Dominant-party system

Dominant-party system

A dominant-party system, or one-party dominant system, is a system where there is "a category of parties/political organizations that have successively won election victories and whose future defeat cannot be envisaged or is unlikely for the foreseeable future."[1] A wide range of parties have been cited as being dominant at one time or another, including the Kuomintang in the Republic of China (Taiwan), the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, and the Indian National Congress in India.[1] Such dominance has not always been a matter of concern, with for example the dominance of the Indian National Congress being seen by some as source of stability supportive of the consolidation of democracy.[1]

Opponents of the "dominant party" system or theory argue that it views the meaning of democracy as given, and that it assumes that only a particular conception of representative democracy (in which different parties alternate frequently in power) is valid.[1] One author argues that "the dominant party 'system' is deeply flawed as a mode of analysis and lacks explanatory capacity. But it is also a very conservative approach to politics. Its fundamental political assumptions are restricted to one form of democracy, electoral politics and hostile to popular politics. This is manifest in the obsession with the quality of electoral opposition and its sidelining or ignoring of popular political activity organised in other ways. The assumption in this approach is that other forms of organisation and opposition are of limited importance or a separate matter from the consolidation of their version of democracy."[1]

One of the dangers of dominant parties is "the tendency of dominant parties to conflate party and state and to appoint party officials to senior positions irrespective of their having the required qualities."[1] However, in some countries this is common practice even when there is no dominant party.[1] In contrast to single-party systems, 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 overt legal 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). Under authoritarian dominant-party systems, which may be 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 inherent cultural values averse to change.

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 club), 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, at least temporarily, 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. In states with ethnic issues, one party may be seen as being the party for an ethnicity or race with the party for the majority ethnic, racial or religious group dominating, e.g., ANC in South Africa (governing since 1994) has strong support amongst Black South Africans, the Ulster Unionist Party governed Northern Ireland from its creation in 1921 until 1972 with the support of the Protestant majority.

Sub-national entities are often dominated by one party due the area's demographic being on one end of the spectrum. For example Hawaii and DC have been governed by Democrats since their creation, Bavaria by the Christian Social Union since 1957, Alberta by Progressive Conservatives since 1971. In contrast some sub-national entities have comparatively more conservative or liberal forms of the parties in their entity, for example an Oklahoma Democrat is likely to be at least as conservative as a Minnesota Republican.



