Importance of Political Parties in Democracy. Political parties play an important role in the modern democratic state. The states face challenges by complex organizational developments and participation by many people who had remained excluded from the dominant political elite.
Importance of Political Parties in Democracy:-
Political parties have particular importance in democracy because during the elections. They create consciousness among the voters. They keep the national alive, politically. They create the interest of the voters in politics and attract them toward fundamental problems. For this purpose, the political parties deliver many lectures and distribute political literature. They publish election manifestos to place their performance and policy before the people. A few weeks or days before the polling, they carry on propaganda on a large scale, and their workers go from door to door to canvass among the voters and acquaint them with their viewpoint. When the polling takes place, they persuade the voters to go to the polling booths and advise them on casting their votes.
When the results of the election are declared, each party elects its leader in the legislature. The party with an absolute or clear majority forms the government. If no party gains an absolute or clear majority, two or three parties form a coalition government—the parties that do not join the government act as opposition. The ruling party runs the government according to the program given in their election manifesto, and the opposition parties criticize its faulty policies in the legislature. There are heated debates on the Bills and the budget. Each party expresses its viewpoint. The members of various parties support or oppose the Bills and the budget according to the decisions of their leaders. All the programs of the parties in the legislature or outside are published in the papers. This helps increase the knowledge of the people in local, provincial, national, and international, and they receive an excellent political education.
Many people do not like political parties, and they say that political parties are unimportant because they create unnecessary conflicts in his farewell address. President George Washington advised the people of America against the formation of political pasties, but, soon Republican Party took birth under the leadership of Hamilton and the Democratic Party under the leadership of Jefferson. Though there are many demerits of the political parties, they have doubtlessly contributed a lot to the development and strengthening of the plant of democracy.
For instance, the Constitution of America is rigid, and if there were no political parties, there would have been no practical flexibility in it. Consequently, it could not have become progressive. Generally, the President is from the party which has a majority in Congress. It creates co-operation between the two. In a parliamentary system, the majority party forms the government. It makes the working of the government very smooth. The opposition parties also serve the country greatly because they criticize the ruling party for its excesses and prevent its front from becoming autocratic. Through this, the freedom of the people is protected, and a dictatorial regime is not established.
In the absence of political parties, it is difficult to run the government in a parliamentary and Presidential system because independent candidates will be elected in the legislature and have no organization and discipline. They will also not be bound to any policy or program. Therefore, the head of the state shall have to face great difficulty in forming the cabinet, and the cabinet will not support the legislation. In a Presidential system, similar difficulties will be faced, and it will become difficult for the President to run the administration without the legislature’s support. Therefore, the successful working of the government will not be possible.
For this reason, Bryce says,
“Parties are inevitable. No free country has been without them. No one has shown how representative government could be worked without them. They bring order out of the chaos Of a multitude of voters. If parties cause some evils, they avert and mitigate others”.
MacIver also says,
“There can be no unified statement of principle, no orderly evolution of policy, no regular resort to the constitutional device of parliamentary elections, nor of course any of the recognized institutions by means of which a party seeks to gain and maintain power”.
Lowell has aptly said
that conception of government by the whole people in any large nation is, of course, a chimera, for wherever the suffrage is wide, parties are certain to exist and the control must really be in the hands of the party that comprises a majority or rough approximation to a majority of the people.
Whereas bi-party systems and multi-party systems are necessary for the protection of democracy, their one-party system is altogether useless because there is every possibility of the rise of dictatorship in it. Where there has been, or there is a one-party system, the opposition is altogether crushed, and the government’s dictatorship is established. Without the practical existence of the opposition parties, the Protection of democracy is not possible. For example, during Hitler’s regime in Germany and Italy, there was a one-party system during Mussolini’s regime.
Today there is a one-party system in Communist countries like Soviet Union, China, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Finland, etc. In the Countries without any political party, absolute monarchy or military dictatorship was established.
Therefore, it will be accepted that for the protection of democracy bi-party or multi-party system is inevitable. Otherwise, in its absence, either there will be a party, or there will be a one-party system. If there is no effective opposition party, the government’s becoming absolute will be a possibility.
Definition of Political Parties:-
The following are a few definitions of a political party:
According to Leacock,
By a political party we mean more or less Organized group of citizens who act together as a political unit, They share of Profess to share the same opinions on public questions and by exercising their Voting power towards a common end, seek to obtain control of the Government.
According to Gettell,
A political party consists of a group of citizen more or less organized who act as political unit and who by the use of their voting power aim to control the Government and carry out their general politics
A political party may thus be defined as an organized group of citizens who prefer to share the same political views and who by acting as a political unit try to control the government.
According to MacIver,
A political political party is an association organized in support of some principle or policy which by constitutional means it endeavors to make the determinant of government.
