What I am trying to raise is in the democratic theory, political parties are voluntary organizations that are supposed to promote democracy. Whereas the judiciary, the legislature and the judiciary promote horizontal accountability, vertical accountability is promoted by political parties, which link the people and government. Parties organize campaigns, recruit candidates and mobilize the political community to participate in the selection of office bearers. The goal of party activism is to build institutions and shape public politics, policies and laws that impact the rights and welfare of the political community.
In competitive multi-party politics, the party that is elected to form government seeks to enact into law a number of policies and programs (often times consistent with their election manifesto). Opposition parties are free to criticize the ruling party’s policies, ideas and programs and offer alternatives. Democratic parties recognize and respect the authority of the elected government even when their party leaders are not in power. This is possible because democratic societies are committed to the values of tolerance, cooperation and compromise (Dahl, 1971; UNDP, 2002). Democracies recognize that consensus building requires compromise and tolerance.
The notion of a loyal opposition is central to any democracy. It means that all sides in the political debate – however deep their differences – share the fundamental democratic values of freedom of speech, the rule of law and equal protection under the law. Parties that lose elections become the opposition. The opposition, then, is essentially a “government-in the- waiting.”
While opposition parties in today’s mature democracies approximate the democratic roles outlined herein above, the situation in Malaysia is substantially poorer. A major reason for this is that ruling parties (Barisan Nasional) become so identified with the government bureaucracy, the legislature, the judiciary, the army, the police, the media and even the treasury that their separate character collapses almost completely. Moreover, ruling parties typically use official resources to stifle opposition parties and perpetuate themselves in power.
(Main Source: The Role of Opposition Parties in a Democracy Julius Kiiza, PhD, Makerere University Department of Political Science and Public Administration; A paper presented at the Regional Conference on Political Parties and Democratisation in East Africa 25 – 27 August, 2005)