The Two-Party System And Its Appeal

A bi-party election may not be seen as entirely ‘fair’, but is there an alternative?

Voting is a representation of political and social upliftment. And, of all conceivable methods of selecting a leader, election by vote is the most prominently practiced one, across the world. The first-past-the-post system, a plural voting system, in which the electoral candidate who wins maximum vote is elected, leaving those who are even marginally behind with no representation, is the most popularly adopted method, across most economies. To this day, the US is the only exception which has always had a two-party voting system. This raises some ethical questions: could the candidates have won if there was a third candidate to compete with, thus splitting the vote proportions? And more relevantly, do US citizens deserve only two competing candidates, when idealistically a third contestant would make the system “fairer”? These inquiries question the constitutional foundations of US politics, encouraging a constant ideological conflict between citizens’ conception of a leader and the one delivered by the system.

The US (political system) has had the liberty to form new parties, other than the popular two, but only once in its history; a ‘third party candidate’, Theodore Roosevelt, received a more compelling vote in 1912, despite being a former Republican. He secured second position, losing to Woodrow Wilson. (Roosevelt’s previous stint with Republicans cannot be ruled out in his coming second). Economies like India have dealt with a multi-party system since the dawn of their specific political history. Such economies, which also follow the first-past-the-post system, having more than two popular parties, nevertheless, invite idiosyncratic influence on elections. There is a downside to a multi-party system, however; it faces wrath of the ‘wasted votes’ of citizens.

An alternative to this system is proportional representation, in which parties get reserved seats proportional to the votes they win. The alternative vote offers ranking preferred electoral candidates in the order they choose. This is in obvious ways prone to create disruption and inconsistency in governance. This is perhaps the reason that electoral systems in the UK and Canada, too, adopt the first-past-the-post voting system. The originator of this plural voting system, the UK, is understandably battling opinion conflicts between the current system and the alternative voting system. A inference of these issues shall be a conquered milestone, and like no other, deciding the future of democracies.

Ideologies being numerous, restriction on the number of parties subjugates the flourishing of newer political ideals, like in the US. The deficiency of electoral candidates is most obvious and demanding when there lie no efficient candidates in the two parties fighting for a single executive seat. Such a state is the sorriest for citizens, to whom all possible leaders or parties owe a superior or at least the desired quality leadership and governance. Such ethical dilemmas seem normal in the US, only recently observed in the 2016 elections, where neither Clinton nor Trump were seen as ‘more than deserving’ candidates, with both having their share of a notorious past.

The Electoral Reform Society, the oldest pressure group in UK, is advocating to replace the first-past-the-post system with the proportional representation system. It deems it best fitted for the 21st century, considering extensive plurality in culture, religion, class, and caste. But such systems are allegedly controversial, because smaller parties intentionally arise to split votes and demand proportional representation with malicious intentions of disturbance and regression. Such a system will disallow permanent reforms, smooth functioning of parliament, thriving of progressive ideologies, and render repetitive chaos. In retrospect, the ‘winner takes it all’ system seems the most reasonable and timely, considering continuous disruptions brought about by the terrible mixture of different ideologies trying to steer growth, which eventually renders not even one as effective and stalls all foreseeable progress.


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