Political Party | Party System | Definition & Types

Political party can be defined as a group of people or an organized group of people who seek to control the government in order to put their ideologies or programmes into practice. Dr. B.C. Nwankwo (1990), in his own definition of political party, defined it as an organized people of individuals seeking to seize the power of the government in order to enjoy the benefits to be derived from such control.

Furthermore, a political party exists primarily as an electoral machine for gaining power with no coherent philosophy and its deep ideological aims.

Therefore a political party can be summoned up as an organized group of people or individuals whose intentions are to control the apparatus of the state, if given the opportunity to form government.

Types of Political Party


This is the type of political party mainly formed by the elites in the society. Membership to this type of political party is strictly restricted to intellectuals or technocrats, economic or academic bodies.

Elite or cadre party is not interested in the number of members but on the quality of the members.

They strongly believe that a man of high education background or influence can easily attract electorates during elections than men of low intellectual abilities.


The term mass party has been used or applied to political parties because of certain techniques of organization and control.

The parties were formal organization found during the 19th century that helped in the effective support of the mass of the people who became enfranchised.

Mass parties believe in winning as many supports as possible. The basic assumption of the party is that, there is power in number or that mass is strength.


Direct party is formed when members join the party, sign membership forms, pay their monthly dues and attend party meeting regularly.

In direct party, people are allowed to register as individuals and not as group like the trade unionism.

Examples of direct party are the types of parties that exist in the present Nigeria democratic system.


When membership of political party is through trade union or other organizations, it is regarded as indirect party.

In indirect party there is no room or provision for individuals joining the party directly, rather, membership is through organizations.

Examples of indirect parties are the catholic or socialist parties in Soviet Union and France, the Labour party in Britain.


Ideological party does not aim at achieving mass support or attracting mass membership but to ensure that their ideologies are kept and maintained.

Therefore, if you accept the membership of ideological party, you must make sure that the entire party ideological proposals are realized.

In ideological party, if a member is detected to be defaulting, the member will be sacked. Example of ideological party is the communist party of the Soviet Union.

Functions of Political Parties


The most important function of a political party is to win political power in order to put its ideology into practice.

Every party has its own ideology and manifesto, the manifesto contains what the political party intends to achieve if elected into power.

When a party wins election, it gains the political power to carry out its ideology.


Political parties project or propose all the candidates needed to stand for the elections into different offices.

The political parties will first of all do party nominations before the candidates stand for elections.

It’s the duty of parties to select who represent their party in different position of government during election.


Another vital function of political parties is to educate the electorate on the need to participate in election, educating the electorate help increase their morale on the need to cast their vote wisely during election.

Many persons will fail to vote if not because of the training or political education given to the voters by political parties.


Political parties carry out propaganda agenda which aim at criticizing the party in power and the activities to the people.

Therefore political parties always oppose the actions of other political parties especially the parties in power.

Political parties criticize other political party in order to gain electorate attention to their party manifesto.


Political parties may be expected to assume responsibility for the behavior of their members in office.

The amount of responsibility varies according to the degree of control exercised by the central party organization.


By their activities between and during political campaigns, political parties help to form public opinion.

However, the discriminating person needs to consult the utterances of the major parties and be able to draw a balance in order to understand most of the issues at stake.

It is the duty of a political party to find out the opinion of the electorate towards their selected party flag bearer.

Party System

Party system simply means the formation, structure as well as the organization of political parties. The Nation of Nigeria operates multi party system.  

Types of Party System.


One party system or single party system as it is sometimes called means the type of party system where only one political party is legally recognized by law to operate.

In one party system no other political party is allowed by law to operate and any opposition party is seen as treason.

This system is generally associated with authoritarian governments. One party system is considered to be a continuation of despotic and arbitrary rule associated with absolute governments of the past.

In communist state, no effective opposition is allowed, for example, in Germany, there is the German Democratic Republic (Eastern Germany) etc.


This exists in state where party competition is allowed and where one political party always achieves an absolute majority of the votes of the electorates, and hence dominates the government.

For instance, in South Africa there is no coalition political parties, the national party has been in office since 1948.

Also, in India, the Indian National Congress has been the only party in government since independence.


Under this system, there are two major political parties as may be found in the United States of America and Britain, where the two dominant parties have the chances of winning or obtaining majority seats in the legislature after every election.

It has been suggested that a two party system introduces an element of artificiality into the political process.

Two-party system does not mean that only two political parties exist in the country but it means that only two parties are viable to form the government.


This type of party system particularly features in European States. For instance, Multi-party system has operated in countries such as Italy, Switzerland, France under the third of fourth republic, Nigeria under the first, second as well as fourth republic.

It is found, where there are parliamentary or cabinet system of governments. In multi party system, government tends to be a coalition of more than one party.

Therefore, conclusively, multi party system of government is a situation whereby more than two political parties are allowed by law to operate in the state or in the country.

Currently Nigeria is practicing multi party system; this multi party system has given rise to many political parties in Nigeria.

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