Number of political parties

Number of political parties

The number of political parties in a country has certain implications. First, we will examine how close or far from center the parties’ position would be and then how the election results are determined. We will take four cases a) two parties system b) three parties system c) four parties system d) five parties system. In case b and d, one party is centrist.

If we have two paries, their positions would be to the left and the right of the center. Where exactly will be explained later. If we add a third centrist party, the positions of the two other parties will probably move further to the left and the right. Suppose we have a four party system a) left b) center-left c) center-right d) right. Their position would be much closer to the center, relatively to a two parties system.

Now if we add a fifth party in the center, the position of the center-left and the center-right parties will have to move away from the center, since that area will be covered by the fifth centrist party. The position of the center-left and the center-right parties will move from closer to further, regarding the center position in; a) four parties b) five parties c) two parties d) three parties. We make the assumption that there is not much overlapping between the parties which is not always true.

The common divisor of 2, 3, 4, 5 is 60. Let's start from left and assume that 0 is ultra-left, 30 is center, 60 is ultra-right and the parties are equal in length (size). The position of center-left and center-right parties would be; a) four parties 22,5 and 37,5 b) five parties 18 and 42 c) two parties 15 and 45 d) three parties 10 and 50. Another perhaps better way to see this is making -30 ultra-left, 0 center, +30 ultra-right. All we need to do is subtract 30 and we get; a) four parties -7,5 and +7,5 b) five parties -12 and +12 c) two parties -15 and +15 d) three parties -20 and +20. Of course these are oversimplifications but serve very well the purpose of making the point understood.

Also there are different considerations on how to win an election according to the number of parties. In a two parties system, the two parties compete in the center and try not to lose votes from vote abstention. If they move too much to the center, some voters on the right or the left may become disengaged and not vote at all.

In a four parties system they may vote for the party that is further to the right or to the left. Let’s say that we have a) left b) center-left c) center-right d) right where the two center parties are the big parties trying to win an election. The result is not only determined in the center but also on how well the left and right parties do on trying to win votes from the center-left and the center-right party respectively.

Some times odd alliances occur that are not always visible. A party may ally with another that is furthest ideologically. In the case of the four parties, the center-right party may make an odd alliance with the left while the center-left may ally with the right. The center-right competes for votes with the right and the center-left but not with the left party. So the left party is not a threat but it can be useful because it cuts votes from the center-left party which is the main opponent to the center-right regarding the elections. 

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