For most residents of democracies, political parties are the channel through which they most often relate to government and politics. Parties offer them competing sets of policies, encourage them to take part in the political process, and are the key determinant of who governs. It is all the more ironic, then, that while parties are so central to politics, they are often not well regarded by citizens. They are increasingly seen less as a means for engaging citizens and more as self-serving channels for the promotion of the interests of politicians; as a result, support for parties is declining as people move towards other channels for political expression. In authoritarian regimes the story is even less palatable: parties have routinely been the means through which elites manipulate public opinion, and have been both the shields and the instruments of power.
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- Chapter 15