Yeşiller ve Sol Gelecek Partisi v. Turkey – 41955/14 (European Court of Human Rights)

Information Note on the Court’s case-law 262
May 2022

Yeşiller ve Sol Gelecek Partisi v. Turkey – 41955/14

Judgment 10.5.2022 [Section II]

Article 11
Article 11-1
Freedom of association

Refusal to authorise a political party to hold a congress in various towns, on the grounds that it had insufficient local branches, as a precondition for being able to put up candidates in parliamentary elections: no violation

Facts – The Higher Electoral Council (HEC) refused to grant the applicant, a political party, permission to hold local congresses in the cities of Ankara, Antalya and Artvin respectively (the three cities), a precondition for presenting candidates in the parliamentary elections. It did not meet the statutory criteria, in that it did not have local branches in at least a third of the districts in those three cities.

Law – Article 11

The refusal to permit the applicant party to hold a local congress in each of the three cities amounted to an interference with its right to freedom of association; this interference was prescribed by law and pursued the legitimate aims of the protection of public order and protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The applicant party had been free to carry out its political activities in the three cities and in the districts of those cities where it did not yet have local structures or representative offices. It had been free to publicise its ideas by holding peaceful public gatherings within the meaning of Article 11 of the Convention, in order to recruit members and set up local branches in districts where it was not represented. Furthermore, it appeared from the HEC’s decisions that the applicant party had been informed that it could resubmit its request to hold a local congress in the cities concerned once it had reached the required legal quorum.

The applicant party’s exercise of its right to freedom of association, in accordance with Article 11 of the Convention, had also to be examined in the light of its right to take part in parliamentary elections, in accordance with Article 3 of Protocol No. 1, an area in which the States enjoyed a wide margin of appreciation. In the present case, the HEC’s decisions had been based on the fact that the national legislature had wished to introduce specific conditions for a political party to be able to hold a congress, in order for it subsequently to be able to present candidates in parliamentary elections. For any political party, the fact of holding a congress at local, regional and then national level was thus an important step in their operations, enabling them ultimately to present candidates in parliamentary elections with a comprehensive national base. The legislature’s intention had been to regulate the degree of representation enjoyed by political parties country-wide, such as in large metropolitan areas, and at local level, such as in villages, that was required in order for them be able to hold a congress. The review carried out by the HEC consisted in verifying whether the specific conditions laid down by the legislature had been fulfilled by the applicant party, on the basis of concrete facts.

Notwithstanding the HEC’s decisions, the Court found no other interference by the domestic authorities such as to prevent or disrupt the associative activities carried out by the applicant party in order to meet the statutory conditions for holding a local congress. The HEC’s decisions refusing the applicant party’s request had been based on a factual and objective assessment of the insufficient extent to which it had established branches at local level throughout the districts of the cities concerned. The HEC’s decisions had not been based on criteria derived, for example, from illegal associative activities conducted by the applicant party, which would thus be capable of undermining territorial integrity, or from activities which were incompatible with Article 11, or from a general challenge to the constitutional order, which could undermine the rule of law. Thus, the applicant party had not been prevented from exercising its right to freedom of association or conducting its political activities in accordance with its articles of association and the legislation in force.

It followed that the reasons put forward in the impugned decisions, as well as those of the legislature, had not prevented the applicant party from exercising its right to the freedom to pursue associative activities, in its capacity as a political party.

In the light of the foregoing, the reasons given by the HEC had been relevant and sufficient, and the interference had been proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued in a democratic society.

Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).

The Court also held, unanimously, that there had been no violation of Article 13 taken in conjunction with Article 11, since the applicant party had had an effective remedy before a national court through the possibility of applying to the HEC, the highest national court with jurisdiction to rule in such disputes under the domestic law in force.

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