Advantages and Disadvantages of Multi-Party System
Multi Party System is defined as a system with more than two political parties are contesting for political power in a country. All the parties are duly registered and recognised by law. In multi-party system, a coalition government may be formed, if no party had absolute majority seats in parliamentary election.
However, coalition government is mostly common with parliamentary democracy. Nigeria, France, Italy, Zambia, Malawi, etc, practise multi-party system.
Benefits and Limitations of Multi Party State
Merits Of Multi-Party System
There are certain advantages of multi-partyism.
- More than any other party system, the multi-party system adequately represents the various diverse interests in society.
- The system gives the various groups and interests in the country (including the minorities) a sense of belonging.
- There is the tendency for the legislature to look at issues from a broad and national perspective than from a narrow party position. After all, no one party interest is dominant.
For example, the greatest opposition to the Obasanjo Administration was from the National Assembly ironically controlled by the president’s party, the Peoples Democratic Party. The defeat of the bill to amend the 1999 Constitution in 2006, for example, was executed in the National Assembly by a coalition of forces led by members of the party.
- Under the multi-party system, the excesses and dictatorial tendencies of the executive are more easily checked. In short, the system helps to prevent tyranny and oppression.
- The system of representation in the legislature encourages cross-party voting by the voters. Thus, the quality of candidates rather than party consideration is the major factor in voting.
The election of Aminu Tambuwal e.g. The speaker of the Nigerian House of Representatives in June 2012 contrary to the directive of the PDP leadership attests to this.
Demerits Of Multi Party State
Multi-party system is disadvantageous in the following ways;
- The system is defective in that it is usually difficult for one party to win an election. As such coalition governments which are generally unstable are formed to overcome the problem.
In Nigeria’s First Republic, for example, none of the three major parties was dominant as each of them won only in their respective regions. That is, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) won in the North, the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) in the East and the Action Group (AG) in the West.
A similar pattern played out itself in the Second Republic. The National Party of Nigeria (NPN), which was the ruling party, did not have a majority in the National Assembly and had to work out in accord with the Nigeria People’s Party (NPP) to have its bills passed.
The party also had only seven of the nineteen governors in the 1979 elections. The PDP has, however, been dominant in the Fourth Republic, not because the party in providing good governance but as a result of poor organisation and the inability of the other parties to overcome their organisational weaknesses and present a formidable opposition to the PDP.
- Since the system is characterized by compromises and coalitions, the voter has little or no say in who eventually forms the government.
The coalition government which is the hallmark of the multi-party system is notoriously unstable. Italy provides a good example. Italian governments, for instance, last on the average for nine months but the collapse of one government is usually followed after a short period by a government almost identical to the government whose fall led to the crises.
In February 1970, for example, a government collapsed and after two months of caretaker government and intense bargaining, the same prime minister and the same parties were able to form a “new government”, which lasted for just three months.
- The multi-party system produces weak or lame-duck governments that can hardly take quick and decisive action on issues of national importance.
In Israel, the Labour government of Ehud Barak, after only two years in office, was defeated by Ariel Sharon of the Likud Party in 2000 over whether or not to negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Authority on the creation of the state of Palestine whose capital will be in East Jerusalem.
- Many of the political parties in a multi-party system are too weak to be reckoned with. Of the 63 political parties in Nigeria, it was only eight of them that won one or more seats in the National Assembly in the April 2011 election. About 70 percent of the parties did not even bother to take part in it.
- Public policies and laws which are usually the result of compromises are generally incoherent and confusing to the people.
- Since the system rests on the coalition of many parties, the tendency is usually for a large party to go into coalition with a number of small parties.
This practice gives the small parties and their leaders a disproportionate share of power, which may be used primarily for selfish ends.
- In a multi-party system, it is too difficult to locate political responsibility.