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Political parties are non-governmental institutions which offer direction to mass political desires. They were first established in the late 18th century and since then they have continued to gain dominance in many political systems of the world. Political parties are therefore set with major purposes of interest articulation and aggregation. Throughout the world political parties has continued to dominate the political arena, especially now that many nations exercise democratic system of governance. This paper will seek to analyze the indispensable nature and roles of the political parties in nations. It will exhaustively do this by critically analyzing the various political systems used by these nations. And my main focus will be the U.S and U.K political systems.
Generally, there are two types of political parties, democratic parties, non-democratic parties, ideological parties and non-ideological democratic parties. Democratic parties are open to anyone and seek to realize the needs of the people and are mostly led by open minded people. Their ideologies are flexible and changes depending on time and the current needs. On the other hand, the Non-democratic parties are highly ideological and unified. Such political parties strictly adhere to the already established ideologies and are resistant to the change. They are usually led by dictators. Whereas many alliances are established in the democratic parties, there is no similar alliances that are possible in a non-democratic regime. Currently, the majority of countries throughout the world have continued to embrace the democratic systems in their governance, a move which has greatly improved the efficiency and effectiveness of political parties. The democratic right therefore continues to give people freedom to actively participate in the day-to-day running of the government. The right to vote party of choice during election enable people to have power to change the political leadership of their country if need be.
There are various functions of political parties among them; taking important political decisions and providing citizens with a political direction. People get to participate in political decisions through their active role in political parties. Political parties also play a significant role in preparing and providing a selection list of the candidates to be elected. We can therefore arguably say that the main purpose of the political parties is to nominate candidates and ensure that the majority of them are elected into the office. As Anthony Downs quoted, political and economic spheres are inseparable and they are the key aspects which form a nation. To him the political party leaders who are commonly known as the politicians mainly operate as entrepreneurs more so when they are seeking for votes. This is done through rigorous campaigns which mostly take place prior to the election date. During this period, candidates are given the chance to air out their manifestos and also convince the public why they should be voted in. These manifestos are, however, guided by the parties’ manifestos which positively articulate and influence public opinion.
It is important to understand that political parties play a significant role in strengthening democracy in our nations. Citizens’ rights are promoted as they are allowed to participate in the political parties of their choice and also in the overall making of the party’s manifesto. This encourages the transparency and accountability in governance as citizens has power to change the inefficient leaders. It is, however, unfortunate that selfish political ambitions sometimes make our political parties not to have a vision or focus in life. The greed for power and authority at times tend to make political parties more or less like a business where votes are sold and purchased to the highest bidder. This behavior consequently lowers the efficiency and effectiveness in government as politicians feels that their win was through their sheer hard work and determination.
Once elected, the party then tries to achieve their goals and promises to the public through legislation and other program initiatives. Prior to the election period, the political parties establish their goals and objectives which attract the voters to be supportive to them during the election. For instance the two party systems in the United States is divided into the republicans who support business and emphasize on the conservative social issues and the democrats who, on the other hand, support the labor and minority interests in the country.
Although political parties are not the actual policy makers, they actively participate in the policy questioning and at times influence the whole policy making process.
Since the political party which wins election makes the government, the members get to occupy senior government offices which design and implement the government policies. The opposition parties, on the other hand, criticize the ruling party by offering the alternative policies to the public. They also check the excessive use of power by the leading party.
Since it is natural to have differing opinions and needs, different political parties emerge in order to cater these public needs. Interest rivalry due to the clashing interests led to the competitive theory of democracy as it gives an open atmosphere for the competing groups. Political parties therefore enable these divergent groups with an opportunity to openly express their opinions to the public and seek the support from them. The issue of democracy comes into the scene whenever party freedom is guaranteed within a state. People are therefore free to found or join any party of their choice in this case. Such party diversity is necessitated whenever we have a competitive theory and democracy, mostly practiced by the Western nations.
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Throughout the history, two main political parties have always dominated in the U.S, the federalists and the anti-federalists in the past and democrats and republicans in the current system. This has been so despite the existence of freedom to create new parties. Majority of the voters in America consider their vote value whenever they select a candidate from the two major parties. The history shows us that the conflicting ideologies between leaders were the main reason for the formation of the political parties. For instance, the beginning of 1800 saw the rise of two political factions in the U.S.; federalist who advocated for a strong central government with a centralized base and the anti-federalist who supported the state’s rights. Whereas the federalists supported industrialization and the formation of a national bank, the anti-federalists were opposed to it and instead, they advocated more on farming over manufacturing.
The regulations of political parties within a nation are usually stipulated in the country’s constitution. There are those nations which expressly allow the formation of many political parties, the multi-party democracy, while others do not. People’s participation in politics is also limited by the expressed constitutional rights. Multiparty political systems has however gradually reduced in the majority of nations as parties are now entering into coalitions, in order to increase their chances of winning. It is for this reason that only two political parties are considered as major in any country’s election. For instance we have the United States Democratic and Republican parties and the United Kingdom labor and Conservative Parties.
Political parties are usually funded from the party members’ contribution, other organizations which shares similar ideologies with the party and in some cases by the government. There are cases where prominent individuals fund the political parties, especially if they feel their win can end up having favorable impacts on their activities. So the parties funding in this case is done through donations and political fundraising from the well-wishers of the party. In nations such as Canada, Australia and Israel, public financing for political parties and their candidates is emphasized. This is done either directly through the monetary transfer of funds to the political parties or indirectly through the state media. There are other countries which offer both funding to their parties and candidates. Parties can also obtain their funding from foreigners. This mainly occurs in the developing countries and the donations are aimed at the promoting good governance and democracies in these nations. However, while some aids are completely with neutral conditions, others are given to favor some specific policy implementations in these countries (Diamond & Gunther 3 &5). For easy identifications during the election period, all parties have their own primary color and symbol. For instance, the Republican Party is represented by color red while the Democratic Party is represented by blue. Symbols are also used for easy identification purposes.
In conclusion we can argue that political parties play quite important role in aggregating and articulating people’s interest and views and helping them to participate in the daily running of the government. Interests such as business, labor, religion and ethnic affiliations are provided in these parties. Through the aid of political parties, policy socializations and mobilization are guaranteed in a country. The general public acquires the political education on its rights through political parties. Political parties can therefore be termed as a learning ground through which many people get to learn their rights and privileges. Presence of both the ruling and opposition party ensures healthy governance since the two checks on one another’s inefficiencies. It is therefore advisable for the opposition party to be strong, since that was it will always ensure that the ruling party does not misappropriate its power and authority.