A political party is an association between people united by the same vision, identity, line or political purpose of public interest or relating to fundamental issues concerning the management of the State and society or even only on specific or particular issues. The activity of the political party, aimed at operating for the common interest, local or national, is carried out through the space of public life with the definition of a political program or plan to be pursued and, in the current representative democracies, has as its "scope prevailing "the electoral one.
Definitions and functions
According to Max Weber, "parties must be understood as associations established in order to give their leaders a position of power within a social group and their active militants opportunities for the pursuit of objective goals and / or for the pursuit of personal advantages ". In the definition of the American political scientist Anthony Downs, the political party is "a team of people who seek to gain control of the government apparatus following regular elections". The central elements of the definitions are therefore:
The party is an association;
The party's aim is to direct public decisions;
The party's aims are mainly achieved through participation in elections;
The main strategy is the occupation of elected offices. Parties are mediators between the state and citizens. The parties in fact carry out the function of controlling the governed over the rulers: in fact, since the candidates appear on party lists, it is more easily punishable a possible breach of the pact of trust between the elected candidate and the voters who voted for him. (no longer voting for the party to which he belongs). Parties structure the vote: this is because the candidates in the elections are predominantly members of a party, and because the party is the entity with which the voters identify themselves. It performs a function of political socialization, since through their action the parties educate the voters for democracy. Finally, while interest groups articulate the interests of citizens, parties are concerned with aggregating these interests.
The party system is the set of parties linked by a logical relationship. The classic distinction proposed by Maurice Duverger divides them into one-party, two-party, multi-party systems.
One-party systems characterize the so-called "one-party" regimes. Historical examples were fascisms (fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain) and Royal Socialism (USSR, despite the fact that in the pre-Stalin era the party was divided into Trotskyist, Menshevik and Stalinist factions, and the still existing Vietnam and Cuba).
Two-party systems characterize regimes such as the Anglo-Saxon ones (eg United Kingdom and United States of America). Such a system exists when the usual two large parties capable of forming a one-color government always prevail in parliament.
Multi-party systems characterize the majority of regimes (eg Latin America and Italy) born from the succession and crystallization of social conflicts. Such systems can be characterized by heterogeneous coalitions. According to Duverger's theories, two-party systems are influenced by the one-round majority electoral system and multi-party ones by the proportional one.
A theory contrary to Duverger's has been proposed by Giovanni Sartori. The number of parties in a system should not be calculated simply on the basis of the actual number of existing parties, but by means of a "smart count" that considers only parties with two potentials:
Coalition potential. If the party that is a member of a ruling coalition is in a given period of time required, at least once, to determine the ruling majority.