Current dominant-party systems


 Angola[2] [3]
  • Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola — Workers' Party, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola — Partido do Trabalho (MPLA-PT)
  • Led by President José Eduardo dos Santos, in office since 10 September 1979
  • In power since independence, 11 November 1975; sole legal party, 1977–91
  • Presidential election, 1992: José Eduardo dos Santos (MPLA-PT) 49.6% NB: As he had not attained absolute majority, a runoff against Jonas Savimbi (40,1%) was required, but did not take place, so that José Eduardo dos Santos has been since then in office without democratic legitimacy.
  • Parliamentary election, 1992: MPLA 53.7% and 129 of 220 seats
  • Parliamentary election, 2008: MPLA 81.6% and 191 of 220 seats
  • New constitution, 2010: popular election of president abolished in favour of election by parliament; presidency of José Eduardo dos Santos legitimated for the first tim
  • New parliamentaru elections announced for 2012; José Eduardo dos Santos declares he will not again be a candidate
 Botswana[citation needed]
  • Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)
  • Led by President Ian Khama, in office since 1 April 2008
  • In power since 3 March 1965
  • Parliamentary election, 2009: BDP 53.26% and 45 of 57 seats
 Burkina Faso[citation needed]
  • Congress for Democracy and Progress (Congrès pour la Démocratie et le Progrès, CDP)
  • Led by President Blaise Compaoré, in office since 15 October 1987
  • In power, under various names, since 24 December 1991
  • Presidential election, 2005: Blaise Compaoré (CDP) 80.4%
  • Parliamentary election, 2002: CDP 49.5% and 47 of 91 seats
 Cameroon[citation needed]
 Chad[citation needed]
  • Patriotic Salvation Movement (Mouvement Patriotique de Salut de SMPS)
  • Led by President Idriss Déby Itno, in office since 2 December 1990
  • In power since 2 December 1990
  • Presidential election, 2006: Idriss Déby (MPS) 64.7%
  • Parliamentary election, 2002: MPS 110 of 155 seats
 Congo-Brazzaville[citation needed]
  • 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, 1963–1990)
  • Presidential election, 2002: Denis Sassou-Nguesso (PCT) 89.4%
  • Parliamentary election, 2002: PCT 53 of 137 seats
 Djibouti[citation needed]
  • Popular Rally for Progress (Rassemblement Populaire pour de Progrès, RPP)
  • Led by President Ismail Omar Guelleh, in office since 8 May 1999
  • In power since its formation in 1979 (Sole legal party, 1979–1992)
  • 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[citation needed]
  • 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, 1987–1991)
  • 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)
 Ethiopia[citation needed]
 Gabon[citation needed]
  • Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Gabonais, PDG)
  • Led by President Ali Bongo Ondimba, in office since 16 October 2009
  • In power, under various names, since 28 November 1958 (Sole legal party, 1968–1991)
  • Presidential election, 2009: Ali Bongo Ondimba (PDG) 41.7%
  • Parliamentary election, 2006: PDG 82 of 120 seats (99 of 120 seats including allies)
 The Gambia[citation needed]
 Lesotho[citation needed]
 Mozambique[citation needed]
  • Mozambican Liberation Front (FRELIMO)
  • Led by President Armando Guebuza, in office since 2 February 2005
  • In power since independence, 25 June 1975 (Sole legal party, 1975–1990)
  • Presidential election, 2004: Armando Guebuza (FRELIMO) 63.7%
  • Parliamentary election, 2004: FRELIMO 62.0% and 160 of 250 seats
 Namibia[citation needed]
  • South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO)
  • Led by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, in office since 21 March 2005
  • In power since independence, 21 March 1990
  • Presidential election, 2004: Hifikepunye Pohamba (SWAPO) 76.4%
  • Parliamentary election, 2004: SWAPO 55 of 72 seats
 Nigeria[citation needed]
  • People's Democratic Party (PDP)
  • Led by President Goodluck Jonathan, in office since 5 May 2010
  • In power since 29 May 1999
  • Presidential election, 2011: Goodluck Jonathan (PDP) 58.9%
  • Parliamentary election, 2003: PDP 54.8% and 198 of 318 seats
 Rwanda[citation needed]
 Seychelles[citation needed]
 South Africa[citation needed]
 South Sudan
  • Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM)
  • Led by President Salva Kiir, in office since 11 August 2005
  • In power since 9 July 2005
  • Presidential election, 2010: Salva Kiir (SPLM) 93%
 Sudan[citation needed]
  • National Congress (NC)
  • Led by President Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, in office since 30 June 1989
  • In power since its formation, 16 October 1993
  • Presidential election, 2010: Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir (NC) 68.24%
  • Parliamentary election, 2010: NC 306 of 450 seats
 Tanzania[citation needed]
  • Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM)
  • Led by President Jakaya Kikwete, in office since 21 December 2005
  • In power, under various names, since independence, 9 December 1961 (Sole legal party, 1964–1992)
  • Presidential election, 2005: Jakaya Kikwete (CCM) 80.3%
  • Parliamentary election, 2005: CCM 206 of 232 seats
 Togo[citation needed]
 Zimbabwe[citation needed]
  • Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF)
  • Led by President Robert Mugabe, in office since 18 April 1980 (as president since 31 December 1987)
  • In power since independence, 17 April 1980
  • Presidential election, 2002: Robert 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)
 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic[citation needed]


 Antigua & Barbuda

Canada[citation needed]


United States[citation needed]

 Venezuela[citation needed]

