Political Parties and the Electoral Process
Political parties are the vehicles used by individuals contesting for various representative positions in Government in an attempt to assume office. The term political party broadly refers to the organization which provides the platform for politicians to ascend to power. In truth, however, the party encompasses the organization, the party structure and its leadership. In addition to this it also takes into consideration the politicians and the voters who align themselves to the party and remain loyal to its ideals. Political systems refer to the manner in which political parties package or brand themselves in relation to other parties in order to remain competitive.
The means of choosing the candidates to hold office is more often than not an election. Elections provide the electorate with choice and have increasingly become an important democratic and conflict resolution tool. Candidates can either be elected directly by the electorate e.g. the House Representatives or indirectly by representatives e.g. the Senators. Elections provide a medium for the electorate to effect policy changes and change in governance. Electoral systems basically put in place the mechanisms that regulate political contests.
According to Bielasiak, Duverger’s law seeks to critically look at the relationship between electoral systems and party systems. He opines that in a plurality electoral system the winner by even a simple majority takes office and this tends to create two-party systems. Democratic considerations such as proportional representation (PR) on the other hand ensure the winning party gets more seats corresponding to its vote’s share. Proportional representation therefore tends to breed multiparty systems. In well established democracies, political parties’ front candidates, run campaigns and the party manifestos give impetus to the candidates election pledges.
Electoral processes and their accompanying rules and regulations tend to influence the political systems and in turn the voting psychology. Take for instance in a plurality system where a simple majority will suffice to grant the winner office. Small parties with no hope of winning tend to form pre-contest coalitions to have a greater appeal and attract a larger constituency of voters. On the other hand in a proportional representation system where legislative seats are based on party votes share. Parties with ideological similarities and common interests may converge to capture more seats. Not to be left out, voters tend to favor viable candidates with less likelihood of losing and hence tend to coalesce around the ‘restructured’ larger parties.
In Conclusion, Political parties are a very important aspect of modern governance and democracy. Parties operate under the law of the land, their own set of rules and by virtue of being electoral vehicles; they also operate under electoral process regulations. In this way Duverger’s law explains the relationship between electoral processes and systems and political parties and systems. The idea therefore is for parties to come up with strategies to influence voting patterns by taking into account the dynamics of the interrelationships.