A two-party system may be defined as the existence of only two major political parties in a political system. These two parties are constitutionally recognized to contest elections.
Britain is a good example of a two-party state. There are two major political parties labor and conservative parties. The liberal party is
a minor party. U.S.A, Canada, Australia. etc.
also practice a two-party system.
FEATURES OF TWO PARTY SYSTEM
1. Two major political parties: There are only two major political parties, that are legally and constitutionally recognized. However, there may be in existence more than two political parties contesting elections.
2. Opposition party: The opposition party is legally recognized in a two-party system.
3. Choice: There are room and opportunity for the choice of candidates and parties.
4. It is democratic: It accommodates democratic principles and allows the operation of the rule of law.
5. Press freedom: Two-party system allows for press freedom, no censorship.
6. Change of government: Change of governments possible because there is the provision for periodic elections. The electorate still has the power to change governments that are not responsive and accountable.
7. Corrective party: The opposition party is seen as a corrective party in government. It watches over and criticizes some of the policies of the ruling party.
MERITS OF TWO PARTY SYSTEM
1. Choice: Two-party system makes for choice between political parties. The party with a better program is chosen by the electorate.
2. Provision of strong opposition: In this system, one party forms the government, the other, opposition. In Britain, for example, the Labour party is the ruling party and the conservative serves as the opposition party.
3. It makes for good governance: The duty of the opposition party is to watch and criticize the government over bad policies. It makes the government cautious in its policy.
4. It ensures stability: Stability is ensured formulation and implementation. and the reason is that there is no room for a coalition government which may create a weak and unstable government.
5. It is democratic: There is the opportunity
for freedom of choice and association.
6. Easy identification: People can easily identify the strength and weaknesses of the
party in government.
7. Change of government: Change of government is possible because the provision for periodic elections is entrenched in the Constitution.
DEMERITS OF TWO PARTY SYSTEM
1. Division of the country into two factions: there is the possibility of a two-party system dividing the country into two opposing factions. This can affect national unity.
2. It does not promote unity: The struggle for power within the system may not promote
3. 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.
4.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.
5. Unhealthy party rivalry: Intimidations, victimization of political opponents, threats, etc, could result from a two-party system.
6. Waste of the nation’s resources: Most of the resources are wasted in conducting elections and in the maintenance of two political parties.
Also, read about the meaning of one-party system here.
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