Update > The Role of Political Parties in a Democracy

The Role of Political Parties in a Democracy


All constitutional democracies rely on political parties, and a large majority of constitutions worldwide recognize the beneficial role of political parties in supporting democracy. In contrast, authoritarian regimes typically suppress party competition.

Parties have become a central element of constitutional democracy because they are uniquely placed to perform several key functions. Some of these key democratic functions include:

1. Political parties establish structures for the peaceful competition for power open debate of diverse ideas and suggestions (competition);

2. Political parties represent, articulate and aggregate citizens’ interests in structures of government (representation);

3. Political parties promote stable and coherent government and lawmaking in parliament (stability); and

4. Political parties provide effective structures for opposition politics and for holding government to account (accountability).

A democratic electoral system requires these functions to function effectively. The aims, way of working and structure of political parties make parties ideal actors to fulfil these crucial requirements of representative democracy.

References to the Importance of Political Parties in the Constitutions of Germany and Spain

Germany, Article 21

“(1) Political parties participate in the formation of the political will of the people. They may be freely established. Their internal organization must conform to democratic principles. They must publicly account for their assets and for the sources and the use of their funds.”

Spain, Article 6 [Political Parties]

“Political parties express democratic pluralism, assist in the formulation and manifestation of the popular will, and are a basic instrument for political participation. Their creation and the exercise of their activity are free within the observance of the Constitution and the laws. Their internal structure and operation must be democratic.”