One Party System | Definition, Features, Pros & Cons

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One Party System | Definition | Features | Merits & Demerits

A one party system, one party state or single party system is a party system in which one party is officially recognized or dominant. It is no longer fashionable today to have a one-party system but some socialist countries such as China, and Cuba Republic still practise this system.

In Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Angola have come under pressure to embrace the multi-party system but in reality one party only is dominant. The Arab revolution which swept through the Middle East in 2010 has largely resulted in the demise of the one party system in Egypt, Tunisia, etc.

One Party System
One Party System

Types of One-Party System

There are three different types of one party state – they are:

  • True single party system: The law effectively prevents the formation of any other active parties. By definition, this party system does not accept or permit opposition. This type of system was operative in Malawi, Zambia, etc.
  • Hegemonic party: One party is firmly established in office. The party has hegemony, that is, it enjoys unchallenged authority. The law does not operate formally against any opposition, but clearly the state concerned is effectively single party for period of many years.
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For example, South Africa was an example of a hegemonic party ( all white electorate). The National party came into power in 1948, and it only left power when Dr. Nelson Mandela, was elected president in 1994.

  • Predominant party: This is a party which is eleeted and continues to be elected because the electorate so desires. This type of party is mostly found in Asian Countries.

Characteristics Of One Party State

The main features of one party system may be summarized as follows

  • One officially recognised party: There is no other officially recognised political party, apart from the legally recognised party that can contest elections.
  • Recognised by the constitution: Only this legal party is recognised by the constitution.
  • No private control of the mass-media: No private individual is allowed to own and publish newspaper, magazine, etc.
  • One ideology There is only one ideology for the country and it is for the party in government.
  • Enforcement of government policies: The party in government ensures that all hm policies and directives are strictly enforced.
  • Opposition party: Opposition party is not legally recognised.
  • Dictatorship: A one party state can develop to become dictatorship.
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Merits of One-Party System

  • It prevents economic waste: One party system prevents waste of resources, e.g. financial burdensome in conducting elections.
  • It makes use of the best: In terms of human resources available in the country. The system creates the use of the most competent people to run the affairs of the state.
  • It promotes unity: The system cuts across ethnic or religious factors and therebypromoting nationalunity.
  • Stability of government: One party system ensures stability. There is no opposition party which could attempt to destabilise the political system.
  • Makes for quick decision: Decisions are quickly arrived at because there is no other party to criticize or oppose government policies.
  • Continuity: It makes for continuity in government and in the area of policy making.
  • Electoral malpractices; This is completely minimised because only one party is contesting.
  • Absence of unhealthy rivalry: There is no competition that may lead to victimization and intimidation of political opponents.
  • It makes for strong leadership: All the political powers are concentrated in the hands of one or a few leaders.

Demerits of One-Party System

  • No opposition: Since only one legal party exists, the system does not tolerate opposition.
  • Individual rights are not accommodated: For example, no private individual is allowed to own and publish newspaper, magazine, etc.
  • Control of mass media: The government controls all the channels of communication in the country.
  • It may produce dictatorship: The system has the tendency of ensuring that the opinion of the ruling elite is strictly enforced on the people.
  • It is basically undemocratic: A one party state is basically, undemocratic. The principles of democracy are ignored and treated with levity.
  • It can produce “a president for life. This system can produce a president declaring himself “president for life”; e. g, Dr. Kamuzu Banda of Malawi.
  • Only one ideology: There is only one ideology and it may not appeal to the generality of the people.
  • Rule of Law: The principles of the rule of law and the provisions of the constitution may not be respected.
  • Change of government not provided for in the constitution: The constitution is silent on the need for periodic elections, resulting in a change of government. What happens is that the president or the leaders tend to perpetuate themselves in power.
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