A multiparty system, as the name suggests, is a system that consists of various political parties that stand across the political spectrum in the normal course of the electoral process. These parties may exclusively win a majority or may form a coalition government which is contingent upon the public support it receives through the vote. The party system is broadly divided into three categories which any democracy may choose to follow- One-party system, Two-party system, and Multi-party system.
In order to create a conducive environment for national development, a multi-party system is universally preferred. India, a parliamentary democracy, follows a multiparty system wherein individuals are given a wide variety of choices to elect their representatives. The various factions that exist in the multi-party system ensure that every political opinion is heard and shaped in the parliamentary processes. This, in turn, ensures effective implementation of policies undertaken and that is why countries like India, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, Zimbabwe, etc. practice it till today.
Some Important Features of the Multi-party System:
Contest among Various Political Parties and Ideologies:
- Competitiveness is the distinct characteristic of multi-party democracy. The system thus provides a wide range of policy measures and the voters are expected to take positions based on policy preferences that the different parties are offering.
- Tough competition among the different parties forces them to adopt Programmes, Objectives, and Plans to serve their respective constituency.
- Nevertheless, the opposition parties help citizens in shaping their political stand. This happens when they provide constructive criticism pertaining to the decisions of the ruling party.
Choices of the Voters:
- The youthful population of any country is more likely to hold radical and progressive views on existing social issues. The multi-party system serves more choices to diverse social and ethnic target groups.
- The probability of considering different viewpoints is relatively higher in a multiparty system. The Multi-party system affords citizens the opportunity to have as many choices as possible and also encourages their participation in election procedures.
- This system has a wider scope of imparting political education among the masses. One of the many obligations that political parties have is to educate citizens about their political rights. More parties thus tend to widen political education to the remotest parts.
Accommodating and Harmonizing Different Interests and Values:
- In the multi-party system, the legislature consists of regional parties which are allowed to play an important role in national politics. It is also important to note that the distinction between regional and national parties in India is fast declining. The reason may be attributed to the system of the coalition that the country has been experiencing since the decline of the domination of the Indian National Congress.
- Political parties in a multi-party system work in a coalition. This improves their ability to exhibit harmony in spite of the different political orientations that they may have. The principle of ‘balance of power’ is being checked by the parties that exist in the parliament other than the ruling party.
- This system is often viewed as a system that represents better management of political and financial resources. It also helps in creating a strong administrative setup.
Instilling Democratic Values:
- Democracy is based on the ideals of freedom of speech and expression. The prospects of criticizing the government for its bad governance by the citizens are more prevalent in a multiparty system.
- In terms of the interests of each small and large group, such a system adequately represents the interest of the majority as well as minorities in the parliament. No single party has the authority to impose its interest on the national level. Thus, the possibility of a dictatorial democracy is considerably declined.
- A democracy is expected to be accountable to its citizens. This system allows citizens to articulate their different social, economic, cultural, and political aspirations which are considered by the different parties in power. The existence of multiple parties in power is a means to instill confidence among voters that decision making involves wide and diverse opinions and interests.
The phase of one-party dominance in the case of India came to an end in the post-emergency elections. In 1977, the Janata Party received huge public support and people abandoned the Congress. Since then, the inter-party competition in a multiparty system is a huge motivating force for political parties to function democratically, responsibly, and transparently.
The multi-party system is closely associated with democracy, serving the interests of wide groups, it is more accountable towards its citizen. The success of a democracy is however not contingent on the number of political parties that a country may have. On the contrary, it depends upon how impactfully these political parties can foster political education among their citizens. While it may come at the cost of mixed political viewpoints, it encourages inclusiveness and promotes democratic decision-making.
The argument of whether a multiparty system provides for more democracy may or may not be justified. This is because the true success of democracy depends upon political accountability and transparency of the government machinery along with other political elements. These elements may include protection of human rights, emphasis on education, human development, infrastructure, and so on. Compared to the other party systems, a multi-party governing system offers more prospects for the macro-level development of a nation.
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