Political pamphlets on a sign

Political parties between freedom and restraint

This project investigates whether legal and constitutional regulation of the structure, organisation and function of political parties is needed. Under current Dutch law, parties are rarely regulated. This is due to the freedom of association: everyone should theoretically be able to establish a political party that conforms to their own ideology.

However, this lack of regulation clashes with political practice because political parties play a crucial role in our representative democracy. For example, party leadership exerts a major influence on candidate lists and on the voting behaviour of our elected representatives. Should this aspect be left to the parties, now that their membership is declining? Should the government ensure that the transparent funding of parties continues? Can the government demand that parties give their members a say? And what happens when political parties manipulate the rule of law? The current Dutch constitution offers few rules for intervening in such situations. 

The Netherlands and Europe

Dutch law also differs from other Western European countries where the legal and constitutional regulation of parties has been growing for several decades. The level of regulation varies: in England and Denmark regulations may be somewhat restricted, while in Germany and Spain regulations are laid down more extensively. The last two countries may even ban parties on the basis of the constitution.

This raises the question of whether the Dutch parliament should be following these international examples. In order to answer this question, the researchers will analyse which legal status and function political parties should have within the current constitutional system.


Ronald Tinnevelt, Partijendemocratie, Ars Aequi (Januari 2020) 4–5.

Hansko Broeksteeg, Financiering van politieke partijen. Tussen private vrijheid en publieke normen, Ars Aequi (Maart 2020) 228–229.

Ronald Tinnevelt, ‘Political Parties and “The Long Road of Participatory Deliberative Democracy”’, Krisis. Journal for Contemporary Philosophy 40:1 (2020) 107-118). 

Expert meeting 1: “Politieke partijen tussen vrijheid en gebondenheid” (22-01-2021


This research project is funded by the Dutch Fonds Staatsman Thorbecke, which is managed by the Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW).

Contact information

More information on this research study? Questions from the media may be directed to the science editor. All other questions may be directed to the researcher.

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