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Hundreds of candidates pull out of French run-off in bid to foil far right

Brief summary: the French election had three parties, and all of them won roughly equal vote shares. Two of the parties hate the third party, however, so in the upcoming runoff they're uniting to field only one candidate in a bid to stop the third party from winning. The idea appears to be that they're happy to not get elected as long as the third party's candidate is also not elected.

This makes me wonder: apparently in the US elections, a very important priority for Democrats is not so much to get Biden elected, but to prevent a Trump victory. In this case, can the Democrats appoint a moderate Republican (e.g. Nikki Haley) as their candidate? Trump has already beaten Haley in the Republican primaries, but when you add the entire Democratic vote, presumably Haley (or any Republican that is Not Trump) would win in a landslide.

I am wondering if this is plausible (i.e., there are no legal barriers, and this can happen as long as the political will is there). It sounds like collusion to me, of the kind that would get you disqualified in competitive sports, but all might be fair in love, war, and politics.

(Although I've used French & US examples, this question is broader, since the described strategy would presumably work any time the aim is not to elect your candidate, but to defeat a particular candidate.)

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    "It sounds like collusion to me" - You don't really present any clear reason for that opinion. Why should there be a law against this? What would such a hypothetical law even say?
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jul 4 at 3:28
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    Not my DV, but Haley is not considered much of a 'moderate' by Democrats. There's a Daily Show segment on that. Let me see if I can find it... That was well titled, took only seconds to find again youtube.com/watch?v=fYp2j2dKsjA Commented Jul 4 at 4:48
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    I'm voting to close this question because the legality of such cooperations depends on local laws which makes a universal answer impossible. I suggest that you either focus on a specific country (i.e. "Can democrats nominate Haley?") or do as @gottrolledtoomuchthisweek suggests and ask about countries where such collusion would be illegal. Also the sentence about collusion strays a bit too far into "push-question" territory for my liking, so I would also suggest you revise that.
    – xyldke
    Commented Jul 4 at 6:13
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    You could also ask if there are other examples of the phenomenon you describe. This would perhaps get you closer to the "plausible" part of your question. After all, something that has happened before would be pretty plausible
    – xyldke
    Commented Jul 4 at 6:15
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    @Allure My main close reason is the lack of focus. I can't edit focus into the question because I don't know which aspect you are interested in.
    – xyldke
    Commented Jul 4 at 6:48

4 Answers 4

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First, you need to consider exactly what kind of "collusion" you're talking about. Verbally [whomever] endorsing a candidate [from whatever party] will likely not be prohibited because of free speech rules in most democracies.

OTOH, contra to Ryan_L's answer, more formally listing a candidate as endorsed by multiple parties is in fact illegal in most (43) US states. (Ryan_L appears to live in NY, where that's indeed not illegal, but most other US state laws differ on that.)

Cross-endorsement (also known as “fusion voting”) is a process whereby two or more political parties (typically a major and minor party) nominate the same candidate for the same office during the same general election. We identified seven states where cross-endorsement is permitted: Connecticut, Idaho, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont. However, in two of them, Idaho and Mississippi, fusion voting does not occur in practice, and thus we do not include them in this report.

Laws in the remaining 43 states ban fusion voting (1) directly by explicitly prohibiting multiple party nominations or (2) indirectly by requiring that candidates be members of the nominating party. Since candidates can only belong to one party at any given time, the legal effect of these laws is to ban cross-endorsement.

(That report was written in 2013, so may not be totally up-to-date. Anyhow, according to the same report, another peculiarity of NY law is that a candidate endorsed by multiple parties will have multiple lines on the ballot.)

As for the France-like situation, it's also rather hard to see how candidates could be prohibited (again due to free speech) from saying you shouldn't vote for them (anymore), even if e.g. a deadline for getting themselves removed from the (formal) ballot has passed. Yeah, it's still possible that voters who didn't hear that (kind of announcement) and just look at the ballot, would still vote for someone that has no chance of getting elected and doesn't even want the votes anymore.

