I'm curious if there are countries that use party-list system while also allowing independent candidates to run?

Logistically, what would the implementation look like? Do the independent candidates form their own list (in which they are the only candidate) or are there other implementations?

Moreover, since party-list system is a type of proportional representation, what would happen if the independent candidate receives more votes than required for a single seat? Regardless of the solution, these scenarios would seem to break the principle of proportionality.

  • 1
    It will depend on the precise version of PR (mixed-member, purely proportional for the entire nation, regional multi-member constituencies, etc). But some independents will unite to form slates of independent candidates for this reason; I don't know if you would consider that a party or not.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 9, 2022 at 14:06

6 Answers 6


Proportional systems tend to have a lot of parties, so independent candidates, that don't agree with any of them, tend to be less common. They still exist though.

In Belgium, there are no specific rules about political parties during elections. Ballots contain lists, and while most lists are submitted by a political party, this is not required.

Sometimes an independent candidate goes on a party's list but proclaims they will remain independent. Sometimes an indepedent candidate will form their own list.

It is not required for a list to have enough candidates to fill all the seats they might get. So in theory an independent candidate could form a list with only that one candidate. If they get more votes than required, those votes are simply lost, equivalent to if those extra voters had voted blank (or not voted at all).

Of course, even independent candidates will have people working with them, so it's more common for those people to go on the list below the candidate, instead of just leaving the rest of the list blank. In that case, if the indepedent candidate gets a lot of votes and those other people get elected as well, they will typically formalise their cooperation in the form of a new political party.

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    You can't just submit a new list, though. You need a certain number of signatures from the general public to show they agree that your new list should have the right to exist, or IIRC a smaller number of signatures from current members of parliament. Or at least that's the way it was explained to me quite some time ago. Oct 10, 2022 at 14:00

uses a mixed system for exactly this reason. Half the seats are elected as individual district candidates, the other half are then "filled up" from the party lists to make the party proportions come out right. The consequence is a complicated system which can increase the size of the legislature beyond the minimum number of legislators.

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    Complicated is probably in the eye of the beholder. Two votes and a bit of arithmetics could also still be seen as fairly simple. Oct 9, 2022 at 11:57
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    @Trilarion, you are a regular on Politics SE. So am I. We think about systems like that. I've encountered plenty of co-workers at the company canteen, or people elsewhere, who had no clue how their distinct votes affected the formation of a government.
    – o.m.
    Oct 9, 2022 at 13:08
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    You're right in that it is more complicated than a single vote, but it allows to vote for parties and for persons at the same time. That's worth learning it in my eyes. One common observation in Germany is that many people (60-80% I think) vote with both votes for the party and the candidate of that very same party. This is perfectly fine but may indicate that voters don't know enough about tactical voting. On the other hand the exactly one vote on the left and one vote on the right side of the voting sheet seems very well understood. Oct 9, 2022 at 19:39
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    @StephanKolassa That might be too pessimistic. After all voters have a lot of experience with the system and as I said, make hardly obvious voting mistakes. The excess seats can easily explained by something like: "The size of the parliament is increased until both conditions (direct mandates and party results) can be fulfilled." That would be absolutely sufficient for me. I think that people know enough to actually make good use of their two votes. And even though a single vote might be even easier, I wouldn't want it because it also would be less powerful. It's balanced. Oct 10, 2022 at 7:02
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    @Jontia I didn't say that the majority of people understands it. I just said that 5% sounds pessimistic to me. Although me being on this SE might make biased
    – SirHawrk
    Oct 10, 2022 at 8:45

In Australia, there is ranked choice voting. You can either vote below the line ranking each candidate individually, or for convenience you can choose to vote above the line just ranking the parties (which basically gets converted into ranking individual candidates by affiliation).

If you want to vote for independents you generally have to vote below the line (although it is common for independents to find a running mate so that they can also register themselves as a party on the ballot).

