Article 21 of the German Basic Law states

Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people. [...] Details shall be regulated by federal laws.

...and they are, so much that there is the word "Parteiendemokratie" to describe the German political system.

In contrast, political parties in the U.S. were established well after the constitution, and seem to have a different role. This German-language blog "USA explained" even goes so far to claim "There are no political parties [in the US]. It just seems that way. It's an illusion" (which, itself, is a movie allusion). Yet, as mentioned here, political parties in some U.S. states do not have to organize the election of their own candidates for a general election but have that done by state election officials, for example.

So what is the legal role for political parties and where is it defined?

  • I originally thought of asking for the major differences in the role of political parties in the U.S. and elsewhere, but felt this to be overly broad (which this question still may be). Still, I feel there are a few topics worth exploring related to this.
    – arne.b
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 22:18
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    Other than limited legal restrictions on tax-exempt status and the like, there is no requirement of a political party at the federal level. However, many states have laws and requirements for parties to fulfill if they wish to be a political party in that state. Other than this, Parties in the US are groups of like-minded people working together in politics.
    – Kevin Peno
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 22:20
  • It might be worth specifying in the question whether you mean specifically with respect to federal law or also with respect to state law. State law controls many things in the US that are handled at the federal level in many other countries, and, as @Kevin points out, many states have laws that explicitly recognize parties in various ways. Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


The only role for parties in the US is in minor regulations that the parties draw up. Some commissions, for example, state that parties may nominate a certain number of chairman.

When the Constitution was written, George Washington (and other Federalists) had a high degree of hatred for "faction," what we call parties today. They were more of a pragmatic evil then a thing to be supported. Due to this hatred, there was little reason the FF would actually enshrine their role in the Constitution in any way.

  • 1
    Aren't electoral redistricting and running/observing elections commonly the province of commissions that are defined in terms of parties? If so, I'd say those aren't minor. Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 18:08
  • Re: my previous comment - I see that the relevance of electoral laws to this question is dependent on whether the question intends to include state law; this answer appears to assume that it doesn't. Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 18:33
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    Aren't there regulations about how to conduct primaries? Those are party functions. Isn't majority/minority leader a party post recognized in government? Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 19:04
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    @DJClayworth - IIRC, "Majority/Minority" leader is merely an internal congressional regulation. They are NOT part of federal laws.
    – user4012
    Commented Jan 11, 2013 at 19:31

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