leading democracies of the world? Are these written into the Constitution e.g., in the Representation of Peoples' act?


A simple mathematical model would not be out of place.

All activities on a political sphere S are built upon two independent parameters p,q where p can symbolize the party and q the elected individual.

By choosing a particular binding function q=f(p) the people can arrest arbitrary modalities of q to freely move on S to be along a constrained functioning curve or orbit.

By a people's political contract, if q is chosen by the people for p and then a change of f(p,q) occurs then it has lost its previous sense of direction of the locus of its previous orbit. The new trajectory can even intersect squarely with the previous one.The elected q laughs all the way with his new self-issued valid passport of election with full impunity in his empowered hands. The name of the beneficiary has been conveniently erased and and a new name inserted on a check that had been temporarily rendered blank before the desired edit. The electing people are taken in for a .. not so jolly ride into a maneuver over which they have no control until the next elections come around.

The Art of political lying by Jonathan Swift exists even today this way in a modern appearance in several democracies.

If q wishes to change party in a proper procedural system then he/she cannot be allowed do so by a virtue of a vote gained from a different party. He/she should get re-elected by the electorate affirming their unequivocal assent for a new situation or policy properly stated or expounded before them. Then only the power of people in a democracy run by the people can be in proper effect for the people.

Should n't there be a more democratic Rule of Law against it? Or a Constitutional amendment ?

  • All the questions revolve around different aspects of the same thing (midterm party switching) that have a common nucleus of an answer. Surveying the state of practice in different countries around the world on a comparative basis is a common and legitimate kind of question to ask on SE.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 22:11
  • New Zealanders call it waka-jumping, after the Maori word for boat.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 1:05
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    Note that a parliamentary system in which seats are allocated by party would be different from a system like the U.S. in which each seat is individual. Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 5:02
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    @indigochild since the rules would be different, thenthe answer would be different for each type of legislature. For example, compare the Ministers in the government in Britain (which belong to the party in power and serve in Parliament) to the Secretaries of the Cabinet in the United States who are appointed individuals and serve at the pleasure of the President. Thus, asking the questing as a general one is too broad and has too many answers. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 2:52
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    "A simple mathematical model would not be out of place." Sorry, but it's out of place.
    – Bregalad
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 7:39

3 Answers 3


In the United States and most other countries in the British political tradition, you cast your vote for an individual and a party designation is just a helpful hint.

And, of course, I know of no political system anywhere in which there is actually a legal obligation for elected officials to keep the promises that they make on the campaign trail - if there was, our jails would be absolutely packed with politicians.

In general, in these systems, you can change your political party without a new election. Indeed, there are notable examples of individuals doing so. For example, U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell from Colorado was elected as a Democrat in the November 1992 election and changed his party affiliation to Republican in March 1995.

But, really, a legislative political party designation is primarily a designation that describes how one is likely to vote on issues. Any legislature in which elected officials get to decide how they cast their own votes, necessarily must allow for the possibility that some group of elected legislators with a particular political party designation cast their voters differently than other elected legislators with the political party designation.

Whether or not they formally disaffiliate from the political party that they were elected as members of or not, a group of elected legislators who start to vote as a group differently from other members of their own party or parties is inevitably going to acquire an informal name for their faction (e.g. "Blue Dog Democrats", "Dixiecrats", "Tea Party Republicans", R.I.N.O.s i.e. Republicans In Name Only, Rockefeller Republicans, etc.).

Also, while a new election isn't held when an elected legislator either resigns from a party or is ejected from one, that doesn't mean that tools of party discipline don't exist. In recent instances in the U.S. Congress and in the Colorado General Assembly where legislators have switched parties midterms, those legislators have been stripped of committee seats allocated to them by their political party and otherwise denied privileges that they previously held as party members in good standing. In a parliamentary system, a party switcher could have his or her ministry in cabinet taken way by the leadership.

But, allowing for party switching is valuable for the long term health of the political party system in a democracy. Both in the U.S. and abroad, one of the most common ways for new, viable political parties to come into being is for existing elected officials to change party affiliation to the new political party.

For example, Abraham Lincoln and many of the other founding members of the Republican Party, were formerly members of the Whig Party. Similarly, in the DIM.AR (Democratic Left) political party in Greece was formed mostly by deputies who had seceded from the SY.RIZ.A. political party, in anticipation of the May 6, 2012 election there.

  • Thanks for detailed answer. The way unbridled freedom can be availed in this regard not just for mid-term but.. it appears someday it should not be surprising a fresh elect is sworn into a party across the fence, making mockery of the system. It is appalling to me that no constitutional law exists against such a practice
    – Narasimham
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 22:23
  • @Narasimham - If you want to ask a different question about what consequences, if any, can or should apply to someone who campaigns as one party but then changes their affiliation immediately after winning, I encourage you to do so. But you asked about changing affiliation more generally, which is not the same thing.
    – Bobson
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 4:37
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    Similarly, Senator Arlen Spector switched parties (Republican to Democrat) on April 28, 2009 when he realized that he would lose the Republican primary for the 2010 election. and lost the Democratic primary as well. Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 5:00
  • What about party-list elections, where people do vote for a party? Or hybrid systems where people can choose a party or a candidate? I would also say that this answer is focused on US politics, while the question is tagged as comparative politics. Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 1:26
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    Even if it is a party-list election, the whole idea of having a parliament with actual human beings is that the members of a party have shared responsibility to determine individually which votes represent their party - otherwise we'd just have one representative per party and give them an unequal number of voters.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Mar 14, 2017 at 4:29

Really depends on what you mean by "okay". While there likely are not any sort of laws of rules prohibiting such action, one should seriously question both the integrity and intellect of such a person.

The problem here is that a political platform is largely based on values. Values tend to develop slowly and change little over time, behaving a bit like wet concrete as it dries. Once set, some values are very unlikely to change.

While people do sometimes change parties across the aisle, this is often due to a misunderstanding or lack of sufficiently detailed, correct information about the values a party represents or how the person actually feels about the issues themselves.

A lifetime politician, however, is quite unlikely to have such an epiphany since the details and perspectives have been tossed about and pondered for many years.

  • What I mean by okay is: non-betrayal of the electorate who elects a representative to give direction and progress, functioning in a certain way per a previously made manifesto or general political promise. If these are compromised, the electorate would like to withdraw licence it gave but it takes several years to repair the harm done by the fence crosser,
    – Narasimham
    Commented Aug 12, 2017 at 12:52
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    @Narasimham | Thank you for the clarification. It is the official's constituents then which will make this determination, Thus while this would disallow ruling out the theoretical possibility such behavior might be deemed acceptable by voters, this sort of result occupies a low rung on the ladder of probabilities. It is overwhelmingly likely the constituency as a whole would find this sort of behavior irreprehensible at best. Regardless of the electorate's ethical judgement of the situation, the trust of constituents will be damaged beyond repair.
    – Starrdaark
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 8:21
  • Indeed, irreparable is the genetically absent sense of shame that successfully went incognito.
    – Narasimham
    Commented Aug 13, 2017 at 9:20

It happens on occasion. The most recent is when Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania changed from republican to democrat after the 2008 presidential election - giving the dems a filibuster proof majority.

Senators who changed parties after being elected

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