Democratic Institutions And Their Functions

There are some democratic institutions that are very important to the smooth operations of democratic processes. These institutions and their functions are discussed below:
1. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
2. Political Parties
3. Pressure Groups
4. Arms Of Government
1. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)
This is a corporate body charged with the responsibility of organizing, conducting and supervising elections, into electoral offices in the country. The activities of this electoral commission are governed by the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 and the Electoral Act of 2006. As a corporate body, it can be sued or may sue anybody in the law court. This explains why INEC has so many cases before different electoral tribunals and courts.
The commission is made up of a chairman and the members of the commission are appointed for a renewable term of five years. The chairman is the chief electoral officer of the nation.
Functions And Powers Of INEC
The functions and powers of the commission are as contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Electoral Act 2006. They are as follows:
1. Conduct of Election: The primary and the most important function of INEC is to organize, conduct and supervise elections into all electoral offices at the federal and state levels of government. Other functions are exercises in preparation to the functions of conducting free, fair and credible elections.
2. Conduct Of Referenda And Plebiscites: It is the duty and function of INEC to conduct a referendum or plebiscite on any matter when there is need for it. A referendum or plebiscite might be called upon, when a new state or a new local government is created by the national assembly.
3. Voter Registration: Another function of INEC is the compilation, maintenance and revision on a continuous basis of a national register of voters. All eligible voters are registered in the register of voters.
4. Constituency Delimitation (division or demarcation): This is the function of dividing or demarcating the country into voting districts. This demarcation of the country into electoral districts is for election into senate, house of representatives and the state house of assembly.
5. Provision of Electoral Officers and Materials: It provides all the required materials needed for elections. Materials like ballot boxes, ballot papers and polling booth, etc. The commission also recruits and trains electoral officers before deploying them to their polling stations.
6. Other functions are: Fixing of date of election, Providing at the polling stations, Educating the electorate, etc.
2. Political Parties
Political parties are organized group of individuals who share same political ideologies, beliefs and interests and who are seeking to win elections and control the state power and machinery of government. Before any group or association could function as a political party in Nigeria, it must meet the electoral requirements as stated or stipulated in the constitution and in the electoral acts; and must have registered with INEC. Nigeria runs or operates a multi-party system, and so, today has 45 registered political parties, who are competing among themselves to win elections.
Main Functions Of Political Parties
1. National Unity and Mutual Understanding: Political parties serve as a forum for national unity and mutual understanding by bringing together people from different ethnic and religious groups.
2. Political Education: They create political awareness in the people through party rallies, meetings, electioneering campaigns, party flags and symbols, posters, programmes using the mass media. They dramatize politics by keeping the nation politically alive and alert.
3. Machinery For Recruitment/Appointment: Through political parties, recruitment and appointments into various government positions and offices are made. They nominate candidates and sponsor them for election.
4. It Links People With Government: Political parties serve as a link between the people and the government.
5. It ensures political stability in Government.
6. Sensitivity of National Issues: Political parties when in power help to sensitize the electorate or keep them informed on crucial national issues, government policies and programmes.
7. Harmonization Of Sectional And Diversified Interest: By bringing people of diverse and sectional interest and inclination together to have a common approach or view on sensitive issues, they are in turn harmonizing them.
8. Provision Of Social Amenities and Infrastructure: When a political party is in power, it does everything to provide amenities like electricity, pipe-borne water, tarred roads, schools and hospitals, so as to be voted for in the next election.
9. Accountability: Political parties ensure that the party in power or the ruling party is accountable to the electorate through constructive criticisms and protests.
3. Pressure Group
A pressure group is an organized body of people, seeking to influence government policy, in order to promote the interest of their members. Pressure groups are also called interest groups. They exist to protect the common interest of their members and not to win elections or take over the government, as political parties do. They only seek to influence the power of government so that the government will satisfy their needs or favour their members.
They employ or use different means and methods to get their needs met by the government. Some of them are negotiation and dialogue, lobbying, sensitization of the public on the issue through mass media, protest march or demonstration, boycott, hunger strike, sit-down and outright or total strike or work to rule.
Functions Of Pressure Group
Pressure groups play important roles in the running of democratic government and some of the functions are as follows:
1. Offer Useful Advice and Suggestion: They seek to influence government to act in line with the wish and demands of the people and particularly their members. They also offer useful suggestions and advice to the government at different levels.
2. Promotion of Economic Stability: They help to promote economic stability, through their specialized and expertise information they give on different sectors or aspects of the economy concerning government economic policies and programmes.
3. Welfare Services: They provide and promote certain general services to the public through their activities.
4. Political Education: They help to educate and enlighten their members and the public as a whole on their fundamental human rights and national issues. They do this through their various programmes such as public debates, programmes and symposia and so on.
5. Act As A Link: LIke political parties, pressure groups also act as a link between the people and the government. They do this by fighting for the interest of their members and the general public.
6. Act As Watchdog: Pressure groups can act as watchdog over public policies. They make the government to be focused and to be on their toes through constructive criticisms.
7. Support To Political Parties: Sometimes, pressure groups can give support to candidates and political parties to win election. They can campaign for a particular candidate or political party with a view to using them to get their needs or demands met.
8. Manpower Bank: Many pressure groups are organized along professional lines and therefore, they act as manpower bank from where government can draw experts to serve in the government e.g. Judges drawn from Nigerian Bar Association, women top officers from wrofessional women association. Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has had some of her members appointed as Ministers of Education or Commissioners for Education.
4. Arms Of Government
The three arms of government namely, the legislature, executive and judiciary are the main bedrock of democracy. For democracy to thrive or work in any nation, the functions, activities and personnel of these organs must be separated as stipulated clearly in the constitution, which must be supreme and above any person or interest. In other words, there should be separation of powers and its corresponding checks and balances, entrenched in the system in order to ensure and safeguard the freedom, liberties and rights of the citizens.