The Place of Political Parties in National Constitutions: A European Overview

Authors: Ingrid van Biezen & Gabriela Borz | Published in: working paper series on the legal regulation of political parties, no. 01, July. | Date of publication: 2009


This is the first working paper in the series on The Legal Regulation of Political Parties in Post-War Europe. The series hosts working papers associated with the research projects on The Constitutional Regulation of Political Parties in Post-War Europe (funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council - ESRC) and Re-conceptualizing Party Democracy (funded by the European Research Council - ERC). In this first working paper, we concentrate on the empirical dimensions of the constitutional codification of political parties in post-war European democracies. The constitutionalization of political parties is a relatively new phenomenon in modern Europe as, historically, the constitutions of the liberal European democracies typically refrained from making reference to the existence of parties or describing their role in the political system. The constitutionalization of parties in Europe effectively began in the immediate post-war period, with the republican constitution of Italy in 1947 and the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany 1949 as the most notable examples. These were the first European democracies explicitly to recognize the positive contribution of political parties to democracy in their constitutions. This practice has since been followed in constitutional revisions in many other polities, to the point that, as we shall see, most democratic constitutions in Europe today acknowledge the existence of political parties. This makes the constitution an important source for investigations into the character of modern democracy and the prevailing ideas about the place of political parties within the organizational infrastructure of the state and their role in relation to its citizens.

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