This briefing paper examines the relevance of political parties in Malawi’s democracy. Beyond the functionalist assumption that existence suggests some positive contribution of an organ to the whole, this paper looks at social operational pre-requisites that justify the relevance and existence of political parties. Specifically the paper focuses on the linkage role of political parties. While assessing other aspects such as organizational structure, financial base, forms of mobilization, intra-party democracy and leadership styles is informative, this papers is anchored in the argument that the linkage function can be understood better by considering people’s attitudes and assessment of the political parties. Therefore, this examination of relevance of parties is achieved by looking at adult Malawians’opinions and attitudes regarding attachment to political parties, trust in political parties, and the responsiveness of political party manifestos to problems expressed by the people, as well as individuals’ level of contact with political parties. The discussion shares the view of Hetherington (1998) that attitudes towards institutions and evaluation of their performance reinforce each other.
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