In recent years, due to problems of mass immigration in Europe, there's a rise of far-right parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, BNP in Britain, NPD in Germany, etc.

Governments of these countries seems to be worried about such a tendency but can't do anything about it. In contrast in Turkey it's a common practice to ban extremist parties (far-left, far-right and religious fundamentalist ones).

Does this contradict basic tenets of democracy?

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    Just a note: Some of Golden Dawn's key members (including its leader) are currently in jail, and the discussion on banning Golden Dawn is ongoing. – yannis Jun 16 '14 at 9:14
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    Germany has also banned parties. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – liftarn Jun 25 '14 at 11:10
  • If people democratically choose to give up their democracy, does it violate the principles of democracy? Can an omnipotent God create something so heavy that even He cannot lift it? Does tolerance require one to tolerate intolerance? Can a vegan enjoy the smell of bacon? – J Doe Aug 9 '17 at 19:02
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    I voted to reopen the question, this is a classic political philosophy question and it's interesting to note that different countries have different view on it. We probably shouldn't hope to resolve it but it certainly seems possible to give a comprehensive, documented answer that is not based on opinions. In any case, I don't think the question is so bad that moderator action was warranted. – Relaxed Aug 10 '17 at 11:51

Well, there is distinction between extremist party and an anti-democratic party.

The label "anti-democratic" is very much subjective and depends on the undertanding of democracy by those who judge. In practice usually any party claims to conduct policy in the interests of the people.

On the other hand a party that calls for persecution by the criteria of race or ethnicity, to violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government could be banned based on quite well-defined criteria.

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  • Did you intend to reference persecution? – Drunk Cynic Aug 7 '17 at 21:14
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    FWIW, for surveillance and other legal purpose Germany does in fact define “extremist” as “anti-democratic” (or “threatening the liberal-democratic order”). – Relaxed Aug 10 '17 at 11:49
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    @Relaxed Yeah if a german flies his own flag he's an extremist to so YMMV. – easymoden00b Aug 10 '17 at 14:36

It most certainly does.

The principal of democracy is that people have free choice in how their government is run. The act of banning parties based on ideology is the few currently in power deciding that a certain view point's should be ignored and kept out of the ability to participate in the government.

A true democracy requires at the very minimum the freedom to think for and express one self. Once that democracy allows the formation of parties, then choosing to deny a faction based on their expression is a denial of that freedom that is required for democracy.

That said there are no true democratically run countries currently. Most of Europe is some sort of representational government. This means that there are actually just a few people in power in the government. Thus the few can ostracize and deny the expression of those few that are most likely to put into place policies that the current people in power most object to. It is possible that the majority of the people they represent agree with that, but it is an authoritarian maneuver that ultimately degrades the democratic ideals.

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  • "there are actually just a few people in power in the government": isn't that true almost by definition? Or do you mean that even amongst all the people who are nominally in charge, there are actually only a very few who wield real power? – Steve Melnikoff Aug 8 '17 at 9:36
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    "it is an authoritarian maneuver that ultimately degrades the democratic ideals": true; but to play devil's advocate, doesn't letting in an anti-democratic party also degrade democratic ideals? Or is it a case of deciding on which is the lesser of the two evils - in which case, different countries will come to different conclusions? – Steve Melnikoff Aug 8 '17 at 9:39
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    The question seems similar to voluntarially contracting to become a slave. We consider it an invalid contract due to its nature. If a party wins that ran on a dictatorship form of government or that only that party has the right to be elected ever again, it inherently contradicts the nature of a democracy. – Brooks Nelson Aug 8 '17 at 20:06
  • @SteveMelnikoff - But who defines what anti-democratic is? any party is just a group of people who choose to associate themselves with one another and put forth candidates for elected positions. As soon as you allow the parties in charge to choose which parties meet their democratic ideals, you loose the democratic ideals themselves. – SoylentGray Aug 8 '17 at 20:40
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    @SteveMelnikoff - You could have a government that is run by votes on a cell phone app. It used to be a lot less possible and practical than it is today. And you could have a government that simply had votes X number of times a time period (week, month, year) on set days. Everyone has a chance to vote on anything the government wants to do. It is possible, just impractical and can lead to tyranny of the majority. – SoylentGray Aug 8 '17 at 20:48

It mostly depends on how you define "democracy".

  • If you define it as "the rule of the people", then "the people" can ban anything they don't like, including any party, democratic, anti-democratic, green, blue or yellow.

  • If you define it as "the rule of law", the "the law" (constitution &c) defines what can be done; e.g., even if 90% of Americans vote that certain "John Doe" is to be put to death, killing him will still be illegal without due process. So, in the US one cannot ban a political party.

  • If instead you are asking "is it reasonable for a system called democratic to ban parties designated as anti-democratic", then it becomes a matter of opinion on what is reasonable to call democratic.

My personal opinion is that it is reasonable to deny something to someone who denies that to others. E.g., if a party says that it will abandon the "democratic process" if it comes to power, then it is reasonable to exclude such a party from the "democratic process".

To summarize, we need to adjust the famous quote with the Paradox of tolerance to arrive at

I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It, As Long As You Will Defend My Right To Say What I Want To.

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  • "...reasonable to deny something to someone who denies that to others"? I deny you the use of my home therefore.... – TomO Aug 8 '17 at 17:28
  • @TomO ... it is reasonable for me to deny you mine. – sds Aug 8 '17 at 17:59
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    short and to the point. me gusta. – CptEric Aug 14 '17 at 8:48

The democracy is based on the principle of the freedom of expressing one's thoughts, both individually and in groups. So, political parties are only one of the possible means to express your opinion in the collective way. The real democratic country allows free establishment of not only political parties, but any kind of social organization.


The democratic country has also the right and the obligation to protect its citizens from criminal and terroristic organizations. You are free to express the view that stealing should be allowed, but once you start doing that in practice, you're criminal. If your political party believes in banning private property, and in the same way practice economic redistribution on their own, they're called mafia.

So if there's a scene behind a political party, that is practicing violence and terror (and, to my knowledge, it was the case in Germany), delegalizing such a party is a countermeasure taken by the state that fulfills its obligation to protect its citizens.

But sometimes the ideology itself is forbidden. For example, if your political program foresees exterminating some social group, for example people taller than 1.90m, you would be forbidden in (almost) any democratic country, even if you say, they will be exterminated only after you take the power and change the consitution. Why? I'd argue, because democratic country is oblidged to protect all its citizens, even those who are so shameless tall, so they should be also protected by the consequences of the party wanting to kill them taking over the power.

Democracy is not about allowing people to do anything, for example kill, rape or steal. So it's a constant compromise between your freedom and the freedom of the others.

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