Big Tent
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Big Tent

Big tent or catch-all party is used in reference to a political party's policy of permitting or encouraging a broad spectrum of views among its members.[1] This is in contrast to other parties that defend a determined ideology and seek voters who adhere to that ideology and convince people towards it.



Following the 2018 Armenian parliamentary election, the My Step Alliance rose to power on an anti-corruption and pro-democracy platform. The alliance has been described as maintaining a big tent ideology, as the alliance did not support any one particular political position. Instead, it focused on strengthening Armenia's civil society and economic development.[2]


The Liberal Party of Australia and its predecessors originated as an alliance of liberals and conservatives in opposition to the Australian Labor Party, beginning with the Commonwealth Liberal Party in 1909. This ideological distinction has endured to the present day, with the modern Liberal Party frequently described as a "broad church", a term popularised by former leader and Prime Minister John Howard. In this context, "broad church" is largely synonymous with "big tent". In the 21st century, the party is often characterised as having a "small-l liberal" wing and a conservative wing, which frequently come into conflict with each other. The party has historically found strong support primarily from the middle-class, though it has in recent decades appealed to socially conservative working-class voters.[3][4]


From its foundation the Justicialist Party has been a Peronist catch-all party, which focuses on the figure of Juan Perón and his wife Eva.[]

Juntos por el Cambio is an Argentine big tent political coalition. It was created in 2015 as Cambiemos. It is composed of Republican Proposal (centre-right), Civic Coalition ARI (centre) and Radical Civic Union (centre).[]


In Bangladesh Awami League's Grand Alliance (Bangladesh) and BNP's 20 Party Alliance forms coalition with a wide range of parties, thus being catch all parties.[5]


In Brazil, the Centrão (lit.'big centre') is a term for a large bloc political parties that do not have a specific or consistent ideological orientation and aim at ensuring proximity to the executive branch in order to guarantee advantages and allow them to distribute privileges through clientelistic networks.[6] The Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) is one of the oldest and most notable "Centrão" and Big Tent party in Brazil, despite begin Brazil's largest party, both in number of members and elected officials, it has never elected a President, only using their position as the largest party as a "bargaining chip" for previleges and advantages.[7] MDB was founded on 1965 at the start of the Brazilian military dictatorship as part of an enforced two-party system by the dictadorship where the only allowed parties were either National Renewal Alliance Party (ARENA), a catch-all party representing the interests of the dictadorship, and MDB, formed to represent a wide-range moderate and less radical opposition to the dictadorship, without a clear program except the democratization of the country.[8] Other Big Tent centrão parties include the Republicans (REP), Progressists (PP), Brazilian Labour Party (PTB), Podemos, Brazil Union (UB), Social Democratic Party (PSD), Social Christian Party (PSC), Act (AGIR), Patriot (PATRI), Forward (AVANTE), Solidarity (SD) and Republican Party of the Social Order (PROS).[9]


At the federal level, Canada has been dominated by two big tent parties practicing "brokerage politics".[a][12][13][14] Both the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada (or its predecessors) have attracted support from a broad spectrum of voters.[15][16][17] Although parties such as the Quebec-Nationalist Bloc Québécois, and others, have elected members to the House of Commons, far-right and far-left parties have never gained a prominent force in Canadian society and have never formed a government in the Canadian Parliament.[18][19][10]


The centre-right National Coalition Party has been described as catch-all party supporting the interests of the urban middle classes.[20]


The La République En Marche! party founded by President Emmanuel Macron has been described as a centrist party with a catch-all nature.[21]


Both the Christian Democratic Union of Germany/Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) are considered big tent or catch-all parties, known in German as Volksparteien ("people's parties").[22]


The Indian National Congress attracted support from Indians of all classes, castes and religions opposed to the British Empire.[23]The Janata Party which came into power in India in 1977, was a catch-all party that consisted of people with different ideologies opposed to The Emergency.[24]


Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are considered catch-all parties, both being supported by people from different social classes and political ideologies.[25] Both parties are however usually described as being very similar, and are positioned on the centre-right with a liberal conservative ideology. The reason they remain separate is due mainly to historical factors, with those who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty in the 1920s eventually becoming Fine Gael, and those opposed would join Fianna Fáil and seek an independent Ireland.