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  • Also, in a different (proportional representation) context, AFAICR many (European) electoral laws set a higher threshold for entering parliament for party coalitions than for 'individual' parties. It turns out Wikipedia has a summary of those rules, and my recollection was reasonably accurate, except that it's mostly Eastern European countries that have these higher thresholds for coalitions/alliances en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electoral_threshold#Europe (But some Western ones, e.g. Italy have that too.) Commented Jul 4 at 7:14
  • And as a more 'philosophical' observation, the comparison with sports is not exactly apt, because there you can't have two soccer teams simultaneously show up on the field to beat a 3rd (in a 22 vs 11 setup -- mkay except for some 'demo' purposes youtube.com/watch?v=KtIb-HK7NcA), but that's basically allowed in many political systems: coalition governments which need not include the party that won most votes (if said party doesn't get an outright majority) etc. See e.g. the situation in the Netherlands, right now. Commented Jul 4 at 7:29
  • Also, there are some free speech limitations on endorsements by public servants in some countries, but those are not particularly relevant for this discussion. Commented Jul 4 at 9:07
  • I think the laws against cross-endorsement are not that significant here, what is currently happening in France would not be against these laws. What happens there is that in what should be a three-way race one candidate and their party withdraws and then makes statements about who they endorse. That should be fine in the US as well but you need 3 parties for this setting.
    – quarague
    Commented Jul 4 at 10:51
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Yes, it's not uncommon. Broadly speaking it's about electoral alliances.

The fundamental point is that, while the allied parties have many differences, they see each other as part of a broader movement, agree with each other more than the other rivals or they abhor the main rival, and they don't want to split the vote between them, because if they do split the vote then none of them will win and the main rival will win.

The linked article about the elections to France's National Assembly is talking about tactical withdrawals. Political parties A, B and C disagree about many policies but they all abhor party D. However, in some constituencies D seems popular with the public and if the vote is split between A, B and C then D could win the constituency. Therefore, for this election in this constituency, A, B and C agree to withdraw their candidates least likely to win, so that A, B or C is more likely to win against D than if A, B and C all competed.

When voters collaborate to vote so as to keep out a particular candidate, they do tactical voting. The candidate they vote for isn't their first preference but they prefer that candidate more than the candidate they really don't want to be the winner.

In the United Kingdom's general elections and England and Wales's local elections we have incentives to do tactical withdrawals and (more commonly) tactical voting because our First Past the Post voting system forces us to choose one candidate instead of allowing us to rank our preferences (as some of our other elections do).

For example, to prevent a Conservative candidate from winning, Labour and other left-wing parties and possibly the Liberal Democrat party might cooperate by agreeing to not contest the election between themselves, or left-wing and LibDem voters might vote for the leading left-wing candidate (or non-Conservative candidate) instead of their real preference.

The voting system for elections to France's National Assembly is different (two round system) but it creates similar incentives.

In the UK we have a nearly century old electoral pact between the Labour Party and the Co-operative Party, an agreement to jointly contest certain constituencies instead of competing with each other. In those constituencies they field Labour Co-operative candidates, they don't field and then withdraw candidates.

We have also had four similar but short-lived arrangements between the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats (and their predecessor the Liberal Party).

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I mean you could argue whether representative democracies, especially those where you elect one person to represent 100,000+ people without being bound to any commitment to these people, is very democratic and not more of an elected aristocracy and whether checks and balances work to keep that in check.

But If you accept that there are lots of systems that are way worse than that and way less democratic than that and that those proudly waving the banner of "democracy" very often only managed to get this far, then yeah, why shouldn't it be allowed in a democracy.

Politics is not sports. They don't battle it out for who is the best at "politics" and there's not just "one politics". Ideally every candidate presents their ideas, ideals and concrete proposals and then you have a vote on which of these you want to implement or if they are similar whom you trust more to actually get that done.

