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Political Party Ideologies


Political parties attempt to gain political power through proposing a programme (and the leadership to implement that programme) that will gain the support of the electorate. Parties develop this programme to attract the most voters by focusing on those issues and problems that will resonate with the voters, in order to gain a mandate for governance in order to address those issues and problems. The nature of the supporters, issues, problems, and policy suggestions that parties propose form a basis for analyzing parties according to a number of factors and typologies that can be used to better understand the party landscape.

Party ideologies

Ideologies are comprehensive visions of societies and social developments, which contain explanations, values, and goals for past, present and future developments. Ideologies inspire and justify political and social action. They are an essential element for political orientation. Some academics and commentators claim that ideology is playing less and less of a role in party politics. They argue that today, political parties are stressing their ideological roots less than their pragmatic approach with regard to social and political challenges. However, others argue that ideologies are still important for the development and identification of political programmes. This in particular, is important for political parties to reflect on. Those who are active in politics should know the different ideological strands. This is relevant not only for defining one’s own political position, but also for evaluating other political positions and eventually for debating and competing with them for votes.

The left-right dimension

Political parties are often classified as left-wing, right-wing, and center parties. At the heart of the left-right dimension in politics lies a profound difference between (1) the left, which favors the welfare state and government intervention in society and the economy in order to achieve a degree of equality of opportunity, and (2) those on the right, who favor less government intervention and a market economy, although they often favor strong government in the interests of domestic law and order and national security. The left-right dimension is becoming less important with the decline of class differences in many democracies, but more important in some industrializing democracies, where a rapidly growing urban working class is combining with poor agricultural workers.

Box: Party Ideologies in South East and South Asia

The Liberal Party of the Philippines

The Liberal Party’s ideology includes a commitment to “an open, diverse, democratic society, based on a market economy, political openness, and an honest, effective government that will serve the interests of the majority of Filipinos.”

The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV)

The CPV is the only legal political party in that country, and is in control of the state’s institutions, including the civil bureaucracy, military, police, the courts, and the state-controlled media.

Indonesia’s Partai Amanat Nasional (National Mandate Party) (PAN)

PAN’s ideology includes respect for the rule of the people, a commitment to democracy,progress and social justice with roots in religious values. The party’s ideology is based on five principles (Pancasila): religion, community, unity, representative democracy and social justice.

The Nepali Congress Party (NC)

The NC supports a democratic society based on the value of pluralism. The party claims to avoid the dangers of extreme left and extreme right ideologies. The NC has a centrist ideology. It wants to promote economic growth at the same time as protecting social justice and equality.


Box: Categories of Ideologies

This section has focused on three of the most influential ideologies: liberalism, conservatism, and socialism. However, there is a huge range of other ideologies that are also very relevant in politics. The following list outlines some of these according to various categories. Some of these ideologies can be seen in the political compass in figure xx.

Ideologies focused on the individual person

Liberalism, Neo-liberalism, Conservatism, Christian Democracy

Egalitarian ideologies

Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Stalinism, Maoism, Anarchism

Ideologies focused on the collective

Socialism, Democratic Socialism, Social Democracy, Communism, Marxism, National Socialism

Ideologies focused on ethnicity or nationality

Nationalism, Regionalism, Fascism, National-Socialism, Ethno-nationalism

Ideologies focused on tradition

Conservatism, Christian Democracy, Neo-Conservatism

Ideologies based on religions

Christian Socialism, Christian Democracy

Totalitarian ideologies

National Socialism, Communism, Marxism, Stalinism, Maoism

Other ideologies

Green Politics, Ecologism, Feminism

Source: Political Parties: Functions and Organization in Democratic Societies