Dominant-party system

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A dominant-party system or one-party dominant system, is a system where there is "a category of parties/political organisations 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, the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan and Bangladesh Awami League in Bangladesh.[1]

Historical overview

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 one-party systems, dominant-party systems can occur within a context of a democratic system. In a one-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., the African National Congress 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, the current elected government of the District of Columbia has been governed by Democrats since its creation in the 1970s, Bavaria by the Christian Social Union since 1957, and Alberta by Progressive Conservatives 1971-2015. On the other hand, where the dominant party rules nationally on a genuinely democratic basis, the opposition may be strong in one or more subnational areas, possibly even constituting a dominant party locally; an example is South Africa, where although the African National Congress is dominant at the national level, the opposition Democratic Alliance is strong to dominant in the Province of Western Cape.


Current dominant-party systems


  • National Liberation Front (FLN)[2]
  • In power since independence in 1962, sole legal party 1962-1989
  • Led by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in office since 27 April 1999
  • Presidential election, 2009: Abdelaziz Bouteflika (FLN) elected with 90.24% of the vote
  • Presidential election, 2014: Abdelaziz Bouteflika (FLN) elected with 81.53% of the vote
  • Parliamentary election, 2007: FLN 136 of 389 seats
  • Parliamentary election, 2012: FLN 208 of 462 seats
  • Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA)[3][4]
  • In power since independence, 11 November 1975; sole legal party, 1975–91
  • Led by President José Eduardo dos Santos, in office since 10 September 1979
  • In the presidential election of 1992, dos Santos (MPLA-PT) won 49.6% of the vote. As this was not an absolute majority, a runoff against Jonas Savimbi (40.1%) was required, but did not take place. Dos Santos remained 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 a rule that the top candidate of the most voted party in parliamentary elections becomes president.
  • New parliamentary elections held on August 31, 2012: MPLA 71% and 175 of 220 seats, José Eduardo dos Santos (as head candidate) automatically confirmed as state president (holding now this office for the first time in accordance with the constitution).
 Cameroon[citation needed]
 Chad[citation needed]
 Republic of the Congo[citation needed]
  • Congolese Party of Labour (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]
  • People's 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]
 The Gambia[citation needed]
 Mozambique[citation needed]
 Namibia[citation needed]
 Rwanda[citation needed]
 Seychelles[citation needed]
 South Africa[citation needed]
 South Sudan[citation needed]
 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
 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)


 Antigua & Barbuda



  • The Seneca Party is the dominant party in the elections of the Seneca Nation of New York and has won every presidential election in recent memory. Only since the mid-2000s have there been any serious challenges to the party's dominance, all of which have failed.
 United States

The  United States as a whole has a two-party system, with the main parties since the mid-1800s being Democratic Party and the Republican Party. However, some states and cities have been dominated by one of these parties for up to several decades.

Dominated by the Democratic Party:

Dominated by the Republican Party:

 Venezuela[citation needed]

Asia / Oceania

 Cambodia[citation needed]
 Samoa'[citation needed]
 Syria[citation needed]
 Tajikistan[citation needed]
 Turkmenistan[citation needed]
 Yemen[citation needed]


 Kazakhstan[citation needed]


  • In 1994, MSZP won 45% of the popular vote, which translated into 54% of the seats. With its long term ally and coalition partner SZDSZ they acquired 72% of the seats in the parliament, more than the 67% required for the modification of the constitution.
  • In 2010, the alliance of Fidesz and KDNP won 53% of the popular vote, which translated into 68% of the seats. This enabled the governing party alliance to enact a new constitution for Hungary.
 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.
 Madeira (Portugal)
 Montenegro[citation needed]

Former dominant parties

North America

  •  Canada: The Liberal Party of Canada was the dominant party in the federal government of Canada for so much of its history that it is sometimes given the moniker "Canada's natural governing party".[17] The party experienced several long uninterrupted periods in power including 1896-1911, 1921-1926, 1926-1930, 1935-1957, 1963-1979, 1980-1984, and 1993-2006. The Liberals are currently governing Canada, having won the 2015 election.
  • The South (usually defined as coextensive with the former Confederacy, with the exception of western and sometimes central Texas) was known until the era of the civil-rights movement as the "Solid South" due to its states' reliable support of the United States' Democratic Party. Several states had an unbroken succession of Democratic governors for several decades or over a century.

Caribbean and Central America

South America


  • In Turkey's single-party period, the Republican People's Party became the major political organisation of a single-party state. However, CHP faced two opposition parties during this period, both established upon the request of the founder of Turkey and CHP leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, in efforts to jump-start multiparty democracy in Turkey.[18]
  • Italy's Christian Democracy dominated the Italian politics 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. The main opposition to the Christian democratic governments was the Italian Communist Party.
  • The Portuguese Republican Party, during most of the Portuguese First Republic's existence (1910–1926): After the coup that put an end to Portugal's constitutional monarchy in 1910, the electoral system, which had always ensured victory to the party in government, was left unchanged. Before 1910, it had been the reigning monarch's responsibility to ensure that no one party remain too long in government, usually 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.[19]
  • 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. The party is still the largest party in Sweden and has been so in every general election since 1917 (hence the largest party even before the universal suffrage was introduces in 1921). The former Prime minister and party leader Tage Erlander led the Swedish government for an uninterrupted tenure of 23 years (1946-1969), the longest in any democracy so far.
  • 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 to the House of Commons in Scotland from 1964 to 2015, where it was heavily defeated and reduced to 1 seat.[20] It controlled the Scottish Parliament from its inception in 1999 until the 2007 election where it lost to the SNP.[21]
  • 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.



See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Suttner, R. (2006), "Party dominance 'theory': Of what value?", Politikon 33 (3), pp. 277-297
  2. King, Stephen J. (2009). The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. p. 208. ISBN 978-0-253-35397-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 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 978-90-04-17811-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. (English)
  5. Doorenspleet, Renske; Nijzink, Lia (2014). Party Systems and Democracy in Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-137-01170-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Botswana's ruling Democratic Party wins general elections". BBC News. BBC. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. O'Gorman, Melanie (26 April 2012). "Why the CCM won't lose: the roots of single-party dominance in Tanzania". Journal of Contemporary African Studies. Taylor & Francis. 30 (2): 313–333. doi:10.1080/02589001.2012.669566. Retrieved 11 July 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "State of Kansas Governors". Retrieved August 26, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Biography: Office of the Prime Minister". Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 12 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "13th Malaysian General Election". The Star. Petaling Jaya. Retrieved 12 November 2014. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |newspaper= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Singapore Elections Department - Parliamentary Election Results". Retrieved 9 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Singapore Elections Department - 2011 Parliamentary Election Results". Retrieved 9 September 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "TURKEY - AKP ushering in 'dominant-party system,' says expert". Retrieved 30 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Turkey Under the AKP: The Era of Dominant-Party Politics". Retrieved 30 May 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Glasali ste, gledajte (in Serbian), Vreme, 16 March 2014CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Canada's 'natural governing party'. CBC News in Depth, 4 December 2006. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  19. Garnett, Mark; Lynch, Philip (2007). Exploring British Politics. London: Pearson Education. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-582-89431-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Cairney, Paul; McGarvey, Neil (2013). Scottish Politics. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan Limited. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-230-39046-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. 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 978-81-7488-162-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>