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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

POLITICAL PARTIES AND PRESSURE GROUPS IN PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION


     Societies comprise complex groupings of individuals into social and economic class structure and each class structure generates and nurtures specific interests particular to it and at other times in variance with interests of other groups in the same society. This constitutes the element of social stratification and both politics and government are not only affected by it but are made inevitable by it. Thus, the dynamics of class relations exists in every society except only in those societies where the dominant group or class structure has been successful in imposing its views and values on the other subordinate groups (Parkins  1971: 84).

   Political parties and pressure groups have a most crucial role to play in any democracy. According to Anifowose and Enemuo (1999), not to have a properly functioning party system and pressure groups in a supposedly democratic country is worse than tea without sugar, it is like trying to pass brown water as tea. There can be no meaningful democracy without a properly functioning party and pressure groups process. It is obvious, therefore that parties and pressure groups constitute the heart of democracy- the more vigorous and healthy they are, the better assured is the health of  the democratic process itself.

     In this essay we will see the definition of political parties and pressure groups and try to give the comparison between political parties and pressure groups and how political parties and pressure groups are in public opinion formation.

                                        DEFINITION OF POLITICAL PARTIES

      Political parties are one of the key and inevitable features of a liberal democracy. Although individuals have in the past been successful in securing candidacy, they are becoming less and less frequent in modern politics. It is more efficient for like-minded individuals to come together and form organisations that attempt to form a Government, instead of having hundreds of disparate individuals all with different policies and all vying for power. These organisations are the political parties. They can be defined as voluntary organisations made up of members with broadly similar views that seek to form Government through securing the election of its candidates. the fact that these are voluntary organisations shows that it is not compulsory for citizens to join a political party.

      Appadorai (1982) opines that a political party is a more or less organised group of citizens who act together as a political unit, have distinctive aims and opinions on the leading political questions or controversies in the state, and who act together as a political, seek to obtain of the government.

   According to Oyediran (1998) political parties is an organisations that seek to attract the support electorally, of the general public in a political system. They play a direct and substantial role in political recruitment and are often interested in the capture of political power at local, state or federal level of government either alone or in coalition with others. It must be emphasized that political parties that do not not seek to be parment are not likely to be able to successfully seek to capture power.

DEFINITION OF PRESSURE GROUPS

         The term pressure group is used interchangeably with such terms as interest groups or organized interests. Ehrman (1972:468-488) defines pressure groups as voluntary associations of individuals who band together for the defence of a particular interest. Interest in this sense is a conscious desire to have a public policy or the authoritative allocation of values, and to move in a particular, general or specific direction.   

       Pressure groups can be defined as organisations whose members all share common interests and goals, and they wish to influence Government to attain these goals. Pressure groups can focus on a massive range of issues; anything of even vague importance probably has a pressure group campaigning for it somewhere.

       Besides political parties, there are other associations or groups that are essential for an effective democratic political process. These are called pressure groups or interest groups. Amucheazi (1986) states that by studying the pressure groups in the society we are also analyzing the political culture of the society. The groups do not operate in a vacuum but within a political milieu.

   According to Obiajulu and Anthony (2004), a pressure group has been defined as an organised aggregate which seeks to influence the context of governmental decisions without attempting to place its members in formal governmental capacities. Thus, the important aspects of pressure groups are firmly part of the political process and attempts to reinforce or change the direction of government policy, but do not wish, like political parties to become the government.

COMPARISON OF POLITICAL PARTIES AND PRESSURE GROUPS

        Both political parties and pressure groups seek to influence Government, but it is their methods, organisation and ultimate goals that set them apart. Political parties put up candidates for election to the legislature, and by doing so they seek to form a government (or if this is unrealistic, say for a minor party, to influence the current government.). Pressure groups, on the other hand, do not usually put up candidates for election, although this is not always the case. For political parties, however, their main (and usually only) aim is to get as many candidates elected as possible.

    Parties and pressure groups also differ in terms of overall aim. Political parties produce manifestos that cover broad policy areas, such as Health, Education, and Defence, the idea being that citizens will vote for that party because of what the reforms they want to implement to improve the country. Pressure groups, however, usually have a single policy area that they focus on, like the Environment, animal rights, or saving a local school from closure. They will not usually create a manifesto, although general aims will be laid out in a mission statement of sorts.

      According to Obiajulu and Anthony (2004), there are some distinctions between political parties and pressures. Fundamentally pressure groups are the representation of homogeneous interest seeking to influence government decisions. The interest group is strong and effective when it has a direct and specific purpose. Political parties on the other hand, seek political office and combines heterogenous groups. In fact it is one of their major themes to reconcile the diverse forces within a political society.

