Political plurality

Analyzing single- and multi-party systems

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While the United States has multiple political parties beyond Democratic and Republican—such as the Libertarian and Green Parties—the political scene is dominated by a two-party system. However, that may not be the case for many countries around the world with a vast array of political systems, from absolute monarchies constricting political engagement to complex political structures with multiple influential parties. Below are an array of five countries from diverse regions of the world.

Botswana

Located just above South Africa, Botswana is considered one of the most stable democracies in Africa, according to the nongovernmental organization Freedom House which researches and measures political freedom around the world. Additionally, the pan-African research organization Afrobarometer, which studies public opinion within African countries, found an average of 76 percent of the population believed Botswana’s political system was a full democracy with minor problems, as detailed in their 2016 report.

However, since the country gained its independence in 1966, a single party has since dominated the scene; the Botswana Democratic Party has never lost a presidential election. According to Freedom House, they also passed legislation in 2016 increasing fees for election candidates.

In 2012, three of the largest parties opposing BDP—the Botswana National Front, the Botswana Movement for Democracy and the Botswana People’s Party—joined together to form the Umbrella for Democratic Change, also known as the UDC. By 2017, the Botswana Congress Party had joined the UDC. The UDC, which describes their mission as urging “a system of governance truly rooted in accountability; delivering justice and services to all,” will face off against the BDP in the 2019 elections.

Brazil

Brazil’s government, known as “União” in Portuguese, is considered a representative democratic republic under a presidential system. The system is divided into three branches of government—legislative, executive and judicial—similar to that of the U.S. The president of Brazil is elected for four-year terms with a two-term limit, while the National Congress makes up the legislative branch. Prior to the recent October elections, according to the Americas Society/ Council on Americas, 28 parties held seats in Congress. The judicial branch is encompassed by a variety of different courts much like the court systems in the U.S., with the highest being the Federal Supreme Court.

The Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) was founded in 1980, and as of 1986 was Brazil’s largest political party. While it did not run a presidential candidate in the 2002 elections, it came to support the former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party. However, after the political scandal Operation Car Wash and Lula’s connected corruption charges, PMDB distanced itself from the Workers’ Party.

President-elect Jair Bolsonaro is a member of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, which was formed in 1988 by leftists frustrated with the PMDB. One of their main foci is to replace the presidential form of government with a parliamentary system.

The third party dominating the Brazilian scene is the powerful, left-wing Workers’ Party. However, this party has lost much of its former prestige, owing to its close ties with Operation Car Wash.

China

While China technically has nine legally registered parties, the country has a one-party rule with the Chinese Communist Party and is categorized as an authoritarian regime by Freedom House.

Every five years, the CCP holds a meeting of delegates, known as the the National Congress, “behind closed doors” as reported by the BBC. During the week-long gathering, the CCP elects candidates to senior party positions and discusses the future direction of the party itself. A majority of the 2,300 delegates are invited to the National Congress where they elect some 200 members for the Central Committee. The Central Committee in turn elects the 25-member Political Bureau, seven of whom will make up the Standing Committee.

The Central Committee also elects the president, currently Xi Jinping, who controls the Standing Committee and acts as General Secretary of the Communist Party as well as Chairman of the Central Military Commission.

According to The Atlantic, when elected to power by the CCP in 2014, Jinping claimed to want “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” Part of his goal is expanding the Chinese economy to triple that of the U.S. by 2049.

Germany

Two parties dominate the political scene in Germany. The first is the Christian Party, which, according to Professor of Economics and International Studies John B. Hall, is divided into two parts. “There’s the Christian Democratic Union, CDU, and their sister party, the Christian Social Union,” Hall stated. “They’re more similar to our Republican party…Their strong supporters are going to be the employers association and the banks.”

Founded in 1863, the Social Democratic Party of Germany was officially outlawed from 1933–1945 when the Nazis gained power in Germany. “It certainly captures a lot of artists, intellectuals, [and] critics,” Hall said. “It’s an interesting community, but in principle they’re centered around those who work for wages, those who labor for a living. It’s never really veered from that.”

While Germany is considered a parliamentary system, the country’s executive branch is made up of a chancellor who heads the government and a president with limited power. “[The president is] not a role of power,” Hall commented. “It’s more a role of moral leadership. Often, the chancellor plays a role in nominating the president. The president usually deals with things that affect people more emotionally.”

Germany has legislature in place ensuring any party with five percent or more of the national vote is guaranteed representation in Parliament under the Federal Elections Act of 1993.

“Germany is an inclusive-oriented political system that brings in the fringe, while ours is largely exclusive,” Hall said. “The idea is to get everybody at the table, and those who are really on the fringe, by the character of being on the fringe, don’t have a lot of influence, but they are worrying about the next election and getting them out of the back rooms and into parliament.”

Iran

In this country located in the Middle East, the government combines aspects of both democracy and the religion of Islam to rule. It is considered a multi-party system. However, only political parties loyal to the ideals of Islam and the state of Iran are permitted.

In 2015, when two reformist parties were established in time for the 2016 elections, the Guardian Council disqualified almost all of the candidates.

The Guardian Council is a team of 12 members considered experts on Islamic law. Six of these members are directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, while the other six are nominated by the head of the judiciary and confirmed by the legislative body known as the Majles.

“The 1979 constitution reserves five seats in Iran’s parliament for officially recognized religious minorities. These are defined in Article 13 as Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity,” said Robert Asaadi, professor of political science and international studies at Portland State. “This provision doesn’t equate to equal rights in practice for officially recognized minorities, and it doesn’t address non-officially recognized religious minorities, namely Iran’s largest religious minority, the Baha’i faith.”

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