Political Parties: Meaning, Characteristics And Functions

Table Of Contents
1. Meaning Of Political Parties
2. Characteristics Of Political Parties
3. Functions Of Political Parties
4. The Success Of A Political Party
Political parties could be described as a group organized to secure control of government in order to put their ideology and programme into effect and install their members to office.
Political parties acquire power in one of two ways. A political party may participate in the legitimate operation of government aiming at the election of its members to a majority of the seats in legislature or it may operate illegally and subversively, hoping to win supremacy through revolution or coup d’etat.
Characteristics Of Political Parties
There are three characteristics of political parties. These are:
1. Ideology: Every political party has what is called ideology. An ideology could be defined as the basic belief of a party. Such basic belief could be transformed, as the policy of the government should the political party win an election.
2. Organisation: Political parties are essentially highly organized groups. They have to be so because they are groups waiting to form the government of a state political parties have rules and regulations and means of punishing members who break such rules. They have their officers and line of authority.
3. Leadership: Every political party has a leader who is a symbol of what the party stands for. The leader of the political party is likely to become the head of government should the political party control the machinery of government. This is why most leaders of political parties possesses nationals and international personality.
Functions Of Political Parties
Political parties perform many functions in any democratic state.
1. Political parties provide the machinery for the appointments of heads of government of a state, e.g. Obasanjo from PDP, Buhari from ANPP, in the 4th Republic of Nigeria.
2. Political parties try to unite the people on major questions of a nation, for example the NCNC; NPC and AG, united the people of Nigeria on the question of Political Independence for Nigeria during colonial rule.
3. Information: Political parties try to clarify issues and provide information on candidates and current events thereby making it easy for the electorate to chose the right people to rule them. Through their various activities, political parties get people to be interested in governmental activities.
4. Education: Through the political parties the electorates is educated on national issues.
5. Link: Political parties serve as a link between society and state. They are able to act as intermediaries or mediators between the conflicting interests of government and the electorate and enable the government to become accountable to the electorate.
6. Political parties provide an organisation capable of running the government. Without parties, the legislature would tend to be a mere debating club without responsibilities.
7. Political parties transform the general will into public policy. When a political party presents its programme to the electorate during campaigns, should the political party win the election the programme so presented have become the accepted general wishes, which must be obeyed by every body living in that state.
The Success Of A Political Party
The following factors contribute to aid the success of a political party at the polls.
1. Organisation: Fo a political party to succeed at the polls it must be effectively organized.
2. Leadership: The leadership of the party is important. Charismatic leadership contributes greatly to the success of any political party.
3. Discipline: For a political party to succeed at the polls, deliberate disregard of party rules and regulations should not be tolerated. Discipline should be strictly enforced. Erring members should be disciplined accordingly.
4. Finance: Modern political parties require enough funds to finance their activities. A political party should secure a viable source of finance for its operations.
5. Programme: Acceptability of the programme of a political party by the electorate, the polices of a political party must therefore be alluring.
6. Membership: The composition of the political party should be broad based. In a heterogeneous society such as Nigeria, membership should include all ethnic groups.
7. Propaganda Machinery: Effective Propaganda Machinery is important to the success of a political party. The mass media should be the tool.