Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 20, Issue 1

Grigorii V Golosov, "Towards a classification of the world's democratic party systems, step 2: Placing the units into categories," Party Politics, 20 (January 2014), 3-15. [Available at ]

First paragraph:
It is traditional in political science to classify party systems by the numbers of parties. Almost sixty years ago, Ranney and Kendall (1954: 477) wrote: 'One of the most elementary procedures used in dealing with the raw data of political conflict is that which, taking the departure from the notion of ''party systems'', seeks to assign each observed instance to one or another of three types: the ''one-party system'', the ''two-party system'', and the ''multipleparty system'''. With some minor modifications proposed by later authors, this classification remains with us today. Of course, there are many more classifications on offer in the political science marketplace. Indeed, as any complex phenomena, party systems are 'inherently multidimensional' (Gross and Sigelman, 1984: 463), and therefore some of the classifications simply do not involve the numbers of parties, or do so but only marginally. Such are, to cite recent examples, a classification based on the varying levels of party system institutionalization (Mainwaring, 1999) and a classification focused on the 'open' and 'closed' structures of party competition (Mair, 2002). Moreover, the classification of Sartori (1976), probably the most influential one in comparative research on party systems, is multidimensional, as it is based on at least three classificatory parameters: the number of parties, ideological distance and alternation in power.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. The segmented relative size triangle with some data points of significance.
Figure 2. The RST locations of six party systems and individual election outcomes, 1938-2009.*
Figure 3. The RST display with the reformulated definitions of segments.
Table 1. The world's democratic party systems by type, 1792- 2009.
Table 2. The world's democratic party systems by subtype, 1792-2009.
Figure 4. The party systems of Europe, 1837-2009.
Figure 5. The party systems of the Americas, 1792-2009.
Figure 6. The party systems of Africa, Asia and Oceania, 1921- 2009.
Table 3. The party systems of Europe, 1837-2009.
Table 4. The party systems of the Americas, 1792-2009.
Table 5. The party systems of Africa, Asia, and Oceania, 1910-2009.
Table 7. The subtypes of the world's democratic party systems by the time of emergence, 1792-2003 (percentage shares; numbers in parentheses).
Figure 7. The world's democratic party systems by the period of their emergence, 1792-2003.
Table 8. Medians for survival time of different party system subtypes in the Kaplan-Meier estimator.
Figure 8. A plot of the Kaplan-Meier estimates of the survival functions for six party system subtypes.

Last Paragraph:
The purpose of this article was to produce a comprehensive classification of the world's democratic party systems, and it is now delivered. While solving this task took effort, the immediate payoff, in terms of a better understanding of the global dynamics of party system development, is not negligible. The elementary quantitative judgment about the global spread and dynamics of the world's democratic party systems is that predominantparty systems form the least-spread category; the two-party systems, found in approximately every third case, are more widespread; and multiparty systems are most common. To a certain extent, party systems vary depending on geographic region, with multipartism being best represented in Europe, and bipartism in the Americas, while predominant-party systems are most likely to be found in other regions of the world. The world of party systems is relatively stable over time, especially with regard to the share of two-party systems, but the third wave of democratization has brought about some new developments, including the relative decline of predominantparty systems and a great expansion of bivalent multiparty systems. The most durable party system is monovalent bipartism, but on this parameter bivalent multipartism is not very different, with the lowest longevity being consistently demonstrated by predominant-party systems. In general, however, the world of party systems remains diverse and sustains its diversity in the ongoing process of the global extension of democracy, which makes it imperative for political science to keep the tools of classification, such as the one used in this study, in a ready-to-use condition.

Last updated March 2014