Political parties have a special importance in democracy because during the elections they create consciousness among the voters.
They keep the nation alive politically. They create the interest of the voters in politics and attract them towards important problems.
For this purpose the political parties deliver many lectures and distribute political literature.
They publish election manifestos in order to place their performance and policy before the people.
A few weeks or days before the polling, they carry on propaganda on a large scale and their workers go from door to door to canvass among the voters and acquaint them with their viewpoint. When the polling takes place, they persuade the voters to go to the polling booths and advice them how to cast their votes. When the results of the election are declared, each party elects its leader in the legislature. The party with absolute or clear majority forms the government. In case no party gains an absolute or clear majority, two or three parties form a coalition government.
The parties which do not join the government act as opposition. The ruling party runs the government according to the programme given in their election manifesto and the opposition parties criticise its faulty policies. In the legislature there are heated debates on the Bills and the budget. Each party expresses its own viewpoint. The members of various parties support or oppose the Bills and the budget according to the decisions of their leaders.
All the programmes of the parties in the legislature or outside are published in the papers. This helps in the increase of the knowledge of the people in local, provincial, national and international, spheres and they receive a good political education.
Many people do not like political parties and they say that political parties are unimportant, because they create unnecessary conflicts. In his farewell address, President George Washington advised the people of America against the formation of political parties, but, soon Republican Party took birth under the leadership of Hamilton and Democratic Party under the leadership of Jefferson.
Though there are many demerits of the political parties, yet they have doubtlessly contributed a lot to the development and strengthening of the plant of democracy. For instance, the Constitution of America is rigid, and if there were no political parties, there would have been no practical flexibility in it.
Consequently, it could not have become progressive. Generally, the President is from the party which has a majority the Congress. It creates co-operation between the two. In a parliamentary system, the majority party forms the government.
It makes the working of the government very smooth. The opposition parties also serve the country to a great extent because they criticise the ruling party for its excesses and prevent it from becoming autocratic. Through this, the freedom of the people is protected and a dictatorial regime is not established. In the absence of political parties, it is difficult to run the government in a Parliamentary and a Presidential system of governments because independent candidates will be elected in the legislature and they will have no organisation and discipline. They will also not be bound to any policy or programme.
Therefore, the head of the state shall have to face a great difficulty in the formation of the cabinet and the cabinet will not have the support of the legislature. In a Presidential system, similar difficulty will be faced and it will become difficult for the President to run the administration without the support of the legislature.
Therefore, the successful working of the government will not be possible. For this reason Bryce says, “Parties are inevitable. No free country has been without them. No one has shown how representative government could be worked without them. They bring order out of the chaos of a multitude of voters. If parties cause some evils, they avert and mitigate others”.
MacIver also says, “There can be no unified statement of principle, no orderly evolution of policy, no regular resort to the constitutional device of parliamentary elections, nor of course any of the recognised institutions by means of which a party seeks to gain and maintain power”. Lowell has aptly said that “conception of government by the whole people in any large nation is, of course, a chimera, for wherever the suffrage is wide, parties are certain to exist and the control must really be in the hands of the party that comprises a majority or rough approximation to a majority of the people”.
Whereas bi-party system and multi-party systems are necessary for the protection of democracy, there one party system is altogether useless because there is every possibility of the rise of dictatorship in it. Where there has been or there is one party system, the opposition is altogether crushed and the dictatorship of the government is established. Without effective existence of the opposition parties, the protection of democracy is not possible, for example, in Germany, during Hitler’s regime and in Italy during Mussolini’s regime, there was one party system.
Today there is one party system in Communist countries like Soviet Union, China, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Hungary, Finland etc. In the countries without any political party, absolute monarchy or military dictatorship is established.
Therefore, it will be accepted that for the protection of democracy, bi- Party or multi-party system is inevitable. Otherwise, in its absence, either there will no party or there will be one party system. If there is no effective opposition Party, there will be a possibility of the government’s becoming absolute.