In
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 political activities, political thoughts, political behavior, and associated constitutions and laws. ...
, a multi-party system is a
political system In political science, a political system defines the process for making official government decisions. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems. However, this is a very simplified view o ...
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 ideological or polic ...
across the
political spectrum#REDIRECT Political spectrum#REDIRECT Political spectrum {{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
{{Redirect category shell, 1= {{R from other capitalisation ...
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 office.government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. Government is a ...
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 system In politics, a two-party system is a party system in which two major political parties consistently dominate the political landscape. At any point in time, one of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature and is usually refer ...
s, multi-party systems tend to be more common in
parliamentary system A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance of a state (or subordinate entity) where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typi ...
s than
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government in which a head of government (president) leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of ...
s 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 In a first-past-the-post (FPTP or FPP; sometimes formally called single-member plurality voting or SMP) electoral system, voters cast their vote for a candidate of their choice, and the candidate who receives the most votes wins (irrespective ...
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 to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with th ...
, 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 In political science, Duverger's law holds that single-ballot plurality-rule elections (such as ''first past the post'') structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system. The discovery of this tendency is attributed to M ...
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 by ...
,
Armenia Armenia (; hy, Հայաստան, translit=Hayastan, ), officially the Republic of Armenia,, is a landlocked country located in the Armenian Highlands of Western Asia.The UNbr>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 so ...
,
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 millio ...
,
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily located in Western Europe, consisting of metropolitan France and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of Fr ...
,
Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , languages_type = Official language , languages = German , demonym = German , government_type = Federal parliamentary republi ...
,
Iceland Iceland ( is, Ísland; ) is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, with a population of 356,991 and an area of , making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík. Reykjavík and t ...
,
India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the second-most populous country, the seventh-largest country by land area, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Oce ...

India
,
Indonesia Indonesia ( ), officially the Republic of Indonesia ( id, Republik Indonesia, links=yes ), is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian and Pacific oceans. It consists of more than seventeen thousand islands, including Sumatra, ...

Indonesia
, the
Netherlands The Netherlands ( nl, Nederland ), informally referred to as Holland, is a country primarily located in Western Europe and partly in the Caribbean. It is the largest of four constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In Europe, the ...

Netherlands
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 smaller islands, covering a total area of . New Zealand ...
, the
Philippines The Philippines (; fil, Pilipinas or ''Filipinas'' ), officially the Republic of the Philippines ( fil, Republika ng Pilipinas), * bik, Republika kan Filipinas * ceb, Republika sa Pilipinas * cbk, República de Filipinas * hil, Republika sang ...

Philippines
,
Poland Poland ( pl, Polska ), officially the Republic of Poland ( pl, Rzeczpospolita Polska, links=no ), is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative provinces, covering an area of , and has a largely temperate seaso ...
,
Tunisia ) , image_map = Tunisia location (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = Location of Tunisia in northern Africa , image_map2 = , capital = Tunis , largest_city = capital , coordinates = , official_languages = Arabic Translation by the Uni ...

Tunisia
, and
Ukraine Ukraine ( uk, Україна, Ukraina, ) is a country in Eastern Europe. It is the second-largest country in Europe, after Russia, which it borders to the east and north-east; it also shares borders with Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia a ...
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
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 ...
s for the purpose of developing power blocks and attaining legitimate
mandate Mandate most often refers to: * League of Nations mandates, quasi-colonial territories established under Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919 * Mandate (politics), the power granted by an electorate Mandate may also re ...
.


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 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 general election. Another is the
Lib-Lab pact The Liberal–Labour movement refers to the practice of local Liberal associations accepting and supporting candidates who were financially maintained by trade unions. These candidates stood for the British Parliament with the aim of representing t ...
during Prime Minister
James Callaghan Leonard James Callaghan, Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, (; 27 March 191226 March 2005) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1976 to 1979 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1976 to 1980. Callaghan is the only person to have held all four ...

James Callaghan
's Minority 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 Conservatism is a political and social philosophy promoting traditional social institutions. The central tenets of conservatism may vary in relation to the traditional values or practices of the culture and civilization in which it appears. I ...
, the
Liberal Party of Canada The Liberal Party of Canada (french: Parti libéral du Canada, region=CA) is the longest-serving and oldest active federal political party in Canada. The party has dominated federal politics for much of Canada's history. The Liberals held power fo ...
, and the
New Democratic Party The New Democratic Party (NDP; french: Nouveau Parti démocratique, NPD) is a social democraticThe party is widely described as social democratic: * * * * * * * * * federal political party in Canada. The party was founded in 1961 by t ...

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 The 2011 Canadian federal election (formally the 41st Canadian general election) was held on Monday, May 2, 2011, to elect members to the House of Commons of Canada of the 41st Canadian Parliament. The writs of election for the 2011 election wer ...
when the New Democrats were the Official Opposition and the Liberal Party was reduced to third party status. Unlike a
one-party system A one-party state, single-party state, one-party system, or single-party system is a type of unitary state in which only one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties are e ...
(or a two-party system), a multi-party system encourages the general
constituency An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, (election) precinct, electoral area, circumscription, or electorate, is a subdivision of a larger state (a cou ...
to form multiple distinct, officially recognized groups, generally called
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 ideological or polic ...
. Each party competes for votes from the enfranchised constituents (those allowed to vote). A multi-party system prevents the leadership of a single party from controlling a single
legislative A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with th ...
chamber without challenge. If the government includes an elected
Congress A congress is a formal meeting of the representatives of different countries, constituent states, organizations, trade unions, political parties or other groups. The term originated in Late Middle English to denote an encounter (meeting of adversa ...
or
Parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative body of government. Generally, a modern parliament has three functions: representing the electorate, making laws, and overseeing the government via hearings and inquiries. The ...
, 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 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 In political science, Duverger's law holds that single-ballot plurality-rule elections (such as ''first past the post'') structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system. The discovery of this tendency is attributed to M ...
. 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
centrist Centrism is a political outlook or position that involves acceptance and/or support of a balance of social equality and a degree of social hierarchy, while opposing political changes which would result in a significant shift of society strongly ...
s 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 A political organization is any organization that involves itself in the political process, including political parties, non-governmental organizations, advocacy groups and special interest groups. Political organizations are those engaged in po ...
*
Ingroups and outgroups In sociology and social psychology, an in-group is a social group to which a person psychologically identifies as being a member. By contrast, an out-group is a social group with which an individual does not identify. People may for example ident ...


References

{{DEFAULTSORT:Multi-Party System Political systems Political party systems
Elections {{Related category, Changes in political power Accountability Democracy Government Political events Majority–minority relations ...
Government {{Cat main, Government Legal entities Organizations by type Social institutions Human activities Policy Main topic classifications ...
Types of democracy