According to Edmund Burk,
A political pasty is a body of men united for promoting by their joint endeavors the national interest upon some political principle in which they agreed.
Essentials of Parties.
From these definitions, we conclude that four things are essential for the formation of a political party.
- First, the people should be organized.
- Secondly, there should be a similarity of principles.
- Thirdly, the aim of a poetical party should be to attain political power.
- Fourthly, a political party Should use peaceful means for attaining political power.
Bases for the Formation of Political Parties:-
There are many bases for the formation of political parties. Many people form a political party based on religion. They aim to protect the interests of their followers. For instance, Muslim League, Akali Dal, Hindu Mahasabha, etc., were formed on this basis. In European countries, Catholic parties have been formed on this very basis.
The second basis for the formation of the parties is economical. For example, there are many classes in the society, of capitalists, laborers, businessmen, and services. Conservative parties protect the interest of capitalists, while communist and socialist parties protect the interests of the laborers.
The third basis for the formation of a political party is race. For example, in India, there is the All India Scheduled Castes Federation. In Germany, the Nazi party was also formed on this basis, and its program was to drive out the Jews from the country. In South Africa, the policy of apartheid has been adopted, and the white people have made different laws to protect their interests. This was also the position in Southern Rhodesia. The white position people there hated the black people, and both had formed separate organizations to protect their interests.
Fourthly, certain parties are formed on a political basis, like Indian National Congress in India. In the beginning, it aimed to protect the interests of the people of India, but later it fought for the freedom of the country.
Fifthly, sometimes the basis for the formation of political parties is one psychological or natural difference. Many people consider the old traditions of society as ideal, and they want to review them. We call such people reactionaries. Secondly, certain people like the capitalists do not want any change in the present set-up of society. We call them conservatives. Thirdly, there at? Certain people want to bring social reform to society by removing social evils. But for this purpose, they want to use only constitutional methods. We call them liberals. Fourthly, certain people hate the entire system of society, and they want to bring in radical changes by using revolutionary methods; we call them radicals or extremists.
Functions of Political Parties:-
There are two main functions of political parties-
- To propagate their ideas and policy.
- To contest elections.
Bryce says that every party follows four things for its success.
- First, every party strengthens its organization.
- Secondly, the parties try to increase their membership.
- Thirdly, they encourage the electorate and supporters through speeches and other means.
- Fourthly, the Voters are imparted political education by the parties.
Besides, every political party puts up capable and intelligent persons for the elections, and efforts are made to make them successful through press propaganda, speeches, meetings, and processions.
Each party tries to defeat its rival and condemns its policies so that no voter should vote in favor of the rival party. If a party secures a majority, it forms the government. Otherwise, it acts as opposition, criticizes the government’s policies, and checks the government from becoming absolute.
Advantages of Political Parties:-
(1) Political Parties are according to human nature.
There is a diversity in human views, like diversity in nature. Therefore, diversities must come out through different political parties. Certain people are liberal while others are conservative. Therefore, all these different views are expressed through political parties.
(2) Political Parties concentrate the attention of the voters on big problems.
Political parties concentrate the electorate’s attention on big problems and place before them the solution of those problems. They also appeal to the people to think of the solution and extend their full co-operation.
(3) Political Parties made the working of democracy possible.
As we have already said, the success of democracy is not possible without political parties. This is because the political parties create the spirit of organization and discipline among the people. After the elections, every party elects its leader, and it becomes easy for the President to invite the leader of the majority party to form the government.
Leacock has rightly said,
Far from being in conflict with the theory of democratic government, it is the only thing which renders the latter feasible. For it is impossible for all the people to rule all the time taken singly. A modern democratic State without this somewhat artificial and yet essential unanimity would become the brawling chaos of individual opinion.
(4) Political Parties create cooperation between the executive and legislature.
Whether it is parliamentary government or the Presidential, it cannot function without the co-operation between the executive and the legislature. The political parties act as a link between the two organs of the government. In a Parliamentary government, the leader of the majority party becomes the Prime Minister. In a Presidential government, if there is a majority of the President’s party, be can get willing co-operation from the legislature.
(5) Opposition parties check the absolutism of the government.
The opposition parties criticize the absolutism of government and compel it to function correctly. If they fail to achieve this purpose through mere criticism, they party potent movements. Ultimately, the government has to bow before the Wishes of the people.
(6) Political parties create awakening amongst the people.
Political parties Waken the people politically and create political consciousness among them. The tract the people towards the political problems. The workers of political parties go from door to door and acquaint the people with the country’s problems. They persuade the electorate to go to the polling booths and advise them on casting their votes.
(7) Opposition parties point out the shortcomings of the laws.
