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Dominant-party system: Wikis


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A dominant-party system, or one party dominant system, is a party system where only one political party can realistically become the government, by itself or in a coalition government. Under what has been referred to as "electoralism" or "soft authoritarianism", opposition parties are legally allowed to operate, but are too weak or ineffective to seriously challenge power, perhaps through various forms of corruption, constitutional quirks that intentionally undermine the ability for an effective opposition to thrive, institutional and/or organizational conventions that support the status quo, or finally, and most controversially, inherent cultural values averse to change.

Not all dominant-party systems are undemocratic. In many cases, such as the government of Tommy Douglas in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, pure populism can keep the momentum of a government going for quite some time. In other cases, sheer inertia preserves the dominant party, as with the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, where some argue the Japanese people as well as Japanese special interests have gotten so accustomed to LDP rule that until quite recently they might have found it hard to imagine it any other way. However, others point out that until 1993 Japanese electoral districts suffered quite severe malapportionment, ranging from a 1:2 ratio to an extreme 1:6 ratio vote per candidate which favour LDP.

Thus in contrast to single-party systems, which are almost always authoritarian, dominant-party systems can occur within a context of a democratic system. In a single-party system other parties are banned, but in dominant-party systems other political parties are tolerated, and (in democratic dominant-party systems) operate without any impediment, but do not have a realistic chance of winning; the dominant party genuinely wins the votes of the vast majority of voters every time (or, in authoritarian systems, claims to).

In some states opposition parties are subject to varying degrees of official harassment and most often deal with restrictions on free speech (such as press clubs), lawsuits against the opposition, rules or electoral systems (such as gerrymandering of electoral districts) designed to put them at a disadvantage. In some cases outright electoral fraud keeps the opposition from power. On the other hand, some dominant-party systems occur in countries that are widely seen, both by their citizens and outside observers, to be textbook examples of democracy. The reasons why a dominant-party system may form in such a country are often debated: Supporters of the dominant party tend to argue that their party is simply doing a good job in government and the opposition continuously proposes unrealistic or unpopular changes, while supporters of the opposition tend to argue that the electoral system disfavors them (for example because it is based on the principle of first past the post), or that the dominant party receives a disproportionate amount of funding from various sources and is therefore able to mount more persuasive campaigns.



Current dominant-party systems

The following countries appear to be run by dominant-party systems:




Burkina Faso




  • Congolese Labour Party
  • Parti congolais du Travail (PCT)
  • Led by President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, in office from 8 February 1979 to 31 August 1992 and since 15 October 1997
  • In power, under various names, from 1963 to 1992 and since 1997
  • Sole legal party, 1963–90
  • Presidential election, 2002: Denis Sassou-Nguesso (PCT) 89.4%
  • Parliamentary election, 2002: PCT 53 of 137 seats


  • Popular Rally for Progress
  • Rassemblement populaire pour le Progrès (RPP)
  • Led by President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in office since 8 May 1999
  • In power since its formation in 1979
  • Sole legal party, 1979–92
  • Presidential election, 2005: Ismail Omar Guelleh (RPP) re-elected unopposed
  • Parliamentary election, 2003: RPP in coalition, 62.4% and 65 of 65 seats


Equatorial Guinea

  • Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea
  • Partido Democrático de Guinea Ecuatorial (PDGE)
  • Led by President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in office since 3 August 1979
  • In power since its formation in 1987
  • Sole legal party, 1987–91
  • Presidential election, 2002: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (PDGE) 97.1%
  • Parliamentary election, 2004: PDGE 47.5% and 68 of 100 seats (91.9% and 98 of 100 seats including allies)



The Gambia


  • Party of Unity and Progress
  • Parti de l'Unité et du Progrès (PUP)
  • Led by President Lansana Conté, in office since 3 April 1984
  • In power since its formation in 1991
  • Presidential election, 2003: Lansana Conté (PUP) 95.6%
  • Parliamentary election, 2002: PUP 61.6% and 47 of 76 seats





  • People's Democratic Party (PDP)
  • Led by President Umaru Yar'Adua, in office since 29 May 2007
  • In power since 29 May 1999
  • Presidential election, 2003: Olusegun Obasanjo (PDP) 61.8%
  • Parliamentary election, 2003: PDP 54.8% and 198 of 318 seats



South Africa


  • National Congress Party (NCP)
  • المؤتمر الوطني, al-Mu'tamar al-Waṭanī
  • Led by President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, in office since 30 June 1989
  • In power since its formation, 16 October 1993
  • Presidential election, 2000: Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (NCP) 86.5%
  • Parliamentary election, 2000: NCP 355 of 360 seats




  • Democratic Constitutional Rally
  • Arabic: التجمع الدستوري الديمقراطي‎, Al-Tajammu` al-Dustūrī al-Dīmuqrāṭī; Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique (RCD)
  • Led by President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, in office since 7 November 1987
  • In power, under various names, since independence in 1956
  • Sole legal party, 1963–81
  • Presidential election, 2004: Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (RCD) 94.5%
  • Parliamentary election, 2004: RCD 87.6% and 152 of 189 seats



  • Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)
  • Led by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in office since 18 April 1980 (as president since 31 December 1987)
  • In power since independence, 17 April 1980
  • Presidential election, 2002: Robert Gabriel Mugabe (ZANU-PF) 56.2%
  • House of Assembly election, 2005: ZANU-PF 59.6% and 78 of 120 elective seats (30 additional seats reserved for appointees)
  • Senate election, 2005: ZANU-PF 73.7% and 43 of 50 elective seats (16 additional seats reserved for appointees and traditional chiefs)

Western Saharas Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic



United States


Asia / Oceania













  • New Azerbaijan Party (Yeni Azərbaycan Partiyası YAP) has been in power essentially continuously since 1993.



  • Christian Social Union has dominated politics in the state of Bavaria since 1957. Forming the government all on their own for most of the time they lost a lot of voters support in the 2008 elections and are now in a coalition government.



Republic of Ireland

  • Fianna Fáil have been the dominant government party since 1987, except for a 30-month period in 1994-1997. The next election is scheduled for 2012, by which time the party will have held power for 23 of 25 years. Fianna Fáil have taken the largest number of seats in all Dáil Éireann elections since 1932. However they have not always formed a government, with coalition governments of other parties common throughout Irish history.


Luxembourg[citation needed]

  • The Christian Social People's Party (CSV), with its predecessor Party of the Right, has governed Luxembourg continuously since 1919, except for the 1974-79 period. However, Luxembourg has a coalition system, and the CSV has been in coalition with at least one of the two next two leading parties for all but four years. It has always won a plurality of seats in parliamentary elections, although it has lost the popular vote in 1964 and 1974.


  • The Partit Nazzjonalista has democratically been the sole governing party in Malta since 1987, except for a brief 22-month period between 1996 and 1998. It won elections held in 1987, 1992, 1998, 2003 and 2008, each time defeating the left-of-centre Malta Labour Party. Since 1966 there have only been these two parties represented in the Maltese Parliament.



Former dominant-party systems

Countries which have since lost their one party dominance include:

See also

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