The purpose of this essay is to discuss the roles of political parties in a democracy. Before going any further, the discussion will start with an introduction where key terminologies making the question will be defined, secondly a discussion on roles played by political parties in a democracy with the aid of examples and lastly a conclusion based on the discussion. The key terminologies to be defined are role, politics, political parties and democracy.
The term role which was first recorded in English in 1606 came from French already having the sense, a part one has to play states ”.
Meanwhile role according to it is a function or positions that need to be played. Furthermore the writer mentions that politics focuses on conflicts and differences of perspective in a society about what to do, what resources to collect for public use and how those resources should be spent. Another author argues that politics is simply the activity by which Government is made possible when different interests in an area to be governed grows powerful enough to need to be conciliated thus the solution to the problem of order which chooses conciliation rather than violence.
Moreover political parties according to are special form of social organization and should not be confused with associations, federations and social clubs. In addition states that a well-known definition of political parties comes from the American Political Scientist Antony Downs who wrote; A political party is a team of men seeking to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election.
Furthermore the Italian scholar Glovanni Sartoi who has lectured for a long time at the Columbia University and is internationally one of the most well-known researches on political parties defined political parties as any political group identified by an official label that presents at elections and is capable of placing through elections candidates for public officer . With this, political parties can therefore be understood as permanent associations of citizens that are based on free membership and a program which is anxious to occupy through the path of elections and also focus on the politically decisive positions of the country with their team leaders in order to materialize suggestions for resolving outstanding problems. A political party is an organized group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions that seek to influence the public, policy by getting its candidate elected to public office according to . Edmund Burke defined political party as a body of men united for promoting their joint endeavors that national interest upon some particular principles in which they all agreed states .
Moving on, democracy according to is defined by certain fundamental principles and practices that permeate society and the primary principle being that all persons are equal and maintain certain individual rights. Democracy exits when citizens are able to participate actively in the life of their society by exercising their individual rights such as freedom of expression and speech, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of religion and conscience to petition the Government and to vote in fair elections argues . Furthermore another writer states that democracy is Government by people and also fits the etymology of the term demos meaning the people and kratein meaning to rule are its Greek roots. In addition defines democracy as a way of making collective decisions in society and requires free, fair and competitive elections, in order to choose government leaders and also entails respect for the freedoms and basic rights of citizens, a capacity to deliver justice and respect for the rule of law. ROLES OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN A DEMOCRACY
Political parties play a vital role in a democracy, without them there would be severe problems. As far as parties themselves are concerned, their role is more ambitious than a pressure group which merely aims to influence the Government. First and fair most in a democratic country there are free and fair elections which are essential in assuring the consent of the governed, which is the bedrock of democratic politics says . Thus citizens are allowed to elect representatives to speak for their views and interests therefore elections serve as the principal mechanism for translating that consent into governmental authority. Moreover democratic elections are competitive and opposition parties and candidates must enjoy the freedom of speech, assembly, and movement necessary to voice their criticisms of the government openly and to bring alternative policies and candidates to the voters. However political parties play a role in helping to structure voting choice by nominating candidates to run for office states . Thus to say parties are also active in the electorate, seeking to organize elections, simplify voting choices, provide a line between the people and government, broker diverse positions, and strengthen party identification. In addition argues there are essential ingredients of a functioning liberal democracy that is to say they fight for political power within the rules laid down in the political system in order to mobilize support of the electorates either by propaganda, organized activities or by emphasizing ideological outlook with other parties. For instance, Botswana is one of the countries regarded to be democratic because of some features that it has and how it interacts with its citizens.
The country’s elections are held every after five years and citizens are given the platform to express their choices freely by way of voting for the Political Party which they believe has the capabilities to govern them. With this, different parties take part and execute their role of structuring voting choices as they nominate candidates from their parties to represent them as well as the citizens. The first elections in Botswana where held in 1965 when Botswana Democratic Party won a sweeping victory by obtaining 28 seats . Political parties acts as a linkage between the citizens and the government. Political parties connect society and the state and through their efforts to control and influence public policy therefore political parties play an intermediary role, linking the institutions of government to economic, ethnic, cultural, religious and other societal groups. Furthermore they can rally support behind important legislation, advocate positions that improve the public welfare, and advance citizens’ interests . As a result political parties remain important if not essential instruments for representing political constituencies and interests, aggregating demands and preferences of citizens. In addition political parties provide the linkage between the citizens and government by welcoming new members to take part in their activities and giving the party leaders an opportunity to respond to what voters within the party and in the electorate at large want to hear argues . For instance, stated that Maun West Member of Parliament, Tawana Moremi had tabled a motion on the review of land allocation policies before parliament as a way of taking the society’s demands and complaints of land that has risen in his area.
