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.
|Part of the Politics series|
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).
- In the 1993 Canadian federal election, the governing Progressive Conservative Party was reduced from a strong majority government to only two seats.
- In the 2011 Canadian federal election, the Bloc Québécois was reduced to 4 seats.
- In the 2015 Canadian federal election, the Liberals won all seats in the Atlantic Provinces.
- In the 2001 British Columbia general election the governing NDP was reduced to two seats, with the other 77 being won by the Liberals.
- 1995 New Brunswick general election 51.6% - 30.9% 48 - 7 (wipe out)
- 1991 New Brunswick general election 47.1% - 21.2% 46 - 8-3-1 (lop-sided)
- 1987 New Brunswick general election 60.4% - 28.6% 55 - 0 (clean sweep)
- 1987 Ontario general election 47.3% 25.7% - 95 - 19 - 16 (lopsided)
- 2003 Prince Edward Island general election 54.0% 42.9% - 23 -4 (wipe out)
- 2000 Prince Edward Island general election 57.9% 33.7% - 26 -1 (wipe out)
- 1996 Prince Edward Island general election 47.8% 44.8% - 18 -8 - 1 (strong government; strong opposition)
- 1935 Prince Edward Island general election 51.7% 48.3% - 30 -0 (wipe out)
- 1991 Saskatchewan general election 51.1% - 25.5% 55 - 10 - 1 (lopsided)
- 1982 Saskatchewan general election 54.1% - 37.6% 55 - 9 (wipe out)
- 1944 Saskatchewan general election 53.1% - 35.4% 47 - 5 (wipe out)
- 1934 Saskatchewan general election 48.0% - 24.0% 50 - 5 (wipe out)
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:
- 1957 West German federal election: The All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and Deprived of Rights lost all 27 seats.
- 2002 German federal election: The Party of Democratic Socialism went from 36 seats to just 2 (both directly-elected).
- 2013 German federal election: The Free Democratic Party lost all 93 seats.
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.
- In the 1997 United Kingdom general election, the Conservative Party were wiped out in Scotland and Wales - losing eleven and six seats respectively. The Conservatives failed to pick up a seat in Wales in the 2001 election either. The Conservatives picked up a seat in Scotland in 2001, but they didn't gain any additional MPs until 2017, while their share of the vote remained below 20%.
- In the United Kingdom general election, 2005, the Ulster Unionist Party, which had been Northern Ireland's largest party, lost 5 of its 6 seats. Its last seat was lost at the 2010 election, leaving it without representation for the first time since the party was created in 1912.
- In the 2015 United Kingdom general election, the Liberal Democrats lost 49 of their 57 seats, and despite taking 8% of the national vote only had 1.2% of the MPs. Both Labour and the Lib Dems were nearly wiped out in Scotland, retaining just one seat each.
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.
- In the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the Socialists lost all of their six seats, with their share of the vote reduced by over 6%.
- In the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, Labour lost twenty constituency seats (seven overall), with the Liberal Democrats losing nine (twelve overall). The Lib Dems were left with only two constituency seats, suffering a complete wipeout on the Scottish mainland, leaving only Shetland and Orkney (two of the safest seats in the country) with Lib Dem MSPs.
- 1955 Philippine Senate election: With the 24-seat Senate of the Philippines elected via nationwide plurality-at-large voting (8 votes per voter) and on staggered elections, the Liberal Party's seven seats were lost when none of their candidates finished eighth place or higher, despite having 29% of the vote. After the election, the Nacionalista Party then had 21 seats, and two minor parties having 3 seats with one seat vacant.
- In the 1982 Spanish general election, ruling Union of the Democratic Centre went down from 168 to 11 seats, out of 350, and were ousted from government.
- 1993 French legislative election: Ruling Socialist Party went down from 260 to 53 seats out of 577. Socialists were ousted from government and outgoing Prime Minister Pierre Bérégovoy committed suicide after the loss.
- In the 2000 Mongolian State Great Khural Election, the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party overturned a large majority for the Democratic Union, winning 72 out of the 76 seats contested.
- 2002 French legislative election: Centre party Union for French Democracy went down from 112 to 29 seats out of 577, with a further decrease to just 3 seats in 2007.
- In the Irish General Election of 2011, the ruling Fianna Fáil party suffered the worst defeat in its history, returning only 20 T.D.'s to the Dáil. The party moved from being the largest party in the Republic of Ireland, to third for the first time ever. Since the formation of the first Fianna Fáil government in 1932, until the 2011 Election, Fianna Fáil had been in power for 61 of those 79 years and had always been the largest party in the state (regardless of whether it was in power or not). Many factors caused the electoral meltdown, but chief among them was the collapse of the Irish economy.
- 2017 French legislative election: Ruling Socialist Party went down from 286 to 45 seats out of 577. Socialists were ousted from government.
- In the 2019 Spanish general election, the People's Party went from 127 of the 208 directly elected senators to just 54, falling from a comfortable overall majority of 61% of seats to holding just over 27% of the total, despite the fact that the Spanish electoral system for the Senate all but guarantees at least one seat for the runner-up party in 47 of the 50 provinces. Meanwhile, in the Congress of Deputies, the PP lost all their seats in the Basque Country (down from 2) and were reduced to a single one in Catalonia (down from 5).