Party systems may be broken down into three broad categories, two-party, multiparty, and single-party. Such a classification is based not merely on the number of parties operating within a particular country but on a variety of distinctive features that the three systems exhibit.
By-party system does not mean that a particular country has only two parties and there is no third party in it. It means there are only two major parties and the rest of the parties are less important. For example, there are more than two parties in England, viz. Conservative Party, Labour Party, Liberal Party, Fascist and Communist Party. But in politics, only two parties are important, i.e., the Conservative and the Labour Party. Sometimes the Conservative Party and at other times the Labour Party forms the Government. No seat has been obtained by the Communist and the Fascist Party. In the House of Commons, the Liberal Party has only a few seats.
Similarly in the U.S.A., though there are many parties like the Communist Party, the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party, yet only Republican and Democratic Parties are important and they form the Government. The Communist Party has no importance in the politics. Thus, there is a bi-party system in the Great Britain and the U.S.A. Where there is a multi-party system, there are more than two important parties in politics. This system prevails in. France, West Germany, Italy and certain other countries of Europe.
Merits of Bi-Party System:-
The following are the merits of the bi-party system:
(1) Government becomes more stable.
The Government is more stable in a bi-party system, because the party which has a majority in the legislature forms the Government and the other party acts as opposition. Coalition Governments are not formed in a bi-party system. If the ruling party loses the majority in the legislature, the Cabinet tenders its resignation. In such an eventuality, the opposition party forms the Government. It becomes the ruling party and the party which was hitherto for the ruling party, becomes the opposition party.
(2) Direct Election of the Government.
In the second system, the Government is elected by the people directly, because the voters know the party in whose favor they are casting their votes. Thus, the people vote for the party whom they wish to form a Government. For example, if the people in England want a progressive Government, they cast their votes in favor of the Labour Party, and if they like the Conservative Government, they cast their votes in favor of the Conservative Party.
(3) Formation of Government is easier.
In this system, it becomes easy for the Head of the State to decide which party should be invited to form the Government. The Head of the State (President, King or Governor-General) i invites the leader of the majority party to form the Government. In this way the majority party forms the Government. If the majority party loses the majority support in the legislature, the Head of the State invites the opposition party to form the Government.
(4) It ensures a strong Government and continuity of Policy.
Because of the stability of the Government in a bi-party system, if is strong and it can pursue a good policy continuously. In contrast to this, the cabinets change every often in a multi-party system. The Government becomes weak and there is no continuity is the policy. In a bi-party system, the Government is stable and it can formulate long term plans for welfare of the people. It can also ensure its goodwill to forieg0 countries.
(5) Responsibility for the failure and short comings of the Government can be easily located in their system.
In a bi-party system, the Government is in the hands of one party, and if it functions well, it can be given credit. But if it fails to perform its duties effectively, it will earn bad same. In this system of Government, it is easy to fix the responsibility and the ruling party cannot shift its responsibility to others, which usually happens in a multi-party system.
(6) Conservative Criticism.
In this system, the opposition party indulges in constructive criticism of the Government because it is well-known to the opposition party that in case of the failure of the Government, it will have to take the responsibility of the Government. In such an eventuality, it will have to remove all those defects for which it had criticized the ruling party.
(7) Commanding Position of the Prime Minister.
In a bi-party system the position of the Prime Minister is very important because he has t work with the cooperation of the other parties, as is done in a multi-party system. In a bi-party system, the Prime Minister enjoys the confidence of his own party. If the Prime Minister has sufficient influence on his party and if his party has sufficient majority in the legislature, he will have no difficulty in running the Government.
Laski has very aptly said,
It is the only method by which the people can at the electoral period directly choose the Government. It enables the government to derive its policy from the statute book. It makes known and intelligible, the results of its failure. It brings an alternate Government into immediate being.
Disadvantages of Bi-party System:-
(1) Dictatorship of the Cabinet.
In a bi-party system the dictatorship of the cabinet is established as in the case in England, because it has the majority support in the Parliament. In such a situation, the ruling party does not care much for the Opposition.
(2) Limited choice before the voters.
When there are only two parties before the electorate, they have to elect one out of the two parties, even if they do not like both the parties. In this way, the electorate loses its freedom of choice. In case there are more than two parties, the choice for the voters become wide.
(3) The Prestige of the legislature is lowered.
In a bi-party system the majority party supports the cabinet. The Prime Minister-has a special influence ever the Parliament because he is the leader of the House by virtue of his position as the leader of the majority party. With the help of his majority party he can get the Bills, budget, policies and treaties passed in the way he likes. In case he is not supported by the Parliament, he can recommend to the Head of the State for the dissolution of the Lower House. Therefore, the Parliament is a sort of puppet in the hands of the Prime Minister.
(4) Dictatorship of the Majority Party.
In this system the dictatorship of the majority party is established and it cares little for the opposition, because it enjoys a majority in the Parliament.
(5) It divides the nation into two irreconcilable camps.
