Dominant-party system

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] Many are de facto one-party systems, and often devolve into de jure one-party systems. Usually, the dominant party consistently holds majority government, without the need for coalitions.

Examples commonly cited include: United Russia (CP) in Russia, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in Serbia, Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) in Montenegro, the People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, Awami League in Bangladesh, MPLA in Angola and the ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe.[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, occasional but not omnipresent political repression, 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, and 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 19712015. 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



  •  Nicaragua
    • FSLN
    • Presidency since 2007 (and 19791990) mayor of every major city, including Managua, majorities in most departments.
    • Local elections, 2012: 75,7% and 127 of 153 seats
    • General election, 2016: Daniel Ortega 72.5%
    • National election, 2016: 66.8%
    • Constituency election, 2016: 65.7%
    • Central American Parliament, 2016: 68.6%


Federally, a multi-party system exists, although only two federal parties have ever held power, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party. However, in some provinces, a party holds hegemonic status over all other parties.

United States

 United States

As a whole, the nation has a two-party system, with the main parties since the mid-19th century 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. The Democratic Party dominate in the urban metropolitan areas, while the Republican Party dominate in the rural areas. Since 2010, majority of the states are dominated by the Republican Party. With control in both the Senate and House of Representatives, and Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 elections, the Republican Party dominate in both federal and state levels.

Dominated by the Democratic Party:

Dominated by the Republican Party:

  •  Alabama: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  Arizona has been considered a "Republican party stronghold" in recent decades, with a continuous majority in the State House of Representatives since 1967. However, it has elected several Democrats to statewide office and is often considered a swing state in presidential elections.
  •  Idaho has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, with no Democratic governors since 1994 and only two years in which the State Senate was tied evenly since 1960.
  •  Illinois is dominated by the Republicans. Chicago, however, has been historically dominated by the Cook County Democratic Party the office of mayor has been filled by a Democrat continuously since 1931.
  •  Kansas has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, with only four years of Democratic majorities in the State House of Representatives since 1915 and only Republican majorities in the same period. Since 1967, however, five of the last nine governors have been Democrats, although one of these Democrats only held office for two years.[9]
  •  Louisiana is dominated by the Republicans. New Orleans, however, has been dominated by the Democratic Party since the 19th century.
  •  Michigan is dominated by the Republicans. Detroit, however, has been dominated by the Democratic Party since the mid-1960s. The city has not had a Republican mayor since the end of Louis Miriani's administration in 1962, and has had just one Republican – Keith Butler – to sit on the Detroit City Council since 1970.
  •  Mississippi: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  Nebraska has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, with a non-partisan (with a de facto Republican majority since records began in 2007) legislature, mostly Republican governors and elected cabinet officials and only one Republican who changed party to Democrat in 2006 holding state-level partisan office since 1999.
  •  South Carolina: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  South Dakota has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, aside from a few Democratic and Populist governments and coalitions with Republicans, with only three elected high officials and two years of State Senate dominance since 1979.
  •  Texas: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  Utah has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, except for Democratic dominance during the Fifth Party System and between 1917 and 1920, the 1890s, and between 1959 and 1984.
  •  Wisconsin is dominated by the Republicans. Milwaukee, however, has been dominated by Democrats since the 1960s. Beforehand, it was dominated by the "Sewer Socialism" movement.
  •  Wyoming has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, with only four years where a house of the legislature has been Democratic since 1939, and mostly Republican governors during that period.

Dominant-party systems can also exist on native reservations with republican forms of government. The Seneca Nation of Indians, a tribe with territory within the bounds of New York State, has had the Seneca Party as the dominant party in its political system for several decades.

Asia and Oceania



Former dominant parties

North America

Caribbean and Central America

South America






A Presidents in Singapore are not allowed to belong to any party.

B The predecessors of the ÖVP are the Christian Social Party ruled from 1907 to the renaming 1933 and the Fatherland Front ruled from 1933 to the Anschluss 1938.

C The predecessors of the CSU are the Bavarian Patriotic Party ruled from 1869 (won in the Zollparlament election, 1868) to the renaming 1887, the Bavarian Center Party ruled from 1887 to the November Revolution 1918 and the BVP ruled from 1919 to the Machtergreifung 1933 (In 1919, the BVP joined the Zentrum as a CVP.).

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 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.
  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.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2012-04-01. (in English)
  5. Doorenspleet, Renske; Nijzink, Lia (2014). Party Systems and Democracy in Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-137-01170-1.
  6. "Botswana's ruling Democratic Party wins general elections". BBC News. BBC. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  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.
  8. Archived 2015-09-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. "State of Kansas Governors". Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2011-03-06.
  11. 2010 Human Rights Report: Samoa, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, April 8, 2011
  12. "Singapore Elections Department - Parliamentary Election Results". Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  13. "Singapore Elections Department - 2011 Parliamentary Election Results". Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  14. "TURKEY - AKP ushering in 'dominant-party system', says expert". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  15. "Turkey Under the AKP: The Era of Dominant-Party Politics". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5
  24. 1 2 Formerly its predecessors PCI, PDS and DS
  29. Canada's 'natural governing party'. CBC News in Depth, 4 December 2006. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  39. Cairney, Paul; McGarvey, Neil (2013). Scottish Politics. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan Limited. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-230-39046-1.
  40. Garnett, Mark; Lynch, Philip (2007). Exploring British Politics. London: Pearson Education. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-582-89431-0.
  41. 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.
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