Forming a Government
A party that wins an election will supply the prime minister and other ministers to look after various departments of state.
The policies expressed in the manifestos are designed for translation into government programmes.
Being the Official Opposition
If a party does not win a general election, and providing it has the second largest number of seats, it becomes the official opposition, or the alternative government in waiting.
- It is their role to keep the ruling government in check by questioning their decisions.
The manifesto represents a list of policy proposals.
By publishing their proposed policies, it gives the electorate a clear choice and a means of measuring party successes or failures.
Linking the Individual to the Political System
Political parties act as a vehicle by which individuals can attain power.
However, individuals or small groups of the electorate find it very difficult for their interests to be represented as parties take a broader view and will tend to adopt policies in the interests of the nation rather than small groups or individuals.
Mobilising and Recruiting
Political parties also provide an opportunity for activists to join an organisation and, through their work for the party, become trained politicians.
Over time, an individual, having joined a party can represent it at various levels and possibly even in government and parliament.
Ideally, the policies of a party represent various views. Parties select and mould ideas and turn them into clear policies and proposals.
- This is known as an aggregate of interests.
Only when this has been achieved can the policies be presented as clear ideas and proposals to the electorate.
Individuals can become involved with political parties at a number of different levels. This can be things like delivering leaflets or canvassing (encouraging votes from the electorate for a particular party).
Some will become more involved and will attend conferences, while others will stand as representatives of the party at various tiers of the government.
Parties represent an indiviual's preference for one type of country compared to another and should cut across ideologies, classes and ethnic groups.
Communicating and Providing Choice
Through the manifesto and the key leaders of a political party, ideas can be communicated to the party membership and to the broader electorate - Parties provide a link betweeen the government and individuals and groups in the country.
By publically discussing policies, there can be debates between competing ideologies, offering the electorate a clear choice between the different approaches displayed by the parties.