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In many countries, members of parliament are elected on the title of political parties. For example, in The Netherlands, 81 parties have registered for the Dutch General Election, 2017. In most of those parties, the political programme and electoral lists are — at least in theory — democratically decided by the members. One of those parties (Party for Freedom, currently polling as the largest party at 21% of the vote), only has a single member (Geert Wilders). The party itself is effectively a dictatorship (but literally speaking, also a perfect democracy).

I have read a proposal (not supported by Mr. Wilders) to require parties that wish to participate in the elections to be democratically organised and member-based, arguing that it would make democracy less vulnerable (the wannabe-dictator could then be ousted by his own party members even if he has a majority in parliament). Regardless of whether or not such a requirement would actually help, my question is:

Are there any parliamentary systems where such a requirement for political parties exists, to accept members and be democratically organised?

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    Aren't the Netherlands a Parlamentary Monarchy? I mean, even if the party has only one member, if it succeeds it will have X MPs, and if they do not agree with Mr. Wilders policies they can vote against his measures and ever expel him from the PM position, isn't that right? – SJuan76 Jan 23 '17 at 13:07
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    Oh, and Spain requires internal democratic structures but does not specify a clear minimum, it seems that it can be as low as three (which still allows for a dictatorship since it will be me, Mom & Pop). – SJuan76 Jan 23 '17 at 13:11
  • @SJuan76 Yes. The MPs are formally independent even if they are elected on his title, so they would be in a position to oust him from power. I believe the PVV officially has two members: Mr. Wilders and the Foundation for Mr. Wilders, through which it meets the legal minimum, but only one member is human. – gerrit Jan 23 '17 at 13:24
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    @Agent_L: No, Dutch Law restricts parties to be a particular type of legal entity ("Vereniging") which by law must have 2 members. The Wilders loophole is that they don't need to be 2 human members. – MSalters Jan 23 '17 at 14:53
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    I find the requirement to be a control of political speeches - how people organize for political purposes is a form of political speeches. Why should we prohibited non-democratic forms of political organization when we insist that government shouldn't be in thee business of controlling how people voice their views? – dannyf Jan 23 '17 at 16:48
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Yes, in neighboring Germany for example. The German Grundgesetz (constitution) Article 21, Section 1, says (original German | official English translation):

(1) Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people. They may be freely established. Their internal organisation must conform to democratic principles. [...]

The Political Parties Act (PartG) implements this article with some more specific restrictions on how parties need to be organized internally.

A one-person-party would not be legal according to this law. Section 2 (10) says that parties must "offer a sufficient guarantee of their sincerity [...] especially as regards the size and strength of their organization, their membership numbers and their visibility in public". It doesn't give a specific minimum size, but I doubt anyone would disagree that "one" is insufficient. Further, section 10 (1) says "No general refusal to admit new members, even if of limited duration, shall be permissible.". That means parties must be open to accepting new members. Even though they don't need to accept everyone. The same section also reads "the party shall freely decide on the admission of members. No reasons need to be given for rejecting an application for membership". So if a party claims to be open to new members but rejects everyone for undisclosed reasons, it's up to the prosecution to prove that they refuse everyone and are not just very picky.

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I think requirements of internal democracy are quite general.

Spanish constitution as another example:

Article 6. Los partidos políticos (...) Su estructura interna y funcionamiento deberán ser democráticos.

My translation:

Their [of political parties] internal structure and function must be democratic.

The law on political parties is more specific (article 3 j), when stating what should be in party bylaws:

j) El procedimiento para la elección de los órganos directivos, bien directamente o por representación, que en todo caso deberá garantizar la participación de todos los afiliados mediante sufragio libre y secreto, y los procedimientos de control democrático de los dirigentes electos.

My translation:

The process to elect directive positions, directly or by representations, that in any case must allow participation of all members through free and secret suffrage, and the democratic control of elect directive members.

Articles 6, 7 and 8 expand on that.


Update:

The sources pointed by CptEric ask for a minimum of 3 members as any other association. However, I'm not sure about if a party could be registered with less members, mainly because the law of political parties doesn't reference the laws about associations, which aren't uniform in the whole country. Probably, if a party were rejected registering because of lack of enough members, the issue could end in court.

  • Is there any requirement to be open to members? See the comments about Wilders' party having two members, being democratic de jure. – gerrit Jan 23 '17 at 16:17
  • There is a requirement against forced affiliation and for freedom to leave the party (article 1.2) but as far as I can see party bylaws can establish requisites for joining (article 3.2.g). I can't also find requirements about minimum number of members. – Pere Jan 23 '17 at 16:28
  • There is an electoral college organization that makes sure that the parties are democratic, and they choose how to interpret the constitution, hence, if a party is found to be a two-person tandem closed to anybody else, they could illegalize it. A party still has it's right to say "no" to a new member. Parties must work, althought, as associations, and that requires atleast 4 members, ( President, Vicepresident, treasurer,Secretary), who must be elected. – CptEric Jan 24 '17 at 12:41
  • more sources: 195.235.66.22/web/guest/como-inscribir-un-partido – CptEric Jan 24 '17 at 12:45

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