The central objective of a pressure group is to influence government policies in favour of its members. To achieve this objective, a pressure group sometimes presents written proposals to government officials.
But in presenting its proposals, a pressure group often rationalizes its own interests to make them appear to be advantageous to the entire population. That is, pressure groups tend to turn their private opinion into public opinion by arousing the sympathy of other people and groups in the society. They make their group problem look like a general one. Political party on the other hand aim at controlling the machinery of government, it follows therefore that a political party is naturally a centre of intense political activity and any individual who seriously desires to influence government and its policies may have to join a political party.
Differences Between Political Parties and Pressure Groups
While the political parties contest in an election and control the government, pressure groups influence government policies and pursue the interests of their members.
Political parties are organised to reach everybody in the society and not self-seeking. Pressure groups are basically self-seeking and not organised to reach everybody in the society.
Political party tends to accommodate virtually different interests in the society in terms of membership while pressure group do not accommodate different groups.
Political parties organised themselves into rallies, debates, lectures, seminars, etc, capable of protecting their ideologies in order to win more fellowship. On the other hand, pressure groups, when they have successfully influenced the government, with their aims and objective, they cease to exist.
Political parties expressed opinions on several issues such as education, health, agriculture and housing but pressure groups are only concerned with matters affecting their members such as, their salaries, allowances and loans.
While political parties pursue goals and interests that will improve the lifestyle of the people in the society. Pressure groups pursue interests and goals that will improve the lifestyle of their members only.
Candidates from political parties to contest elections with the aim of being in government and ruling the people while pressure groups candidates contest elections for the leadership of their groups or unions and not for the people, nor to control the activities of the state.
Pressure Groups are an organized groups that seek to influence government policies. Pressure groups are not political parties and they do not seek political office. However, they play important roles in the society. They act as a link between the people and the government. They are channels of communications and for the transmission of ideas from the people to the government and vice versa. Through the pressure groups, the govemment is able to gauge public reaction to their policies.
Secondly, pressure groups try to influence the government so that the government may act in line with the ideas of the group. They also educate and organise their members on the issues affecting them so that this can be made known to the government.
Pressure groups, however, employ a number of techniques in order to achieve their objectives. One of the tactics usually adopted by pressure groups is lobbying. This refers to direct efforts by, the representatives of pressure groups to persuade members of the legislature and public officials to support their aims.
If this does not succeed, they could resort to other radical means such as going on strike and demonstrations. They may even refuse to co-operate with the government.
Pressure groups also express their views through the mass media such as the press, television and the radio. They may also hold public meetings through which they express their opinion and influence public opinion in the society.
A political party may be defined as an organisation of people holding the same political opinion for the purpose of gaining political power so as to carry out policies which it feels will serve the national interest. Political parties are very essential in any representative government.
In fact, it is difficult, if not impossible to practise moderndemocratic and parliamentarysystem of government without political parties. Political parties render a number of services to the society.
The main functions of political parties include the following:
Political parties help to educate the electorate by disseminating information, holding political meetings and by organizing social activities such as dancing. Through these means, political parties educate the public about the outstanding problems which require solutions, thus arousing the political interest of the electorates.
Democracy is government by the people, but the entire population of a country cannot participate actively in the conduct of the government. The conduct of government is therefore left to the representatives of the people. Political parties therefore provide a forum through which the people elect their representatives. In doing this, the parties organize election campaigns and try to obtain popular support for their candidates.
Political parties also foster unity and harmonize divergent views among people. They seek to widen the interests they represent and harmonize these interests with each other. By so doing, political parties help to form order out of chaos. This also helps to narrow down policy alternatives before the electorates.
Political parties provide a link between the government and the people. They try to mediate between the electorate and the government and through this make the wishes and aims of the electorate known to the government.
It is worth mentioning at this stage that certain differences exist between pressure groups and political parties. For example, a political party usually wants to gain power or assume responsibility of government. A pressure group on the other hand is a voluntary association which pursues its aims through existing parties and tries to influence the policies and decisions of the government.
Like pressure groups, political parties too use a number of techniques to Influences the electorate to vote in a particular way. A political party educates the electorate, mobilizes the people, and makes itself look good to the voters.
Political parties are most active during their campaigns for election when they make a lot of promises so that the people will vote for them. In many cases, the people are persuaded and they drift along taking the party or group opinion as their own until the sincerity or insincerity of the political parties is exposed.
Political parties usually have policies on a wide range of Issues. This is to enable them to gain widespread support in the state. The aims of pressure groups on the other hand are usually narrow.