Wikipedia:Post-election edit war syndrome

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In many instances, an election which results in a change of government or other officials has the unexpected byproduct of causing an edit war on Wikipedia which affects multiple articles for an extended period of time.

The transition period between an election and the actual installation of the new government can vary from twelve hours to almost three months, depending on local convention and circumstance. In many cases, however, an extended edit war was initiated on the entire batch of related articles — the people themselves, the main infobox on the country, state or province article, the position's navbox template, List of current heads of state and government, etc. — on election night, between those who wanted to immediately replace the incumbent with the incoming leader, and those who insisted that we reflect the reality that the winner of the election wasn't actually the incumbent yet. And this edit war didn't always wait until the media or the appropriate electoral agency had actually declared the winner, either — in some cases, it began as soon as an individual Wikipedia editor violated WP:NOR by personally deciding that the incoming numbers were sufficiently clear to make a declaration.

Wikipedia does have a requirement to privilege accuracy over common perception when those two principles are in conflict with each other. Accordingly, the policy proposal here is as follows:

Wikipedia articles should reflect the current leadership of a given political institution at the time they are edited, and not anticipated changes.

Where appropriate, the presumed new holder of a political position may be separately noted as a position-designate, position-presumptive or position-elect, depending on local usage, but is not to be noted as the incumbent occupant until they have been officially sworn into office.

Assumption of powers[edit]

A person should not be stated to hold an office until they have assumed the powers of that office. Stating that a person holds an office who does not hold that office is untrue and should not be done at any time. Further, a claim that the person in question does currently hold the office is subject to burden of evidence. If there is consensus that a particular person has assumed the office, then that should be changed. Consensus about who will assume the office and the time at which they will do so can be established in advance of that assumption of office, and this can allow editors to change the articles at the time the change goes into effect.

Election certification[edit]

Most elections are certified by a governmental body which has the legal authority to do so. When this has happened, the default position of Wikipedia will be that this person is the winner of the election. This position should only be overridden if there is a consensus that fraud or other circumstances have caused the official result to leave open the possibility of a legal or other substantial challenge to the election results, or a schism where two leaders or groups simultaneously exercise authority over some of the place in question. In these cases, the article should reflect the disputed leadership. Elections which are controversial, but where one candidate has conceded defeat, such as the United States Presidential Election, 2000, should not override the default assumption that the legally declared winner will assume the office.

Prior to legal certification[edit]

Before a person has been certified by legal authorities to have won an election or been appointed to an office, media sources will often "declare" a winner based on preliminary results or inside sources. In these cases, when there is consensus that one person will be assuming that office, but that person has not been certified, references to the transition of office should reflect that it is based on preliminary results or media projections. A person may be stated to have won prior to legal certification if and only if almost all media sources which are reporting a winner have declared that person to have won, and their principal opponent(s) have publicly conceded defeat.

  • Before certification the burden of proof is on the person claiming that someone has won. To meet this burden they must show that:
    • The candidate has been declared the winner by almost all major media outlets who are actively covering the election
    • The principal opposition candidate(s) have publicly conceded defeat.

The policy on proof is slightly different regarding appointments because of their nature.

  • In the case of appointments, the burden of proof before official submission of names means that:
    • The person with the power to appoint (or who will have that power) has publicly stated who they intend to appoint.
    • The appointee has publicly stated that they will assume the office to which they will be appointed.

After legal certification[edit]

After legal certification, the burden of proof falls to the claim that the certified person is not the person who will be assuming the office. This burden can be met by showing that:

  • The person who was certified has died.
  • The person who was certified has publicly stated that they do not intend to assume the office, and it is legally possible for that person to do so.
    • If, for example, the person intended to resign the office immediately upon assuming that office, they would still be momentarily holding the office, and would remain the official-elect/designate until assumption and resignation.
  • The standards for dispute in 2.0 have been met.


Following any state, provincial or federal election which results in an incumbency change, you may list both the outgoing and incoming leaders in the appropriate infoboxes and navboxes and articles for the duration of the transition period between the date of the election and the date that the new leader is officially sworn in. Where appropriate, note the actual swearing-in date, if this is known — if an exact date is not yet known, note only the month and year in which that date is expected to occur.

Cabinet positions[edit]

Cabinet positions are subject to the same considerations, although in some systems the process of appointment does not create an actual issue. In the Canadian and British parliamentary systems, for example, while the media may engage in advance speculation about who might be appointed to a cabinet position, no official announcement is made by the government prior to the investiture ceremony itself — with the result that by the time the new occupant of a cabinet position is verifiably known at all, that person already officially holds the position.

Conversely, in the United States, cabinet nominees are proposed by the president or president-elect and then subject to confirmation hearings in Congress, meaning that a nominee may be known for several weeks before the person actually becomes the incumbent. However, at various times cabinet nominees have withdrawn their names from consideration or have failed to be confirmed, so Wikipedia cannot assume that a nominee will definitively become the new officeholder.

In either situation, do not list a person as the incumbent of a cabinet position until they have been sworn in. In a parliamentary system, editors should not assume that a person who held an opposition shadow minister or critic's role will necessarily be appointed to the same ministry they previously shadowed. Articles pertaining to American politics may note formally announced nominations where this is appropriate and verifiable, but must respect the distinction between a nominee and an incumbent.

Regardless of which system is involved, Wikipedia articles must not include speculation about potential cabinet appointments which have not yet been announced by the appropriate government officials.

Local representation[edit]

At the local representative level, again the situation differs between parliamentary and republican systems of government.

In the American system, members of Congress continue to hold their position until the new Congress is sworn in — and, in fact, meetings of the outgoing Congress continue to be held for several weeks after the election, meaning that a defeated or retiring representative is still actually performing duties of the job. Accordingly, an outgoing representative is still in office until his or her successor is sworn in, and the successor is not to be denoted as the incumbent until the new Congress takes office. However, when a special election is held to fill a congressional vacancy resulting from the resignation or death of the prior representative during a congressional session, because the seat does not have another incumbent the relevant articles may be updated immediately.

In parliamentary systems, however, the legislature is fully dissolved at the start of an election — with the consequence that each electoral division is technically vacant for the duration of the election campaign, and no parliamentary business takes place during the election period. A retiring representative is already officially out of office, the end of a defeated representative's term in office is officially backdated to the issuance of the election writs, and newly-elected representatives are sworn in within two to three weeks of the election. Accordingly, as long as the actual dates of an individual representative's term in office are correctly denoted, articles pertaining to local representation in countries such as Canada, Australia or the United Kingdom may be updated to reflect the new representative at any time after the election results are announced. As with other positions, caution must be exercised in situations where a particular result is disputed or subject to a recount. It is not necessary to update an electoral district's article to reflect the district as vacant during a general election — however, an individual electoral district must be updated to denote it as vacant when a vacancy occurs due to the incumbent's death or resignation during a session of parliament.


This policy also applies to appointed positions such as the Governor-General of a Commonwealth country, a US cabinet member, an ambassador, etc. — the appropriate infoboxes and articles should note the new nominee in the meantime, but the outgoing incumbent must remain listed as the incumbent until such time as the designated nominee is officially sworn in to office.


See Wikipedia talk:Post-election edit war syndrome.