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Ten Principles for a Functional Political Party

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Tariq Mahmood Awan

Political parties are formed to attain power and implement an agenda. Therefore, they should be organized and attract the vast majority of the people. The functions of political parties are fundamental to the operation of a democratic system. Acting as intermediaries between the state and its citizens, political parties play a crucial role in establishing and maintaining a responsive relationship between public policy and popular opinion. By facilitating this relationship, they contribute to the effective functioning of the democratic process.

In addition to their intermediary role, political parties also serve to reduce information and transaction costs associated with political participation. They provide vital resources such as voters’ information, policy packaging, and predictions of likely allies, thus enabling citizens to make informed decisions and engage meaningfully in the political process.

Furthermore, political parties are central to the competition for political power. They aim to gain and retain power through the electoral process, and once in power, they play a significant role in articulating social interests, directing political institutions, and occupying decision-making positions. This articulation and direction are essential for the effective functioning of the democratic system.

Moreover, political parties are critical to the process of democratization. They contribute to the formation of a democratic culture and are instrumental in ensuring that diverse societal interests are represented within the political system. To uphold their integrity, political parties should be granted the autonomy to form, organize, and operate independently while maintaining a clear separation between parties and the state.

An optimal party system should incorporate a sufficient number of serious political parties capable of representing diverse voter types without overwhelming citizens with high information costs. It is crucial to discourage the ‘factionalization’ of political parties. This term refers to the division of a party into small, often competing, groups. Factionalization can lead to fragmentation and weaken the party’s ability to effectively represent the interests of the public.

Hence, political parties’ functions are multifaceted and essential to the successful operation of a democratic society. Their roles encompass not only intermediation and the reduction of information costs but also extend to the acquisition and responsible exercise of political power and the facilitation of democratization. Careful management of these functions is vital to ensure the effective representation of diverse interests while preserving the integrity of the democratic process.

The first principle of a political party, its ideology, is not just a guiding light but a beacon of inspiration that has the transformative power to shape the very fabric of our society. This ideology is not just critical; it is transformative, with the power to inspire and motivate and, ultimately, shape our political landscape’s direction.

The second crucial principle for a functional political party is the calibre of its leadership. How is leadership chosen or appointed? Does the party follow a system of inheritance, or do party members democratically elect leadership? These decisions significantly impact the party’s direction and effectiveness.

The third fundamental principle of a functional political party is its ‘organic constitution ‘. This term refers to a constitution that is developed and evolves naturally over time, reflecting the party’s values, methods, procedures, and functions. It serves as a crucial guide, ensuring that the party operates in accordance with its principles, thereby maintaining its integrity and effectiveness.

The organization is a political party’s fourth principle. An organized political party will only attain its objectives. Organizing political parties at the grassroots level is critical. ‘Organizational capacity’ refers to the party’s ability to effectively manage its resources, coordinate its activities, and mobilize its members towards its goals. Examples of organizational capacity include efficient communication systems, well-structured decision-making processes, and effective campaign strategies. Maintaining organizational standards is vital.

The fifth principle is ‘internal democracy ‘, a vital component for the development and growth of a political party. This term refers to the practice of democratic decision-making within the party, where all members have the right to participate, express their views, and vote on party matters. Merit-based intra-party elections are not just vital; they are a testament to the inclusion and importance of every party member. All wings of a political party must be functional. Merit-based elections for different tiers are integral to electing central and regional leadership.

Representation is the sixth principle of a democratic political party. The party leadership should not just come from the ranks but represent all ages, genders, classes (primarily middle and lower middle classes ), professions, and communities. This diverse representation is a testament to our commitment to inclusivity and the strength of our party.

The seventh principle is the ‘art of electioneering ‘. This term refers to the strategies and tactics a political party uses to influence voters and win elections. The fundamental objective is to attain power through elections; therefore, the art of electioneering is vital for a political party. How does a political party convince the voters to vote through voting processes? What is the ticket-awarding mechanism in parliamentary governance? How are better candidates chosen? Are election management campaigns with technology carried out?

The eighth principle is disseminating manifesto, ideology, performance, and propaganda. Furthermore, countering the propaganda of other political parties is also essential. A political party must handle Social, print, and electronic media to its advantage. Building narratives and counter-narratives can lead to political discourse. Therefore, political recruitment is vital for a functional political party.

The ninth principle is the ‘governance capacity’ of a political party. This term refers to the party’s ability to effectively govern and manage public affairs after coming into power. Developing strong governance capacity involves equipping party members and leaders with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to govern effectively. This includes providing training, promoting good governance practices, and fostering leadership development in legislation and implementation. It also involves creating a system for policy development, decision-making, and implementation.

The tenth principle concerns a political party’s accountability mechanism. How does a political party induct, recruit, retain, sustain, and elect political workers, leadership, and human resources? A solid internal and organizational accountability system will ensure a merit-based political party.

Political parties are vital for democratic governance. Pakistan needs middle-class, representative, and merit-based political parties, which are vital for political stability, democracy, and good governance.

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