The thing is unlike in sports, the competition is not the main event. It's an application for a job, the real work comes AFTER the competition, while in sports the real work IS the competition.

Now you could also argue about how fair it is for parties to make coalitions after the election so that idk a coalition government of minority parties takes the cake over a majority party. But a) if these minority parties have actually gotten a combined majority of votes, they actually do represent more people than the majority party and b) that's not even the case here, they'd be doing it publicly.

The voter still has their choice, they still can make their own decisions, they are informed about the tactical planning and can decide to support that or not so that part shouldn't be undemocratic.

Now you could argue about local laws and whether there might be restriction about how many people a party can nominate, whether a nominee must be a member whether they can support independent people.

But setting aside the formalities as that is asking about democracies, then parties are essentially just clubs of people committed to one cause. Having them makes representation, organization and pooling resources for a candidate much easier and might help balance the free mandate as the party platform might level some renegade individuals, but theoretically you could form ad-hoc parties, run outside of parties or form coalition on an individual level (again makes organization and representation more difficult, but all parties started somewhere...). And the voter isn't bound by parties anyway but can give their vote as they please.

The major difference between the U.S. and French election is that the French system has 2 rounds and several parties. So in the first round a candidate wins if they have more than 50% of the votes and (25% of the absolute votes). If no candidate wins those candidates with more than 12.5% of the votes and at least the 2 leading candidates are allowed to give it another try where now the leading candidate wins.

So in that system it might, for tactical reasons, do make sense to drop out and pass on those 12.5+% and instead campaign for one of the other candidates who supports your political ideals better and has a more realistic chance to be elected.

Also the elephant in the room is that the U.S. already does that...

... It's called primary elections. Essentially the big parties weed out the field of ideological competitors by having internal pre-elections where they check which candidate has the best chance of winning and where that candidate gets the entire parties endorsement and thus lots of support, campaign money, organization and so on, while a 3rd party candidate would have a hard time against two of those juggernauts.

So in consequence this proposal of cross party endorsements doesn't really make much sense, because Trump would already be the candidate that the republican base by and large would rally behind. Also not only is Nicky Hailey not a moderate, she has been Trumps pick for the UN and has already endorsed him... Biden, Clinton etc, often enough were already rather conservative picks trying to get moderates republicans to vote for them. The thing is the more often you do that stunt the more you push the overton window to the extreme because they are the one's forcing those desperate decisions and the more likely it will be for them to win because they will look progressively less extreme the more you curb in their direction.

So this entire idea, makes a lot less sense in the U.S. than it does in France, just based on the fact that they have different voting systems.

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There's nothing stopping the Democrats from nominating a Republican. In fact, in local elections in small communities, it's not uncommon for the same person to be nominated by every party. There's also nothing stopping Republican voters from voting for someone nominated by the Democrats.

Edit: Comments have informed me that in most states one party actually CAN'T nominate someone in another. But that just adds one step to the process; in the OP's example the Democrats would just have to convince Nikki Haley to switch parties first.

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  • Interestingly, in the US, there are restrictions on cross-endorsements, but only (effectively) for minor parties. And "Laws in the remaining 43 states ban fusion voting (1) directly by explicitly prohibiting multiple party nominations or (2) indirectly by requiring that candidates be members of the nominating party. Since candidates can only belong to one party at any given time, the legal effect of these laws is to ban cross-endorsement." Commented Jul 4 at 6:00
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    So, you must be living one of the other states where "it's not uncommon for the same person to be nominated by every party", because in 43 of them States that was illegal (at least in 2013, when that report was written.) And, yeah, your profile says you live in NY and NY is among the few US states where that's not illegal, according to the report. Commented Jul 4 at 6:05
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    Note that a (formal) nomination is not actually required for cooperation. I doubt any of the candicates in France will actually be nominated by the other party. But the other party can still withdraw their own candidate and ask their supporters to vote for someone else.
    – xyldke
    Commented Jul 4 at 6:24

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