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Party systems in Britain and France

Party systems are unavoidable systems of politics resulting from competition between parties. Democratic societies have historically had party systems that have established governance. Each country has a particular party systems ranging from one-party system to a multi-party system composed of more than two parties. A party system has the capacity to influence the level of democracy depending on the stability of the system. This essay compares and contrasts party systems in France and Britain with a focus on their history, stability and resultant democracy.

Britain has been under two-party system as from the World War II but this has not remained the case with recent elections involving three parties hence qualifying to be a multiparty system. Britain has three major political parties (the Conservatives, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats) thus qualifying to be a multiparty system. There is no single party that has a guaranteed absolute majority despite the fact that Conservatives and the Labour Party have formed governments entirely in the past.

The Labour Party is popular in the Westminster but a balance of power is ensured in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Even within Westminster, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories give the Labour Party significant competition (History Learning, 2010). Once in a while, Britain experiences a dominant-party system with the 18 year rule of the Conservative from 1979 to 1997 being a good example. It is however important to note that oppositions parties still existed despite being disarrayed. The Labour Party has also been dominating the politics of Britain for the last 13 years since 1997.

Despite appearing as a dominant-party system, the 2010 general elections overturned the events by the Conservative coming back to power under the leadership of David Cameron. France also has an almost similar party system to that of Britain with three parties being dominant in France politics. These are the Socialist Party, the neo-Gaullist RPR and the Union of French Democracy. Despite being viewed as a multi-party system of democracy, France’s political system is almost bipolar. The socialist Party which is the left –wing and the right which is mainly made of Christian Democrats almost rules out the existence of a third powerful party.

It is however notable that the existence of a third uprising political party (UDF) rules out a two-party system but it still does not establish a powerful multi-party political system with the history of France politics being characterized by fragmentation (Siilats, 2010). Despite having three main in France, the parties are weak in power with the president’s party being strong. This is a product of the fifth republic created by de Gaulle as a means of striking a consensus in France politics.

Smaller parties are in France have a chance to be represented in parliament as the electoral system ensures proportional representation. Smaller parties include the Communists and the National front among others. Looking into the stability of the British party system versus France party system, the British party system appears to be more stable since there is no tendency to have a left and a right wing which creates extremism. Lack of a clear multiparty system in France has been characterized by fragmentation and tendency to take extremist positions.

The French party system however appears more democratic as characterized by proportional representation of smaller parties. The British party system is democratic but it is severally characterized by a dominant party in the recent past. References: History Learning. (2010). Party systems. Retrieved 29, July 2010 from http://www. historylearningsite. co. uk/party_systems. htm Siilats. (2010). Superficially bi-polar, but essentially multiparty. Assess this view of the French party system. Retrieved 19, July 2010 from http://www. siilats. com/docs/politics/superficially%20bipolar%20french%20party%20system. htm

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