Political parties play a vital role in a democracy. A country can only be considered democratic if its elections are proven to constitute a real competition between two or among several candidates who may be backed by political parties or are running independently.
Political parties are organized groups of people who share a set of similar political aims and opinions and aim to influence public policy by getting their candidates elected. The main functions of these parties are to present their candidates and electoral campaigns to the electorate. But they also perform many other tasks in a democratic country. For one, they serve as institutionalized mediators between society and the duly elected representatives who are responsible for deciding and implementing policies. To illustrate, legislators who are affiliated with a political party and meet with civil society representatives seek opinions from individuals or organizations in the process of formulating public policy. By doing so, they are allowing the demands of their members and supporters to be represented in a parliament and in the government.
In a democratic society, political parties perform key duties, including the following:
- Seeking public policy priorities and civic needs and issues identified by their members and supporters.
- Educating the people how the political and electoral system and general political values work.
- Balancing contrasting demands and turning them into general policies.
- Encouraging citizens to participate in political decisions and turning their opinions into policy options for all.
- Acting as a mediator between the public and the government.
- Choosing and training candidates who are worthy to be elected to public office.
Every political party has internal functions that are determined by external forces, such as political culture, electoral system and legal regulations. But internal processes such as the ideological foundations, party history, personality of leaders and staff members and internal political culture are more influential to a party’s internal functions.
In the United States, there is what they call the two-party system. This means that there are two major parties that dominate the elections and the government. Although this nature of political system has its benefits in promoting good for all people, there are those who criticized it for its disadvantages.
To be able to determine whether having two political parties is actually beneficial to a country or not, it is important to know the advantages and disadvantages of having them.
List of Advantages of Political Parties
1. Political parties are able to present political information to the voting population in a manner that is readily understandable.
By doing so, there is order in the country through the representation of broad political philosophy of the group. As a result, voters become aware of every party’s stance on certain issues. A good example would be the 2012 Presidential Election between Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama. Each candidate represented major issues of their respective parties to the public.
2. Political parties provide balance through the accommodation of various interests and opinions.
Both political parties are organized groups with differing political views, which make it important for political parties to make decisions that will favor not only few but also all interests and opinions to keep the loyalty of their supporters.
3. Political parties prevent unexpected shifts in political trends that threaten stability in the government.
The US’ two-party system helps promote stability in the government because there will only be two parties sharing power, which can dissolve or change coalitions immediately. Now, if voters disagree on one political issue, they would generally understand that the candidates represent bigger issues that need more attention. This discourages voters from giving up their support for their party. Additionally, elected officials will have time to focus on long-term policies that benefit the public.
4. Political parties encourage political participation.
As a democratic nation, America allows its citizens to freely express their opinions and to support the political party that shares their interest and opinion. Unlike China, the US government encourages the public to participate and cast their votes at the polls. Hence, the public can contribute in making significant changes that will benefit everyone.
List of Disadvantages of Political Parties
1. Political parties might have a selfish propaganda that could hurt national interest.
When political parties carry vested interests and vicious propagandas that benefit only a few and are against other parties, it damages the country’s political environment. And when a certain group cares more for its members rather than the entire country, it does not only harm the political atmosphere, but also disturbs the nation’s peace and order.
2. Political parties could create factionalism.
A country with a party system could render political life artificial. It could create animosity between parties, encourage jealousy and develop occasional riots and insurrection. As a result, the public is forced to form factions because they could not agree on certain levels.
3. Political parties could ruin individuality.
There may be parties that expect or force the people support and share their views blindly. They might not allow its own people to criticize their shortcomings. In short, the people may not be allowed to form their individual opinions on certain issues because they are expected to follow what their party is telling them.
4. Political parties could encourage corruption.
There will be parties that distribute money to the electorate to secure votes for their candidates. Aside from that, their candidates may be making promises only to persuade the voting population into electing them. But once they are elected into office, they might never deliver to their promises. They might also place those who supported them in higher positions in exchange for their votes.
5. Political parties could deprive the country of talented individuals who can contribute to its success.
This is because people from the opposition parties are most likely excluded from participating in the government for the betterment of the entire nation.
When managed properly, political parties can help encourage the people into participating during elections. This ensures that the government officials appointed into different public offices will serve the majority, not only a few.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.