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The Democratic Dilemma: Dissolution of Political Parties in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights

Törnström, Karin LU (2014) JURM02 20141
Department of Law
Abstract
Any democratic State must to some extent take a stand on the classic democratic dilemma of how to approach anti-democratic forces in society. When the threat to democracy emanates from a political party, whose existence and functionality are central to modern democracies, the State will have to undertake a very delicate balancing exercise. The primary research question is what legal standard the Court has set up for the dissolution of political parties. Additionally, the aim is to compare that legal standard with the conception of democracy of the Council of Europe.

To some extent, there is a common conception of democracy within the Council of Europe. It can be described as going well beyond a procedural model of democracy, but still... (More)
Any democratic State must to some extent take a stand on the classic democratic dilemma of how to approach anti-democratic forces in society. When the threat to democracy emanates from a political party, whose existence and functionality are central to modern democracies, the State will have to undertake a very delicate balancing exercise. The primary research question is what legal standard the Court has set up for the dissolution of political parties. Additionally, the aim is to compare that legal standard with the conception of democracy of the Council of Europe.

To some extent, there is a common conception of democracy within the Council of Europe. It can be described as going well beyond a procedural model of democracy, but still emphasizing the importance of elections and therefore also of political parties. Furthermore, there appears to be some consensus as to what the general principles for the limits of dissolution of political parties should be. As an extremely intrusive measure that affects individual’s democratic participation, it should only be applied in exceptional cases and with utmost restriction. The European Court of Human Rights has over the years developed a test for assessing the legality of party dissolution measures, that in many ways sets a high threshold for the legality of such measures. However, its reasoning in especially the Refah Partisi case can be criticized for not adhering to, for instance, the democratic principles of tolerance and pluralism.

The thesis concludes that it is not currently possible to give a clear answer to the research question. In some cases it is questionable whether the reasoning of the Court is in line with the conception of democracy within the Council of Europe. This is primarily due to the use of elusive concepts such as ‘democracy’, ‘pluralism’ and ‘secularism’. Acknowledging the difficulties of undertaking to clarify the concept of democracy, the author nevertheless suggests that the institutions of the Council of Europe should attempt to do so. (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Varje demokratisk stat måste i någon mån ta ställning till det klassiska demokratiska dilemmat om hur odemokratiska krafter i samhället bör bemötas. När demokratin hotas genom ett politiskt parti, vars existens och verkande är centrala i moderna demokratier, måste staten i fråga balansera motstående intressen. Den här uppsatsen handlar om praxis från Europadomstolen rörande upplösning av politiska partier. Frågeställningen är i första hand vilka gränser Europadomstolen har satt upp för sådana åtgärder. Dessutom är syftet var att jämföra domsolens praxis med Europarådets syn på demokrati.

I viss utsträckning finns det en gemensam syn på demokrati inom Europarådet. Den kan beskrivas som mer långtgående än en substantiell demokratisk... (More)
Varje demokratisk stat måste i någon mån ta ställning till det klassiska demokratiska dilemmat om hur odemokratiska krafter i samhället bör bemötas. När demokratin hotas genom ett politiskt parti, vars existens och verkande är centrala i moderna demokratier, måste staten i fråga balansera motstående intressen. Den här uppsatsen handlar om praxis från Europadomstolen rörande upplösning av politiska partier. Frågeställningen är i första hand vilka gränser Europadomstolen har satt upp för sådana åtgärder. Dessutom är syftet var att jämföra domsolens praxis med Europarådets syn på demokrati.

I viss utsträckning finns det en gemensam syn på demokrati inom Europarådet. Den kan beskrivas som mer långtgående än en substantiell demokratisk modell, som dock ändå lägger stor vikt vid val och följaktligen också vid politiska partier. Det verkar också finnas viss konsensus om de generella principer som bör gälla för upplösning av politiska partier. Eftersom det är en mycket ingripande åtgärd som påverkar individens demokratiska deltagande, kan den bara tillämpas ytterst restriktivt i undantagsfall. Europadomstolen har under årens lopp utvecklat ett test för bedömningen av huruvida en upplösning av ett politiskt parti är tillåtlig. Dock kan dess resonemang i särskilt fallet Refah Partisi kritiseras för att inte uppfylla demokratiska principer om till exempel tolerans och pluralism.

Slutsatsen är att det för närvarande inte är möjligt att ge ett tydligt svar på frågeställningen. I vissa fall kan det ifrågasättas om Europadomstolens resonemang överensstämmer med Europarådets syn på demokrati. Detta beror främst på att domstolen använder förlitar sig på vaga termer såsom ”demokrati”, ”pluralism” och ”sekularism”. Trots att begreppet demokrati svårligen låter sig definieras, föreslår författaren att Europarådet ändå bör försöka tydliggöra dess innebörd. (Less)
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author
Törnström, Karin LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM02 20141
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Folkrätt, Public International Law, International Human Rights Law
language
English
id
4451640
date added to LUP
2014-06-12 09:05:30
date last changed
2014-06-12 09:05:30
@misc{4451640,
  abstract     = {Any democratic State must to some extent take a stand on the classic democratic dilemma of how to approach anti-democratic forces in society. When the threat to democracy emanates from a political party, whose existence and functionality are central to modern democracies, the State will have to undertake a very delicate balancing exercise. The primary research question is what legal standard the Court has set up for the dissolution of political parties. Additionally, the aim is to compare that legal standard with the conception of democracy of the Council of Europe.

To some extent, there is a common conception of democracy within the Council of Europe. It can be described as going well beyond a procedural model of democracy, but still emphasizing the importance of elections and therefore also of political parties. Furthermore, there appears to be some consensus as to what the general principles for the limits of dissolution of political parties should be. As an extremely intrusive measure that affects individual’s democratic participation, it should only be applied in exceptional cases and with utmost restriction. The European Court of Human Rights has over the years developed a test for assessing the legality of party dissolution measures, that in many ways sets a high threshold for the legality of such measures. However, its reasoning in especially the Refah Partisi case can be criticized for not adhering to, for instance, the democratic principles of tolerance and pluralism.

The thesis concludes that it is not currently possible to give a clear answer to the research question. In some cases it is questionable whether the reasoning of the Court is in line with the conception of democracy within the Council of Europe. This is primarily due to the use of elusive concepts such as ‘democracy’, ‘pluralism’ and ‘secularism’. Acknowledging the difficulties of undertaking to clarify the concept of democracy, the author nevertheless suggests that the institutions of the Council of Europe should attempt to do so.},
  author       = {Törnström, Karin},
  keyword      = {Folkrätt,Public International Law,International Human Rights Law},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {The Democratic Dilemma: Dissolution of Political Parties in the Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights},
  year         = {2014},
}