In Italy, the Five Star Movement led by comedian and actor Beppe Grillo has been described as a catch-all, protest party and "post-ideological big tent" because its supporters do not share similar policy preferences, are split on major economic and social issues and are united largely based on "anti-establishment" sentiments.[26] The Five Star Movement's "successful campaign formula combined anti-establishment sentiments with an economic and political protest which extends beyond the boundaries of traditional political orientations", yet its "'catch-all' formula" has limited its ability to become "a mature, functional, effective and coherent contender for government".[26] The Northern League attracted voters in its early years from all the political spectrum. Forza Italia on the centre-right and the Democratic Party on the centre-left are considered catch-all parties, both having been formed from mergers of political parties with numerous ideological backgrounds.


Historically, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) had been formed as a big-tent party uniting groups ranging from Keynesian centrists to nationalist neoliberals. The group developed an intricate factional system in order to maintain cooperation and ensure hegemonic success in elections. However, the party has seen some former factions either defect and/or die out since the 1990's, especially more moderate ones, leading the party to shift overall towards the right-wing.


The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which held power in Mexico for 71 uninterrupted years from 1929 to 2000 was founded following the Mexican Revolution. Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles founded the PRI, then known as the National Revolutionary Party, in 1929 with the intent of providing a political space in which all the surviving leaders and combatants of the Mexican Revolution could participate, and to solve the grave political crisis caused by the assassination of president-elect Álvaro Obregón in 1928. Throughout its nine-decade existence, the PRI has adopted a very wide array of ideologies (often determined by the President of the Republic in turn). It nationalized the petroleum industry in the 1940s and the banking industry in the 1970s. In the 1980s, the party went through reforms that shaped its current incarnation, with policies characterized as centre-right, such as the privatization of State-run companies, closer relations with the Catholic church, and embracing free-market capitalism and neoliberal policies.[27][28][29]

The National Regeneration Movement, founded by the current president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has often been described as a big tent party due to its various constituents that joined its ranks during the 2018 general elections.[30][31] The MORENA led Juntos Hacemos Historia is a big tent alliance that will contest the 2021 Mexican legislative election.[32]


The centre-left Socialist Party (PS) and centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) have been described as catch-all parties.[33]


The centre-right Save Romania Union PLUS (USR PLUS) is considered big tent or catch-all parties.


Citizens, or simply "Cs" (Ciudadanos, in Spanish) has been considered as an example of astroturfing in the Spanish media since 2015. Originally founded as a social democratic regional party opposed to Catalan nationalism, it switched to a catch-all message in order to attract votes from the right to the moderate left in its appearance in the national political landscape. Its stance includes a mix of liberalism and pro-Europeanism, but the party has also embraced populist views on the legitimacy of its political opponents, conservative views on topics such as the criminal system and personal property and Spanish nationalist positions without many problems by its own leader, Inés Arrimadas, becoming one of the most recognisable "catch-all" parties in the history of the country. In the mid 2010s, however, the party's main ideology is perceived to have drifted towards the right, with Albert Rivera admitting that they would not agree to form a coalition with the two main centre-left and left parties after the April 2019 general election, regardless of the results.[34][35][36] Further, some commentators argue that Ciudadanos was attempting to supplant the People's Party, which suffered massive losses, as the hegemonic party of the right, thus contributing to its shift in that direction. Similarly, Cs has allied with both the conservative People's Party and far-right Vox to achieve coalitions in regional parliaments. This has given rise to the expression "the three rights" to describe this grouping, while defining their opposition as "the left".

South Africa

The African National Congress (ANC) has been the governing party of South Africa since the country's first democratic election in 1994 and has been described by the media as a "big tent" party.[37][38][39][40] An important aspect of its electoral success has been its ability to include a diverse range of political groups most notably in the form of the Tripartite Alliance between the ANC, the South African Communist Party, and the country's largest trade union COSATU.[38] Additional interest groups included in the party include members of the business community and traditional leaders.

United Kingdom

When Gordon Brown became British Prime Minister in 2007, he invited several members from outside the Labour Party into his government. These included former CBI Director-General Digby Jones who became a Minister of State and former Liberal Democrats leader Paddy Ashdown who was offered the position of Northern Ireland Secretary (Ashdown turned down the offer).[41][42] The media often referred to Brown's ministry as "a government of all the talents" or simply "Brown's big tent".[43]

In Scotland, the Scottish National Party is possibly the longest established big tent party in the UK, with the goal of seeking Scottish independence by those that support various other political ideologies and from various political positions. Since 2007, the SNP have been the largest single party in the Scottish Parliament and has formed the Scottish Government continuously from the 2007 Scottish general election.

