To what extent do political parties promote democracy? Essay

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To what extent do political parties promote democracy? (25 marks)

Political parties have many functions, one of which is to uphold the principles of a democratic political system. A democratic political system is one which involves various features, such as a peaceful transition of power from one government to another, free and fair regular elections, people having open access to independent information, government accountability to the people and representative institutions and that the government operates in the broad interests of the people. Democracy can take a number of forms, the main two being representative and direct democracy. In the UK a representative democracy is in place. Arguably, the mere existence of political
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In the UK, a referendum result is not binding on Parliament because Parliament remains sovereign. However it is virtually unthinkable that the UK Parliament would defy the expressed result of a referendum. It is Parliament and government that determine whether a referendum is to be held and what the question may be. Although the public cannot directly influence the government through a referendum, their opinions on the matter proposed will have a significant effect on the final decision made, which gives the public a higher sense of authority. There was a 1998 vote to approve of an elected London mayor, which was necessary as it was going to change the governance of the capital city, so the consent of Londoners was vital. It also implied some increase in taxation, again making consent essential. Referendums increase the publics influence in the political sphere, therefore by using them, political parties are promoting democracy.

However referendums are rarely held, and politicians/political parties as a whole usually make important decisions, and don’t often require the assistance of the public. Many issues that could be used in a referendum are argued to be ‘too complex’ for the majority of the people to understand, let alone make a judgement on. For example issues arising from proposed European Union treaties may well be too complex for popular consideration. Many would argue that such matters should be left to our

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