Minor party

A minor party is a political party that plays a smaller role than a major party in a country's politics and elections. The difference between minor and major parties can be so great that the membership total, donations, and the candidates that they are able to produce or attract are very distinct. Some of the minor parties play almost no role in a country's politics because of their low recognition, vote and donations. Minor parties often receive very small numbers of votes at an election. The method of voting can also assist or hinder a minor party's chances. For example, in an election for more than one member, the proportional representation method of voting can be advantageous to a minor party as can preference allocation from one or both of the major parties.


Minor parties in Australia owe much of their success to the proportional representation method of voting. This allows minor parties to achieve at least one quota in the electorate or state and thus gain representation in a parliamentary chamber. Often minor parties have been so successful in gaining such representation that they are able to hold the balance of power in the particular house of the parliament. Some examples are the Democratic Labor Party in the 1960s and early 1970s, the Australian Democrats from the late 1970s until 2004, and more recently the Australian Greens.

United Kingdom

The use of first past the post in the United Kingdom means that in the post-War era, only two parties have had a majority in parliament: the Conservative Party and the Labour Party. However, strong regionalist movements and the potential for parties to take votes in the centre or extreme fringes of the political spectrum mean that minor parties still play a significant and increasing role in British politics. The Liberal Democrats, and their predecessors the SDP–Liberal Alliance and the Liberal Party have achieved significant numbers of seats and have occasionally been kingmakers and are sometimes also classed as a major party. The nationalist Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru hold a significant number of seats in their Home Nations, with the SNP controlling 56 of 59 Scottish Westminster seats at the 2015 United Kingdom general election, and every single Northern Irish seat is held by a regional party – either the republican Sinn Féin and Social Democratic and Labour Party, or the unionist Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party. As of 2019, the Green Party hold one seat and the Brexit Party is the largest British party in the European Parliament, despite holding no seats in the House of Commons. Also UKIP has achieved significant vote shares despite holding no seats in the Commons.
Other parties that have held seats in devolved assemblies, the House of Commons or the European Parliament in the 21st century include the non-sectarian Northern Irish Alliance Party, the far right British National Party, the healthcare-focused Independent Community and Health Concern, the cross-community Northern Irish NI21, the cross-community feminist Northern Ireland Women's Coalition, the anti-austerity People Before Profit Alliance, the left-wing Northern Irish unionist Progressive Unionist Party, the left wing Respect Party, the left wing nationalist Scottish Socialist Party, the elderly interest Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party and the unionist Northern Irish Traditional Unionist Voice and UK Unionist Party.
Whether or not a party counts as a major party is a sometimes heated argument, since "major parties" as defined by Ofcom are entitled to more party political broadcasts than minor ones. Because of the regionalist nature of many parties, it is possible to be a major party in one part of the country and not another: for example, UKIP is officially a major party in England and Wales, but a minor one in Scotland. No mainland British party is classed as a major party in Northern Ireland.
A minor party is also a special type of political party registered with the Electoral Commission in Great Britain that is able to contest only parish and community council elections in England and Wales and has fewer reporting, financial and administrative requirements than an ordinary registered political party.

United States

In the United States they are often described as third parties. Minor parties in the U.S. include the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, Constitution Party, and others that have less influence than the major parties. Since the American Civil War, the major parties have been the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. Since 1860, six presidential candidates other than Republicans and Democrats have received over 10% of the popular vote, although one of them was a former president, Theodore Roosevelt.