Compare and contrast the parties and the party systems of Britain and Russia with reference to comparative literature.

Topics: Elections, Conservatism, Political party Pages: 6 (2168 words) Published: September 25, 2014
Compare and contrast the parties and the party systems of Britain and Russia with reference to comparative literature. There are many similarities and differences between Britain and Russia. They both have an upper and a lower house in their parliaments and both have a Prime Minister, but in turn, only Russia has a written constitution while Britain’s constitution is unwritten. Though this essay focuses on one key aspect which Britain and Russia will be compared and contrasted on; political parties and the party system. There are huge differences in this area of comparison, largely due to the histories of the countries. Britain has had a party system for centuries and has developed into a democratic society gradually, whereas Russia has only recently developed a party system in the past twenty years since the fall of Communism. The party system in Russia has changed dramatically over the past 20 years. When Gorbachev began the road to democracy in the Soviet Union in the 1980’s, parties other than the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) were allowed to compete in elections (Powell: 2014). When the first elections were held for the State Duma many of these small parties where unable to pass the 5% threshold to have a place in the Duma. Only three parties could be said to have been successful: Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), Russia’s Choice and the Communist Party of the Federated Russia. LDPR were the high achievers but they only won 22.9% of the vote (Ibid). The party system in the 1990’s could be said to have been a conflictual party system, where the legislature is dominated by parties that are far apart on issues or are antagonist toward each other. (Ibid). The party system in Russia began to develop into something representing a multiparty system, although it is not quite a multiparty system as there is only one true party of power today, United Russia, which has a majority of around 70%. Whereas in Britain the party system has taken centuries to get to the place it is now. The British party system is the quintessential two party plus system, the system the Russian Kremlin aspires to (Webb and White: 2007). The two parties of power in Britain are the Labour party and the Conservative Party. Either one or the other of these parties is always elected into parliament as they are the only parties that could feasibly have a majority. It should be noted that the electoral system used in England for the Westminster parliamentary elections do not usually cause coalitions in government, in fact there have only been five coalition governments in Westminster since 1852. The party that, in modern times would be in coalition is the Liberal Democratic party. They are currently in government with the Conservative party. An issue that should be addressed when comparing the party systems and political parties of two countries is their classification, are they a one-party, two-party or a multi-party system, and the features of the party system of the country. Britain has had a long history of political parties beginning in the late 19th century, while the Russian party system really only developed into one after the fall of Communism, as before 1991, there were no parties that could compete against the CPSU. The party system in Britain has developed from a two-party system to a Multi-party system. A two-party system is one where there are only two parties that can feasibly compete for the government as none of the other parties have either a coalition potential or a blackmail potential (Ware: 1996). If a party does not fit into one of these categories and is not the incumbent party, then the party should not be included in the party system. Then in Russia there are three party in the system: United Russia, A Just Russia and CPFR, while in Britain there are perhaps six: Conservative, Labour, Liberal, Plaid Cymru, Sinn Fein and The Scottish National Party. There are a greater mix of parties in...

Bibliography: 1. Hale, H. “Russia’s Political Parties and their Substitutes” in White, S., Sakwa, R. and Hale, H. (eds) 2010, Developments in Russian Politics 7, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
2. Heffernan, R. “Political Parties and the Party System”, in Gamble, A., Heffernan, R. and Peele, G. (eds) 2003, Developments in British Politics 7, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
3. McCarthy, D. and Helim, S., 07/01/2013, Putin Orders Return to Parallel Electoral System for Russian Duma, The Centre for Voting and Democracy. Available here:
4. Powell, G., Dalton, R. and Strom, K. (eds) 2014, Comparative Politics Today a World View, Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited
5. Reynolds, A., Reilly, B. and Ellis, A., 2008, International IDEA Handbook of Electoral System Design, Sweden: International IDEA. Available here:
6. Ware, A. 1996, Political Parties and Party Systems, Oxford: Oxford University Press
7. White, S. “Russia’s Client Party System”, in Webb, P. and White, S., 2007, Party Politics in New Democracies, Oxford: Oxford University Press
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