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It’s election time again. Some might say this is not the right time to even suggest that political parties are losing all relevance. Others would contend that political parties remain dormant all these five years between two elections and suddenly gain life when it is election time. Their suggestion being that political parties do not perform the functions they are supposed to and become active just to contest election and potentially come to power.

But what is the essential function that a political party is supposed to perform? In any democratic polity, a political party is essentially the formal actor without which the system cannot function. It must have an ideology and a programme to attract people to the party and not just as voters at the time of a particular election. However, it is the large scale defections from one king’s party to the other at the time of election that puts political parties under a shadow of doubt.

Is this cynicism ill-founded or do we need to take a critical look at the political parties in this country, the historical processes that founded them, the challenges they face internally as parties and from outside the system? At this particular point in time, when most serious analysts think that a massive engineering has already taken place to manipulate the election results, we at The News on Sunday want to assess the worth of the entire political process and the strengths or weaknesses of the political parties and how they cope with the system.

Read also: Party to disillusionment

There is an analysis of the phenomenon of ‘electables’ which are said to have held the entire political system hostage. How do the political parties respond to the challenge of electables? What about the parties being driven by leaders and not the workers and their upward mobility? What about dynastic politics within the party? Most importantly, what about the induction of civil society, intelligentsia and ideologues?

The political parties must address this deliberate attempt to depoliticise the society by setting their own house in order.


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