A political party is defined as an organized group of citizens, who act together as an a political unit, having distinctive aims and objectives involving political questions in the state and acting together and seeking to obtain control of the government.
Secondly, a political party can also be defined as an association of like-minded persons who organize themselves into a political group to control political power and the administrative machinery of a state.
“Joseph Schumpeter”, in his writing, observed that the first and foremost aim of each political party is to prevail over the others to get into power or to stay in it. Note that it is the goal of attaining political power that distinguishes political parties from other groups in the political system. e.g. Pressure group.
In Nigeria’s First Republic (1963-66) NPC.NCNC and AG were the prominent political parties that contested elections. However, there were a few other minor political parties.
CHARACTERISTICS OF POLITICAL PARTY
1. Organization: Political parties are organized, with the procedure for electing party leaders properly defined. The National Executive Committee responsible for preparing or drawing up the policies and programs of the party equally coordinates the activities at the local level including important decisions affecting the constituency and the local committees.
2. Manifesto: This is the cardinal plan of the program of a political party which the party intends to fulfill to the people if elected into power.
3. Contesting elections: This is the primary motive of a political party, to contest elections and be in government.
4. Nomination: In democratic states, it is the
political parties that carry out the nomination of
candidates and these candidates contest
an election under the banner of their political
5. Campaign: During the period of campaigns, political parties publicize their manifestos to the electorate and the purpose of this is to win their support and votes.
6. Ideology: Their philosophy, system of thought, ideas are parts of what the political parties tend to propagate to the electorate. For example, a socialist party would like to transform the state into a welfare socialist state.
7. Primary election: It is an election conducted within an apolitical party to choose popular candidates that can represent the interest of the party in any election.
Rallies, congresses, conference: These are some of the features of a political party.
9. Purposeful leadership: Leaders with purposeful and positive qualities are better at organizing political parties and giving them a focus.
IMPORTANT OF POLITICAL PARTY
1. Unity: Political parties unite the people on major issues affecting the state.
2. It serves as a link: Political parties always serve as a link between the people and government.
3. Accountability: They enable the government to become accountable to the electorate through constructive criticism of the government in power.
4. Machinery for recruitment: Political parties provide machinery for recruiting political leaders.
5. Clarification of issues: Political parties try to clarify issues and provide relevant information on candidates and current events thereby encouraging the electorate to be more interested in governmental activities.
6. Provision of organization: They try to provide an organization for running the government.
7. Control of the government: Political parties exist to contest elections and control the government.
8. Dramatisation of politics: This is done by keeping the nation politically alive.
9. Sectional or diversified interests: They harmonize sectional and diverse interests.
10. Change of government: With political parties contesting elections. change of government is made possible with ease.
DEMERITS/DISADVANTAGES OF A POLITICAL PARTY
1. Waste of funds: Floating a political party is a costly venture, the government also gives funds to them. resulting in a waste of public funds.
2. Division of the country: A country with two-party or multi-party systems can divide the country into different opposition camps and this does not make for the unity of the country.
3. Candidates for elections: Nomination of candidates, by political parties for elections, may not have the people’s consent or legitimate support.
4. Evil Practices: Evil practices of different dimensions could result from political parties. For example tribalism, sectionalism, Victimization, nepotism, etc. People could be instigated to commit evil, because of being involved in a political party.
5. Appointments: Most appointments made are based on party leaning. Ministers, Judges. Ambassadors, etc, are appointed according to their loyalty to a particular party in power.
6. Issue of neglect: Neglect in areas of provision of amenities may happen to communities that did not give their votes to the party in government.
7. Apathy: Some people are apathetic to politics. They see political parties as not living up to their expectations, especially in the area of fulfilling their electoral promises.
8. Party disloyalty: Carpet crossing is a common feature of political parties. It makes nonsense
of the earlier vowed loyalty an individual has made to his party.
TYPES AND STRUCTURES OF POLITICAL PARTY
1. Branch/mass parties: This type of party cuts across tribes, interests, and individuals. People wishing to become members are free to join. Membership of mass parties is mainly composed of different sections of the society. The program or manifestos of such parties are directed towards the welfare of the people.
2. Caucus/elitist parties: It is made up of people of the upper class in the society. These people believe that the control of government should be their preserve. Also, it should be in the hands of those with distinction and high intellectual standing.
3. Religious parties: Religious doctrines existing in a country determine the formation of these parties. In some countries, religious parties are very strong in the political process e.g lran.
4. Broker parties: It Is a party of both the rich and the poor. They work towards bridging the gap between the rich and the poor and promoting equality and the welfare of the people.
5. Charismatic parties: Individuals with unique and enviable qualities, talent, etc, can form these parties. People are attracted to these parties because of the charisma of those individuals that formed them. For example, NPC of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto in the First Republic, NCNC of Dr.Nnamdi Azikiwe, A.G. of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, etc.
Factors Which Determine the Electoral Success of a Political Party
1. Manifesto: If a political party has a good manifesto, this may produce overwhelming support for the party at elections.
2. Realistic past performance: A good track record of a political party may give it an edge over others.
3. Spread of membership: A political party has more chances of victory at the polls if followers cut across the society.
4. Organisation: Well planned organizational
the structure can produce better chances for a
party at elections.
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