Wipeout (elections)

An electoral wipeout occurs when a major party receives far fewer votes or seats in a Legislature than their position justifies. It is the opposite of a landslide victory; the two frequently going hand in hand.

Note that the use of the phrase generally assumes that the returns were the product of a legitimate election; show elections to fraudulent legislatures regularly produce incredibly strong majorities for the ruling party(s).


Between 1901 and 1949, the upper house of the Australian Senate was elected by a system of majoritarian or "winner-take-all" voting. Each state had 3 of its 6 Senators retiring at each half-senate election. Each voter had 3 votes at each election, whether by first-past-the-post (FPTP) 1901-1918, or the alternative vote. It was often the case that the 3 seats all went the same way, leading to lopsided results in the six states such as 36-0 or 3-33. These results brought the parliament into some disrepute.

In 1948, the Single Transferable Vote (STV) was introduced. At the same time, the number of senators per state was increased from 6 to 10, with 5 instead of 3 retiring at each triennial election. The increased number of vacancies per election would have exacerbated the "landslide/wipeout" effect if the old winner-take-all system had been retained. Instead, having more seats increased the degree of proportionality between votes received and seats won by parties.

Since the introduction of STV in the Senate, the parties have generally been evenly balanced, with minor parties and independents holding the balance of power.

In the 2004 election, the government did the nearly impossible and gained the 57% of the vote in one state to obtain a majority in its own right in the senate from July 2005, when the new senators take up their seats. The number of quotas required to win a majority (four) of six seats, at 57% (four-sevenths of the votes), is so high because there are an even number of seats.

In the lower house, FPTP was changed to preferential voting in 1918.

In the 1974 Queensland state election, using single-member electorates and full-preferential voting, the Labor opposition was reduced to a "cricket team" of eleven MPs, against the National Country Party/ Liberal Party Coalition government with 69 seats (and 2 Independents).



The use of an electoral threshold in German elections means that sometimes a major party can fail to win seats in the Bundestag or a state parliament, either because their vote share falls below 5% or because the number of directly-elected seats drops below 3. Post-war examples include:

New Zealand

Until it moved to a proportional representation system in 1996, general elections in New Zealand were also prone to the possibility of wipeouts, though these in general involved the likelihood of third parties getting few or no seats rather than one of the two major parties being massively underrepresented. This former circumstance occurred most starkly in the 1981 general election, in which the Social Credit Party gained 20.6% of the vote yet gained only two seats in the 92-seat parliament.

The 1935 general election did, however, see a major party wipeout, and led to the creation of a new major party. In the 1935 election, the Labour Party gained 46.1% of the vote to the United/Reform Coalition's 32.9%, but won 53 seats to the United/Reform's 19. As a result of this election the two coalition parties merged to form the National Party, which remains a major force in current New Zealand politics.

United Kingdom

Scottish Elections

The Scottish Parliament elections uses a version of the Additional member system, meaning that 73 seats are won through First Past the Post constituency votes, and additional seats are added for the regional vote which uses a variation of the D'Hondt method.