Due to the channels of access to decision makers, citizens are not able to table their demands and complaints before decision makers therefore in this case the Member of Parliament was being an intermediary between the people and the Government. Furthermore the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) members opposed Moremi’s motion arguing that he wanted to steal the limelight from the BDP, which has already tabled a policy that will address pertinent issues raised in his motion. However, the Parliamentary Counsel, Thebe Ramokhua, informed parliament that the motion that was brought by Moremi should be debated since it was different from the land policy, which was brought by executives. He emphasized that the legislator’s motion was not in any way in conflict with the purported land policy, which he said is an instrument of the executives. Tonota South MP, Pono Moathodi, also opposed his colleagues, stating that he was against those who wanted the motion to be aborted. Moathodi argued that there was need for legislators to address issues of land since it was evident that there are irregularities that need to be addressed on land allocation. With this, people;s demands are attended to. Political parties recruit political leaders and disseminate political information among citizens states that Political parties train and nominate political leaders who will assume a role in governing society as they socialize them into democratic politics so as they could know what is done and what needs to be done in politics.
Meanwhile, according to parties perform the functions of ordering the political system that is to say they serve to structure political process and ensure that all citizen regardless of gender or any other quality participate in that process is orderly. Historically, political parties excluded various groups from participating. For example, in many states, women were shut out of party meetings until the mid-twentieth century. African Americans were formally excluded from voting in Democratic primaries in the South of United States Of America until the U.S. Supreme Court banned the practice in 1944, though it took decades before the party complied with that decision. Furthermore the author continues stating that in recent times, political parties have increasingly embraced and championed diversity and have encouraged various groups beyond the traditional white European American male party establishment to get involved formally in the party organization, to participate in campaign activities, and to vote. As a result, parties today are much more inclusive of women, ethnic and racial minorities, and students, providing an important avenue for those traditionally excluded from political life to gain valuable experience as party activists, campaign volunteers, and informed voters.
This increasingly diverse participation has also contributed to the parties’ health, because it has caused them to recognize that to be successful, candidates must reflect the diverse identities and interests of voters. Political parties manage conflicts of interest: Emphasizes that political parties manage conflicts of interest and, very importantly in societies that have recently experienced violent conflict, they can offer a forum for social and political integration, a tool for nation-building. Therefore political parties aim at establishing a foundation based on stability and peace among citizens in and the state. For instance since 2000, state security forces in Zimbabwe have committed acts of violence against thousands of civilians, targeting primarily political opponents and aid workers. Due to this, human rights violations have included imprisonment, enforced disappearance, murder, torture, and rape took place. Therefore in September 2008 leaders from two different political parties President Mugabe and both heads of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions, Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, signed the Global Political Agreement and South African President Thabo Mbeki became the guarantor of this agreement. It came into effect in February 2009 and established a unity government in which Mugabe remained as President and Tsvanngirai assumed the position of Prime Minister.
The agreement was meant to help Zimbabwe to work to address poverty, healthcare, development, and civil liberties and political reforms will be necessary to ensure a stable government structure exists with the capacity to prevent further human rights abuses. Through this, the human rights situation in Zimbabwe remained relatively stable throughout 2012 and the government has enhanced the national framework for the protection of human rights, including by enacting the Electoral Amendment Bill and the Human Rights Commission Bill. Political parties develop policies and programs forming effective governments: states that political parties develop policies and programs forming effective governments as such this is the content side of their responsibility. However it ensures that there are different choices in the political marketplace not only in terms of candidates but also in terms of ideas and once in government, a party can start implementing these ideas. That’s to say parties pick up demands from society and bundle them into packages and able to discuss and evaluate these issues and shape human needs into policy alternatives. In so doing they are an important part of the political process. Using Botswana as an example, the Government has since independence in 1966 designed and implemented a wide range of programs to reduce the incidence of poverty and mitigate its impacts. Most of these programs have focused on creating opportunities for both wage and self-employment for citizens who are unable to earn a living on their own. In keeping with the spirit of assisting those who are economically disadvantaged by providing means of sustenance, the Government introduced the old age pension scheme and the World War II veteran allowance . These schemes have served as useful income maintenance program for older people since. However this program was first debated at a political party level by the opposition parties which tabled the motion before the ruling party, in addition Botswana Congress Party has so far stated in its manifesto that its aim is to develop a strategy that emphasizes both economic growth and equitable distribution of income and protection of the vulnerable members of society . Therefore the old age entitlement pension should be reduced from the age 65to 60 years to align it with retirement age and set the old age pension at P750 per month to align it with the cost of living. Provision of political education: Moreover, political parties provide people with important political information as they educate, inform and influence the public, launch certain issues and discourse into civil society, providing the public with the possibility to discuss matters and form opinions . In some European party systems this function, the political education of citizens is even drafted in basic law while in Germany for instance, basic law mandates that parties must act to inform citizens on political subjects and a generous annual budget from the federal government
is distributed among the parties in order for them to be able to pursue their educational tasks. CONCLUSION
In a nutshell political parties play an important role in a democracy as they serve as mediating institutions through which differences in ideas, interests and perceptions of political problems at a given time can be managed. In addition political parties are essential to democracy because they simplify voting choices, organize the competition, unify the electorate, bridging the separation of powers and fostering cooperation among branches of government, translating public preferences into policy, and providing loyal opposition. BIBLIOGRAPHY
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