There are many variations in the political party systems in different democracies. The three main systems include single party system, multiparty system and two party systems. The first reason for these variations is the difference in electoral laws in the different democracies. Electoral laws affect party organization and operation. Related to this is the centralization of the state and the separation of power between the legislative and executive arms of government. Nations that have authoritarian rule are likely to have less political parties because the state may want to suppress dissenting opinions (Scarrow, 2009).

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Party systems in different nations are also influenced by the type of regime and the differences between presidential and parliamentary systems. For example, in a parliamentary system, the executive (Prime Minister) is elected through negotiation. Small parties can thrive under such a system because they plan an important role in the legislative negotiation. On the other hand in a presidential system where the winner-takes-it-all, parties are likely to form coalitions through which they seek political power (Pettitt, 2014).

The other reason is the socio-cultural an economic differences that exist between nations. Political parties in developing countries especially in Africa are formed around personalities who in most cases are prominent members of ethnic groups. Many groups form and associate with their own ethnic political party. This means that the higher the number of dominant ethnic groups in these nations, the more the number of political parties. This is different from the case of mature democracies where the political process is more issue based and political parties are formed along ideologies (Pettitt, 2014).

The above factors have explained why there are variations in political party systems in different democracies. The party system within a nation may change even when some of the institutional structures within that nation do not change. The party system should be as representative as possible and consider the interests of the minority groups.


  • Pettitt, R.T. (2014). Contemporary party politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Scarrow, S.E. (2009). Political parties and party systems. In LeDuc, L., Niemi, R.G., & Norris, P. (Eds). Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in the 21st Century. London: SAGE.