Two-party system

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A two–party system is one where two major political parties dominate voting in nearly all elections at every level of government. As a result, all, or nearly all, elected offices are members of one of the two major parties. Under a two-party system, one of the two parties typically holds a majority in the legislature and is usually referred to as the majority party while the other is the minority party. While the term two-party system is somewhat imprecise and has been used in different countries to mean different things, there is considerable agreement that a system is considered to be of a two-party nature when election results show consistently that all or nearly all elected officials belong to only one of the two major parties, such as in the United States. In these cases, the chances for third party candidates winning election to any office are remote, although it's possible for groups within the larger parties, or in opposition to one or both of them, to exert influence on the two major parties.

There is strong agreement that the United States has a two-party system;[1] historically, there have been few instances in which third party candidates won any elections. In countries such as Britain and Spain,[2] two major parties emerge which have strong influence and tend to elect most of the candidates, but a multitude of lesser parties exist with varying degrees of influence, and sometimes these lesser parties are able to elect officials who participate in the legislature. As a result, some commentators have described the political system in Britain, for example, as being a two-party system, in the sense that two parties are strong and influential although other lesser parties exist and have an influence. A report in the Christian Science Monitor, for example, suggested that Spain was moving towards a "greater two-party system" while acknowledging that Spain has "many small parties."[3] In political systems based on the Westminster system, which is a particular style of parliamentary democracy based on the British model and found in many commonwealth countries such as Bermuda and New Zealand as well as other countries such as Pakistan and Israel, a majority party will form the government and the minority party will form the opposition, and coalitions of lesser parties are possible; in the rare circumstance in which neither party is the majority, it's called a hung parliament. Sometimes these systems are described as two-party systems but they're usually referred to as multi-party systems. There is not always a sharp boundary between a two-party system and a multi-party system.

Generally, a two-party system becomes a dichotomous division of the political spectrum with an ostensibly right-wing and left-wing party: Liberals vs. Labour in some Commonwealth countries, Republicans vs. Democrats in the United States and The Conservative Party and the Labour Party in the United Kingdom


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