An idea of a bipartisan Parliament formed in a proportional election seems quite interesting to me. On one hand, in a proportional system, we vote for a party, knowing which ideas it would go forward with. On the other hand, the bipartisan system is always overburdened by ideological unlikeness within both parties. Therefore, when a vote is cast, no one could be sure it would get the candidate of the ideology the voter had in mind on the party list. It seems like such a Parliament would need a highly machiavellian Whip.

Is there such a Parliament? If so, am I right to think that it hinges on the Whips?

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    By "bipartisan", do you mean "having two parties"? I ask because the word is typically used to indicate that the two parties agree on something, not that two parties exist. Indeed, a quick search for a definition gives: "involving the agreement or cooperation of two political parties that usually oppose each other's policies." Jan 6, 2021 at 14:17
  • @SteveMelnikoff right, sorry. I reckon the "two-party system" to be a better use of words. Jan 6, 2021 at 14:23
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    Malta could be an interesting example.
    – Relaxed
    Jan 6, 2021 at 19:46

1 Answer 1


Is there such a Parliament?

There's lots of them. The one that pops to mind best is Belgium; the 2019 general election returned a parliament that's heavily divided; the largest party has 25 seats with 76 needed for a majority:

Party Leader % Seats ±
N-VA Bart De Wever 16.03% 25 -8
VB Tom Van Grieken 11.95% 18 +15
PS Elio Di Rupo 9.46% 20 -3
CD&V Wouter Beke 8.89% 12 -6
PVDA-PTB Peter Mertens 8.62% 12 +10
Open Vld Gwendolyn Rutten 8.54% 12 -2
MR Charles Michel 7.56% 14 -6
sp.a John Crombez 6.71% 9 -4
ECOLO Jean-Marc Nollet & Zakia Khattabi 6.14% 13 +7
Groen Meyrem Almaci 6.10% 8 +2
cdH Maxime Prévot 3.70% 5 -4
DéFI Olivier Maingain 2.22% 2 0

A government has formed and fallen since then, but the incumbent government currently consists of a coalition of 7 different parties within Parliament:

Member parties

Open Vld (Flemish) MR (Francophone)
sp.a (Flemish)
PS (Francophone)
CD&V (Flemish)
Ecolo (Francophone)
Groen (Flemish)

So yeah, not so much bipartisan as...sept-partisan?

If so, am I right to think that it hinges on the Whips?

Eh, not so much. Whips exist to keep individual Members of Parliament in line and prevent them from deviating from Party policy. In cases like this, the far more major problem is for major coalition partners keeping the minor coalition partners in line and preventing them from deviating from coalition policy. So it's more a problem for the party leaders and their aides and so on, rather than the whips (who really only deal with members of their own party and at most the other party's whips).

Just want to address this:

On the other hand, the bipartisan system is always overburdened by ideological unlikeness within both parties.

This is not a burden, it is a feature.

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    @ZhiltsoffIgor accepted this answer so you must be onto something but isn't that the exact opposite of what was being asked? Belgium is a typical case of political fragmentation (not only due to the voting system, admittedly) but it doesn't seem especially functional or successful so I am not sure what it shows.
    – Relaxed
    Jan 6, 2021 at 19:46
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    @Relaxed hmm, I might have rushed with pushing that tick, true. Yet, Dan Scally answered my second question (do you agree with them on whips in such a system?). Plus, I've never had much knowledge of Belgium's system (living outside of EU). I saw your comment on Malta. If you turn it into an answer, I would love to read. I am sorry for being clumsy with accepting and tossing the ticks around :(. Jan 6, 2021 at 20:40
  • @ZhiltsoffIgor I don't know much about Malta, just that it has STV (a form of proportional voting that could easily accommodate more than two parties or even lead to fragmentation) but a rather stable two-party system.
    – Relaxed
    Jan 6, 2021 at 20:44
  • @Relaxed I may have misread the question, but after re-reading it a couple times I don't read it any differently. The use of the word "bipartisan" I took to be just meaning "government" bloc in Parliament consists of more than one political party. I disagree wholeheartedly that Belgium's system of government is remotely dysfunctional or unsuccessful; quite the contrary, it's a marked improvement over most country's allocation of the majority of power to a single group. Regardless, the question was "does this exist?" not "is it any good?"
    – Dan Scally
    Jan 6, 2021 at 23:28
  • @ZhiltsoffIgor - If I misread your question and this answer is actually no good, my apologies. I'm more than happy to either edit or scrap it if it's not actually what you meant - but perhaps some clarification in that case, because I can't actually see where I've misread.
    – Dan Scally
    Jan 6, 2021 at 23:29

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