• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

What factors account for variation in the types of party system to be found in different European countries?

Extracts from this document...


What factors account for variation in the types of party system to be found in different European countries? G. Sartori defines a party system as "the system of interactions resulting from inter-party competition." That is, what parties exist, and how they behave to one another. Jean Blondel believes that the analysis of West European party systems would require a consideration of the number of parties, of their strength, and their place on the political spectrum.1 The number of parties indicates whether one party can legislate alone or form coalitions with others, and can also indicate how politically divided the party system is.2 So, in a two-party (or majority-electing system), two, or perhaps more, parties compete for seats but the two major parties win the vast majority of seats. This is true of the UK. In a multi-party system, it is normal to have some sort of coalition government because no party has a majority in the legislature. This is true of Germany. Often, the number of parties in the system is a result of the electoral system. The electoral system will be discussed as a factor causing the variation in party systems later in the essay. The second consideration is the strength of parties. In western democracies, two-party systems show relative stability and a pendulum effect between the two main parties. ...read more.


Also in the UK, there tended to be a north-south divide on the basis of class, although the distinction is not so clear in the present day. In Britain post-World War II, there was evidently working-class and middle-class. Today, due to the rise in the service sector and self-employment, and the decline in the manufacturing industry, there is a rapidly expanding middle-class.7 Despite the evolution of the traditional "old" Labour Party, which mainly represented the working class, into a bigger catch-all party, it can be argued that voting patterns in the UK are still based for many on social class. However, it can be argued that there is weakening partisanship with regard to the two main parties (Labour and Conservative), due to dissatisfaction and the opinion that there is little difference between them.8 In Germany, both the CDU/CSU and SPD are increasingly centrist and aim to appeal to the wider electorate. This has not always been the case, as the SPD was officially a socialist worker's party until 1959. The long period of CDU/CSU dominance during the post-war "economic miracle" in West Germany made it difficult for the SPD, who were officially anti-capitalism, to gain votes, and they were forced to move towards the centre after dropping their Marxist character in 1959. ...read more.


For example, the class cleavage is still fairly significant in Britain, and this is reflected by the establishment of the Labour Party (traditionally the party of the working class) in the early twentieth century, and the development of the Tory Party into the Conservative Party, which traditionally represented the upper and increasingly middle class voters. Also in Germany, the SPD remains the party of the majority of the working class, whereas the CDU/CSU enjoys more support from the middle classes. In the UK, this ideological division and the first past the post electoral system has led to the development of a two-party system. In Germany, it is more the electoral system that has affected the party system, because its additional member system (a proportional representation system) means that seats are allocated according to votes. As is often the case with a proportional system, it is very hard in Germany to gain an overall majority. It has only happened once, when the CDU/CSU managed it in 1957.13 Electoral systems, majoritarian and proportional, do account for much of the variation in party systems across western Europe. Cleavages can be quite influential but they do also lose their saliency, and this, along with changes in the nature of the electorate and social values in each country, means that party systems in West European countries vary. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Politics section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Politics essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    What have been the effects of the use of proportional electoral systems in the ...

    3 star(s)

    Also, the quota used in such systems can cause very small parties to remain unrepresented. However, this can be viewed in some respect as a positive attribute of the system, since extremist parties have little chance of gaining seats. A final negative connotation of the system is that two distinct

  2. Is Britain a two-party or a multi party system, or something else?

    Though Webb states that this doesn't mean that post-1945 the main parties lack distinctive ideologies, and that centripetal patterns shift with time (a notable example during the mid-1980s), he asserts that "parties departing from the logic or centripetal competition are met with electoral disappointment and have eventually sought a return

  1. To what extent does Britain have a two party system?

    Between 1945 and 70 the general elections produced a governing majority allowing one party to rule without coalition partnerships. Although there were majorities there was alternation in government.

  2. "The UK is a two party system" - does this comment still apply today?

    regionalised democracy even further and has resulted in the emergence of small nationalist parties such as the SNP in Scotland, Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland and Plaid Cymru in Wales, which have nope chance of holding government in Westminster but do receive a great deal of local support.

  1. To what extent was there a 'post war consensus' between 1945-1970.

    Conservatives favoured private sector enterprise and the Labour Party favoured the public sector, with high levels of state intervention and provision. Each party interpreted their social and economic policies according to these ideological ideas and therefore they always had differences in their policies.

  2. Malta at the turn of the 19th Century.

    church with which he wished to carry on the government in harmony. As time was approaching, it was felt by the Maltese Government that the church and civil powers in Malta had to separate and make themselves free from each other.

  1. The Impact of Electoral Design on the Legislature.

    methods while members of the other are selected based on proportional representation. Alternatively, a certain number of legislative members in a given chamber may be chosen one way, with a percentage chosen by the other. For example, in Russia's 1993 parliamentary elections, half of the Duma's (lower house of parliament)

  2. To what extent has Germany's party system evolved from a multi-party system to a ...

    the postwar period."2 There was simply not enough food to go round. As a result of the considerable humanitarian problems in Germany the allies had a free hand in the creation of the new constitution with little interest and input from the people.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work