A party system is a concept in comparative political science concerning the system of government by political parties in a democratic country. The idea is that political parties have basic similarities: they control the government, have a stable base of mass popular support, and create internal mechanisms for controlling funding, information and nominations.
The concept was originated by European scholars studying the United States, especially James Bryce and Moisey Ostrogorsky, and has been expanded to cover other democracies. Giovanni Sartori devised the most widely used classification method for party systems. He suggested that party systems should be classified by the number of relevant parties and the degree of fragmentation. Party systems can be distinguished by the effective number of parties.
There are three main types of party systems:
- One-Party System
- Two-Party System
- Multi-Party System
In a one-party system, there is no competition in this system. Here, the lone party nominates the candidates and the voters have only two choices i.e.
- Not to vote at all or
- write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ against the name of the candidates nominated by the party
Such a political system has been prominent in authoritarian regimes and communist countries such as China, North Korea, and Cuba. Before the collapse of communism, this system was also prevalent in USSR.
In a two-party system, the power shifts between two major, dominant parties. So, for winning the elections, the winner will have to get the maximum number of votes. However, please know that maximum number of votes is not equivalent to a majority of votes.
So, the smaller parties tend to merge with the bigger parties or they drop out of elections. Such a parliamentary system prevails in Canada and Great Britain, in which there are two parties holding the maximum numbers of seats.
The third and the most common form of government is the multi-party system. In such a system, there are three or more parties which have the capacity to gain control of the government separately or in a coalition.
In case, no party achieves a clear majority of the legislative seats, then several parties join forces and form a coalition government. Countries like Nigeria and India, follow a multi-party system. Some people are of the view, that a multi-party system often leads to political instability in a country.