     Unlike pressure groups which are selfish and concerned with the welfare of thier members only, political parties want to assume direct responsibility for these policies by seeking to monopolise or share with other parties positions of political power.

     We talk of interest group articulation, that is to say that groups express demands and attitudes in the political system and party aggregation, the means by which these demands and attitudes are put into a wider and coherent programme and presented to the electorate. Thus, political parties may be seen as perverting selfish group interest from dominating and distorting the decision making process.

     Political parties perform integrative process of the entire state and do not use any form of divisive tendencies in achieving their objectives. Wheareas the political culture of societies determines the shape, intensity and direction of pressure group activity. Pressure groups are said to be narrow minded, parochial, selfish and insensitive to the cause of the majority whereas the political parties must solicit, negotiate and obtain the mandate, cooperation, solidarity and support of the majority to remain in government.

                     

  POLITICAL PARTIES IN PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION    

         There are several ways in which political parties can influence the creation of policy. The main method for political parties is to form the government in a general election. Examlpe the executive in the UK is the Prime Minister and their cabinet, and it is this group of people that proposes new laws and instigates policies. So, if a political party can form the cabinet of the day, then they can effectively propose any policy they wish.

       However, it is not only the party that forms the government that can create or influence policy. The official opposition party, can constantly scrutinise government policy in debates in the House of senate in the case of Nigeria, ensuring that the government remains accountable. Sometimes, the government of the day actually utilises policies proposed by opposition parties. This gives minority parties a chance to influence policy without being involved in government.

      Political parties formulate and organize public opinion. They are called mobilisers of opinion. Political parties not only make the people aware of various public issues. Their purpose is to make the people politically conscious to think about public problems. Political parties publish journals, pamphlets, leaflets, manifestoes, posters etc. to mould the public opinion in their favour.

       Political parties can also influence policy in a more indirect way, such as allying with pressure groups to boycott or lobby certain companies or organisations. This is usually the work of individual rather than parties.

PRESSURE GROUPS IN PUBLIC OPINION FORMATION

            Pressure groups are able to influene both political parties and members of parliament, this is because both groups require the votes of the public during elections in order to remain in power.     

      Pressure or interest groups are organized groups, having common and social interests,concerned with influencing decision making by putting pressure from outside. Pressure groups have voluntary membership and are found in every country. These pressure groups have a limited and narrow focused issue. They have an informal, closed and unrecognized character. They, unlike political parties, do not contest elections. They put pressure on the government through various techniques so are called pressure groups. Despite this, they play an important role in the politics of the country. The pressure groups contribute to the political activities of the political parties and help in mobilizing the public opinion.   

          Tactics for pressure groups vary wildly depending on the type of pressure group and the cause they are campaigning for, although generally tactics can be separated into direct and indirect action. As a form of direct action, pressure groups can lobby the key policy-makers, These areas of policy creation are known as pressure points, as they are places where pressure can be applied by an interest group in order to influence policy.

          the views, interests and aspirations of the people constitute the core of the democratic system. There are certain groups or associations that try to influence the decision-making or policy formulation by the government in accordance with their specific interests. Such groups are called pressure groups. The government that represents the people carries on administration in accordance with the public opinion expressed by the people. In fact, democracy derives its authority from the people. It seeks people’s opinion on various issues of common interest. Infact, no government whether it is democratic or not, can afford to ignore the public opinion and pressure groups. Every government respects the feelings of the public. It is always keen to know their response to various issues that are directly or indirectly related to them. In any political system, public opinion and pressure groups play a very significant role.

     Pressure groups, like political parties, can also boycott certain companies and organisations. This is often an incredibly powerful tactic, as if they can generate enough support then the organisation will have no choice but to back down. This happened in 1995, where Greenpeace and other pressure groups organised a Europe-wide boycott of the oil company Shell because of their handling of a disused oil platform.

                                                             CONCLUSION  

         In conclusion Political parties and pressure groups are dependent upon one another. Interest groups find the parties an important method of gaining access to those in public authority, and the parties need the support of groups to elect and maintain themselves in power. The loose party structure and the nature of the federal system foster a chain of continuous relationships between the two. Interest groups participate in both nonpartisan and partisan primaries and general elections through candidate endorsement, providing campaign funds, and general campaign activity. Interest groups are particularly interested in programs and seek to influence party platforms and may provide speech materials for candidates. There is some attempt on the part of both to infiltrate each other though rarely has an interest group been able to capture complete control of a party organization. The overlapping memberships help to educate the parties about the interests of the private groups and vice versa, and provide some cross-fertilization of ideas as well as manpower assistance. Political parties have a prime function of accommodating the demands of the private interests into the larger public interests.

 


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