What are Political Parties?

In this podcast we look at the role and functions of political parties in a multi-party democratic system. 

Political parties are organised groups of people who share similar ideas and values about how a country should be governed.

Political parties provide vehicles for citizens to come together to campaign for public office, and to express their interests, needs and aspirations for the society they live in.

Political parties are found in all representative democracies. Although there are countries that are not democracies, but which have political parties, there are no democratic countries without political parties.

The purpose of most political parties is to win an election, hold political power and form a government until the next election. However, even small parties that are unlikely to win an election can gain seats in Parliament and thereby influence public policy. Sometimes, small parties decide to formally co-operate with bigger ones, forming a coalition. In this way they can participate in government.

The party that wins an election is called the ‘ruling’ or ‘governing’ party because that party will govern the country until the next election.

Political parties that lose an election are called ‘opposition’ parties. They will stand against the government in Parliament and will use their time in opposition to build public support in order to contest and try to win the next election, or at least more seats.