By a political party, then, we mean an organised group of citizens who hold common views on public questions and acting as a political unit seek to obtain control of the government with a view to further the programme and the policy which they profess.
MacIver defines a political party “as an association organised in support of some principle or policy which by constitutional means it endeavours to make the determinant of government.”
Leacock compares it to a joint-stock company to which each member contributes his share of political power. Every political party is based upon two fundamental aspects of human nature. The first is that men differ in their opinions, but, at the same time, they are gregarious by nature.
If they are to live in society they must adjust their differences with others and agree on fundamentals of certain opinions. Secondly, they combine with persons holding similar views in order to put forward those views in an organised manner, and to support the principles or policy which they jointly favour and support. Five conditions are, accordingly, necessary to constitute a political party:
1. That there must be a certain measure of agreement on fundamental principles which can bind the people together as a political unit. They may differ on details, but there should be no difference of opinion on principles they stand for. If there is no agreement on fundamentals, they cannot cooperate with one another and achieve their political ends; the desire to attain political power.
2. That the men and women holding similar views must be duly organised. Without proper organisation the people make just a disorganised crowd and it is impossible to conform to the common principles on which they agree. It is their organisation into a permanently cohesive body that enables them to acquire strength so as to act in conceit.
3. That the men so banded and organized should formulate a clear and specific programme which they should place before the electorate to win their support and devise all possible means to maintain it. They can only succeed in their mission if all solidly stand for that programme and present a united front. Even the slightest deviation is sure to plague the party.
4. That a political party should seek to carry out its policy by constitutional means. It is the ballot box which should decide the fate of a political party and its claim to form the government. Any organisation that aims at employing unconstitutional methods, that is, to seize power by violence and suppress all other parties, is not a party in the sense we view a political party.
5. That all political parties must endeavour to promote national interests as distinguished from sectarian or communal interests. Burke defines a political party as “a body of men united, for promoting by their joint endeavours the national interests upon some particular principle in which they are all agreed.”
When a political party directs its activities in furthering sectional interests and selfish ends, it degenerates into a faction. A faction is a loosely united group of men who unite to achieve sectional interests as opposed to national interests.
It will, thus, be clear that a political party without a well-knit organization is nothing. It has neither the means to present nor to promote its programme. It has no national appeal to make and no possibility to succeed in its political mission in winning elections and forming the government.
The old conception that a political party is a group of men professing the same political doctrine is not the entire truth now. The emphasis has shifted from ideology to organization and this has been necessitated by the extension in the franchise and consequently the nationwide appeal a political party should have for its programme.
Roucek Huszar has said that a political party “is held together, primarily by its ideology and organisation.” Carl Friedrich defines a political party as “a group of human beings, stably organized with the objective of securing or maintaining for its leaders the control of a government, and with the further objective of giving to members of the party, through such control, ideal benefits and advantages.”