An election boycott is the boycotting of an election by a group of voters, each of whom abstains from voting. Boycotting may be used as a form of political protest where voters feel that electoral fraud is likely, or that the electoral system is biased against its candidates, that the polity organizing the election lacks legitimacy, or that the candidates running are very unpopular. In jurisdictions with compulsory voting, a boycott may amount to an act of civil disobedience; alternatively, supporters of the boycott may be able to cast blank votes or vote for "none of the above". Boycotting voters may belong to a particular regional or ethnic group. A particular political party or candidate may refuse to run in the election and urges its supporters to boycott the vote.

In the case of a referendum, a boycott may be used as a voting tactic by opponents of the proposition. If the referendum requires a minimum turnout to be valid, the boycott may prevent this quorum being reached. In general elections, individuals and parties will often boycott in order to protest the ruling party's policies with the hope that when voters do not show up the elections will be deemed illegitimate by outside observers.[1]

Major instances of electoral boycotts

Election Turnout (%) Notes
1923 San Marino general election 35.5
1971 Trinidad and Tobago general election 33.2
1973 Northern Ireland sovereignty referendum 58.1 Less than 1% amongst Catholics
1978 Guyanese constitutional referendum 70.8 Opposition estimates were between 10% and 14%
1978 South West African legislative election 80.2
1983 Jamaican general election 2.7 6 of 60 seats contested, with 55% turnout in them.
1984 South African general election 29.9 and 20.8
1989 South African general election 18.1 and 23.3
1991 Burkinabé presidential election 27.3
1992 Ghanaian parliamentary election 28.1
1993 Togolese presidential election 36.2
February 1996 Bangladeshi general election 21.0
1997 Malian presidential election 29.0
1997 Yemeni parliamentary election 61.0 Turnout (1993): 84.8%
1997 Slovak referendum 9.5
1997 Serbian general election 57.4 The elections were boycotted by several parties, including the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Serbia and the Civic Alliance, which claimed that the elections would not be held under fair conditions
1999 Algerian presidential election 60 Boycotting candidates claimed that it was only around 25%
2000 Ivorian presidential election 37.4
2000 Yugoslavian general election 28.8[nb 1] Boycotting by the ruling coalition of Montenegro, led by DPS
2002 Gambian parliamentary election 56.4 Voting only took place in 15 of the 48 seats
2002 Montenegrin presidential election 45.9 Election invalid due to turnout being lower than 50%
2003 Azerbaijani presidential election 62.85
February 2003 Montenegrin presidential election 46.6 Election invalid due to turnout being lower than 50%
May 2003 Montenegrin presidential election 48.4
2003 Guinean presidential election 86 Opposition estimates were less than 15%
2005 Venezuelan parliamentary election 25.3
2006 Thai general election 65.2 Boycotted by all 3 opposition parties in the House of Representatives.
2008 Djiboutian parliamentary election 72.6
2012 Gambian parliamentary election 38.7
2014 Thai general election 65.2 Boycotting by Democrat Party.
2014 Bangladeshi general election 22.0
2016 Hungarian migrant quota referendum 44.0 Referendum boycotted by MSZP, DK, Együtt, Párbeszéd, Modern Hungary Movement and The Homeland Not For Sale Movement Party, resulting in 98% of voters supporting the government. 224 thousand voters submitted invalid ballots, influenced by a campaign by the Hungarian Two-tailed Dog Party.
2017 Puerto Rican status referendum 23 Statehood, polled at 52% just 2 weeks prior, chosen by 97% of voters
2017 Venezuelan Constituent Assembly election 41.5 Opposition estimates were around 20%
2017 Catalan independence referendum 43.03 Opposition parties called on their voters to boycott the vote, except Catalunya Sí que es Pot who supported participation.[2]
October 2017 Kenyan presidential election 39.03 After the Supreme Court nullified the original election and ordered a new one to be held within 60 days, opposition candidate Raila Odinga withdrew from the rerun, claiming the electoral commission had failed to institute reforms.[3]
2018 Egyptian presidential election 41.1
2018 Russian presidential election 67.5 Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called for an election boycott, however an about 67.5% voter turnout was estimated.[4][5][6][7]
2018 Venezuelan presidential election 46.1 Opposition estimates were between 17% and 26%
2018 Macedonian referendum 36.9
2019 Albanian local elections 23.0 Opposition estimates were 15.1%
2019 Algerian presidential election 39.9
2020 Artsakhian general election 45.0
2020 Serbian parliamentary election 48.9
2020 Ivorian presidential election 53.9
2020 Venezuelan parliamentary election 30.5
2020 Iranian legislative election 42 Conservatives:76.20%, Reformists: 6.89%
2021 Djiboutian presidential election 76.44
2021 Hong Kong legislative election 30.2 Pro-democrats boycotted the election as many in the camp believed the space for them to participate in the overhauled political landscape under the Hong Kong national security law had been extinguished.
2022 Tunisian constitutional referendum 30.5 Many major parties boycotted the election after the 2021–2022 Tunisian political crisis.
2022–23 Tunisian parliamentary election 11.2 and 11.4 Almost every major party boycotted the election
2023 Kosovan local elections 3.5 Of the approximately 40,000 Serbs of North Kosovo, only 13 Serbs voted in the elections. All Serbian parties boycotted the elections. See 2022–2023 North Kosovo crisis.
2023 Polish referendum 40.91 With record 74% turnover in 2023 Polish parliamentary election which happened on the same day majority of opposition voters did not take the ballot for the referendum making it void.