Asia / Oceania

 Cambodia[citation needed]
 Kazakhstan[citation needed]
 Malaysia[citation needed]
  • Barisan Nasional (National Front), a coalition of 14 parties led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)
  • Led by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, in office since 3 April 2009 [1]
  • In power since independence, 28 August 1957
  • Parliamentary election, 2008: UMNO 29.33% and 79 out of 222 seats, total for Barisan Nasional 50.27% and 140 out of 222 seats
 Samoa'[citation needed]
 Singapore[citation needed]
 Tajikistan[citation needed]
 Yemen[citation needed]


 Armenia[citation needed]
 Azerbaijan[citation needed]
 Bavaria (Germany)[citation needed]
  • Christian Social Union has dominated politics in the state of Bavaria since 1957. Forming the government on their own for most of this period, they are now in a coalition government.
 Georgia[citation needed]
 Luxembourg[citation needed]
  • The Christian Social People's Party (CSV), with its predecessor Party of the Right, has governed Luxembourg continuously since 1917, except for 1974–79. 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.
 Malta[citation needed]
  • 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.
 Montenegro[citation needed]
 Russia[citation needed]
 Wales (United Kingdom)[citation needed]

Former dominant parties

North America

Caribbean and Central America

South America


  • The Portuguese Republican Party, during most of the Portuguese First Republic's existence (1910–1926). After the coup that put an end to the constitutional monarchy in 1910, the electoral system, which had always ensured victory to the party in government, was not changed. Before 1910, it was the king's task to ensure that no one party remain too long in government, by disbanding parliament and calling for new elections. The republic's constitution added no such proviso, and the Portuguese Republican Party was able to keep the other minor republican parties (monarchic parties had been declared illegal) from winning elections. On the rare occasions when it was ousted from power, it was overtrown by force and was again by the means of a counter-coup that it returned to power, until its final fall, with the republic itself, in 1926.
  • The Party of the Right in Luxembourg (1917–1925)
  • The Ulster Unionist Party in the former devolved administration of Northern Ireland between 1921 to 1972.[4]
  • The Swedish Social Democratic Party in Sweden from 1932 to 1976 except only for some months in 1936 (1936–1939 and 1951–1957 in coalition with the Farmers' League, 1939–1945 at the head of a government of national unity) It has also held the power the vast majority of elections even after 1976, and is still the largest party in Sweden.
  • The Norwegian Labour Party ruling from 1935 to 1965, though it has been the biggest party in Norway since 1927 and has been in power many other times.
  • The Scottish Labour Party won every election in Scotland between the 1960s and 2007
  • Convergència i Unió coalition (federated political party after 2001) in Catalonia governed the autonomous Catalan government from 1980 to 2003 under the leadership of Jordi Pujol with parliamentary absolute majority or in coalition with other smaller parties.
  • The Socialist Party of Serbia in FR Yugoslavia from 1992 to 2000.
  • Ireland's Fianna Fáil was the largest party in Dáil Éireann between 1932 to 2011 and in power for 61 of those 79 years. However, the party were heavily defeated in the Irish general election, 2011, coming third.
  • Italy's Christian Democracy dominated the politics of Italy for almost 50 years as the major party in every coalition that governed the country from 1944 until its demise amid a welter of corruption allegations in 1992–1994.



See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Suttner, R. (2006), "Party dominance 'theory': Of what value?", Politikon 33 (3), pp. 277-297
  2. ^ Mehler, Andreas; Melber, Henning; Van Walraven, Klaas (2009). Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2008. Leiden: Brill. p. 411. ISBN 9789004178113. 
  3. ^ (English)
  4. ^ Garnett, Mark; Lynch, Philip (2007). Exploring British Politics. London: Pearson Education. p. 322. ISBN 9780582894310. 
  5. ^ Johari, J. C. (1997). Indian Political System: a Critical Study of the Constitutional Structure and the Emerging Trends of Indian Politics. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. p. 250. ISBN 9788174881625. 

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