Types of Political Parties: One, Two and Multi-Party System

Political Parties or Party systems are classified into three main kinds.

One Party System, Bi-party System or two Party System, and Multi-party System.

I. One Party System:


One party system is also called single party system. It is present in a society where there is at work only one all-powerful and popular political party.

In such a system political power is continuously used by one political party. During elections, this single party fields several of its own candidates out of which one candidate is elected by the people as their representative. No other political party can exist without the consent of this party.

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Opposition is considered useless and harmful. The policies and programmes of the single ruling party are considered to be the best national policies and programmes. In such a system there is no opposition party. According to Curtis, “Single Party System is characterised by the party in power either dominating all other groups, or suppressing all opposition groups. When the single all powerful party allows no other party to live or act in opposition,……….. it is called totalitarian single party system”.


The Fascist Party of Italy, the Nazi Party of Germany of inter-war years was totalitarian single political parties which dominated the political life in their respective states. The military rulers or coup leaders, who usurp power through a revolution, very often organise a single political party of their hand-picked men and rule. A communist state also has only one political party – the Communist Party. No other party can exist without its consent. China has a One Party System.

II. Two Party System Or Bi-Party System:

A two party system exists in a state where there are either only two very popular political parties or there are two main political parties along with several other minor or less influential political parties. Each of the two main parties gets the opportunity to rule from time to time.

In some political systems where there are only two political parties, the use of power takes place like the swing of the pendulum from one party to the second after regular intervals. In some other political systems with bi-party systems, the two major parties share power from time to time but occasionally the other minor parties also get a chance to rule in alliance with of one of the two major political parties.

In other words in a state with two party system, two political parties dominate the political life of the people. United Kingdom, USA, Belgium, Luxembourg and Ireland have Bi-party systems. In Britain currently labour party is in power and the Conservative Party is in opposition.

Prior to this the latter was in power and the former was in opposition. Both of these are the two major parties of Britain. As such Britain has a real Bi-party system. In the USA also a bi party system is at work. The two main US Political Parties are the Democrats and the Republicans.

III. Multi-Party System:

In a Multi-party System, the party system has several equally popular political parties. Several political parties are actively involved in politics. In such a system very often no-single party is in a position to get a clear majority in the elections. Several parties form a coalition to run the government.

In other words a multi-party system means the existence of several popular and active political parties (three or more than— three political parties) in the political process. People are members of several political India, Switzerland, Japan, Italy and France provide four classic examples of multi-party systems. The Congress, BJP, CPI, CPM, BSP, NCP, BJD and several other political parties have been active actors in Indian politics. Different parties have been using political power in India. In India the multi-party system has been mainly responsible for the emergence of coalition politics.

Political instability has remained a chronic feature of Italian and French political systems. In Italy, the government-making has been a highly problematic affair as the coalition partners—Communists, Socialists, Democratic Socialists, and Christian Democrats and others remain on involved in conflict and their actions keep up an environment of continuous political instability.

In France, the Socialists, Communists, Gaullists, Liberals and Republicans are the major parties of the multi-party system. “Over the years the French coalitions have been a source of political instability. The constitution of the Fifth Republic has tried to overcome this problem by creating a mixture of parliamentary and presidential forms, the latter for ensuring political stability through a directly elected powerful head of the state—the French President.”

In Switzerland also there is a multi-party system with Social Democrats, Radical Democrats, Liberal Democrats and Communists as the major equally influential parties. However, with the known business-man like approach of the Swiss, the multi-party system has not resulted into political instability because these parties keep the struggle for power so managed that the political system is kept free from instability. All the four major political parties in Switzerland together share the political power.

Bi-Party system is considered to be best and Single Party System as the worst:

The Bi-party system as is held to be the best. The single party system is considered undemocratic, as its limits and prevents the people from enjoying the freedom of association-making and action. It contains the germs of centralization and dictatorial rule.

The multi-party system is likewise considered less useful because it often leads to political instability in the political system, which then acts and a source of weakness and inefficiency in the working of the government. As against this, the Bi-party system ensures the exercise of political freedom by the people provides the possibility of an alternative government, makes political struggle orderly and systematic, prevents political instability and keeps the people fully aware of and involved in political activities. Hence it is considered to be the best party system.

Political Parties are the products of the environment of each Society:

Undoubtedly, the theoretical analysis on above lines brings out the desirability of establishing or creating or evolving a bi-party system. However, we must not forget that political parties are the products of the socio-culture-economic-political factors which always characterise the environment of every state.

A political system, with sharp and big diversities—social, economic, political, cultural, religious, linguistic etc., as has been the case of India, is bound to have a multi-party system. Likewise, a political system established on the ideological foundations of a particular ideology, for example a socialist political system based upon the ideology of Communism or Marxism, is bound to go in for a single party system.

A theocratic state, with religious fundamentalism as the creed, is bound to organise and maintain a single party system based on the religion of the majority community.

A bi-party system undoubtedly appears to be theoretically ideal. However such a system cannot be imported from outside or created by law. Such an exercise is bound to be undemocratic which can destroy or harm the very purpose for which the bi-party system is considered to be the best. The only way open is to let the party system evolve itself and a self-conscious attempt may be made by all the parties themselves and the people to create conditions for the emergence of a bi-party system.

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