All for Unity is a big tent anti-SNP electoral alliance that contested the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, but failed to win any seats.[44]

United States

The Democratic Party during the New Deal coalition, formed in support of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal policies from 1930s until 1960s, was a "big-tent" party.[45] This coalition brought together labor unions, working-class voters, farm organizations, liberals, Southern Democrats, African Americans, urban voters and immigrants.[46][47]

The Blue Dog Coalition is a big-tent caucus of centrist and conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives, some being socially conservative and fiscally and economically progressive or vice versa.[] For a brief period following the 2006 and 2008 elections, when Democrats held a majority in the House, this caucus wielded increased influence over the party, but its power declined again after a large majority of its members were defeated or retired in the 2010 election. Its Republican counterpart is the Republican Main Street Partnership.

In counter to the New Deal coalition, the Republican Party was for much of its history a "big tent" party that encompassed a wide range of right-wing and center-right causes, including a wide range of politicians who were fiscally conservative and socially moderate or liberal and vice versa. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Republican party attracted support from wealthy suburban voters in the South and Midwest, Northeastern moderates, Western libertarians, and rural conservatives across the country. From 1968 to 1988, Republicans won five out of six presidential elections, with the only exception being a narrow loss to Democrat Jimmy Carter in 1976. The culture wars of the 1990s and the growing influence of the Christian right within the party prompted the socially moderate and liberal sections of the Republican base, particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, to begin slowly leaving the party in favor of moderate Democrats or independents.[]

Following the 1974 Dallas Accord, the Libertarian Party embraced the big tent idea to the extent it ensured that the anarcho-capitalist views would not be excluded from the majority minarchist party.[48]

Other examples

See also


  1. ^ Brokerage politics: "A Canadian term for successful big tent parties that embody a pluralistic catch-all approach to appeal to the median Canadian voter ... adopting centrist policies and electoral coalitions to satisfy the short-term preferences of a majority of electors who are not located on the ideological fringe."[10][11]


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  7. ^ Benites, Talita Bedinelli, Afonso (December 19, 2017). "PMDB volta a se chamar MDB: retorno ao passado para aplacar crise de imagem". El País Brasil (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2022.
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  10. ^ a b Marland, Alex; Giasson, Thierry; Lees-Marshment, Jennifer (2012). Political Marketing in Canada. UBC Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-7748-2231-2.
  11. ^ John Courtney; David Smith (2010). The Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics. OUP USA. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-19-533535-4.
  12. ^ Brooks, Stephen (2004). Canadian Democracy: An Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 265. ISBN 978-0-19-541806-4. two historically dominant political parties have avoided ideological appeals in favour of a flexible centrist style of politics that is often labelled "brokerage politics"
  13. ^ Johnson, David (2016). Thinking Government: Public Administration and Politics in Canada, Fourth Edition. University of Toronto Press. pp. 13-23. ISBN 978-1-4426-3521-0. ...most Canadian governments, especially at the federal level, have taken a moderate, centrist approach to decision making, seeking to balance growth, stability, and governmental efficiency and economy...
  14. ^ Baumer, Donald C.; Gold, Howard J. (2015). Parties, Polarization and Democracy in the United States. Taylor & Francis. p. 152. ISBN 978-1-317-25478-2.
  15. ^ Smith, Miriam (2014). Group Politics and Social Movements in Canada: Second Edition. University of Toronto Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1-4426-0695-1. Canada's party system has long been described as a "brokerage system" in which the leading parties (Liberal and Conservative) follow strategies that appeal across major social cleavages in an effort to defuse potential tensions.
  16. ^ Elections Canada (2018). "Plurality-Majority Electoral Systems: A Review". Elections Canada. First Past the Post in Canada has favoured broadly-based, accommodative, centrist parties...
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  30. ^ Schettino, Macario (June 6, 2018). "Mexico 2018: How AMLO Took a Page from the PRI Playbook". Americas Quarterly. Archived from the original on June 7, 2019. Retrieved 2018. Morena's star has risen so quickly because it offers refuge to such a wide range of beliefs and ideologies. The party has room for old guard supporters of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro, young leftist academics, former PRI leaders, evangelical Christians, actors, athletes, and even the odd business tycoon or two. In this way the party resembles the big tent of the PRI, which more than a guiding philosophy was guided by the administration of political power.
  31. ^ Graham, Dave (March 20, 2018). "Mexican leftist's 'big tent' pitch puts presidency in sight". Reuters. Retrieved 2018. In a few months, he has assembled a coalition stretching from socially conservative Christian evangelicals to admirers of socialist Venezuela and business tycoons, each with contrasting visions for Mexico. Dozens of lawmakers from across the political spectrum have switched sides to join Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), a party that is not yet four years old.
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