Role of Political Parties in a Democracy
Political parties can be termed as associations formed by citizens that enable individuals to have influence on government affairs and processes. Political parties therefore provide effective means through which individuals express themselves and make decisions on appropriate system of government. Political parties plays various roles in the society that includes offering individuals with alternatives and freedom of choice, check on the excesses of governments, give important information to citizens and ensure that the government fulfills its promises.
The first role of political parties is to ensure that individuals have alternatives and freedom of choice in a country. This role is accomplished through provision of opportunities for individuals to choose the best party and candidates that will serve their interest. This is ensured through competition by different political parties and allowing voters to elect best leaders as well as choose the best party. In a democratic society, this role is transparent and allows all the political parties to sell their policies to citizens through a free and fair process.
The second role of political parties in a democratic government is to check the excesses in the government by ensuring that the incumbent government does not abuse its powers. This role is played through constant monitoring of daily government activities to ensure that they are in accordance to the laws and regulations. This can be accomplished through making of appropriate policies in parliament so as to ensure that governments are able to effectively coordinate important activities such as operations of ministries, government spending and budget and public appointments among others.
The third role played by political parties is to provide important information to citizens. Political parties through their elected members make policies and legislations in a country. It is therefore the duty of political parties to inform citizens of various policies and regulations in a country. This can be achieved through briefing citizens on certain policies, regulations, government plans and any other matter of national interest. This role ensures that citizens are aware of all the important government and political operations in the country.
The last important role of political parties in a democratic government is to ensure that the incumbent government fulfills it promises to citizens. This role is accomplished through regular evaluation of the government performance based on the promise made to public. This requires political parties to keep constant pressure on government and ensure that they fulfill their promises.
These four roles are important for all political parties in a democratic society. The roles ensure that governments are able to meet their promises and deliver the necessary services to citizens. They also ensure that all government policies and regulations are in accordance to the stipulated law. Hence it can be argued that political parties are essential in the promotion of democratic governments in any society.
Sample longer essay questions.
[Wiarda 1-5] How have approaches to comparison -- and to the nature of development and democratization changed over time?
[Magstadt, Wiarda, Hauss, Steiner]. How can we approach the problem of classifying the many governments around the world? What approaches are most useful in guiding us to understanding the variety of nation states?
[Steiner 1, 2] Explain how European parties and elections differ from those in the US, and how parties are changing.
[Steiner 1-3, Commons Question Time video] Is the powerful party leader /prime minister system common in Europe -- and is it compatible with democracy? In your answer, discuss with examples the qualities of European monarchical and presidential forms of head of state. Explain the nature of cabinets in western Europe and contrast them with the US.
[Steiner 3] Discuss with examples the qualities of European monarchical and republican forms of head of state. What is the long term trend in heads of state?
[Steiner 3] Explain the nature of cabinets in western Europe and contrast them with the US. Is the British model typical?
[Steiner 3] Discuss with examples the qualities of European monarchical and presidential forms of head of state. Explain the nature of cabinets in western Europe and contrast them with the US. Is the British model really typical of western Europe -- or really untypical?
[Steiner 4] Is Europe likely to accept or reject American style judicial review, or the use of the referendum -- and why is it even experimenting with such processes?
[Steiner 4-5] Why is Europe experimenting with American style judicial review, or the use of the referendum -- and are these institutions democratic or anti-democratic in nature? [Don't forget to contrast European with American courts and deliberation in parliaments with direct democracy via referenda (or "plebiscites").]
[Steiner 6] Should the State cooperate with economic interest groups, or keep them at arm's length? Explain the argument in Europe between corporatists and pluralists (or anti-corporatists).
[Steiner 6] Explain the argument in Europe between corporatists and pluralists or anti-corporatists. Is the role of the State really different in West Europe than in the US?
[Steiner 7] Discuss the recent social and religious movements in western Europe. Which trends have gone further than the US and which have run behind?
[Steiner 7, 9-12] Explain how in the 1990s European communism and nationalism yielded to democracy, market forces and regional or ethnic identity. What institutions such as power sharing (consociational democracy) or devolution have been used to ease this shift?
[Steiner, Hancock] Explain the development of the European Economic community and its metamorphasis into the EC and eventually the EU. To what degree is this dependent on building (in the 1950s) narrowly functional, (in the 1960s) general economic or (in the 1990s) monetary and political integration?
[Steiner, Hancock] Describe the composition, powers and roles of the institutions of the European Union. Is it generally true that the executive, legislative or judicial branch is the most powerful? Is the EU a supra-national governmental system, or more of a confederation?
[New Europeans, Steiner, Hancock] In what ways has the EU attempted to create a trans-national economy, polity and culture? Is this process threatened by the rediscovery of regional identities within its nation states? Discuss with examples.
[Steiner, Hancock] To what degree is the United Kingdom a polity of similar politico-cultural traditions to the US but with contradictory institutions? Examine the political parties, elections, the legislature, the cabinet, the monarchy and the power of the Treasury.
[Steiner, Hancock] Compare and contrast the development of Italian and German government from 1945 to 1989, and from 1989 onwards.
[Steiner, Wilson] Italy and Germany were both fascist states in the 1930s and 1940s, but have been democracies since 1947. They both became different democracies in the 1990s than they had been for fifty years. Compare and contrast the development of Italian and German government from 1945 to 1989, and from 1989 onwards.
[Steiner, Hancock] Describe the composition, powers and roles of the institutions of French government, and the historical traditions that gave rise to the Fifth Republic. Is the system closer in design to the British or to the American?
[New Europeans, Steiner, Hancock] It used to be said that the European Union was founded upon French farming interests and the German Bundesbank interest. One wasted money lavishly and the other conserved it too carefully. With the recent expansion of interests (new countries, new social movements), and policy changes (monetary, environmental, social welfare) in the EU, which tendency would you predict will predominate in the next century, and why?
[Steiner, Hancock] To what degree is the United Kingdom a polity of similar politico-cultural traditions to the US but with contradictory institutions -- whereas Sweden has similar institutions but different culture?
[Curtis] To what degree can an American understand the influences on European politics via the classic theorists excerpted by Curtis? Are they most helpful in understanding socialism, monarchism, or some other influence that is "un-American". Explain your answer in the light of at least five European theorists.
[De Gaulle: A Vision of France, Steiner, Wilson] Describe the composition, powers and roles of the institutions of French government, and the historical traditions -- and De Gaulle's leadership that gave rise to the Fifth Republic. Is the system closer in design and traditions to the British or to the American? Did De Gaulle succeed in making France "marry her century?"