The role of people in democratic government is quite evident as people govern the people for people. Thus, the entity of people rules themselves in democracy (Bartolini and Peter, 2001). The political system in modern democracies is founded ion party system that comprised of unified large groups of people who share the same political belief and ideology of democracy. For instance, the political parties based on democratic, labour, and socialist descriptions are mostly common in European democracies. The parliamentary system found in democracies of Europe is based on parties system. Therefore, a debate raised that is this system mainly depends on large parties or the role of large parties is decreasing with passage of time in new democratic governments (Norris, 2005). However, it is clearly observed from major democracies in Europe that the mass political parties are in majority and play vital roles in forming governments. Therefore, this paper discussed the election results for leading European democracies in 2000s to evaluate the presence and role of large parties.

Democracy with mass Political Parties

Political parties form the foundation of democracy and act as the core for any democratic system (Schumpeter, 1962). The newly emerging and aged democracies observe different prominent roles of large political parties that improves the democracy quality and sustainable existence (Katz, 1996).

However, the alternate point of view elaborated the large political parties are not evident for democracies and the alternate form of government such as any substitute group of people other than large political parties, coalition of many small parties, and any other form of ruling can replace the large parties easily (Schattschneider, 1942).). In this point of view, the centrality and homogenous aspect of large party are found as the membership of major political party provides people to get consensus and unified ideology of government. On the other hand, the formation of government from coalition of small governments will face constant arguments and regular difference of opinions. Therefore, sustainability of policies and unified consensus will be difficult to achieve. The strong impact of mass parties in European democracies forced scholars to term it as ‘party democracy’ (Schmitter, 2001). Political parties support the promotion of democratic culture and reflect the opinion of masses in elections (Dahl 1989). Therefore, the representative mass parties rule the government for people. However, influence of social media, rapid technological change, and role of mass electronic media changes the perception of people and more parties are formed due to the political awareness of masses. These political parties affect the classic two party systems of major democracies such as in United Kingdom. The third party of liberal democrats made a significant space in seasoned dual party system of conservative and labour parties in UK. Moreover, the concept of direct democracy enhanced the role of individuals and the individual dialogues are gaining public attention on social media. These individualists’ opinions are giving rise to less political parties and their roles in democracy (Katz 1996). People are becoming more capable of taking political decision in new developed economies. Therefore, it is not easy for political parties to get consensus from large majority on a single issue. These trends are disturbing prominent role of party based political systems.

Mass Political Parties in European Democracies

Political scholars’ point of views reflects that large political parties exist from the beginning and are important pillars of democracy. Though, some scholars argued that these parties are essential instruments of democracy but democracy can be sustained without these mass political parties (Dahl 2001). The role of substituent groups, coalition of small parties, or any other parallel arrangements is used as an alternative of mas apolitical parties present on the party based democratic systems. As Schattschneider (2001: 34) exclaimed, “The parties created democracy, or perhaps more accurately, modern democracy is a by-product of party competition”. The voice of policy makers and non-party groups lack their presentation in the presence of mass parties system. However, the examples of large democracies in Europe showed a positive trend of major votes casting to leading mass parties in each country. The statistics of European Election Commission are shared and discussed in below for major democracy.
The Election 2010m results for Belgium are showed below:

In these results, New Flemish Alliance (17.4%), Socialist Party (13.4% and Christian Democratic party received 10.3 votes, Therefore, above 40% votes ibn election 2010 are distributed among three large parties and remain 69% votes are shared by small parties with single digit percentages. Hence, despite the presence of large number of parties, the large parties’ share of votes is high.

For the Denmark Election 2007 results, party positions are showed below:
The above results showed the presence of four large parties in Denmark including Liberal Party (26.26%), Social Democrats (25.47%), Danish people [party (12.86%) and Socialist Peoples Party (13.94%). Hence, above 78% votes are distributed among four large parties in Denmark. Thus, provided evidence for the decisive role of mass political parties in Denmark.

On the other hand, the situation in France is also quite similar. In elections 2007 of the country, the percentage of votes of the leading party UMP was 39.54% and the second Socialist party gained 24.73% votes. Therefore, about 65% votes are distributed between two large political parties. Thus, this trend verifies the presence of large political parties in France and their vital role in government formation with small parties’ coalition.

For United Kingdom, the democratic system was ideally formed by the two leading parties on post world war II eras, however, the election 2010 witnesses rise of the third major party. The statistics showed in the table below reflect that conservative got 36.1% votes, Labour Party received 29% votes, and the third major party of Liberal Democrats got 23% votes. Thus, the dual party system in UK is expanding with inclusion of a third major party and this tend can dilute the leading positions of mass parties in future elections as well. Thus, the rise of small parties is an emerging trend in UK.

In Germany, the trend of mass parties’ dominance is quite obvious as election 2009 results showed that Christian Democrats got 33.8% votes as compared to 23% votes of Social Democrats. However, the other three small parties also have significant share pf double digit percentage of votes. Hence, parties are increasing in German democratic system as well.

The discussion on election results of major democracies in Europe clearly indicated the decisive roles of mass parties, despite the growth of small parties in every democracy. Thus, large parties are important to form the government and to fulfil the needs of a large party to cover the requirements of a democratic government. However, no e f the democracy election results showed an ultimate majority of a single party to form government unanimously.


In conclusion, though democracy is possible without mass political parties and the coalitions governments can be formed from alliances of many small parties, but the large political parties are important for the survival pf democracy. The evidence showed above from the five large democracies of Europe is the proof of the fact that large political parties are still existent and played their major roles in formation of government. The proportion of voters received by only these major parties reflects the voters’ preference of large parties. The viability of political preferences, a consensus of arguments, and homogenous culture in governments, and strength of the large public groups are the features possessed by large political parties. Therefore, the emergence of civil society and the pressure of people I n the civilized societies can be managed through large political parties that reflect the point of views of the majority voters in the country. Therefore, large political parties are important for the long term survival of democracies.


Bartolini, S., and Peter M. (2001). ‘Challenges to Contemporary Political Parties’, in Larry Diamond and Richard Gunther (eds.), Political Parties and Democracy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 327-43.
Dahl, R. A. (1971). Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Dahl, R. A. (1989). Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Norris, P. (2005). Radical Right: Voters and Parties in the Electoral Market. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Katz, R. S. (1996). Party Organizations and Finance’, in Lawrence LeDuc, Richard G. Niemi and Pippa Norris (eds.) Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in Global Perspective. London: Sage, pp. 107-33.
Schattschneider, E.E. (1942). Party Government. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Schmitter, P. (2001). Parties are not what they once were, in Larry Diamond and Richard Gunther (eds.), Political Parties and Democracy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Schumpeter, J. A. (1962). Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.
Shapiro, I. (2002). ‘Problems, Methods, and Theories in the Study of Politics, or what is wrong with Political Science and what to do about it’, Political Theory 30/4: 596-619.

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