Political Participants Within The Political Parties Politics
In any kind of political system, political parties are always present. They are in fact considered as a fundamental part of any political system. However, as old as the history of political parties is, there still hasn't been any distinct definition of the term 'political parties'. There are lots of definitions given by different scholars and political scientists, but still, there is no universally acknowledged and clear definition of political parties. According to Neil A. McDonald, "Political parties are regarded in various ways by those who have studied and written about them." In accordance to this, we cannot say when a definition of political parties may or may not be accurate simply because the definitions of political parties vary in agreement with the historical, politico-legal, socio-cultural, and spatial environment in which political parties are present (Banlaoi). Nevertheless, Andrew Heywood's definition of political parties gives off quite a good notion of what political parties really are, "A political party is a group of people organized to gain formal representation or win government power; a party usually displays some measure of ideological cohesion". Unclear as the definitions of political parties may be, one clear thing is that political parties exist because they serve certain functions in any kind of a political system. The fact that political parties exist to serve certain functions gives them a significant level of importance in the political system. This level of importance is furthermore increased because political parties are expected to serve as mediating institutions between the government and the public (Poolitikang Pinoy). Many scholars and political scientists have provided different functions of the political parties, but the functions provided by Neumann are the most applicable in a democracy like the Philippines, he stated that democratic political parties' major functions are the following:
To organize the chaotic public.
To present to the individual voter and to his powerful special-interest groups a picture of the community as entity.
To represent the connecting link between the government and public opinion.
To select leaders (Banlaoi).
These four major functions lead us to the fact that in a democratic form of government like the Philippines, the functions and existence of political parties are crucial simply because our government is composed of diverse public interests and political goals and political parties are expected to represent those diverse interests and goals (Poolitikang Pinoy). It is universally agreed upon that for a party system to fulfill these functions better, the political parties and the party system must first be well institutionalized (Randall/Svasand 2002; Mainwaring and Torcal 2006). It is thus assumed that a strong institutionalization is interconnected with the strengthening of a democracy. It is then very helpful to compare degrees of party and party system institutionalization in democracies like the Philippines and Thailand (Ufen 2007).
According to Enoch Powell, political parties, along with electoral reforms, are considered to be important elements of democratic governance. The concept of modern democracy has almost the same meaning with representative democracy. In representative democracy, the people participate in politics through choosing politicians, which are usually from political parties or organizations, by means of elections. Hence, political parties and elections are essential instruments in making a democratic government work. Furthermore, representative democracy is interconnected with party democracy. When democratization happens, almost instantaneously, political parties are formed. Moreover, as soon as political parties are formed in new democracies and as soon as they start interacting within the political system, they build what we call as party systems. Some related literature about political parties states that the pattern of party politics and the development of party systems are results of not just one but various factors (Electoral Reforms and Party Systems).
During the past two decades, many Asian countries have made conversions into a democratic form of government, and among those are the two Southeast Asian countries: the Philippines and Thailand (Reilly). Although the Philippines is considered as the only country in Asia with the longest experience in democracy, because of the fact that the Philippines was under a dictatorial rule for long years during the Marcos regime and the government of the Philippines was only transformed again into a democracy during 1986, therefore it was only during the past two decades that the Philippines went back into democracy. However, despite the already long history of Philippines with democracy, the Philippine party system still remains persistently under-institutionalized. Factors that make the Philippine party system unceasingly weak are the sources of a variety of ills, which include a severe "democratic deficit" (Hutchcroft and Rocamora 2003), a lack of political accountability (Montinola 1999), an under-provision of public goods (Hicken 2008) and a disillusionment with democracy among the Filipino people (Hicken 2009). To sum it all up, what stops the democracy of the Philippines to become stable and the government to experience good governance is the weakly institutionalized party system (Allen Hicken). The Philippines and Thailand have a lot of similarities when it comes to their party systems: (1) both have multi-party systems and; (2) both have developing democracies. Moreover, characteristics of political parties also conclude similarities between the two countries. Nonetheless, there is also one difference that can be useful in the analysis of their party systems, that is the fact that Thailand has a parliamentary form of government while the Philippines has a presidential form of government. These similarities and differences between both countries are the frames of reference of the researcher to come up with a comparative analysis on the party systems of the Philippines and Thailand.
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