Political Parties and Their Roles
A political party is defined as an organised group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions, that seeks to influence public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office. Parties tend to be deeply and durably entrenched in specific substructures of the specific society in a sustainable and well functioning democracy. They can link the governmental institutions to the elements of the civil society in a free and fair society and are regarded as necessary for any modern democratic system.
Political parties perform key tasks in a democratic society, such as 1. socialising and educating voters and citizens in the functioning of the political and electoral system and the generation of general political values 2. balancing opposing demands and converting them into general policies 3. Activating and mobilising citizens into participating in political decisions and transforming their opinions into viable policy options 4. Channelling public opinion from citizens to government 5. Recruiting and training candidates for public office.
Political parties are often described as institutionalized mediators between civil society and those who decide and implement decisions. By this, they enable their members’ and supporters’ demands to be represented in parliament and in government. Even though parties fulfil many vital roles and perform several functions in a democratic society, the nomination and presentation of candidates in the electoral campaign is the most visible function to the electorate. To perform the above mentioned tasks and functions, political parties and citizens need some rights and obligations guaranteed or ruled by constitution or law. These include
* Freedom of organisation
* Freedom to stand for election
* Freedom of speech and assembly
* Provision of a fair and peaceful competition
* Mechanisms of plurality
* Inclusion in the electoral process and contacts with the EMB
* A level playing field and freedom from discrimination
* Media access and fair reporting
* Transparent and accountable political finance
The internal functioning of individual political parties is to some extent determined by forces that are external to political parties, such as the electoral system, political culture, legal regulations, etc. However, internal processes of political parties, such as the personality of leaders and staff, the ideological foundations, party history, and internal political culture are considered to be even more influential on the internal functioning. If a political party would like the democratic principles of electoral politics to be applied within the party, they may consider practices like internal information and consultation processes, internal (formal or informal) rules and structures for the organisation and decision-making within the party, and transparency in the party’s functioning at all levels. Party members may also take on more formal roles in decision-making like participating in internal elections for leadership positions or in selecting the party’s candidate(s) in the upcoming elections. Many parties also work actively to enhance the role oftraditionally under-represented groups in their parties.
Role Of Political Parties
In spite of the Founders’ intentions, the United States in 1800 became the first nation to develop nascent political parties organized on a national basis to accomplish the transfer of executive power from one faction to another via an election. The development and expansion of political parties that followed was closely linked to the broadening of voting rights. In the early days of the republic, only male property owners could vote, but that restriction began to erode in the early 19th century as the result of immigration, the growth of cities and other democratizing forces, such as the westward expansion of the country. Over the decades, the right to vote was extended to ever larger numbers of the adult population as restrictions based on property ownership, race and sex were eliminated.
As the electorate expanded, the political parties evolved to mobilize the growing mass of voters as the means of political control. Political parties became institutionalized to accomplish this essential task. Thus, parties in America emerged as a part of democratic expansion, and, beginning in the 1830s, they became firmly established and powerful. In recent decades, increasing numbers of individual voters classify themselves as “independent,” and they are permitted to register to vote as such in many states. Yet, according to opinion polls, even those who say that they are independents normally have partisan leanings toward one party or another. Political Parties play various role such as; role in elections, role in local government,role in Policy macking,Role in government and role in a democracy.these role are explain given below.
Election is the fundamental part of the government which was founded on the principle that the power to govern resides in the people.Elections provides the mean by which the people delegates this power to elected representative.By voting for government officials,the public makes choices about policies,programs and future direction of government actions.At the same time election make government officials accountable to their constituents.Elected officials must conduct themselves in responsible manner and take into account popular interest and the wishesof those they represent.Otherwise they risk being voted out of office.This system depends primerily on the voters.The electoral process only work if people participate.
2.Functions of political Parties:
Political parties perform an important task in government. They bring people together to achieve control of the government, develop policies favorable to their interests or the groups that support them, and organize and persuade voters to elect their candidates to office. Although very much involved in the operation of government at all levels, political parties are not the government itself, and the Constitution makes no mention of them. The basic purpose of political parties is to nominate candidates for public office and to get as many of them elected as possible.
Once elected, these officials try to achieve the goals of their party through legislation and program initiatives. Although many people do not think of it this way, registering as a Democrat or Republican makes them members of a political party. Political parties want as many people involved as possible. Most members take a fairly passive role, simply voting for their party’s candidates at election time. Some become more active and work as officials in the party or volunteer to persuade people to vote. The most ambitious members may decide to run for office themselves.
