In recent decades, the United States has had a two-party system, with the overwhelming majority of candidates being elected being members of the two major parties. The minor parties such as the Libertarians, Greens, and other smaller parties, rarely have significant effects on national or even statewide elections.
In contrast, countries with parliamentary political systems tend to have a wider range of parties, representing a greater spectrum of political opinions. In Canada, for example, there are currently three major national parties, the far left New Democratic Party (NDP), the Liberals and the Conservatives; there is also a Green Party that hovers close to 5 percent of the national vote in some years. On a regional level, the Bloc Québécois is important in Quebec, and dominated the region for several decades, while the Wildrose party has grown in power in Alberta in the past decade.
Many European nations have multi-party systems and are governed by coalitions of several different parties. In Britain, the main parties are Labour and Tory, but the Liberal Democrats were actually part of a governing coalition with the Tories for several years. Other significant parties include the UKIP, a far right Eurosceptic party, and the Scottish Nationalist Party, a left-leaning party that advocates Scottish independence.
There are several examples of the multi-party system throughout the history of the United States. Currently, we have two major political parties. They are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Political parties formed to represent the interests of the people who are members of that party.
The Republican Party started in 1854. It was originally a party opposed to slavery. Today, the Republican Party tends to represent the interests of business and the wealthy. It supports conservative economic and social policies. It also places an emphasis on religious values.
The Democratic Party formed in the 1830s. Today it tends to represent workers and middle-class people. It works to give those who aren’t as well-off a chance to be successful. It is a strong supporter of civil liberties and diversity.
In early American history, we also had political parties. One party was called the Federalist Party. The other was called the Democratic-Republican Party. Each party also represented specifics groups and interests.
Other countries have multiple political parties also. In England, there is the Conservative Party and the Labor Party. In Israel, many political parties also exist. The Likud Party and Labor Party are two major ones. The multi-party system allows people to join a party that best represents their needs, thoughts, and values.
Many modern countries use multi-party systems, some notable examples including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, India, Poland and Japan. A multi-party systems consists of 3 or more major political parties that work together in coalitions to draft and pass legislative policy. Parties will often form both short- and long-term alliances with other parties to generate the number of votes to push their legislation through to become law.
A good example of a country with a significantly fragmented political party system is Italy. They have nine different major political parties, and none of them have a large enough lead on the others to pass legislation by themselves. Due to their large amount of fragmentation the Italian Parliament has major issues with efficiency, spending more time trying to form lasting alliances than creating policy to solve national issues.
This stands in direct contrast to the Canadian multi-party system which has three major political parties. With the current division of Parliamentary seats the majority party, the Liberal Party of Canada, is capable of passing legislation without any support from the other parties.
The major advantage of having multiple political parties is the diversification of public interest. With more parties it is possible for citizens to vote in a manner that supports their interests rather than supporting a party loyalty. At the same time, the additional parties working in opposition make it harder for legislation to be passed, which makes it more difficult for the legislative bodies of said country to address societal issues.
Third-parties, although not usually elected to office in United States history, still have an effect on voters. They bring issues to the forefront that Democrats and Republicans may otherwise ignore. This is especially noticeable during debates, when third-party candidates bring up modern issues that the major party candidates do not have answers prepared for. A current example of this is Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist who is running for the Democratic nomination. Other parties in history include the Bull-Moose Party (headed by Teddy Roosevelt) and the Green Party (focusing on the environment).
Multiple parties allow voters to side with people who tend to maintain common interests, though it is impossible to find someone with exactly the same opinions as those that they are representing.
On the other hand, George Washington famously warned the United States government not to fall into a party system because it will divide the people and cause political gridlock, which is exactly what has happened.
Multiple parties allow different viewpoints and ideals to be presented to the public, and although people are divided in their opinions, the multi-party system gives them insight into the views of like-minded people.