Normally the two party system consists of two major parties, Which are nearly equal in membership, e.g., the Conservative and Labour J»rties in Britain. A few minor parties may also exist, but they have little or Mo influence on the politics of the country. Sometimes a third party may •rise which may gradually oust one of the two earlier parties from the ipuntry’s politics. Thus temporarily there may be three parties, but Ultimately the two party system is restored. This happened in England, trhere during the nineteenth century, the two parties, the Liberal and Conservative, existed.
Then the third party, the Labour, came into being. It gradually supplanted the Liberal party and finally in the general elections of 1945, the Liberal party vanished from Parliamentary scene, which is now dominated by the two parties, nearly Labour and Conservative parties. In Ihe two party system, one of the two parties is in minority in the legislature. It assumes the function of criticism and opposition to the party in power, hence called the Opposition. However, in spite of the opposition, the jllfferences between them are often very minor. Both are reluctant to take up new and untried issues, which are really espoused at first by the taimportant minor parties. Only when an issue or a programme becomes popular, then one of the two major parties adopts it as its own programme Or platform. Organisation of both parties is rigid and close-knit.
Arguments for the Bi-party System.
As compared to the multiple party system, the Bi-party system has Ihe following advantages:
Offers a clear-cut alternative to the voters. First of all, Ihe Two-Party System is convenient to the voters. They are asked to choose between two parties with their clear-cut programmes. Therefore, the choice before the electors is very simple and clear. They can vote for one of the Iwo parties. Thus they decide beforehand that it by giving more votes to one party should rule over them. In the Multiple Party system, they are confronted with several parties, and are lost in the welter of several parties ind their confusing programmes. Their votes do not decide which of the parties would ultimately rule then, because this depends upon the coalition Of the parties in the legislature. So the government formed under the dual party system is really the choice of the people. They directly choose till cabinet.
Formation of government is easy under this system. Th( formation of the cabinet or government is easier under the bi-party system than under the multiple party system, for one of the two parties ll necessarily returned in majority and forms the cabinet. In the group system- no party has majority in the legislature and, therefore, several parties join together to form a cabinet. But the coalition cabinets are notpriously unstable.
It secures a really representative government. Dual party system secures a representative government in the real sense, for: (i) it enables the voters to choose the government directly, as we have said above; (ii) it makes the party-in-power responsive and responsible for it| policy to the voters; and (hi) it makes the Opposition responsible and dignified in its criticism of the ruling party. The aim of the Opposition is “to get in” and form the government.
It has, therefore, to criticise the policy and laws of the party-in-power in a sober, sensible, systematic and responsible manner so as to win the majority of votes at the next elections. It must nol indulge in careless and irresponsible criticism of the good measures of the government, for it might have to adopt them itself when it steps into officc, Under the multiple party system, the Opposition is irresponsible in iti criticism. It indulges in intrigues in order to bring down the existing cabinet, Its sole aim is to defeat the government, by fair means or foul.
It ensures stable and strong government. The dual party system ensures a stable and strong government. As there are only two parties in the legislature, one of them necessarily has the majority and forms the cabinet. The government formed by one party is stable, strong and responsible. It commands majority in the legislature. The cabinet works as a team, for all its members hold the same or nearly similar views on the problems and policies of their government. They also control the support and enjoy the confidence of the members of the legislature by party discipline and organisation.
As the majority in the assembly belongs to the party-in-power, they do not try to bring down the cabinet, for it is their government. The fall of their cabinet will bring their opponents into power, which they do not like at all. In th6 multiple party system, the cabinet is usually a coalition cabinet which is notoriously unstable. Both the ministers in the cabinet and the members/of the legislature constantly intrigue with each other to overthrow the existing government and install a new one. In England where the two party /system exists, the cabinets hold office for at least three years on the average, while in France, where the multiple party system existed, the cabinets jhad always been short-lived. The average life of a French cabinet had beep six months. For instance, during the thirteen years (1945-58), France had 26 ministries, while England had only four Cabinet changes during the same period. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher has ruled Mie U.K. as Prime Minister for more than ten years.
It is easy to fix responsibility for failure of government Under the dual party system. But it is not so under the multiple party lystem. The reason is that under the two-party system, the cabinet is formed by one party. If it fails, that particular party is blamed for its wrong policy or programme. Under the multiple party system, the cabinet is a coalition government and no one party can be blamed for the failure of its policy or ictions.
It makes long-term planning and policy possible. As the government under the two-party system is stable and strong, it can Undertake long-term planning and policy, because it expects to remain in office for a reasonably long period of time. Under the multiple party system, the executive is weak and unstable. It cannot adopt strong policy and long-term planning.
In conclusion, as Laski said, the two-party system “enables the government to drive its policy to the statute book. It makes known and intelligible the results of its failure. It brings an alternative government immediately into being.” The multiple system always means that no government can be formed until after the people have chosen the legislative assembly, and even then it is a coalition government.