Single Party System or One Party State may be defined as one in which only one legal and legitimate political party is constitutionally recognised in the country. No other party is recognised and can therefore not exist.
Single party system is a common feature of communist or socialist countries. Examples are; North Korea, Cuba and China. In Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Zambia, etc, were formerly one party states.
Merits & Demerits One-Party or Single Party System
Advantages Of One Party System
The advantages of single party system include the following:
The system helps to weld the people together by removing the problems of tribalism, ethnicity and all other forms of division in the political system.
It helps to reduce areas of conflict and political differences among the people.
It fosters rapid national development as the country’s human and material resources are quite easily mobilized by the leadership. The process of national development requires quick decision-making and relentless mobilization of the people.
One party system helps to avoid waste and unnecessary duplication of efforts, which is often associated with the multi-party system. The one party states avoid spending a good proportion of scarce national resources on funding political parties whose contribution to national income is, at best, difficult to determine.
With the one party system, it is possible to make use of the best talents for overall national development without the usual suspicion of party allegiance.
The system is in tune with African traditional political system. Opposition is alien to the traditional system of government. In the traditional political institutions, decisions are usually taken by the rulers after consultation with the chiefs and the people and once decisions are taken they become binding on everyone and are also jointly executed.
The one party system helps to develop the spirit of patriotism and national consciousness in the people.
The one party system has the following disadvantages and limitations.
The system is undemocratic because of the monopoly of political power by a few leaders some of whom may have acquired power through manipulated or fraudulent elections.
There is limited political participation in a one party system and the personal libertles and freedoms of the people are often curtailed and all these lead to tyranny and oppression in the state.
In one party states, political parties perform functions such as maintenance of discipline in the population and enforcement of censorship. They also engage in espionage. These are functions, which properly belong to governments rather than politicalparties.
In the one party system, there is only one officially recognized ideological approach to development and any opposition to it is considered subversive and treacherous. The punishment for such acts may be indefinite detention or death sentence.
The suppression and intolerance of opposition by the leaders often lead to the formation of underground guerrilla groups whose activities may undermine regime survival and national unity.
It leads to political instability as peaceful change is almost impossible and political groups outside government which also seek power may employ unconstitutional means (such as violence) to seize control of government.
Contrary to the underlying assumption of one party system that people can be unanimous and uniform in their political views, there are great divergencies and differences among the people in a state and it is usually counterproductive to attempt to bring them under one umbrella.
The system usually encourages the gradual evolution of the ruling party as an organ associated with the state than the civil society. That is, while the state institutions are developed, civil society groups such as labour, professional associations, student bodies and religious associations are suppressed and sometimes banned.
The ruling party gradually becomes a state party, which derives its authority from the law or constitution whereas political parties are supposed to derive their legitimacy from the people.
In a one party system, the ruling party monopolizes politics and the system gradually becomes a zero-partysystem. Describing the one party states in Africa in the 1960s, Wallerstein (1966) concluded that “In effect the one party state in Africa had become in many places the no-party state”.