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A theoretical that has come to mine for me:

Say I live in a liberal democrat/SNP marginal and I'm a person who for some reason really really hates the Liberal Democrats. I'm desperate to stop them winning.

So I register a new political party and run in the next election. This party has a name like the Libel Dems or something similar.

The intention obviously being not to win but to trick people who would support the party I don't like into accidentally voting for me.

Are there any laws in place to stop such a situation?

How far do they stretch? - how similar would be too similar?

Would there be any legal consideration of my true political views in this?

Has this ever been tried?

  • 4
    I tagged this question with "united kingdom" because of the party names you've chosen. Keep in mind that every country in the world has different laws and regulations regarding party registration. – Philipp Jun 10 '17 at 8:54
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    This has been an issue in Australia. There's a major party normally called the "Liberal party", and a minor party generally called the "Liberal Democrats". The latter had to rename themselves for a while. – Andrew Grimm Jun 10 '17 at 11:04
  • @AndrewGrimm: in the UK, it's the other way around; there is still apparently a Liberal Party, which is a (tiny) splinter group dating back to the formation of the Liberal Democrats. – Steve Melnikoff Jun 10 '17 at 15:17
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    There's also the Independent Party in the US and many people who wanted to register as an Independent accidentally registered as that party. – Panda Jun 10 '17 at 16:14
  • @Panda and to make it worse, the aip isn't a moderate party at all – k_g Jun 10 '17 at 18:51
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To appear on the ballot paper, the political party must be registered with the Electoral Commission. They are an independent statutory body, tasked with running elections.

You have to submit a lot of details, like your party constitution, aims, and "identity marks" (ie names and logos). You cannot register a name that is likely to cause confusion. "Libel Democrats" would not be permitted.

The rules for identity marks (emphasis mine):

As a guide, we cannot register an identity mark that:

  • is likely to mislead voters as to the effect of their vote
  • is the same as another registered identity mark which is on the same register
  • is the same as an identity mark from a deregistered party which was on the same register and is protected until the end of that party’s financial year in the year they were deregistered
  • is likely to result in voters confusing it with another party identity mark that is already registered or protected
  • is likely to contradict or hinder instructions or guidance given for voting
  • is obscene or offensive
  • contains certain prohibited words
  • is, or contains an acronym or abbreviation that is not well known and widely used and not spelt out
  • links in any way to online material or contains reference to online content
  • contains a reference to a person’s name unless it is a person directly associated with your party
  • an emblem that contains text which cannot be read at the size emblems appear on ballot papers (2cm square)
  • is longer than six words
  • is not in Roman script
  • is likely to amount to an offence if published.

No doubt this has been tried, which is why there are rules to prevent it.

The other rules prevent, for example, a pro-EU party registering "UK Out" (misleading as to the effect). You couldn't register "Tick this box ->" (hinders guidance for voting). Nor could you register "Kick Theresa May out" (refers to a person not associated with your party).

In other words, your name should be a clear reflection of the positive aims of your party, and is likely to be rejected if it is not.

  • There are other laws that might be pertinent too - like Trademark infringement (LibDem is a trademark too)and (related) Passing Off. Possibly fraud (obtaining benefit by deception). – pbhj Jun 10 '17 at 15:03
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    What about "Don't tick this box →"? :-D – David Foerster Jun 10 '17 at 19:00
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    I've just noticed you may have made the same mistake as the US government, and confused Theresa May (British Prime Minister) and Teresa May (former glamour model). – origimbo Jun 10 '17 at 21:05
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To touch the one question not addressed in James K's excellent answer, probably the most famous example of this event happening in the UK before the implementation of the current rules was in 1994 when Richard Huggett ran in the European elections as a 'Literal Democrat' in the constituency of Devon and East Plymouth, and gained more than ten thousand votes, in a contest where the Liberal Democrat finished only 700 votes behind the winning Conservative candidate. This event, and some similar, though less significant events in the 1997 general and local election were seen as motivations behind the 1998 Registration of Political Parties Bill.

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