Parties versus democracy: Addressing today’s political-party threats to democratic rule

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See all articles by Tom Daly

Tom Daly

Melbourne Law School

Brian Christopher Jones

University of Dundee

Date Written: April 11, 2019


The growing threat to liberal democracy worldwide is, in many ways, a political-party threat. Recent years have witnessed the rise of a range of authoritarian populist, illiberal, far-right, nativist, and extremist parties. Some have entered government in countries including Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy. Germany’s Alternativ für Deutschland (AfD) is now the main parliamentary opposition. Beyond Europe we see democratic structures threatened or incrementally dismantled through the subversion of an established democratic party by an outsider (e.g., Donald Trump in the U.S., or Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines) or ascendance of the extremist wing of a right-wing party (e.g., India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)). Parties and party leaders occupying an ill-defined space on the political spectrum – a form of “far-right lite” – today generally present a much greater threat to democratic governance than overtly anti-democratic fringe outfits, such as the National Democratic Party (NPD) of Germany. The ambiguity of such parties, their growing size, their entry into government, the subversion of “good” democratic parties by a “bad” leadership, and the rise of the “shadow party’ and intensifying external control mean that contemporary political-party threats seriously frustrate the possibility of remedial action afforded by existing public law and policy mechanisms. They also require us to reflect anew on crafting novel remedies and to revisit our deep assumptions about parties as creatures of central constitutional importance.

Keywords: Political parties, democracy, representation, democratic decay

Suggested Citation

Daly, Tom and Jones, Brian Christopher, Parties versus democracy: Addressing today’s political-party threats to democratic rule (April 11, 2019). Available at SSRN:

Tom Daly (Contact Author)

Melbourne Law School ( email )

Melbourne Law School
185 Pelham Street
Melbourne, VIC 3053

HOME PAGE: http://

Brian Christopher Jones

University of Dundee ( email )

Dundee, Scotland DD1 4HN
United Kingdom

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