Political parties may be required to register with election authorities when contesting the election. The grounds for rejecting a registration application should be based on objective criteria.
- De-registration of candidates is a particular problem. While the initial registration of candidates may be positively assessed, the electoral commission is often allowed to de-register candidates before the election, for example, if they seriously violate the electoral law. However, inconsistent and inappropriate last-minute de-registration of candidates, often on minor technical grounds, should be avoided. Care should be taken that provisions allowing for the de-registration of candidates are not abused for political purposes.
- Registration as a necessary step for recognition of an association as a political party, for a party’s participation in general elections or for public financing of a party does not per se amount to a violation of rights protected under Articles 11 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Any requirements in relation to registration, however, must be such as are ‘necessary in a democratic society’ and proportionate to the objective sought to be achieved by the measures in question.
- [Political parties] are thus a specific kind of association, which in many countries is submitted to registration for participation in elections or for public financing. This requirement of registration has been accepted, considering it as not per se contrary to the freedom of association, provided that conditions for registration are not too burdensome.
- The legal framework may provide a structure for the registration of political parties. The legal framework should clearly provide for notification of the dates for commencement and closure of registration, or provide that such registration could be continuously open; specify when, how and where registration procedures must be undertaken; and set out the process of verification of registration… The legal framework should provide for uniformity in the registration process so that the same process applies to all political parties at all levels. The grounds for rejection of a registration application should be based on objective criteria and clearly stated in the legal framework for elections, along with avenues of appeal against such rejection.
- The election law will require parties and candidates to formally register as contestants in an election…Registration requirements should be clear and predictable and should not involve potentially discriminatory demands such as excessive deposits or an unreasonable number of names on registration petitions.
- One reason why parties and candidates must register is to ensure that party names and symbols are unique, which would otherwise cause confusion. Election authorities also need to know which parties and candidates are running for office, so that they can be included on the ballot.
- With regard to the principle of proportionality, parties or candidates should not be disqualified from standing for election other than for the most serious reasons given the fundamental nature of the right to stand. They should be given an opportunity to correct any technical deficiencies on their applications for registration and should not be disqualified or refused registration solely on technical grounds.
- At the same time, cancellation (“de-registration”) of candidacy is an extraordinary measure that effectively deprives eligible candidates of the right to stand in election. As such, it may only be applied for the most serious violations of the law following a fair EDR process.
- Particularly in the case of political parties, given their fundamental role in the democratic process, prohibitive measures shall be narrowly applied and shall never completely extinguish the right or encroach on its essence. For instance, prohibiting the establishment of a political party or dissolving a political party are sanctions of last resort and shall only be imposed in exceptional cases under strict conditions.
- Grounds for denying party registration must be clearly stated in law and based on objective criteria. Where parties can be denied registration for administrative reasons, such as the failure to meet a deadline, such administrative requirements must be reasonable and well known to parties. Moreover, in case of technical omissions or minor infringements of registration requirements, the political party should be given reasonable time in which to rectify the failure.
- Deadlines for deciding registration applications should be reasonably short, to ensure the effective realization of the right of individuals to associate.
- Dissolution of political parties which is merely based on the incidental activities of party members as individuals is incompatible with the protection awarded to parties as associations. This incompatibility extends to individual actions of party leadership, except where these persons can be proven to act as representatives of the party as a whole.