If an independent receives more than the vote quota needed to secure one seat, then the excess votes are redistributed according to the next preferences indicated by those voters.


Insofar as I remember the details of the D'Hondt system used in Finland:

Do the independent candidates form their own list (in which they are the only candidate)

A single "list" for each individual candidate, yes.

Moreover, since party-list system is a type of proportional representation, what would happen if the independent candidate receives more votes than required for a single seat? Regardless of the solution, these scenarios would seem to break the principle of proportionality.

The extra votes are "lost". Similar issues happen with multi-candidate lists too, as a list usually wins more votes than strictly necessary for the result they get: those "extra" votes are similarly "lost."

Yes, it does cause some violation of proportionality, but you can't really avoid that for sure anyway with a fixed number of seats and no fractional electees.

(Now, as it happens, the Finnish system makes the issue far worse in the parliamentary elections, by having multiple regional constituencies, where it's pretty much the one and some party that wins the "rounding errors" in each of those, gaining a few seats more in aggregate than the proportional result would be.)

  • Same for the d'Hondt variant used in European Parliament elections in Great Britain before you-know-what. Oct 10, 2022 at 19:33

To add to the example: while o.m. briefly mentioned the Federal election system, it’s worth noting that some form of party list systems with or without directly elected candidates is also used in lower elections. Especially in municipal or county elections, it is far more common for independents to run as they have a far greater chance of successfully getting elected because they can more easily achieve name recognition.

To give the example of Bavarian municipal elections, there are generally two strategies employed by independents seeking election:

  1. By mutual agreement, be listed on a party list while not becoming a party member. These independents are expected to be politically close to the party on whose list they are so don’t expect a communist running on the conservative CSU list (they would not let them onto the list anyway).

    This works because the parties are free in their choice of who to put on the list as long as the list itself is the result of an inner-party democratic process. In fact, in my home town the CSU list explicitly called itself CSU and independents for a number of elections.

  2. Independent candidates gather a number of like-minded (political) friends and together form an independent list. There may or may not be a common cause uniting these independents although again it is unlikely for a very conservative person and a communist to be on the same independent list.

    This essentially works by the group of independents forming a temporary party-like structure and submit a list as if they were a party. The list need not have enough candidates for the entire council and if the list were to win more seats than they have candidates these seats would simply remain empty.

    Often, these lists will have an independent, local, grassroots sounding name. Examples are (and all these are real lists that competed in local elections except that I have changed the town names to fantasy ones):

    • Citizens for Haring
    • Willenburger List
    • Willenburg Citizen Collective
    • Alternative List Sanding

    Sometimes, the names will just be catchy ones (Upwind being an example) or they will closely mimic an existing party to show that they are essentially the same but more independent (e.g. Garmisch-Partenkirchen hat the Christlich-soziales Bündnis or CSB which was formed from half of the council members previously election on the ticket of the Christlich-soziale Union, CSU, the dominant Bavarian conservative party.

    Finally, it is worth noting the the Freie Wähler (Free Electors) exist. They are in some ways both a collection of independents and a state-wide (maybe even federal-wide) party, in that the local candidates often act as independents while they do have a common state-wide branding and contest state elections (where the requirements are stricter to essentially allow only party lists).

    To give an example of how common the causes may be for independents to form such a list: In many cases of the 1970’s these lists were a way of ecologically, pacifist and alternative people to gain political representation which eventually generally coalesced into the Green Party although some of these lists remain their independent status today. On the other hand, in my hometown the uniting cause for an independent list was opposition to a bypass and nothing else.


In the general elections have first (first N in some cases) past the post candidates for election districts where often independents stand, then there is a second vote for regional PR candidates/parties, where the electors can either vote for a specific candidate or a party - Japan is unique, I think in that you must write the name of the candidate for districts, and candidate or party for the regional PR vote. Independents will have a party, even if it is just the "Joe Bloggs Election Committee", and if they get more votes than needed to be elected, since there is no ranked voting they just continue to accrue.

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