3.Role in policy making:
Political parties are not policymaking organizations in themselves. They certainly take positions on important policy questions, especially to provide alternatives to the position of whichever party is in power. When in power, a party attempts to put its philosophy into practice through legislation. If a candidate wins office by a large majority, it may mean that the voters have given him or her a mandate to carry out the program outlined in the campaign. Because President Bill Clinton failed to win a majority of the popular vote in both 1992 and 1996, few considered his victories a mandate for any specific policy or ideology. President George W. Bush also entered office without a clear mandate, because his opponent, Al Gore, won more votes (and might have won the Electoral College if not for irregularities, such as confusing ballots, in Florida).
4.Role in Democracy:
Democracy can be defined as rule for the, of the, by the peole.Actually it would be a means by which a government can run.infact democracy is based on free and fair Election machenism,adult francise,participation of all people in decision making etc. freedom of all parties to take part in election is one of the most importent thing so as to assure democracy or again democracy is maintain when there is morethen one political party it reflect public opinion and mass participation in decision making for their own.so the existence of political party implice the range of democracy.
5.Role in Local Government:
Local candidates standing on a party card should have the advantage of a protective and developmental party machine behind them, schooling them beforehand on the issues, means and procedures of local government. In, practice however, this rarely, if ever, happens. Strategic advance thinking and preparation – and the organisational focus and capability to deliver it – is, somehow, not the British thing. In theory, Independent candidates cannot be expected to have such support, while in practice, they are no more enabled or disabled by this than are their party political rivals. Where party backing comes into play is, to a degree, in the matter of campaigning. Behind party candidates is some sort of a ‘machine’ – not, actually a realistic concept in the ad hockery of local government at all levels.
But there will at least be a knowledge of what to do and how to do it. This can be as much a disadvantage as an advantage as it will tend to perpetuate the status quoand to lack innovation; although it has great practical value in access to existing lists (the word ‘database’ would, in most cases, be stretching the point) and contacts. Party-based candidates will generally be given – or have imposed upon them – overarching, party-driven manifesto commitments to flesh out the paragraphs in their election literature and save them the trouble of thinking too much. Independents fly absolutely solo on the means and content of their campaigns. They have neither guidance nor instruction nor any or much campaigning infrastructure.
6.Regional Division and Politics of Alliances:
Although the political contest in Pakistan is often depicted as a battle between the two major parties, this is something of a fallacy. Notably in the smaller provinces, strong regional-based parties have existed since the creation of Pakistani, and this tendency has continued till the present date, providing perhaps some indication of the ethnic, and ideological, diversity in the country.
One of the parties which most effectively demonstrates the ethnic nature politics has frequently pursued in Pakistan is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party which holds almost total sway as far as electoral success is concerned in the Sindh capital of Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city, gaining over 5 per cent of the national vote in both 1988 and 1990, an astonishing figure given its narrow base. On both occasions this translated into 13 National Assembly, and 28 Sindh seats. The MQM boycotted the 1993 polls. In the 1997 polls, it again claimed a share of just under 5 per cent of the vote, which gave it 12 seats in the NA.
While in terms of numbers, the political parties engaged in the electoral contest in Pakistan is great, this does not represent, in ideological terms, a political diversity. The class base for most of the parties has failed to move beyond the traditional elite which wields influence in Pakistan’s politics, and even when representatives from the middle-classes have emerged, as in the case of those making up the leadership of the MQM, they heave tended to articulate interests based on factors of ethnicity, other narrow categories, rather than on the basis of broader class interests. Moreover, in terms of ideology, the major political parties have been moving closer towards each other, and generally steering away from agendas advocating radical social change.
The divide in terms of policy is narrower than ever before, and despite their vociferous attacks on each other, and the deep-rooted polarisation which often prevents them from coming together even on matters of common interest, the leading parties in the country represent a single force, rather than a range of groups articulating different, conflicting interests.The virtual disappearance of the left from electoral politics in Pakistan has aggravated this tendency, with conflict between parties based largely on rhetoric or highly personalised attacks on party leaders.
The fact that, on the basis of political opportunism, members of one party are frequently willing to switch alliances and move to another group perhaps reflects the extent to which politics in the country have been stripped of ideological beliefs or commitment. And, even for the parties themselves, it is electoral pragmatism aimed at increasing vote banks and seat shares which for the most part dictates strategy, rather than the pursuit of the lofty ideals detailed in party manifestoes.