two-party system

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two-party system

a political system (found in e.g. the UK or the USA) in which the electoral contest is dominated by two main parties. Generally one party is ‘left wing’, and the other ‘right wing’, but not always (e.g. the Republic of Ireland). An elective system based on single-member constituencies and first-past-the-post elections usually underlies this. The existence of such systems would also appear to depend on the elimination of social and political divisions (e.g. religious or ethnic) which might cross cut those based on class interest. See also CLASS CLEAVAGE, STABLE DEMOCRACY.

Two-Party System


a commonly accepted definition of the political system of a number of bourgeois states, in which the two leading parties in the country periodically alternate in running the government, thus serving the interests of the ruling class.

The two-party system is found in the USA (the Republican and Democratic parties), Great Britain (the Conservative Party and at first the Liberal Party, whose place was taken by the Labor Party in the 1920’s), Canada (the Liberal and the Progressive Conservative parties), and certain other countries. During election campaigns the two parties usually stage political fights without any substance. The monopoly bourgeoisie controls and directs the activity of the two parties through the official party machinery (also through bosses in the USA) and through immense financial support. (The cost of presidential campaigns in the USA reached several hundred million dollars in the 1960’s.) The two-party system does not exclude the existence of other parties. However, for a variety of reasons the other parties usually do not play a major political role. The ruling classes use the two-party system to prevent the formation of a large third party that could become a genuine spokesman of the interests of the popular masses. While the two parties have identical positions on the major questions of the government’s domestic and foreign policy, they differ somewhat in political tactics and the methods and techniques the leaders and functionaries use to attain victory over their opponents.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol 22, pp. 199–200.
Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 22, pp. 192–94.


References in periodicals archive ?
Addressing a press conference at PPP Media Cell on Sunday along with newly elected 10 senators of the party from Sindh, he said that at present the PPP, and not the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, was the majority party in the Senate as senators in Punjab were elected independently without any party affiliation and they were yet to join a political party.
This was after consulting with the Chief Whip of the Majority Party and the Leader of Government Business and obtaining confirmation for the 22 February scheduling from the National Assembly Programme Committee.
Normally, we vote for members of parliament, and the majority party forms the government, and tries to implement its manifesto.
In the past, supporters of the majority party may have been happy just to have their party in power.
Romualdez lamented that politicians in the Philippines form coalitions just to get consensus and jump ship to the majority party after an election.
She argues that, contrary to popular belief, the majority party does not necessarily dominate legislative efforts in each legislature.
DEAR Editor, It is completely undemocratic that the only people who will have a vote for the new leader of in the Labour Party in Birmingham, the majority party, and therefore the leader of the council - are the 78 councillors.
The Comelec said a political party duly registered with the commission may file a verified petition for accreditation for determination of dominant majority party, the dominant minority party, the 10 major national parties and the two major local parties.
The budget resolution will establish nonbinding fiscal policy prescriptions that spell out the budget policies of the majority party.
The Panel's recommendations are summarised below: Basic Allowance 1,848 Special Responsibility Allowances (SRAs) as indicated below Chairman 12,798 Vice Chairman 6,399 Chairman - Human Resources Committee 6,399 Leader of Majority Party in Opposition 3,200 Where there is no single majority party in opposition and there is equal representation of any opposition parties on the Authority, the allowance payable to the Leader of the majority party in opposition shall be shared equally between the Leaders of the parties who are so represented.
e Cheylesmore Ward Forum is chaired by myself, a Conservative, so not a councillor of the majority party as is suggested.
The book examines, as Jenkins and Stewart put it, how the necessity of creating a majority party "organizational cartel" that could elect a speaker and other officers eventually (but by no means immediately or inexorably) led to a "procedural cartel" that could control the legislative agenda in the interests of the majority party.