Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Functions and Operations of Political Party in Democratic Systems


Functions and Operations of Political Party in Democratic Systems

Politics is the process to organize how we live together in a society, and the purpose of political parties is to join people who hold similar points of view about the government together. They usually elect officials who will try to carry out the party's policies. A political party offers candidates for public office.  It sets out positions on fundamental issues that may range from security, economy, education and Health. When people in a democracy disagree about what the government should do, voters express their opinions by voting for the candidates that most closely reflect their views. Political parties provide a way for voters to easily identify a candidate's positions. Political parties may be large or small, national or local. Large political parties generally have millions of members and supporters but each one needs to promote a broad set of core beliefs and platform to attract more voters. In democratic election campaigns, parties compete freely for votes; such competition is one of the hallmarks of democracy. In the other words, every citizen can participate in this process – by freely acceding information about political issues, by openly expressing the own opinion on public affairs, by formulating expectations, proposals or requirements without fear of repression, by voting in elections, by engaging in civil society organizations or political parties, or by standing up as a candidate in democratic elections. In this way, democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.
Unfortunately, the Modern Political parties which are the central institutions for a modern democracy have not formed yet in Afghanistan. The current parties are more likely, to a business firm rather than a stable party having long term platform. Firstly, due to lack of political experiences; secondly, due to socio-political facts prevent from forming strong party based on people’s will and meritocracy criteria. Anyway, modern political party should not be confused with associations, federations, or tribe-driven groups. 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”. Parties in opposition should exercise an important function in a democratic system as a “watchdog” of government policy and as a political alternative in the future, and expected to express itself on all issues relevant for government. Parties are expected to propose views on domestic and foreign policies, economic and social policies, and youth and civil policies etc. In order to meet these requirements, each party should have certain platform and programs.
In a democracy, most if not all citizens should be involved in political activities. However, a direct democracy where every citizen is directly involved in all political decisions is not possible within modern mass societies. This is why a modern democracy needs institutions and organizations that represent the will and the interests of the citizens as authentically as possible. These can be associations, informal groups or non-governmental organizations. In particular, the political parties carry out such a representative function. They offer to the citizens the possibility to influence politics and political decisions. They are an important instrument and institution of politics. Hence, without political parties, a modern representative democracy is not conceivable. Only, the parties ensure that the citizens are permanently capable to act politically. They articulate and integrate different interests, visions and opinions. They are also the main source for the recruitment of political elites.
According to pluralistic theories, the formation of political parties achieved through an open process of competition between candidates. Due to the diversity of opinions and social conflicts there is no perfect solution to problems unless the decisions have to be made on the basis of consent and approval of a majority of the citizens. Nevertheless, there may be no “tyranny of the majority” that offends democratic rules and violates inalienable human rights. Even majority decisions may imply deficiencies or even injustice. Therefore, a distinct and constitutionally guaranteed protection of minorities on the one hand, as well as the recognition of voting or election defeat of the losing side on the other hand—provided that it is a (largely) free and fair poll—are constitutive elements of this concept of democracy.
The major Functions of political parties
(1) They articulate and aggregate social interests: Parties express public expectations and demands of social groupings to the political system (function of political opinion-making). (2) They recruit political personnel and nurture future generations of politicians: They select persons and present them as candidates for elections (function of selection).(3) they Unite and lead: Parties integrate various interests into a general political project and transform it into a political program, for which they campaign to receive the consent and support of a majority (function of integration). (4) They promote the political socialization and participation of citizens: Parties create a link between citizens and the political system; they enable political participation of individuals and groupings with the prospect of success. (function of socialization and participation).(5)They organise the government. They participate in elections to occupy political charges. Normally in party democracies, a good part of government authorities arise from political parties (function of exercising political power).(6)They contribute to the legitimacy of the political system: in establishing the connection between citizens, social groupings and the political system, the parties contribute in anchoring the political order in the consciousness of the citizens and in social forces (function of legitimating).
In order to establish a successful political function and operation a party needs a permanent organization. With regard to the institutional setup of a party there are different basic patterns. On the basis of an individual, meaning the direct membership of individual persons, many parties are organized in a decentralized form that is on the basis of local associations, according to residential areas or districts, or at least at a municipal level. Higher levels of party organization usually follow the structure of the state. The local party organizations are of particular importance for a stable and active party. Here, members can directly be politically active. At this level, they have the deepest contact with their party and politics in general. Local party organizations should conduct regular membership meetings, and support, promote and integrate new members. These should be invited to the party and district meetings and social events, as well as to discussions on local politics issues and local initiatives, for instance, residential redevelopment, road building or laying, schools, business settlements etc.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@ gmail.com

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