When there are only two parties in a country, there is a great difference in their ideologies and there is great controversy over the basic policies in the country.
(6) All shades of opinion are not represented in the legislature.
Where there are only two parties, the voters have no freedom to express their views. Where there are many parties, the voters cast their votes to the parties of their choice. In this way, all shades of opinion are given representation.
Multiple Party System:-
Where there are more than two political parties, there is a multiple party system, as in India, France, Italy and West Germany.
Advantages of merits of multiple party system.
The following are the merits o¢ advantages of this system: –
The nation is not divided into two camps.
Where there is multiple party system, there are many types of ideologies and there ts no rigid discipline among the parties. If a member leaves one party or if he is turned out of the party, he can join another party which has views almost similar to his own views. In this way, because of the freedom of the views, the nation is not divided into two rival groups.
(2) Parliament does not become a puppet in the hands of the cabinet.
In a multiple party system, one party Government is not formed but several parties form a coalition Government, and it has to depend upon the goodwill of the Parliament. Therefore, the cabinet cannot get the work done at will, by the Parliament by establishing its dictatorship.
(3) All shares of opinion are reflected in the House.
In a multiple party system, there is freedom of views. Because of this freedom, all shades of opinion get representation in the Parliament and views of all the classes are heard in the House.
(4) Wider choice before the electorate.
Where there are many parties, there is a wider choice before the electorate because they cast their votes in favor of only the like-minded parties.
(5) In it the chances of Cabinet dictatorship are minimized.
In a multiple party system, Coalition Governments are formed. Since one-party Government is nor formed, the parties in the coalition work by adopting the policy of compromise.
(6) The workers is more free in this system.
If his own party does not care for him the can join a like-minded party.
Demerits of Multiple Party System:-
Following are the demerits of the multiple party system:
(1) Weak Government. The Coalition Governments are basically weak and they are dissolved soon.
(2) Indefiniteness of Policy. Because of the rapid change of the Governments, there is indefiniteness of the policy.
(3) No long-term planning. Due to rapid changes i in the Governments, long term planning is not possible.
(4) Weak position of the Prime Minister. In this system, the position of the Prime Minister is weak, because the Government is formed not by one party but many parties form the Coalition Government. Therefore, all the parties in the Government are to be appeased. Since the policies and programmes of these patties are different, the Prime Minister has to face a great difficulty in satisfying them and keep them with him. If some party refuses to support the Prime Minister, the fall of the Government becomes inevitable and the parties who enjoy a majority m the legislature, try to form the Cabinet.
(5) Lack of administrative efficiency. In a multiple party system there is § jack of administrative efficiency, because the Governments change very often.
(6) In this system trading in votes and formation of Government undermine the political morality.
There are many countries in the world with one-party system. The formation of other parties is banned there. Fer example. Soviet Union, China, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Finland are Communist countries and there is only one Communist Party. The Communists are of the view that the opposition is needed only in capitalist countries because of the existence of diverse interests there. In order to represent those diverse interests, different parties are formed and or But in the countries where capitalism has bees abolished, and where only labor class exists, there is no need for different parties and only the Communist Party is sufficient to look after the interests of the workers.
During Hitler’s regime in Germany, and during Mussolini’s regime in Italy, there was only one party. Hitler’s party was Nazi Party and Mussolini tamed his party, the Fascist Party. Both Hitler and Mussolini crushed all opposition parties. In Spain and Portugal, too, there was only one party at that time.
Merits of one-party system:-
(I) It helps in the establishment of stable administration which further helps in the progress of the country. The progress of the Soviet Union as a glaring example in this regard.
(2) In this system, formation and execution of long-term planing is possible.
(3) The country achieves remarkable economic progress as the Government ends the conflicts among all the classes and i devotes its entire energy, towards the increase of production in the country.
(4) The administration becomes efficient because all the powers are concentrated in the hands of one leader and there favoritism, nepotism and telemarketing are banished altogether.
(5) There is a unity and discipline in the country.
(6) Time is not wasted in unnecessary criticism and propaganda.
Disadvantage or demerits of one-party system:
(1) Since there is only one party in this system, there is no freedom of expression.
(2) Democracy is eroded and dictatorship emerges.
(3) There is no regard for the views of different classes and interests.
(4) The Government becomes absolute and the administration becomes irresponsible.
(5) The development of the personality is hindered because all social freedoms are crushed.
(6) In this system there is an overbearing influence of terrorism, and the opponents are crushed with a heavy hand
(7) The dictators make enormous military preparations for maintaining their honor and position, and they adopt the policy of war and victory which is quite harmful for the country.
There are certain advantages and disadvantages in single-party, bi-party and multiple-party systems. But from the point of view of the functioning of the Government, bi-party system is the best and democracy is protected i in It. Single party system is not considered good as democracy is destroyed i in it. Though multiple-party system is democratic, yet the Government is not stable in it. Therefore, as compared to bi-party system, this system is not considered good. No particular system can be fixed for any country and it depends upon the circumstances of each country as to which party system should be adopted by it.