Generally, after going into the details of the Bills introduced by the ruling party, the political parties criticize them. Thus, all the shortcomings of the Bills are made known to the electorate and the press. To maintain its popularity, the ruling party tries to remove those shortcomings and, in this way, good laws are passed in the country. ,
(8) Parties make the working of the constitution and the Government Flexible.
The written constitution and the laws are very rigid. If the government is run Strictly according to them, there will be a great practical difficulty. Sometimes, the people’s difficulties increase when the laws are implemented rigidly because many complex procedures must be followed. Therefore, the opposition parties stress that the constitution and the laws should be implemented in such a way as the people’s difficulties do not increase. The ruling party is also compelled to maintain its popularity. In this way, the working of the government becomes flexible.
(9) Parties act as a sort of link between the people and the Government.
The ruling party and the opposition parties maintain continuous and close contact with the people. The opposition parties place the difficulties and demands of the people before the Government. The ruling party also has to contest elections after a short interval of time, and it has to get a vote from the people. Therefore, it tries its best to solve the problems of the people. In this way, the Government functions for the welfare of the people and by public opinion.
(10) Political parties pilot the reforms.
Each party prepares a program to remove social, economic, and administrative drawbacks of the country and make the country strong. The ruling party and other parties try to remove all these evils through legislative measures and propaganda.
(11) Political parties impart much political education.
The political parties contest elections, and for this purpose, they publish their election manifestos and other relevant literature, through which they try to present their viewpoint. They propagate their policies and criticize other parties in public meetings. After the election, a similar line of action is adopted. Through this, people receive much political education because they come to know of each party’s qualities and drawbacks and get knowledge of various problems facing the country.
(12) Committees of Experts.
Parties sometimes appoint committees of experts to solve complex problems.
(13) Formation of Government is easier.
The party system facilitates the formation of Government because the Head of the State has to find out which party enjoys a majority in the legislature. He invites it to form the Government, while the remaining parties act as opposition.
Demerits of Party System:-
(1) National interests are harmed by the selfish propaganda of the parties.
Every party carries on vigorous propaganda in its favor and against other parties. It poisons the political atmosphere of the country. Secondly, each party cares more for itself than for the country. Thus it proves harmful for the country.
(2) Party-system creates factionalism.
The Party system creates factionalism in the country. Dr. Gilchrist says,
Party-system tends to make the political life of country machine-like or artificial The party in opposition or as it is sometimes called the Outs, is always antagonistic to the party in power or the Ins.
President Washington referring to the drawbacks of the party system, said, It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies, false alarms, kindles the animosities of one party against another, occasionally foments riots and insurrection.
(3) Political Parties crush individuality.
Each party expects the people to follow it blindly. It does not allow even its workers to criticize it for its shortcomings. It crushes their individuality, and their development is hindered.
(4) Wrong education of the people.
The critics of the party system say that the people do not get an education in this system. On the contrary, many misunderstandings are created among the people. The political parties try to get votes by false promises and propaganda, undue pressure, and cheap tactics.
(5) Parties spread corruption.
During elections, parties distribute the money among the electorate and use many cheap tactics to secure votes. The persons who enjoy a remarkable influence on the voters help in securing sufficient votes. The candidates make many promises and offer numerous temptations. After winning the election, the candidates benefit their supporters in many ways. The ruling party sometimes offers high posts to such persons. It spreads corruption in the whole society.
(6) The ruling party makes attractive laws near the election to catch votes.
When the elections come near, the ruling party tries to make many laws that please the voters. Thus, they try to get more votes to win the election.
(7) Dictatorship of the ruling party.
If the ruling party has a sufficient majority in the legislature and the opposition parties hold an insignificant position, the ruling party wilt act arbitrarily, and it will not care for the opposition parties. It will give rise to the dictatorship of the ruling party. Therefore, it is said that for the success of democracy, effective opposition is essential.
(8) Unstable Government in a multi-party system.
In a country with a multi-party system, no party is in a position to make the Government. Hence, a coalition Government is formed, which is usually unstable.
(9) Political parties spread communal hatred.
The parties, which are formed based on religion, spread communal hatred against other communities. It creates many conflicts in the country.
(10) The country is deprived of the services of talented persons owing to the party system.
Many able persons do not want to contest the elections without the help of a political party. Thus, the country is deprived of the services of talented Persons. Besides, the ruling party is not prepared to include a talented person from the opposition parties.
Though there are many defects in the party system, parties are essential for the Working of democracy. No able person has been able ta show how Government can function without a party system. With the increase of education and political consciousness, the defects of the party system are being eliminated. If the ruling party’s leadership is in the hands of wise people and if they are ready to listen to reasonable demands of the opposition as the late Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri had said and acted upon, the evils of the party system can be minimized. Moreover, the maximum cooperation of the Opposition parties can be obtained during a national emergency.