Understanding political parties

The View From Taft
Reynaldo A. Bautista, Jr.

Posted on November 08, 2012

OCTOBER 31, 2012, marked the last day of registration for voters in the May 2013 midterm election. Consistent with the expectations of Commission on Elections (Comelec), registrants formed long queues and swamped their offices on the same day to beat the deadline. On the brighter side, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. announced that the poll body has met and could even have exceeded its target of 50 million registered voters. Furthermore, Brillantes declared that the Comelec will come out with a final list of voters by December.

More than enduring the hassle (especially for buzzer beaters) of getting registered, the bigger hurdle of citizens is to know the candidates deeper and determine who merit their votes. In deciding, one might find it helpful to know the political party to which a candidate belongs. Political parties link the government and the people. Through political parties, citizens can voice their sentiments and aspirations to the government.

In his book The Dictionary of Politics, Robertson David noted that a political party is also a polity or miniature political system with an authority structure, patterns of power distribution, a representative process, electoral and decision-making system. In this connection, the political parties are looked upon as an institution or a mechanism that, in a sense, stands between the public, particularly the voters, and the government. Consider the Liberal Party (LP), the party to which President Benigno Aquino III belongs. The LP aims to realize its 16-Point Agenda, which includes eradicating corruption, reducing poverty through more accessible education and rural development, affording equal justice for the rich and the poor, appointing of public officials with a high level of integrity, promoting gender equality, maintaining peace and order, and protecting the environment. The goals of LP reflect the integral purpose of political parties to bridge the government and the people through programs targeted at nation-building.

In a related publication entitled The Need for Political Parties, Miloö Brunclík stated that political parties usually promote an ideology -- a coherent set of specific values, norms, opinions, and attitudes, which explain and evaluate social processes and problem areas, guide citizens in a certain direction, and offer solutions to societal issues (for example, liberalism, conservatism, or socialism). For example, the ideologies of LP include upholding freedom, fighting corruption, respecting the majesty of democratic rule, and taking responsibility for the nation’s future. It is therefore essential that we reflect both on political parties’ ideologies and our personal principles to determine whether a match exists between the two. The agenda promoted by political parties speaks of the changes that they intend to should they win. Conscientious voters who juxtapose their values with the respective advocacies of political parties will be guided in choosing their candidates.

We need to learn if elected parties have lived up to their promises or if they merely courted the public with stunning but unfulfilled promises. We must be wary of changes in platforms of political parties that ride on public opinion polls alone. Constantly changing political agenda, without accomplishing the previous one, should raise a red flag about the level of seriousness of a group to genuinely serve the society. Consistency in pursuing a particular advocacy signals the sincerity of intentions of the political party.

Definitely, there is no full-proof way of determining who among the candidates sincerely intend to serve the people and country. Nonetheless, we voters are responsible for choosing intelligently whom to support on election day. Beyond knowing the candidates’ names and credentials, learning the dynamics of politics, such as the roles of political parties, can give us powerful information critical to identifying aspirants who warrant our support. After all, when we cast our votes, we delegate our power to these people to shape the future of our nation.

(The writer is an assistant professor at the Ramon V. Del Rosario College of Business of De La Salle University. He teaches Basic Marketing, Product Management, Management of Organizations, and Human Resources subjects. He can be reached at reynaldo.bautista@dlsu.edu.ph. The views expressed above are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official position of De La Salle University and its faculty and administrators).