Introduction: Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective
In: Ingrid van Biezen & Hans-Martien ten Napel (eds.), Regulating Political Parties: European Democracies in Comparative Perspective (Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2014) 7-15
9 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2016
Date Written: December 1, 2014
The question of how parties are, and ought to be, regulated, has assumed increased importance in recent years, both within the scholarly community and among policy-makers and politicians. Given the traditionally private and voluntary character of political parties, the state in liberal democratic societies would not normally intervene in the regulation of their behaviour and organization. But in recent years the legal regulation of parties has become more and more common.
The increased importance of the law in describing, prescribing, or proscribing the operational activities and functions of political parties implies that the state is assuming an increasingly substantive role in the management of, and control over, their behaviour and organization. This raises important questions and concerns, ranging from the motivations inspiring specific regulations to their effect on the parties and the party systems and the underlying conceptions of the role and place of political parties in modern democracies.
Surprisingly, however, despite the increasing relevance of state regulation of political parties, this phenomenon has hitherto received relatively little systematic and comparative scholarly attention, from political scientists or lawyers. The current volume aims to address part of the gap identified above by discussing the various dimensions of party regulation, in the Netherlands as well as in Europe and in other regions of the world, referring to both conceptual issues and recent empirical findings.
The developments as documented and analysed in this volume to a large extent point in the direction of a developing interpretation of political parties from, originally, essentially private into essentially public entities. In the process, the more public the parties become, the more regulation they appear to invoke.
Keywords: political parties, European democracies, party regulation, state, liberal democracy, party systems, Netherlands
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