two-party systems

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Political systems in which only two political parties effectively compete for government office. Minor parties may operate in such a system, although in some cases, as in the United States, they may have to surmount significant barriers to be placed on the ballot paper. Some theorists argue that two‐party systems offer a superior form of electoral democracy because unless there are only two parties, there can be no guarantee that any party will have a legislative majority, without which government policy is formed on the basis of bargaining between political elites, which is seen as less accessible to popular control. However, in a two‐party system much policy formation takes place within the political parties, also away from popular control. Two‐party systems are most often found in association with first‐past‐the‐post electoral systems, as in the United States and Britain.

Wyn Grant


Subjects: Politics.

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