Demands on political parties regarding registration should not be so stringent as to jeopardize their freedom of association.
- Requirements for the registration of candidates and political parties which are too strict should be abolished.
- [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. And requirements for registration are very different from one country to another: they may include, for instance, organisational conditions, requirement for minimum political activity, of standing for elections, of reaching a certain threshold of votes... However, some pre-conditions for registration of political parties existing in several Council of Europe Member States requiring a certain territorial representation and a minimal number of members for their registration could be problematic in the light of the principle of free association in political parties.
- The prohibition or dissolution of political parties as a particularly far-reaching measure should be used with utmost restraint. Before asking the competent judicial body to prohibit or dissolve a party, governments or other state organs should assess, having regard to the situation of the country concerned, whether the party really represents a danger to the free and democratic political order or to the rights of individuals and whether other, less radical measures could prevent the said danger.
- [Restrictions on registering parties]... should not compromise or violate the basic democratic rights for registering parties. If the demands for the registering authority are too stringent, then people’s democratic rights of association and right to stand for office could be jeopardised.
- 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.
- The Special Rapporteur calls upon States in times of elections: (…) (e) To ensure that an enabling framework is provided for political parties to be formed — regardless of their political ideology — and to enjoy the level playing field, in particular in relation to their ability to access funding, and to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, including through peaceful demonstrations and access to the media.
- Political parties must be protected as an integral expression of the right of individuals and groups to freely form associations. But, given the unique and vital role of political parties in the electoral process and democratic governance, it is commonly accepted for states to regulate their functioning insofar as is necessary to ensure effective, representative and fair democratic governance.
- So, on the one hand, some kind of state regulation of the inner workings of political parties may be acceptable; on the other hand, state interference may suffice with formulating some “requirements for parties to be transparent in their decision-making and to seek input from their membership when determining party constitutions and candidates”.
- Only convincing and compelling reasons can justify limitations on the freedom of association of political parties, and such limitations must be construed strictly. Any such limitations must be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate aim recognized by international standards, necessary in a democratic society, and proportionate in measure and duration.
- 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.
- The payment of reasonable registration fees for the establishment of a political party is an acceptable requirement.
- Although requirements based on minimum support established through the collection of signatures are legitimate, the state must ensure that they are reasonable and democratically justifiable and not so burdensome as to restrict the political activities of small parties or to discriminate against parties representing minorities.
- Once party registration is approved, requirements for retaining it should be minimal. However, the requirements for continuing to receive certain benefits from the state, such as public financing or ballot access in elections, may be higher than requirements for maintaining registration as a political party.
- Provisions regarding the limitation of political parties purely on the grounds that they represent a limited geographic area should generally be removed from relevant legislation.
- Countries applying registration procedures to political parties should refrain from imposing excessive requirements for territorial representation of political parties as well as for minimum membership. Matters of internal organisation of political parties, in principle, should not be subject to control by public authorities.
- 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.