Boycott campaigns

From 1868 into the 20th century, the Popes declared that non expedit ("it is not expedient") that the Italian Catholics participate in the Italian parliamentary elections as either candidates or electors.

In South Africa, the three largest independent social movements boycott the vote under the banner of the No Land! No House! No Vote! Campaign.

Other social movements in other parts of the world also have similar campaigns or non-voting preferences. These include the Naxalites in India, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Mexico and various Anarchist oriented movements.[citation needed] In Mexico's mid term 2009 elections there was strong support for 'Nulo'—a campaign to vote for no one.[8][9][10] In India poor people's movements in Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh have rejected parliamentary politics (as well as the NGO and Maoist alternatives).[11]


Analyzing the hybrid regimes in the period 1981–2006, the political scientist Ian O. Smith concluded that an election boycott by the opposition could increase the chances that the ruling party will lose future elections.[12] Gregory Weeks noted that some authoritarian regimes in Latin America were prolonged due to the boycott of the opposition.[13] Gail Buttorff and Douglas Dion explain that boycotts by the opposition under authoritarianism have led to different outcomes, sometimes predicting regime change and sometimes to make stronger the current government.[14]

See also


  1. ^ in Montenegro
  1. ^ Frankel, Matthew (3 November 2009). "Election Boycotts Don't Work". Brookings Institution. Archived from the original on 13 June 2010.
  2. ^ "Les bases de Podem Catalunya donen suport al referèndum de l'1 d'octubre però no el veuen vinculant". (in Catalan). Retrieved 25 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Kenya: Raila Odinga withdraws from election rerun". the Guardian. 10 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Analysis | Why turnout will be the detail to watch in Russia's election". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  5. ^ "Russian opposition takes to streets, calls for election boycott". CNBC. 28 January 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  6. ^ "Navalny calls for boycott of Russian election |". Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  7. ^ "Russia's rebel mayor calls for presidential election boycott". AP NEWS. 30 April 2021. Retrieved 20 May 2021.
  8. ^ Marc Lacey (21 June 2009). "Disgruntled Mexicans Plan an Election Message to Politicians: We Prefer Nobody". The New York Times. p. A8.
  9. ^ "Vota en Blanco". Archived from the original on 23 June 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2009.
  10. ^ Nancy Davies (21 June 2009). "Representative Democracy versus Participatory Democracy". The Narco News Bulletin.
  11. ^ Avijit Ghosh (21 June 2009). "No revolution for old radicals". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 18 March 2011.
  12. ^ Smith, Ian O. (2013). "Election Boycotts and Hybrid Regime Survival". Comparative Political Studies. 47 (5): 743–765. doi:10.1177/0010414013488548. S2CID 154838774.
  13. ^ Weeks, Gregory (1 March 2013). "A cautionary tale for election boycotts". Foreign Policy.
  14. ^ Buttorff, Gail; Dion, Douglas (2016). "Participation and boycott in authoritarian elections". Journal of Theoretical Politics. 29 (1): 97–123. doi:10.1177/0951629816630431. S2CID 155781874.