Political Parties and the Electoral Process
Political parties are the vehicles used by individuals contesting for various representative positions in Government in an attempt to assume office. The term political party broadly refers to the organization which provides the platform for politicians to ascend to power. In truth, however, the party encompasses the organization, the party structure and its leadership. In addition to this it also takes into consideration the politicians and the voters who align themselves to the party and remain loyal to its ideals. Political systems refer to the manner in which political parties package or brand themselves in relation to other parties in order to remain competitive.
The means of choosing the candidates to hold office is more often than not an election. Elections provide the electorate with choice and have increasingly become an important democratic and conflict resolution tool. Candidates can either be elected directly by the electorate e.g. the House Representatives or indirectly by representatives e.g. the Senators. Elections provide a medium for the electorate to effect policy changes and change in governance. Electoral systems basically put in place the mechanisms that regulate political contests.
According to Bielasiak, Duverger’s law seeks to critically look at the relationship between electoral systems and party systems. He opines that in a plurality electoral system the winner by even a simple majority takes office and this tends to create two-party systems. Democratic considerations such as proportional representation (PR) on the other hand ensure the winning party gets more seats corresponding to its vote’s share. Proportional representation therefore tends to breed multiparty systems. In well established democracies, political parties’ front candidates, run campaigns and the party manifestos give impetus to the candidates election pledges.
Electoral processes and their accompanying rules and regulations tend to influence the political systems and in turn the voting psychology. Take for instance in a plurality system where a simple majority will suffice to grant the winner office. Small parties with no hope of winning tend to form pre-contest coalitions to have a greater appeal and attract a larger constituency of voters. On the other hand in a proportional representation system where legislative seats are based on party votes share. Parties with ideological similarities and common interests may converge to capture more seats. Not to be left out, voters tend to favor viable candidates with less likelihood of losing and hence tend to coalesce around the ‘restructured’ larger parties.
In Conclusion, Political parties are a very important aspect of modern governance and democracy. Parties operate under the law of the land, their own set of rules and by virtue of being electoral vehicles; they also operate under electoral process regulations. In this way Duverger’s law explains the relationship between electoral processes and systems and political parties and systems. The idea therefore is for parties to come up with strategies to influence voting patterns by taking into account the dynamics of the interrelationships.
Role of Political Parties in a Democracy
Political parties can be termed as associations formed by citizens that enable individuals to have influence on government affairs and processes. Political parties therefore provide effective means through which individuals express themselves and make decisions on appropriate system of government. Political parties plays various roles in the society that includes offering individuals with alternatives and freedom of choice, check on the excesses of governments, give important information to citizens and ensure that the government fulfills its promises.
The first role of political parties is to ensure that individuals have alternatives and freedom of choice in a country. This role is accomplished through provision of opportunities for individuals to choose the best party and candidates that will serve their interest. This is ensured through competition by different political parties and allowing voters to elect best leaders as well as choose the best party. In a democratic society, this role is transparent and allows all the political parties to sell their policies to citizens through a free and fair process.
The second role of political parties in a democratic government is to check the excesses in the government by ensuring that the incumbent government does not abuse its powers. This role is played through constant monitoring of daily government activities to ensure that they are in accordance to the laws and regulations. This can be accomplished through making of appropriate policies in parliament so as to ensure that governments are able to effectively coordinate important activities such as operations of ministries, government spending and budget and public appointments among others.
The third role played by political parties is to provide important information to citizens. Political parties through their elected members make policies and legislations in a country. It is therefore the duty of political parties to inform citizens of various policies and regulations in a country. This can be achieved through briefing citizens on certain policies, regulations, government plans and any other matter of national interest. This role ensures that citizens are aware of all the important government and political operations in the country.
The last important role of political parties in a democratic government is to ensure that the incumbent government fulfills it promises to citizens. This role is accomplished through regular evaluation of the government performance based on the promise made to public. This requires political parties to keep constant pressure on government and ensure that they fulfill their promises.
These four roles are important for all political parties in a democratic society. The roles ensure that governments are able to meet their promises and deliver the necessary services to citizens. They also ensure that all government policies and regulations are in accordance to the stipulated law. Hence it can be argued that political parties are essential in the promotion of democratic governments in any society.