Due to not reaching an agreement about Brexit, the United Kingdom is forced to hold European elections a few weeks from now, on May 23rd. The elected members (across the European Union) will be installed as the new European parliament on July 1st; however, if the United Kingdom leaves the European Union before that date, these elections will have been completely unnecessary:

Government sources say if the Brexit process is completed before 30 June, UK MEPs will not take up their seats at all.

(source: BBC)

Of course, the election will double as a poll, but (in case of a speedy Brexit) there will be no tangible effects. As far as I can tell, this is a rather unique situation, so I was wondering:

Have there been any elections before (preferably on national level) which were not declared invalid (e.g. by a court) yet rendered completely irrelevant by later events?

  • 14
    Do elections rendered irrelevant by force of arms (e.g., a coup or a foreign invasion) count? May 7, 2019 at 18:08
  • 5
    @MichaelSeifert good point; I'd prefer events without violence.
    – Glorfindel
    May 7, 2019 at 18:42
  • 4
    The NI Assembly hasn't sat for two years, although it did sit for a while so the election wasn't "completely" irrelevant.
    – user
    May 8, 2019 at 8:53
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    Do non-binding plebiscites count? I'm thinking of something like the 1898 Canadian prohibition plebiscite, which due to low turnout and a close result was basically just ignored by the Laurier government. May 9, 2019 at 21:55
  • 1
    That's a non-binding referendum, we had a couple of those in the Netherlands and they were almost always ignored :) I'm really looking for elections, not referenda.
    – Glorfindel
    May 10, 2019 at 9:54

6 Answers 6


I suggest the Greek referendum in July 2015 that rejected the EU memorandum about their national debt.

The pressure put by the (mostly German) EU negotiators and the threat to block Greek banks induced Alexis Tsipras to accept a very similar, supposedly even harsher, memorandum a few days later.


The New Forest and Barkston Ash by-elections in 1905. Parliament was not in session at the time, and did not come into session before the 1906 general election at which the results were different, so the MPs who were elected in 1905 never took up their seats.


I'd say the most obvious one is the elections in Catalonia about independence from Spain. It was rendered irrelevant because of the strong reaction from the central governement of Spain.

  • 5
    Arguably, it's not entirely irrelevant. It's still a political statement coming from large chunk of citizens of Catalonia. Furthermore it, and Spanish reaction, can be used to further political goals. In straight up "did voting get us independence" it's irrelevant indeed, but it's got political relevance that might be leveraged in other ways.
    – M i ech
    Jun 14, 2019 at 10:55
  • @Miech sure, fair enough. Jun 14, 2019 at 11:05
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    Question is whether that counts as an election considering it was ruled illegal by the court of Spain.
    – user19831
    Jun 19, 2019 at 13:54
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    @Miech - That could be said about any "irrelevant" election. Even if it is anyhow left without effects, it has been a political statement.
    – Pere
    Jun 19, 2019 at 20:49
  • 2
    per the OP ... "which were not declared invalid" - surely this is an example of one that was declared invalid?
    – komodosp
    Feb 21, 2023 at 10:33

In many U.S. states, judges race "retention elections" and if the voters vote "yes" the judge gets to serve another term, and if the voters vote "no", the judge's term expires at the end of the term and a new judge is appointed to fill the vacancy.

It isn't terribly unusual for a judge who faces a retention election (regardless of its outcome) to resign after the retention election is held, but prior to the end of their term, sometimes to seek another position or sometimes for another reason (e.g. a pending scandal), rendering the results of the retention election moot.


All Russian Constituent Assembly were supposed to be democratically elected government of Russian Republic, but they were immediately dispersed by Bolshevik Communist Party in October 1917, as they took power by force. Themself they were also in the ballots and had seats elected, but as a minority party.


In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected President of Russia.

One day after Dmitry Medvedev assumed the office of President, Vladimir Putin became the Prime Minister of Russia.

I would suggest that later event rendered Medvedev's election largely irrelevant, but perhaps not completely irrelevant. It may be a matter of some opinion.

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    Wasn't that by design, though? As in Putin changed the constitution and shifted swaths of power from the President to the Prime Minister in order to stay in power in spite of the 2 term limit. Jun 14, 2019 at 16:07
  • Medvedev signed New START. Is it clear that Putin would have done the same had he been President during that period? Feb 21, 2023 at 13:49

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