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Party System

Most modern democracies have a system of parties for people to choose from. In those with only a First Past the Post electoral system (mainly the US and UK) there are two main parties. In the US there are for practical purposes two parties found throughout the nation. Europeans can detect few important differences between them. In US elections there are often no obvious ideological differences between candidates, so that elections may turn on the amount of money used for advertising. (This may be why so few vote).

In Europe there are usually a range of parties from Far Right (racist, dictatorial), through center right, center left, far left (state ownership of most industries). The result is frequently a coalition of interest groups with center parties forming the permanent core of the government. Some electoral systems are alleged to give voters more choice than others.

In the US voters usually have a choice of candidates in the Primary before the main election. In France there is a run off second election if no candidate gets a majority (more than 50%) in the first election.

Both European and American systems seem able to prevent permanent dictatorship (though strong-minded persons can sometimes control the government and ignore the voters, as in the UK). Do any systems consistently allow competent people to gain office?

In so-called One-party states the ruling party usually allows no opposition, which means opponents are imprisoned or worse. In that case the word "Party" is inappropriate as it is the equivalent of an exclusive Church or cult.

Last revised 7/08/08


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