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In politics, the term party-switching refers to any change in party affiliation of a partisan public figure, usually one currently holding elected office.

In many countries, party-switching takes the form of politicians refusing to support their political parties in coalition governments. This happens particularly commonly in countries without firmly-established political parties, such as Vanuatumarker and French Polynesiamarker where in 2004, a few members of various parties left the governing coalition, forcing it to collapse. As in the United Statesmarker, party switches often occur with the formation of new parties — witness the situation in the United Kingdommarker, where some Liberals moved to the Labour Party in the early twentieth century. In formerly communist countries in Europe, de-Sovietisation saw many Communist-Party representatives switch to other parties ranging on the political spectrum from socialist to conservative.

In some cases, the defectors from an opposition party may choose to support a ruling coalition. In Polandmarker, for example, the exit of the populist Samoobrona party from the government prompted a number of its members to leave and form a new parliamentary group.

Party switching also occurs quite commonly in Indiamarker and the Philippinesmarker.


Australia has seen high-profile defections since 1995, including the 1997 move by Cheryl Kernot (then leader of the Australian Democrats) to the Labor Party, the declared independence of former Labor senator Mal Colston (1996) and the disintegration of the Democrats.


In Nicaraguamarker 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.


In Ukrainemarker, party switching is not allowed per the imperative mandate provision of the Ukrainian Constitution, which stipulates that members of Ukraine's Parliamentmarker are bound by the constitution and laws of Ukraine to remain members of the parliamentary faction or bloc in which they were elected. 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 States

In the United Statesmarker' political landscape, dominated by its two-party system, switches generally occur between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, although a number of notable switches to and from third parties (and even between different third parties) have occurred. Since 2004, in a reversal of a trend that had seen predominantly Democratic office-holders switching labels, a number of Republican elected officials in states throughout the country have opted to become Democrats. One other notable "switch" took place in 2000 when Senator Jim Jeffords defected from the Republican Party to become a political independent, which placed the Senate in Democratic control. Use of the term party switch often connotes a transfer of held power from one party to another. The majority of party-switchers in the modern era have switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. This behavior has occurred mostly in the South, due to the gains of the Republican Party since 1950 and has proven somewhat beneficial to the Democrats overall, resulting in increasing the ideological coherence of the Democratic Party as Southern conservative Democrats left the party.

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