Party system may be defined as the conduct of government based on the number of political parties within the system. For example, NPN, UPN, NPP, GNPP, PRP and NAP , the 6 political parties of the Second Republic (1979-83 ). The six political parties are an example of multi-party system. There are three types of party systems; one-party, two-party and multi-party systems.
ONE PARTY OR SINGLE PARTY
Single party may be defined as one in which only one legal and legitimate political party is constitutionally recognised in the country. No other party is recognised and can therefore not exist. One party system is a common feature of communist or socialist countries. For example, North Korea, Cuba and China. In Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, etc, were formerly one – party states.
Types of One-Party System
- True single – party system: The law effectively prevents the formation of any other active parties. By definition, this party system does not accept or permit opposition. This type of system was operative in Malawi, Zambia, etc.
- Hegemonic party: One party is firmly established in office. The party has hegemony, that is, it enjoys unchallenged authority. The law does not operate formally against any opposition, but clearly the state concerned is effectively single party for period of many years. For example, South Africa was an example of a hegemonic party (all – white electorate). The National party came into power in 1948, and it only left power when Dr. Nelson Mandela, was elected president in 1994.
- Predominant party: This is a party which is elected and continues to be elected because the electorate so desires. This type of party is mostly found in Asian Countries.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A ONE PARTY STATE
- One officially recognised party: There is no other officially recognised political party, apart from the legally recognised party that can contest elections.
- Recognised by the constitution: Only this legal party is recognised by the constitution.
- No private control of the mass-media: No private individual is allowed to own and publish newspaper, magazine, etc.
- One ideology: There is only one ideology for the country and it is for the party in government.
- Enforcement of government policies: The party in government ensures that all her policies and directives are strictly enforced.
- Opposition party: Opposition party is not legally recognised.
- Dictatorship: A one party state can develop to become dictatorship.
Merits of One-Party System
- It prevents economic waste: One party system prevents waste of resources, e.g. financial burdensome in conducting elections.
- It makes use of the best: In terms of human resources available in the country. The system creates the use of the most competent people to run the affairs of the state.
- It promotes unity: The system cuts across ethnic or religious factors and thereby promoting national unity.
- Stability of government: One party system ensures stability. There is no opposition party which could attempt to destabilise the political system.
- Makes for quick decision: Decisions are quickly arrived at because there is no other party to oppose government policies.
- Continuity: It makes for continuity in government and in the area of policy making.
- Electoral malpractices: This is completely minimised because only one party is contesting.
- Absence of unhealthy rivalry: There is no competition that may lead to victimization and intimidation of political opponents.
- It makes for strong leadership: All the political powers are concentrated in the hands of one or a few leaders.
Demerits of One-Party System
- No opposition: Since only one legal party exists, the system does not tolerate opposition.
- Individual rights are not accommodated: For example, no private individual is allowed to own and publish newspaper, magazine, etc.
- Control of mass media: The government controls all the channels of communication in the country.
- It may produce dictatorship: The system has the tendency of ensuring that the opinion of the ruling elite is strictly enforced on the people.
- It is basically undemocratic: A one party state is basically, undemocratic. The principles of democracy are ignored and treated with levity.
- It can produce “a president for life”: This system can produce a president declaring himself ‘president for life’; e.g, Dr. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi.
- Only one ideology: There is only one ideology and it may not appeal to the generality of the people.
- Rule of Law: The principles of the rule of law and the provisions of the constitution may not be respected.
- Change of government not provided for in the constitution: The constitution is silent on the need for periodic elections, resulting in a change of government. What happens is that the president or the leaders tend to perpetuate themselves in power.
Two- party system may be defined as the existence of only two major political parties in a political system. These two parties are constitutionally recognised to contest elections. Britain is a good example of a two party state. There are two major political parties – labour and conservative parties. Liberal party is a minor party. U.S.A, Canada, Australia,etc, also practise two party system.
Features of two-party system
- Two major political parties: There are only two major political parties, that are legally and constitutionally recognised. However, there may be in existence more than two political parties contesting elections.
- Opposition party: Opposition party is legally recognised in a two-party system.
- Choice: There is room and opportunity for choice of candidates and parties.
- It is democratic: It accommodates democratic principles and allows the operation of the rule of law.
- Press freedom: Two party system allows for press freedom, no censorship.
- Change of government: Change of government is possible because there is the provision for periodic elections. The electorate still have the power to change government that are not responsive and accountable.
- Corrective party: The opposition party is seen as a corrective party in government. It watches over and criticises some of the policies of the ruling party.
MERITS OF TWO PARTY SYSTEM
- Choice: Two-party system makes for choice between political parties. The party with better programme is chosen by the electorate.
- Provision of strong opposition: In this system, one party forms the government, the other, opposition. In Britain, for example, Labour party is the ruling party and conservative serves as the opposition party.
- It makes for good governance: The duty of the opposition party is to watch and criticise the government over bad policies. It makes the government cautious in itspolicy formulation and implementation.
- It ensures stability: Stability is ensured and the reason is that there is no room for a coalition government which may create a weak and unstable government.
- It is democratic: There is the opportunity for freedom of choice and association.
- Easy identification: People can easily identify the strength and weaknesses of the party in government.
- Change of government: Change of government is possible, because the provision for periodic elections is entrenched in the constitution.
Demerits of Two Party System
- Division of the country into two factions: There is the possibility of two-party system dividing the country into two opposing factions. This can affect national unity.
