A prominent British political theorist, Harold Laski noted a flaw in the concept of the party system many years ago, when he said, “To say that parties are natural, is not to say that they are perfect.” In order to understand this statement and challenge the belief that political parties fit in perfectly with democracy, it is important to analyse the many drawbacks associated with party politics, that are influencing attitudes and reshaping the future political landscape.
‘Anti-politics’ is a term used to define those who prefer organisations and political movements over political parties. The rising popularity of Green parties demonstrate the rise of anti-parties that follow a system of party organisation, but stand against the notion of parliamentary compromise and, instead, support popular mobilisation.
In the contemporary world, political decisions are largely influenced by social agents, such as class and religious differences, which has led to the birth of postmaterialism. As a consequence, single-issue groups and social movements are seen evolving as an alternative to parties. Protest groups are drawing more members, as they seem to be playing a more active role in comparison to party members, who are usually confined in their activism by only attending meetings or committees.
Other reasons associated with a decline in party politics could be explained by the corruption associated with ‘insider’ parties. Having connections with the government and politicians, they serve to threaten the legitimacy of parties for voters.
Mobilisation, partisanship and party organisation can also be pinned down as key points accounting for this decline. A decline in partisanship has meant that voters base their decision on the candidate’s personal characteristics, rather than party loyalty, which has caused parties to lose grip over their monopoly power. ‘Realignments’, which involve sudden drastic changes, such as those in the organisation of political parties, weakens support due to increased competition and a fall in party loyalty.
This evidence suggests that although the concept of political parties does still exist, there has, to a certain extent, been a decline in party politics as there are alternatives to overcome the disadvantages associated with parties and these alternatives might see their influence increase in the near future. The implications of such a change provides interesting insights into the future of politics.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2016.
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