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The Benefits of a Multi-Party State

Posted by Anthony on October 21, 2008

By Anthony J. Aschettino

As the current election mercifully pulls to a close, many Americans face the unfortunate prospect of potentially voting for someone they really do not want. This is not terribly odd, as one would be hard pressed to find either a Democrat or Republican who is totally pleased with every item on their respective party’s ticket. All the same, there are millions of Americans who count themselves as “independent” voters; in many cases, these people simply try and vote what they see as the lesser of two evils. The main problem here is the fact that there are only two competitive national parties in The United States, and the average voter in any district (not to mention nationally) is given a choice between two people who are often forced to “toe the party line”. It is no surprise, therefore, that a large portion of voters either choose not to vote, or to vote for a party instead of an individual as to them, for example, it seems that they may not agree totally with the Democrat but they certainly do not want the Republican.

A solution to this problem can be found in Europe and elsewhere in the form of the Parliamentary system of government. In such a system, there are multiple parties involved whose representative strength in government is chosen on a proportional basis. The main benefit of this system is that it allows for small parties, who in the American system would never stand a chance of gaining any seats, to actually play a role in government. In a typical Parliamentary system, a certain number of “seats” are needed to actually form a functioning government. Since it is unusual that one party can win enough seats to form a government on its own, the result is that they must deal with the smaller parties in order to have a majority. This usually involves making promises to the small parties in order to get them to join, thus increasing their say. The end result is that it allows for minority views within the country to find an outlet for their political concerns, something that in the American system is only possible on the lowest levels but certainly impossible on a national level.

There are deficiencies to this system, for sure: it allows small parties, say only having five seats out of a four-hundred seat parliament, to hold the government at its mercy by threatening to pull out and thus cause new elections. It also creates a situation where the power might be spread out over so many parties that legislation could be rather ponderous. Yet for all this, there is something positive to be said for a conservative who does not want to vote for McCain having the choice to vote for a more conservative candidate and actually have a chance of their vote counting. It would force major parties to consider changes to their platforms in order to try and attract minority voters whom they might otherwise be able to simply count on because voting for the opposition in the current system would be unthinkable.

It is very unlikely that, anytime soon, a third or fourth legitimate party might establish itself in America and thus force some kind of change in the overall system: historically, America has had multiple parties, but it was rare that they wielded any real political power, and it remains to be seen if there will arise within the electorate a serious desire for substantial political reform. Yet there are fissures within both parties that might yet manifest themselves in a break and the formation of a third, and possible fourth, major political party. If such a thing would give more voters the desire to participate in the political system, it is certainly something that warrants a moment of our time.


One Response to “The Benefits of a Multi-Party State”

  1. yasserlatifhamdani said

    Compelling argument in favor of multi-party parliaments but may I suggest that the mother of all parliamentary forms- United Kingdom – is based largely on a two party system.

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