MANY opposition supporters believe that we will have two-party system once BN is ousted, and if the PR lets us down, we can always vote in BN or its successor. Will it really be so?
by Wong Chin Huat, The EdgeMANY opposition supporters believe that we will have two-party system once BN is ousted, and if the PR lets us down, we can always vote in BN or its successor. Will it really be so?
Theoretically, a party system is largely determined by political institutions' incentives, the most important of which is electoral system. While voters decide how many and which parties would survive, their behaviour is often influenced by the political system, especially the electoral system.
In the framework proposed by American political scientist Gary Cox, when the chief executive (president or prime minister) dominates the political system, vis-à-vis his/her colleagues in cabinet or legislature, the contestants for power face two extreme outcomes: all or nothing – winner takes all, losers get nothing.
This "winner-takes-all" characteristic of political contestation then forces political groups to consolidate into two blocs, hence, the two-party system.
However, this "winner-takes-all" characteristic can be a double-edged sword. If the leading party is so strong that the opposition parties see no chance of winning, it will not pay for them to converge or merge into a single bloc. Why compromise your own ideological position when it does not get you extra power?
This was why the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) would not move towards the centre until Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah's Semangat 46 Party (S46) and Anwar Ibrahim's Keadilan brought the dream of regime change.
And once the dream shattered in the 1990 and 1999 elections, PAS quickly moved to pursue its Islamisation agenda and DAP lost no time in severing the ties with other opposition parties.