The Blog of Cafe Dissensus Magazine – we DISSENT

The Case for Multi-Party Politics

Photo: britannica.com

By Henry Kyambalesa

In the 21st Century, the need for each and every sovereign nation-state worldwide to create and/or earnestly embrace an electoral system that provides for multi-party politics cannot perhaps be overemphasized. In the absence of multi-party politics, it would be folly for any given country to claim to have a genuine democratic system of government.

Countries which have single-party political systems of government, for example, can generally be said to be dictatorships. And countries which have two political parties can be said to be pseudo democracies. This includes the United States of America, which elects the President on the basis of the results of the Electoral College[1] rather than on the basis of the popular vote that would directly bestow the presidency upon the candidate who would secure at least 51% of votes cast during any given national election.

In this regard, if none of numerous candidates sponsored by various political parties garners at least 51% of the popular vote, two of the candidates with the highest number of votes would be required to face each other in a re-run.[2] The candidate who would secure at least 51% of the vote during the re-run would be afforded the opportunity to form government.

(Note: In countries where executive presidents or prime ministers are elected through the popular vote, the candidates for such positions are initially elected at their political parties’ conventions and eventually fielded in national elections.)

Although the United States has at least 50 registered political parties, the Electoral College system of electing the country’s presidents provides for only two presidential candidates to compete for 538 electoral votes, and for the winner of the presidency to secure at least 270 of the electoral votes.

Historically, the two presidential candidates have generally been nominees of the country’s dominant political parties – that is, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Consequently, the country’s dichotomous political-party system has tended to be characterized by extreme, hostile and disconcerting partisan rancor pitting “Democrats v. Republicans,” “Liberals v. Conservatives” or “the Left v. the Right” – such as that exhibited during the 2019/2020 impeachment proceedings concerning President Donald J. Trump.

The partisan nature of the outcome of the country’s three presidential impeachment proceedings is, by and large, a reflection of the dichotomous political-party system of electing the President. Kilgore has discreetly summed up the explicit, inflexible and ferocious partisanship that characterized the three impeachment proceedings in the following words:

Yes, Trump’s Impeachment Was Partisan. The Others [President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998] Were Too.[3]

While the United States can be characterized as essentially being the only and exceptional example of a free-market socioeconomic system in the world today because it has complete private owner­ship of the means of pro­duc­tion and an extensive pluralistic social system, it should perhaps not be regarded as the kind of “democracy” that could be emulated by other countries due to the fact that it does not have a robust and an authentic multi-party political system.

Besides, the two dominant political parties in the country do not adequately represent the divergent political persuasions and/or ideological inclinations of the country’s approximately 230 million citizens. This, among other reasons, should perhaps explain why politicians in the United States should heed the following pieces of advice:

It’s high time for America to join the majority of the world’s democracies by giving a multi-party system a chance.[4]

The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system that does not reflect our modern society, and it needs to change immediately. Every American should be guaranteed that their vote counts.[5]

And

I believe strongly that in a democracy, we should respect the will of the people [in electing the President] and, to me, that means it’s time to do away with the Electoral College and move to the popular election of our president.[6]

The U.S. Congress can accomplish this through a vote designed to amend the Constitution by adopting the “popular vote” to replace the “Electoral College” as the means for electing the President. The amendment would need to be accompanied by a set of guidelines designed to ensure that political parties function as instruments for fostering democracy, diversity, patriotism, civility, and national unity.

The following provides a good example of a set of important guidelines that could be considered in this regard:[7]

A Political Party SHALL –

  • Be officially registered with appropriate government agencies and/or departments;
  • Promote the values and principles specified in the Constitution;
  • Have a national character;
  • Promote and uphold national unity;
  • Promote and practice democracy through regular, free and fair elections within the party; and
  • Respect the right of its members to seek redress from a court or tribunal when aggrieved by any given decision of the political party.

A Political Party Shall NOT –

  • Be founded on a religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, tribal, gender, sectoral or provincial basis or engage in any kind of propaganda that would be deemed to be based on any of these factors;
  • Engage in or instigate violence, or intimidate any segment of its members, supporters, opponents, or any other members of society; and/or
  • Engage in corrupt practices

***

[1] The term “Electoral College” refers to a body or group of 538 people or electors provided for in the U.S. Constitution and that is tasked with the responsibility for electing the country’s president and vice president. The 538 electoral votes represent the 435 Congregational Representatives from the country’s 50 States, 100 Senators elected from the country’s 50 States, and 3 electors given to the District of Columbia.

[2] In some pseudo democracies, the candidate with a simple majority of less than 51% of the popular vote would win the presidency.

[3] Kilgore, Ed, “Yes, Trump’s Impeachment Was Partisan. The Others [President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and President Bill Clinton in 1998] Were, Too,” New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/, December 18, 2019.

[4] Eckhardt, Rachel, “The More the Merrier: Would a Multi-Party System Work in America?” HuffPost: https://www.huffpost.com/, December 6, 2017.

[5] Boxer, Barbara, quoted by Pedersen, Erik, “Barbara Boxer Launching Senate Bill to Abolish Electoral College,” Deadline: https://deadline.com/, November 15, 2016.

[6] Clinton, Hillary R., quoted by Merica, Dan, “Clinton: It’s Time to Abolish the Electoral College,” CNN: https://www.cnn.com/, September 14, 2017.

[7] Excerpted and adapted from Article 60 of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment), Number 2 of 2016, Clauses 2 and 3.

Bio:
Henry Kyambalesa is a retired Zambian academic currently residing in the City and County of Denver in Colorado, USA. He has pursued studies in Business Administration and Management at the University of Zambia and Oklahoma City University, Mineral Economics at Colorado School of Mines, and International Studies (including the fields of International Business, International Economics, International Relations, and International Technology Analysis and Management) at the University of Denver. He has served as adjunct Assistant Dean and tenured lecturer in Business Administration in the School of Business at the Copperbelt University, and on the MBA Affiliate Faculty in the School for Professional Studies at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, USA.

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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “On the Table: Pathways between Food Studies and Food Writing”, edited by Somrita Urni Ganguly, Fulbright Scholar, Brown University, USA.

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