- It does not promote unity: The struggle for power within the system may not. promote national unity.
- It may lead to a one party state: If one of the two parties holds office for a long time, the other may dissolve into the ruling party.
- Electoral malpractices: This is possible because each party would want to be in power, also, subsequent elections may be manipulated by the ruling party, through incumbency apparatus.
- Unhealthy party rivalry: Intimidations, victimization of political opponents, threats, etc, could result from two party system.
- Waste of the nation’s resources: Most of the resources are wasted in conducting elections and in the maintenance of two political parties.
It is defined as a system with more than two political parties are contesting for political power in a country. All the parties are duly registered and recognised by law. For example, Nigeria’s second republic (1979-83) had six recognised political parties: NPN, UPN, NPP, GNPP, PRP and NAP. In multi- party system, a coalition government may be formed, if no party had absolute majority seats in parliamentary election. However, coalition government is mostly common with parliamentary democracy. Nigeria, France, Italy, Zambia, Malawi, etc, practise multi-party system.
Features of Multi-Party System
- Existence of many parties: There are more than two political parties in the system.
- Legal recognition: All the political parties are recognised by the law
- Choice: Individuals can easily make choice of parties and programme.
- Political education: The scope of political education is enhanced and widened.
- Wider representation: People of different interests and opinions are represented in the decision making process
- Coalition government: Multi-party system may give rise to a coalition government.
- Absence of dictatorship: There is no place for dictatorship in multi-party system
- Periodic election: Elections are conducted at periodic intervals.
- Protection of human rights: The rights of individuals are guaranteed and protected by the government.
- Respect for rule of law: There is respect for the rule of law by political leaders and citizens making up the system.
MERITS OF MULTI-PARTY SYSTEM
- It is democratic: The electorate are exposed to a number of choices – party, programme, candidates, etc, and that is what democracy sets to achieve.
- Wider political participation and education: The scope of political participation and education is enhanced and widened to the extent that people now play major role on issues of national importance. .
- Wider representation: Interests of diverse nature- religious, ethnic, different groups, are represented in the decision making process.
- Reduces the chances of the emergence of a single party dictatorship: This is because in the system, no party is strong enough to suppress the other party.
- Party organisation: Multi-party system encourages better party organisation through competition.
- Recognition of opposition parties: The other political parties, outside the ruling party, can criticise goverment policies and actions.
- Change of government: The provision is made in the constitution for change of government through periodic elections.
- Human rights: The rights of citizens are entrenched in the constitution. They are guaranteed and sustained by the government.
- Rule of law: There is adherent to the rule of law and the provisions of the constitution by political leaders and citizens of the country.
Demerits of Multi-Party System
- Coalition government: Multi-party system often leads to the formation of coalition governments in parliamentary system which are often weak and unstable.
- Too many political programmes: The people could be confused as to which of the parties has the best to offer them.
- Difficult to hold a particular party responsible: It does not allow the electorate to easily hold a particular party responsible for the success or failure of government policies.
- Ethnic and sectionally based political parties: In some countries, it produces ethnic and sectionally based political parties which may not be in the national interest.
- It makes the formation of a new government very difficult: This is because political parties have no common policy before assuming office. A lot of unhealthy compromises may have to be made.
- It is a very expensive party-system: This is because of the cost involved in party organisation.
- Victimization of political opponents: This is a common feature of multi-party system.
- Political instability: With too many political parties competing for political power, unhealthy rivalry and political instability may result.
- Multi-party system weakens the executive: It gives a disproportionate power to self seeking minorities.
- It turns important branches of legislation into class bribery: This lowers the standard of public life.
Zero-party system has to do with a standard where political leaders are elected by the people on indvidual basis. There is no political party. Candidates are mostly independent and are elected according to their merits.
Merits of Zero-Party System
- Proper management of time: Time is properly managed in this type of system.
- Electoral malpractices: Electoral malpractices are reduced to the barest minimum under this system.
- Simple to operate: The conduct of election in this system is very simple to operate.
- Cost: The cost of conducting elections is reduced compared to other systems e.g. multi-party systems.
- Choice: The electorate will find it easy to declare for candidates of their choice.
- Decision making: Decision making is quick and purposeful.
- Conservation of resources: Zero-party system prevents waste of resources in the areas of human, materials and money.
Demerits of Zero-Party System
- Irresponsible political leaders: Those elected may not be responsible political leaders.
- Conduct of election: The conduct of elections could be poorly organised and confusing.
- Absence of party manifesto: This system could produce leaders without direction because there may not be manifesto, which is very important for political parties.
- Instability: Political instability may result in the system.
- Citizenship education: There is the possibility of the absence of political and citizenship education for the people.
A party manifesto may be defined as the cardinal plans or programme of a political party which the party intends to fulfil to the electorate if it is elected into power. It can also be referred to as the aims and objectives of a political party.
The Importance of a Party Manifesto
- What to do and how to do it: It gives direction to the party’s programme of action and or ideology and stipulates how to achieve them.
- Manifesto acts as magnetic pull: Party manifesto is usually a magnetic pull to the electorate i.e. to attract more members or supporters into the party.
- It educates the electorate: Manifesto educates the electorate to have insight into the aims and objectives and planned programmes of the political party.
- Assessment: Party manifesto helps the electorate to assess the party on the basis of the contents of the manifesto.