Third party

From Academic Kids

Political third party

In a two-party system a third party is a party other than the two dominant ones. While technically the term is limited to the third largest party, it is often used as shorthand to describe any smaller party. For instance, in the United Kingdom a third party is a national political party other than the Conservatives and Labour which has a substantial presence in the House of Commons. It is currently generally used to refer to the Liberal Democrats.

The term "third parties" is used in countries with first past the post electoral systems as these systems tend create a two-party system; meaning successful smaller parties are rare.

Countries using proportional representation have less of a tendency to create a two-party system; meaning successful smaller parties are not rare. In fact coalitions including the smaller parties is the norm in such a country.

A party needs to have a certain level of success to be generally considered a third party. Smaller parties that only win a small percentage of the vote and no seats in the legislature are often termed minor or fringe parties. In U.S. politics, for instance, a third party is a political party other than the Democrats or Republicans that also has national influence.

Third parties are not usually true contenders for forming a government or winning the presidency. There are many reasons for third parties to run however. The platform of a national election campaign means that attention will be paid to the opinions of third parties. The larger parties will be forced to respond and adapt to these challenges, and often the larger parties copy ideas from smaller challengers. Some third parties also hope that the party can slowly build its support and eventually become one of the dominant parties, as the Labour Party in Britain did. In the Westminster system there is also the possibility of minority governments, that can give smaller parties strength disproportional to their size.

Examples include the U.S. Republican Party when it ran Lincoln for the Presidency and the Irish Parliamentary Party that pushed for Home Rule in Ireland in the late nineteenth century.

Other uses

A third party is also a person, group or business indirectly involved in a transaction or other relationship between principals.

A common example of a third party is a real estate broker. The broker acts as a go-between in the sale of real property between two others.

A third party may do no more than offer a product or service related to another relationship. In fact, there may be no actual relationship involved. This is the case when one company offers an accessory for another company's product. These third parties are often unauthorized and undesired by the company selling the original product. An example of this is a company that sells ink or toner cartridges for another company's printers.

See also


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