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  • 9. Political Parties

    Political parties are essential to any pluralistic democracy. Forming and joining political parties is one of the most common ways in which individuals engage in public dialogue and decisionmaking and realize their right to “participate in the conduct of public affairs.”[1]

    In its Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, the Venice Commission defines a political party as

    a free association of persons, one of the aims of which is to participate in the management of public affairs, including through the presentation of candidates to free and democratic elections. Political parties are a collective platform for the expression of individuals’ fundamental rights to association and expression and have been recognized by the European Court of Human Rights as integral players in the democratic process. Further, they are the most widely utilized means for political participation and exercise of related rights.[2]

    The Commission also explained that

    [a]lthough the legal capacity and standing of a political party may vary from state to state, political parties have rights and responsibilities regardless of their legal status. While political parties may be governed under laws separate from general associations, at a minimum they still retain the basic rights provided to other associations.[3]

    In discussing government regulation of political parties, the Commission noted that

    [w]here regulations are enacted, they should not unduly inhibit the activities or rights of political parties. Instead, legislation should focus on facilitating the role of parties as potentially critical actors in a democratic society and ensuring the full protection of rights relevant to their proper functioning. While a specific law for political parties is not required, political parties must at a minimum retain the same basic rights afforded other associations, as well as the rights to nominate candidates and participate in elections.[4]


    1. ICCPR, art. 25 guarantees to everyone “the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions:(a) To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives;(b) To vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors;

      (c) To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”

    2. Venice Commission/OSCE, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, paras. 9-10 (2010).
    3. Venice Commission/OSCE, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, para. 27 (2010).
    4. Venice Commission/OSCE, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, para. 29 (2010).
    5. Yazar, Karataş, Aksoy and the People’s Labour Party (HEP) v. Turkey, ECtHR, Judgment of 9 April 2002, para 49.
    6. Yatama v. Nicaragua, IACtHR, Judgment of 23 June 2005, paras 215-224.
    7. Castañeda Gutman v. México, IACtHR, Judgment of 6 August 2006.
    8. Jawara v. the Gambia, AComPHR, Communication No. 147/95 and 149/96, paras. 67-68 (2000).
    9. Lawyers for Human Rights v. Swaziland, AComPHR Communication No. 251/02, paras. 60-62 (2005).
    10. HADEP and Demir v. Turkey, ECtHR Judgment (December 14, 2010).
    11. ECtHR Press Unit, Fact Sheet on Political Parties and Associations, 4 (October 2016), discussing Partidul Comunistilor (Nepeceristi) and Ungureanu v. Romania, ECtHR Judgment (February 3, 2005 (emphasis added).
    12. OSCE/Venice Commission, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, para. 172.
    13. Basque Nationalist Party – Iparralde Regional Organisation v. France, ECtHR Judgment of 7 June 2007)..
    14. OSCE/Venice Commission, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, para/ 172.
    15. OSCE/Venice Commission, Guidelines on Political Party Regulation, para 172.
    16. United Nations General Assembly, Enhancing the Role of Regional, Subregional and Other Organizations and Arrangements in Promoting and Consolidating Democracy, G.A. Res. 59/201 (Dec. 20, 2004); African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (2011).
    17. UN Human Rights Council, UN Doc. A/HRC/RES/15/21, 6 October 2010, para. 1.
    18. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/68/299, 7 August 2013, para 15(e).
    19. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/68/299, 7 August 2013, para 46.
    20. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/68/299, 7 August 2013, para 47.
    21. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/68/299, 7 August 2013, para 58(f).
    22. UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, UN Doc. A/HRC/68/299, 7 August 2013, para. 49.