Nonpartisan democracy (also no-party democracy) is a system of representative government or organization such that universal and periodic elections take place without reference to political parties. Sometimes electioneering and even speaking about candidates may be discouraged, so as not to prejudice others' decisions or create a contentious atmosphere.
In many nations, the head of state is nonpartisan, even if the prime minister and parliament are chosen in partisan elections. Such heads of state are expected to remain neutral with regards to partisan politics. In a number of parliamentary or semi-presidential countries, some presidents are non-partisan, or receive cross-party support.
Nonpartisan systems may be de jure, meaning political parties are either outlawed entirely or legally prevented from participating in elections at certain levels of government, or de facto if no such laws exist and yet there are no political parties. On the national level, de facto nonpartisan systems mostly represent very small populations, such as in Niue, Tuvalu, and Palau. Several Persian Gulf states are de jure nonpartisan, including Oman and Kuwait; the legislatures in these governments typically have advisory capacity only, as they may comment on laws proposed by the executive branch but are unable to create laws themselves. De jure nonpartisan national governments sometimes resemble one-party states, but governments of the latter type explicitly recognize a single political party that all officials are required to be a member of.
Unless there are legal restrictions on political parties, factions within nonpartisan governments may evolve into political parties. The United States of America initially did not have enfranchised political parties, but these evolved soon after independence.
Comparison with other political systems
A nonpartisan system differs from a one-party system in that the governing faction in a one-party system identifies itself as a party, where membership might provide benefits not available to non-members. A single-party government often requires government officials to be members of the party, features a complex party hierarchy as a key institution of government, forces citizens to agree to a partisan ideology, and may enforce its control over the government by making all other parties illegal. Members of a nonpartisan government may represent many different ideologies. Various communist nations such as China or Cuba are single-party nations although the Members of Parliament are not elected as party candidates.
A direct democracy can be considered nonpartisan since citizens vote on laws themselves rather than electing representatives. Direct democracy can be partisan, however, if factions are given rights or prerogatives that non-members do not have.