Meaning, Types and Functions of Political Parties


Meaning, Types and Functions of Political Parties

Political parties are very important in the contemporary state system because they give meaning to the democratic process as important institutional components of liberal democracy.

Thus, this article will examine the meaning and types of political parties. Involved in this analysis is the explanation of the primary functions of political parties as instruments of political interaction and participation.


Meaning of a Political Party

A political party is an organized 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.

The purpose of the political party is to get candidates elected to public office. 

In a sustainable and well-functioning democracy, political parties are deeply and durably rooted in specific substructures of society.

To this end, 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 the effective functioning of a democratic political system.

The presence of the political party is a healthy situation for a democratic society since it allows people to make a more evolved and effective decision.

In a broader perspective, a political party is a means through which the people can speak to the government and have a say in the process of governance.


Types of Party System

There are three types of party systems:

i) One-Party System

ii) Two-Party System

iii) Multi-Party System


One-Party System

In a one-party system, there is no competition in this system. Here, the lone party nominates the candidates and the voters have only two choices, that is, either not to vote at all or to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ against the name of the candidates nominated by the party. Such a political system was prominent in authoritarian regimes and communist countries such as North Korea and Cuba. Before the collapse of communism, this system was also prevalent in USSR.


Two-Party System

In a two-party system, the power alternate between two major dominant parties. So, for winning the elections, the winner will have to get the maximum number of votes. So, the smaller parties tend to merge with the bigger parties or they drop out of elections.

Such a system prevails in Canada and Great Britain, in which two parties are holding the maximum numbers of seats. Nigeria experimented a two-party system in the botched Third Republic when the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida created two political parties: The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC).


Multi-Party System

The most common type is the multi-party system.

In such a system, there are three or more parties which can gain control of the government separately or in a coalition. If no party achieves a clear majority of the legislative seats, then several parties join forces and form a coalition government. Countries like India and Nigeria follow a multi-party system. Some people are of the view that a multi-party system often leads to political instability in a country.

Read On: Merits and Demerits of Confederation

Functions of Political Parties

In a democratic society, political parties perform the following key roles, among others:

(1) Soliciting and articulating public policy priorities and civic needs and problems as identified by members and supporters

(2) Recruiting and training candidates for public office;

(3) Socializing and educating voters and citizens in the functioning of the political and electoral system and the general political values

(4) Balancing opposing demands and converting into general policies

(5) Channeling public opinion from citizens to government.It is noteworthy; however, that though political parties fulfill many vital roles and perform several functions in a democratic society, recruiting candidates for public office is one of the most important functions that political parties perform.

An important goal of political parties is to gain control of the government and to do this, parties must work to recruit candidates for all elected offices.

Read On:  Meaning, Types and Functions of Pressure Group

Conclusion on Meaning, Types and Functions of Political Parties

Political parties are the principal pillars of any democratic system. They provide an opportunity for citizens to make political decisions either by influencing government policies or voting for the competing candidates in elections.

By so doing, they not only serve as intermediaries between the government and civil society but also offer citizens a choice in governance. All these are central to the wider consolidation of democracy.

In this article, we have examined the meaning, types and functions of political parties as instruments of political interaction.

Involved this analysis is the functions of political parties and strategies they deploy in achieving their objectives.

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