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] Usually, the dominant party consistently holds majority government, without the need for coalitions.

Examples include United Russia (ЕP) in Russia, the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) in Canada[2][3], the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in Serbia[4][5], Fidesz in Hungary, the People's Action Party (PAP) in Singapore, the African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa,[1] the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan,[1] Awami League in Bangladesh and MPLA in Angola.


Critics of the "dominant party" 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] Raymond Suttner 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 laws), 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. An example of a genuine democratic dominant-party system would be the pre-Emergency India, which was almost universally viewed by all as being a democratic state, even though the only major national party at that time was the Indian National Congress. 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 and 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, Madeira by the Social Democrats since 1976, and Alberta by Progressive Conservatives from 1971 to 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





In federal elections to the House of Commons, a multi-party system exists, although every federal election since the 21st century has seen only two federal parties win enough seats to form a government: the Liberal Party, and the Conservative Party, which governed from 2006-2015.

The Liberal Party is often referred to as the "Natural governing party of Canada", as it has been in power longer than any other party in a developed country - governing Canada for 70 years of the 20th century. The Liberal Party of Canada has dominated much of Canada's political and public policy throughout the 20th century, and, following the 2019 Canadian Federal Election has continued to govern Canada federally since 2015, and previously from 1993-2006 during the 21st century.

Officially, the Senate of Canada is not partisan and members are not officially linked with the Federal Party Caucus.

In some provinces however, one party often 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. Generally, the Democratic Party dominate in the urban metropolitan areas, while the Republican Party dominate in the rural areas. Following the 2018 elections, the Republican Party continued to hold a majority of State Legislatures and a majority of Governorships. However the Democratic Party won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, while the Republican Party increased their majority in the Senate, resulting in a split Congress. As a consequence of Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 elections, the Republican Party also controls the Presidency.

Dominated by the Democratic Party:

Dominated by the Republican Party:

  •  Alabama: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  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.
  •  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.[12]
  •  Louisiana is dominated by the Republicans. New Orleans, however, has been dominated by the Democratic Party since the 19th century.
  •  Mississippi: dominated by Republicans since the mid-1990s.
  •  Nebraska has been dominated by Republicans for most of its existence, with a non-partisan legislature (where a de facto Republican majority has held since records began in 2007), 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.
  •  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



including the then leader, Luís Marques Mendes, say NO) No: 65.40%

Formerly dominant parties

North America

Caribbean and Central America

South America






  1. Presidents in Singapore are not allowed to belong to any party.
  2. Formerly its predecessors People's Labor Party (with SHP), People's Democracy Party, Democratic People's Party, Thousand Hope Candidates and Labour, Democracy and Freedom Bloc.
  3. 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.
  4. Formerly its predecessors Italian Socialist Party (before 1924), PCI, PDS and DS.

See also


  1. Suttner, R. (2006), "Party dominance 'theory': Of what value?", Politikon 33 (3), pp. 277-297
  2. R. Kenneth Carty (2015). Big Tent Politics: The Liberal Party's Long Mastery of Canada's Public Life. UBC Press. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-7748-3002-7
  3. Blais, André (2005). "Accounting for the electoral success of the Liberal Party in Canada". Canadian Journal of Political Science. 38 (4): 821–840. doi:10.1017/S0008423905050304.
  4. Orlović, Slaviša (2015). "The Influence of Electoral System on Party Fragmentation in Serbian Parliament". Serbian Political Thought. 7 (11): 91–106. doi:10.22182/spt.1112015.5.
  5. Atlagić, Siniša; Vučićević, Dušan (2019). Thirty Years of Political Campaigning in Central and Eastern Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. p. 20. doi:10.1007/978-3-030-27693-5_21. ISBN 978-3-030-27693-5.
  6. 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.
  7. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-01. Retrieved 2012-04-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (in English)
  8. Doorenspleet, Renske; Nijzink, Lia (2014). Party Systems and Democracy in Africa. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 174. ISBN 978-1-137-01170-1.
  9. "Botswana's ruling Democratic Party wins general elections". BBC News. BBC. 26 October 2014. Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  10. 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. 30 (2): 313–333. CiteSeerX doi:10.1080/02589001.2012.669566.
  11. Archived 2015-09-04 at the Wayback Machine
  12. "State of Kansas Governors". Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  13. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-03-09. Retrieved 2011-03-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. 2010 Human Rights Report: Samoa, U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, April 8, 2011
  15. "Singapore Elections Department - Parliamentary Election Results". Archived from the original on 2015-09-10. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  16. "Singapore Elections Department - 2011 Parliamentary Election Results". Archived from the original on 19 January 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2015.
  17. "TURKEY - AKP ushering in 'dominant-party system', says expert". Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  18. "Turkey Under the AKP: The Era of Dominant-Party Politics". 2012-01-19. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  19. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-06-04.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. Dresden, Cornelius Pollmer (2014-08-31). "CDU sucht nach einem neuen Partner".
  21. Grétar Thor Eythórsson, Detlef Jahn (2009), "Das politische System Islands", Die Politischen Systeme Westeuropas (in German) (4., aktualisierte und überarbeitete ed.), Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, p. 200, ISBN 978-3-531-16464-9
  22. "Labour are on course to retain their dominance in Wales, according to our latest poll".
  23. "It's no fluke poll - Labour is heading for a landslide in Wales".
  24. Jones, Richard Wyn (2016-05-06). "How Welsh Labour became the UK's most invincible electoral machine | Richard Wyn Jones". The Guardian.
  25. "The Guardian view on the election in Scotland: A pivotal poll for the SNP | Editorial". The Guardian. 2017-05-19.
  26. Canada's 'natural governing party'. CBC News in Depth, 4 December 2006. Retrieved 2012-08-10.
  27. "Bundestagswahlen - Baden-Württemberg".
  28. "Wahlen zum Europäischen Parlament in Baden-Württemberg".
  29. "Landtagswahlen im Saarland seit 1945".
  30. "Bundestagswahlen - Saarland".
  31. "Wahlen zum Europäischen Parlament im Saarland".
  33. "Subscribe to read".
  34. Cairney, Paul; McGarvey, Neil (2013). Scottish Politics. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan Limited. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-230-39046-1.
  35. Garnett, Mark; Lynch, Philip (2007). Exploring British Politics. London: Pearson Education. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-582-89431-0.
  36. 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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