DEFINITION OF POLITICAL PARTY
A political party is defined as a formally organized body of men and women who hold a common political opinion and wish to capture and exercise the political power of the state. It is also defined as an organized group of people who share common beliefs, values and interest with the motive of contesting and winning election, so as to control the administrative machinery of a state.
FEATURES OF POLITICAL PARTIES
- Organisation: Political parties are hierarchically organized. That is, they have formalized structures and persistent leadership. They have clearly marked out channels of communication and equally have rules and regulations.
- Manifesto: Every party has a programme of action or manifesto. This is the cardinal plan or programmeof a political party which the party intends to fulfill to the people if elected into power.
- Ideology: The members of a political party have common beliefs and interest. It is these beliefs and interest that bind them together. Also, these beliefs are part of what the political parties tend to propagate to the electorate.
- Primaryobjective: The primary objective of every political party is to win political power and rule or control the administrative machineryof the state.
- Campaign: During the period of campaigns, political parties publicise their manifestoes to the electorates and the purpose of this is to win their support and votes.
- Primary election: It is an election conducted within a political party to choose popular candidates that can represent the interest of the party in any election.
FUNCTIONS OF POLITICAL PARTIES
- Political education: Political parties educate the electorate on political issues. They do these through the use of mass media, campaigns, meetings and visits, manifestoes and rallies.
- Selection of officials: Political parties select persons for elections and appointments. The party members who want elective offices are selected by the party.
- Base for rulership: They provide organization capable of running the government. Without parties, the legislature will be a mere debating club without responsibilities.
- Interest articulation: They engage in interest articulation and interest aggregation. They bring together the political interests and views of a large number of people.
- Provision of alternatives: They provide the citizens with alternative programmes and these make the choice of government easier. However, this is possible where there are two or multi-party system.
- Control of public officers: They monitor the performance of government functionaries during their tenure of office. The minority parties also organise and maintain constructive criticisms to help the government operate efficiently.
- Encourage participation: Most of the time, political parties tell the government what the society feels and in the same way, they tell the governmentwhat the people expect of her. With this link in communication with the government, the people become more enthusiastic in participating in governmental activities.
- Provision of ideologies: Political parties provide ideologies as to how the state shall be governed. The ideologies may be socialism, capitalism or communism.
- Social welfare and humanitarian services: Political parties provides social welfare services for the people. E.g creation of job opportunities, award of scholarship, etc.
- Training: Political parties serve as a training ground for future leaders.
DEMERITS OF POLITICAL PARTIES
- Political parties bring divisions in the society. As a result of the different ideologies of the parties and the selfish interest of some party members, the voters are made to take sides as each group sees the other ad an enemy that must be destroyed at all cost.
- The existence of political parties limits the choice of the electorate. In a political arrangement in which only party exists, only one or two candidates are presented to the voters. The voters therefore, vote for the candidate presented and the numerous persons who are better than the candidates presented would not be voted.
- Political parties encourage anti-social behaviours. In a bid to win at all cost, parties engage in electoral malpractice. These could result in arson, thuggery and killing of political opponents.
- Political parties promote oligarchic tendencies. In this case, party affairs are run by a few persons primarily for their own interests and not for the general good.
- Political parties encourage mediocrity, nepotism and favouritism. When a political party wins an election, only those who are sympathetic to its course are given appointments, whether they are qualified or not.
- There is the oppression and victimization of political opponents. This is most pronounced in developing countries like Nigeria where areas or persons that failed to vote for a particular party or individual are neglected and forgotten by the party in power in the sharing of resources.
- Some people are apathetic to politics due to the activities of political parties. They see political parties as not living up to their expectations, especially in the areas of fulfilling their electoral promises.