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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
New parties rushing to register
Lord Sutch and supporters of his Monster Raving Loony Party
The late Lord Sutch was a regular fixture of British elections
A total of 61 new UK political parties registered with the elections watchdog in 2004, with a further 28 signing up since January this year.

The Electoral Commission released the figures before the 30 March deadline for registering ahead of the election.

Almost half new parties are single issue or represent special interest groups such as local residents.

Electoral Commission boss Peter Wardle said the increase in registration would confound claims of political apathy.

He said: "This growth in political party registration provides a positive indication of the health of our democracy.

"The rate and rise of single issue parties in particular suggests that far from being a nation plagued by political apathy, people in the UK are feeling increasingly engaged about issues that most affect their everyday lives."

Strict rules

According to the commission, the south east of England is where the new parties are most likely to emerge. London has the greatest number of registrations - 21% of the new parties.

This growth in political party registration provides a positive indication of the health of our democracy
Peter Wardle

Candidates who wish to put a description on ballot papers have to register or they are restricted to being called 'independent' or leaving a blank space by their name.

To get officially recognised parties have a series of rules which they must abide by including strict financial regulation.

Their application must give the party name, nominate two officers and detail where the organisation is to be registered in the UK.

They must also submit a copy of the party's constitution and a fee of 150.

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