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political science Political science is the scientific study of politics. It is a social science dealing with systems of governance and power, and the analysis of politics, political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions a ...
, a multi-party system is a political system in which multiple
political parties A political party is an organization that coordinates candidates to compete in a country's elections. It is common for the members of a political party to have similar ideas about politics, and parties may promote specific political ideology, ...
across the political spectrum run for national
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office.government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, Executive (government), ex ...
offices, separately or in
coalition The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal. The word coalition connotes a co ...
. Apart from one-party-dominant and two-party systems, multi-party systems tend to be more common in
parliamentary system A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (or subordinate entity) where the Executive (government), executive derives its democratic legitimacy fro ...
s than presidential systems and far more common in countries that use
proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideological partitioning of the electorate. ...
compared to countries that use first-past-the-post elections. Several parties compete for power and all of them have reasonable chance of forming government. First-past-the-post requires concentrated areas of support for large representation in the
legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday l ...
, whereas proportional representation better reflects the range of a population's views. Proportional systems may have multi-member districts with more than one representative elected from a given district to the same legislative body, and thus a greater number of viable parties. Duverger's law states that the number of viable political parties is one, plus the number of seats in a district.
Argentina Argentina (), officially the Argentine Republic ( es, link=no, República Argentina), is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered b ...
,
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UN]classification of world regions places Armenia in Western Asia; the ...
,
Belgium Belgium ( nl, België ; french: Belgique ; german: Belgien ), officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the s ...
,
Brazil Brazil ( pt, Brasil; ), officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: ), is the largest country in both South America and Latin America. At 8.5 million square kilometers (3.2 million square miles) and with over 211 milli ...
, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Poland, Tunisia, and Ukraine are examples of nations that have used a multi-party system effectively in their democracies. In these countries, usually no single party has a parliamentary majority by itself. Instead, multiple political parties are compelled to form compromised coalitions for the purpose of developing power blocks and attaining legitimate Mandate (politics), mandate.


Comparisons with other party systems

A system where only two parties have the possibility of winning an election is called a two-party system. A system where only three parties have a ''realistic possibility'' of winning an election or forming a
coalition The term "coalition" is the denotation for a group formed when two or more people, factions, states, political parties, militaries etc. agree to work together temporarily in a partnership to achieve a common goal. The word coalition connotes a co ...
is sometimes called a "Third-party system". But, in some cases the system is called a "Stalled Third-Party System," when there are three parties and all three parties win a large number of votes, but only two have a chance of winning an election. Usually this is because the electoral system penalises the third party, e.g. as in Canadian or UK politics. In the 2010 UK elections, the Liberal Democrats gained 23% of the total vote but won less than 10% of the seats due to the First-past-the-post voting, first-past-the-post electoral system. Despite this, they still had enough seats (and enough public support) to form coalitions with one of the two major parties, or to make deals in order to gain their support. An example is the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition formed after the 2010 United Kingdom general election, 2010 general election. Another is the Lib-Lab pact during Prime Minister James Callaghan's Minority Labour Party (UK), Labour Government; when Labour lost its three-seat majority in 1977, the pact fell short of a full coalition. In Canada, there are three major federal political parties: the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada, and the New Democratic Party. However, in recent Canadian history, the Liberals and Conservatives (and their states) have been the only two parties to elect a Prime Minister in Canada, with the New Democratic Party, Bloc Quebecois and Green Party often winning seats in the House of Commons. The main exception was the 2011 Canadian election when the New Democrats were the Official Opposition and the Liberal Party was reduced to third party status. Unlike a One-party state, one-party system (or a two-party system), a multi-party system encourages the general constituency to form multiple distinct, officially recognized groups, generally called political party, political parties. Each party competes for votes from the suffrage, enfranchised constituents (those allowed to vote). A multi-party system prevents the leadership of a single party from controlling a single legislative chamber without challenge. If the government includes an elected Congress or Parliament, the parties may share power according to
proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideological partitioning of the electorate. ...
or the first-past-the-post system. In proportional representation, each party wins a number of seats proportional to the number of votes it receives. In first-past-the-post, the electorate is divided into a number of districts, each of which selects one person to fill one seat by a plurality voting, plurality of the vote. First-past-the-post is not conducive to a proliferation of parties, and naturally gravitates toward a two-party system, in which only two parties have a real chance of electing their candidates to office. This gravitation is known as Duverger's law. Proportional representation, on the other hand, does not have this tendency, and allows multiple major parties to arise. But, recent coalition governments, such as that in the U.K., represent two-party systems rather than multi-party systems. This is regardless of the number of parties in government. A two-party system requires voters to align themselves in large blocs, sometimes so large that they cannot agree on any overarching principles. Some theories argue that this allows centrism, centrists to gain control, though this is disputed. On the other hand, if there are multiple major parties, each with less than a majority of the vote, the parties are strongly motivated to work together to form working governments. This also promotes centrism, as well as promoting coalition-building skills while discouraging polarization.Basu, K., Dey Biswas, S., Harish, P., Dhar, S., & Lahiri, M. (2016). Is multi-party coalition government better for the protection of socially backward classes in India? UN-WIDER Working Paper, 2016 (109).


See also

* Polarized pluralism * Political organisation * Ingroups and outgroups


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Multi-Party System Political systems Political party systems Elections Government Types of democracy