What is a Political Party?
A political party consists of a group of like-minded people who work together as a unit to influence the general public, context elections to gain control over the government.
Members of the same political party share a common goal, aims and objectives. Different political parties compete with each other with view to influence the public policies and opinion with their philosophies, ideals, and objectives.
The winning party runs the government, and the opposition keeps a close watch at the functioning of the government.
Functions of Political Parties in Democracy
Political parties are indispensable for the working of modern democratic governments. The importance of Political parties lies in the fact that democracies cannot function without the existence of political parties.
In the absence of organized political parties one just cannot think of the working of representative government. In the light of the analysis of the functions of political parties by Merriam and Munro they may be discussed as follows.
- It makes the working of parliamentary government possible. A parliament consists of the representatives of the people. The political parties organize these representatives on party lines. The electorate chooses their representatives on the basis of their party affiliation. The party which gets the majority of votes forms the government and runs the state and the other parties in the legislature constitute the opposition and try to find fault with the government, thus making it more responsible. In the absence of political parties, the elected representatives may work at cross purposes just making the formation of a government or opposition an impossibility.
- Political Parties formulate public policies. Each political party fights the election to achieve its objectives incorporated in their political manifesto. Soon after the election the majority party forming the government seeks to formulate its policies of administration on the basis of promises made in the election manifesto. These policies are made keeping in mind the interest of general public. The most important objective behind most policies remains the betterment of general condition. Other than this, they make policies on national security, internal law and order, etc. Besides, each party has its own ideology. It is assured that the majority party gets the mandate of the electorate to implement its own political programme.
- Political parties educate Public opinion. Parties in any system of government educate, formulate and organize public opinion. They also help in the growth of the level of political consciousness of common citizens, who otherwise have no time to peruse and study issues of the state. The political parties in their effort to come closer to the people organize public rallies, meetings, press conferences on important issues and make their views clear. The common people is made aware of the economic, social, and political condition of the country. The general public is made aware of their voting rights. This provides the common people with an opportunity to analyze the pros and cons of various important issues. This process leads to organize and formulate public opinion on important issues. The common people who otherwise have no time to devote to politics immensely benefit by these meetings, etc. and understand different aspects of the basic issues involved in administration.
- Political parties provide political stability. The political parties in more than one way unite, simplify and stabilized the political process of the country. The destabilizing forces of localism, regionalism, section, interests and geographical situations are tackled by political parties by making these parts of their party ideology thus pacifying the disintegrating forces and inducing cohesion. The political parties mainly perform the functions of ‘aggregation of interests’. Besides the political parties in a representative democracy play a great role in maintaining the stability by performing their roles in the legislature. The majority party forms the government and the other small parties in the opposition.
The party in power has to conduct itself very responsibly. The opposition party keeps a close eye on the working of the ruling party. Because any unwise move on their part would throw it off the power and help the opposition (parties) to take over the reins of administration. Opposition not merely criticizes the government; it also provides an alternative program and alternative government in the eventuality of any crisis in the government. As such it contributes to the stability of the government. Hence, healthy opposition is very important for the success of democracy.
- It helps in the recruitment of leaders: The essential function of any party is to recruit men of integrity, letters, action, leadership to its fold as members and prepare them for election in future. Because it is these members of party who propagate the party ideologies, discuss the burning issues and hold meetings and press conferences to mobilize public support. It is these leaders again who contest in the election and form government if elected to power. Such leaders being drawn from public life are expected to understand expectations of the common people and formulate public policies accordingly. Parties always get popularity and recognition though their leaders only.
Conclusion: These are some of the functions of political parties which make them significant in modern democracy. Educated people can judge the working of political parties in a more rational manner. They are less likely to get trapped with false promises. If the voters are uneducated, political parties may mislead them to choose the wrong candidate. The parties behave responsibly in states where the people in general are well educated and politically conscious. This is evident from the working of political parties in western countries, where the political culture is easily discernible than the non-European countries.