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A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election. Sometimes the term de facto single-party state is used to describe a dominant-party system where laws or practices prevent the opposition from legally getting power. Some single party states only outlaw opposition parties, while allowing subordinate allied parties to exist as part of a permanent coalition such as a popular front. Within their own countries, dominant parties ruling over single-party states are often referred to simply as the Party. For example, in reference to the Soviet Union, the Party meant the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; in reference to the former People's Republic of Poland it referred to the Polish United Workers' Party.

A one-party system should not be confused with a non-partisan democracy which prohibits all political parties. Also, some one-party states may allow non-party members to run for legislative seats, as was the case with Taiwan's Tangwai movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

In most cases, single-party states have arisen from Leninist, fascist or nationalist ideologies, particularly in the wake of independence from colonial rule. One-party systems often arise from decolonization because one party has had an overwhelmingly dominant role in liberation or in independence struggles.

Where the ruling party subscribes to a form of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party state system is usually called a communist state, though such states do not use that term to describe themselves, adopting instead the title of people's republic, socialist republic or democratic republic. One peculiar example is Cuba, where the role of the Communist Party is enshrined in the constitution, and no party is permitted to campaign or run candidates for election, including the Communist party. Candidates are elected on an individual referendum basis without formal party involvement, though elected assemblies predominantly consist of members of the dominant party alongside non-affiliated candidates.[1]


Merits and disadvantages of a single party-system

Supporters of a single-party state often appeal to a sense of unity, strength and commonality that a single-party government can lend a state. They argue that multi-party systems introduce too much division and are unsuitable for economic and political development. This argument was particularly popular during the mid-20th century, as many developing nations sought to emulate the Soviet Union, which had transformed itself from a backward, agrarian nation into a superpower.

Proponents also argue that an advantage of a single-party state is the tendency to adopt long-term policies while multi-party states tend to favour short-term policies for the benefit of periodic elections.

A common counter-argument is that one-party systems have a tendency to become rigid and unwilling to accept change, which renders them unable to deal with new situations and may result in their collapse. This counter-argument became more widely held as the 20th century drew to a close and the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact collapsed.

Democracy, dictatorship and the single-party system

Some do not consider a single party system to be truly democratic. This is due, in part, to the perception that a single party represents a single choice for a voter, which is seen to be no choice at all. While this is often true it is not necessarily the case. For example, under Mussolini's National Fascist Party numerous candidates ran for election in each constituency, albeit under the Fascist Party. Some states such as Ivory Coast took the single-party system to the extreme and made all citizens automatically party members.

Furthermore, the single-party system is heavily associated with dictatorship. As there is only one party, political power tends to be concentrated solely within the ruling party. As a result it is usually easy for the party in power to disregard previous laws or the constitution of the state, creating a dictatorship consisting of the party. Further contributing to the association of dictatorship and the single-party system is the fact that many dictatorships have adopted a single-party system. This may be a means of legitimizing the dictatorship under that nation's constitution, or to present a veneer of democracy to other democratic nations, or the ideology of the party may require that the dictatorship rule "by the will of the people".

Although many dictatorships represent themselves as one-party states, a one party-state is not a requirement of dictatorships. Examples of a dictatorship that is not a one-party state includes military dictatorships wherein the political power resides with the military, who exercise their authority without regard to political parties or elections (such states are commonly no-party states). Other dictators may preside over a system in which political parties are legal and many exist, but the political process is slanted unfairly in favour of the ruling party and political plurality is limited. Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe until the coalition government was a good example of such a system (the dominant party structure).


The True Whig Party of Liberia is considered the founder of the first single-party state in the world. The party was conceived by the original Black American settlers and their descendants who referred to themselves as Americo-Liberians. Initially, its ideology was heavily influenced by that of the Whig Party in the United States. Over time it morphed into a powerful Masonic Order that ruled every aspect of Liberian society for well over a century until it was overthrown in 1980. While the True Whig Party still exists today, its influence has substantially declined.


Current single-party states

The following list includes the countries that are legally constituted as single-party states as of 2009 and the name of the single party in power:

Former single-party states

Examples include:

See also


  1. ^ Cuba: Elections and Events 1991-2001 Latin American Election Statistics Home

External links


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