The political processes of most European countries today are dominated by one or more political parties. Political parties typically control two out of three branches of government: the legislative and the executive branch, leaving only the judiciary independent from their influence. Thus, political parties have become the centres of state power. Regardless of the type of government in which they operate, political parties have the formal duty to conform their activities with the law, while their material duty is to act for the citizen’s welfare. But what if political parties violate the law or act against the well-being of the people?
The answer to this question could be a way to improve governance. It is about developing policies to regulate political parties in a responsive way to their unlawful activities, and to acts that are totally against the citizen’s welfare, such as corruption and hate crime. Corruption behind political populism and hate crime behind right-wing extremism are the biggest challenges of regulating political parties in contemporary Europe, because they undermine democracy. Militant democracy theory requires a state reaction to undemocratic elements in the society. So far, this task was entrusted to the constitutional courts in Europe, but is that sufficient?
The EU adopted legislation to fight corruption, racism and xenophobia. It also passed a regulation governing European political parties, which, inter alia, determined that every political party at European level needs to meet the condition that 'it must have legal personality in the Member State in which its seat is located'. The effect of affording political parties legal personality is allowing the possibility of holding them criminally liable in a number of European countries that regulate corporate criminal liability. By allowing criminal liability of political parties, according to responsive regulation theory, the regulatory pyramid becomes more complete, which also means more effective. These theoretical observations shall be applied on three case studies from Europe.