Defining Political Parties According to Ayatullah Shirazi

January 26, 2015

By Ahmad Ali (Contributor) There is no right political career without parties competing for power. That is one of the political realities one can see among the democratic countries  around the world. The political parties have a great deal of impact on a democracy when majority is supposed to agree  so one can say that there is no true democracy without the political parties because they are the bases of a democratic society in the modern time is organization through such parties. It is a necessity in a democratic country to have a democratic parliamentary system in which a particular multi-party state participate and contribute to best represent their people which is the vision of true democratic country, As for the importance of  the political parties in the communities we find that there are those who believe in the necessity of its existence as a unit that will be a factor of stability and support for governments and political systems, and there are those who believe it could be divisive and nationalist conflict and instability factor. Definition and Goal of a Political Party John Benoit defines the political party as an organized rally to contribute in the conduct of institutions or access to the highest political authority in the country to implement the program and the interests and of its members. In all of the cases, the aim of every political party is getting into power or at least the influence at the decisions of the governing authority. And if they do not seek the power or the influence it can't be called a political party. And political parties are related to government as a central state authority and representation in Parliament and this relationship isn't on one level, there are distributed in many dimensions there are trends which dominate the political process, and there are other parties which have participation in power, and there are parties which are marginalized in the taking of the political decisions, and there are the opposition parties to the political process who show resistance to the high power authorities. Characteristics and Roles of a Political Party  The political parties have  a number of characteristics which can be summarized as:

  1. Permanence and continuation.
  2. National regulation.
  3. Seek to get into power and thus they distinct from the civil society organizations because they don't seek it, and this also what distinct them from lobbyists and pressure groups, these groups seek to achieve their aims in many ways and styles, but does not seek to reach them.
  4. Seeking the popular support.
  5. A party should have a political-social-economic vision which defines the it's identity and the nature of it's composition from the community and the social and political aims that the party is trying to achieve when it reaches the power.
The functions of the parties are
  1. Activate the political life: through political competitions, and showing their programs and ideas and attempts to gain the support of the public opinion to win the elections and stay in power.
  2. Forming the public opinion: through directing the citizens and make them aware of the political problems and explain their proposals to solve them, and encourage them to participate in the public affairs and formulate their opinions in a certain direction.
  3. The formation of political leaders: as the party starts to train its members to engage in political work practice the power and nominate them for the general elections and then take public positions.
  4. Achieve political stability: through driving the trends of public opinions to control and regulate the aspirations of the citizens and contribute to solve their problems.
Types of Political Systems And when it come to the types of party systems most of the specialists have adopted the triple division when they study the types of political systems, unilateral, bilateral and pluralistic, as follows:
  1. One-party system: a non-competitive system makes the political actions monopolized on one party, it has been invented by the Marxism, Nazism and fascism, And it spread to the countries of the Third World, but many of those countries has left it behind with the democratic developments that occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  2. Bipartisan system: it's based on the presence of tow major parties in the country which are vying for power, and one of them wins and the other stays in a constructive opposition.
  3. Multiparty system: This system is based on the presence of three or more parties in the country who are competing to reach the power.
Because of his awareness of the importance of political parties and their role in the life of society, the grand scholar Ayatullah Muhammad al-Husseini al-Shirazi wrote (the grace of god be upon him) about this subject in more than one of his books. The Consultation in Islam In his book (Shura in Islam) "the Consultation in Islam", which was published for the tenth time in 1999 Ayatullah Muhammad al-Husseini al-Shirazi  talks about this subject starting with the definition of the party and which he sees it as Arabic definition (in Arabic the words meaning is: a team or a group of people who have one type of thinking and one aim). Then he goes to the definition of a political party, saying: "A political party is a part of the social class which is struggling a certain system in order to secure its interests and gain power and apply its behavior and its ideological path and lead the society and the social conflict field". And as he writes about parties, he held a comparison between the political life in the West and the Arab and Muslim world, and believed that parties in the western countries are a necessity for western society and one can observe that having a stable government without backing a party is hardly noticeable in a western democracy. These parties are usually divided into two types, active outside parliament\congress (the minority party) and those that are in control of parliament\congress (the majority). The deceased scholar also believes that the common interest of a group of individuals was and still is the  reason that these individuals are gather in parties. The Ayatullah divides the parties according to their directions and programs to:
  1. Radical parties (or progressive radical): consisting of opposition and discontent social groups which aim to change the social, political and economic conditions in the community with any cost.
  2. Moderate progressive parties (or Liberal Parties): Consisting of social groups which don't show resentment and discontent with the prevailing conditions in the community, but at the same time they are ready for any change in the situations in a quiet non-hasty way.
  3. The conservatives -  this group shows satisfaction about the status quo and don't want any major changes, even though they claim that they are trying to improve the prevailing situation in the society.
  4. Reactionaries - this group of people expresses satisfaction about the current situation in the community and don't want any improvements or changes in the current situation.
The deceased Ayatullah sees these divisions unstable depending on the choices of people and their ages, because people in the different ages change their views. The youth tend to be more progressive or hardline, but as they get older they may change their views and that change may continue until they are old where many may adopt more of reactionary trends.

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