This paper presents a comparative analysis of the legal regulation of political parties as competitors in, and as new entrants to, the electoral contest. The paper focuses on laws that regulate both ballot access and the registration of political parties as ‘official’ electoral actors. It explores the ways in which these laws are used as ‘gatekeeper’ provisions to control the degree of party competition in any given electoral system, and how specific laws (although applying equally to all parties) might privilege some parties (for example, incumbents) over others.
The paper does not address the design of electoral systems, but rather ancillary provisions such as the minimum number of members required to register a party, levels of public support needed to gain ballot access and other structural requirements (for example, accounting rules) that political parties must provide for before they may contest elections.
On a theoretical level, the paper explores the justifications for the regulation of party competition and whether such laws may contribute to the creation and maintenance of political cartels, and the role of the courts in this process.
The paper examines the regulation of parties in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.