Some of the most important functions played by political parties in every democratic political system are as follows:
The important and essential role that political parties play in every democratic political system has been now recognised by all the political scientists.
Main Functions of Political Parties:
1. Formulation of Public Opinion:
The first and most important function of political parties is to give meaning and shape to the ideas and ambitions of the people. Political Parties always try to clarify public opinion upon various issues and problems. These are the instruments for clarifying public opinion.
2. Agencies of Political Education:
Political parties play a vitally important role as agencies of political education. Along with other agencies like, family, school and mass media, the political parties communicate political values and beliefs to the people. Mostly, it is through political parties that the people learn their duties as citizens and voters.
3. Agencies for recruitment of Leaders:
Political parties act as the main channels for recruiting leaders. In all countries leaders emerge through political parties. These provide necessary leadership education and training to its members, some of whom emerge as leaders.
4. Formulation of Demands:
Political Parties are organised political institutions. These always play an important role in helping the people to sort out, clarify and specify their interests and demands. In doing so, the political parties are helped by the voluntary organisations, associations and interest groups of people.
5. Aggregation of demands and taking these to the Government:
Political parties are the main agencies of aggregation of demands of the people. The demands made by various groups and associations of the people are aggregated into a set of policy proposals or alternative decisions by the political parties. They take these to the government for conversion into laws and policies. Parties are the main channels for the flow of aggregated demands of the people into the government organs.
6. Agencies of Political Modernisation and Development:
Political parties act as agencies of political modernisation and development. In a democracy, political parties give a definite shape to the government and its policies. These provide the major links between various social and economic groups. These consolidate the human energies and resources into human power and use the organised human power for securing modernisation and development.
7. Policy Formulation:
Political parties always play a major role in policy-making. These put before the people their programmes. These help the process of securing the support of the people on all vital issues. These contest elections and try to win these by projecting policies and presenting them as choices between parties. In this way, political parties play an important role in policy-making.
8. Link between the Government and the People:
Political parties are important links between the government and the people. These are the main channels of communication between the people and the government. These carry the needs and wishes of the people to the government and in return are engaged in communicating the policies and decisions of the government to the people.
9. Role in Elections:
Each political party is an organisation committed to secure political power in the state through peaceful and constitutional means i.e. through elections. Political Party always work for contesting elections. They are involved with the election process right from beginning to the end. These play a active role in getting the elections held in time and in a free and fair manner.
Each political party fields its candidates and actively campaigns to get them elected. It issues an election manifesto which forms the ideological basis for the conduct of party’s election campaign. To contest and win elections is a major function of the political parties.
Government-making is virtually a party business. The party which gets majority in elections, gets the right to make the government in a parliamentary form of government system. In a Presidential form, the election of the President, the chief executive who runs the government, is in really the work of political parties. In every political system, the party leaders get elected as representatives of the people. They sit in the legislature and formulate laws.
11. To act as Opposition Parties:
The parties which fail to secure a majority in elections always play an active role as opposition parties. These perform the task of criticising and opposing the policies of the government. These perform a key role in keeping the majority party in check and in enforcing the responsibility of the government to the people. Opposition is considered to be an essential feature of all democratic systems.
12. To maintain Discipline and Control over the Members:
Parties are a source of political stability and continuity in politics. This is done by holding the representatives together under the party flag and party discipline. If there were no parties and members of legislatures were completely dis-organised, the government would never be sure as to for how long can it stay in power. Without political parties, no legislature can work smoothly and efficiently.
13. Making of Goals and Value:
Parties play a vitally important role in setting values and goals for the society. Each political party works in accordance with an accepted political ideology, which provides a philosophical basis to all its policies and programmes. A political party, after internal discussions and debates, formulates goals and values which, should be accepted and adopted by the society. When the people vote for a particular party, they express faith in its values, policies and goals.
14. Social Welfare Functions:
With a view to secure and maintain popular support, the political parties work for the climating the sufferings of the people, particularly during natural calamities like famines, earthquakes, epidemics, tsunami etc. These also work for the eradication of social evils like dowry system, bride burning, ignorance, ill health, untouchability, and others. The political parties perform several social-welfare functions for winning popularity.
15. Integration and Adaptation Functions:
Political parties are integrating agencies. They integrate an individual with the political system. Parties bring together sectional interests, mobilise diverse cultural, linguistic and regional interest groups and wield them into a common framework. These educate and prepare the people to accept change and to adapt themselves to the changing social, economic and political environment.
16. Provide opportunities for an Alternative Government:
In a democracy political parties provide alternative teams for organising the government. After regular intervals government is formed by different political parties. A party system is a guarantee to the people that a change in government can be secured at any time. The party system always reminds the persons in power that at any time the people can vote for changing them. The parties make it certain that the authority-holders remain in power so long as they continue to rule in accordance with the wishes of the people and that too only for a fixed term.
To sum up the role and functions of political parties, we would like to quote. James Bryce, who writes: “The parties keep a nation’s mind alive. These play a key role in bringing out public opinion on various issues and problems.” Political Parties are essential for every political system particularly for a democracy. Political Parties play a key role in the process of politics in every state.