A single-party state or one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system and form of government where only a single political party dominates the government and no opposition parties are allowed. This is generally viewed as creating a dictatorship, and many (though not all) actual dictatorships represent themselves as one-party states. Examples of dictatorships that are not one-party states include military dictatorships, which often attempt to ban all party politics during their rule. A one-party system should not be confused with a dominant-party system in which an opposition is not officially prohibited, but it is largely ineffective (has no realistic chance of becoming the government). Where the ruling party subscribes to a form of Marxism-Leninism, the one-party system is usually called a communist state.
Single-party states often pay lip service to democracy (and this is especially true in the case of communist states, who often go so far as to insert the word "democratic" in their official name, largely because the Marxist-Leninist ideology which they claim to uphold does call for democratic government), but without a choice of different parties, elections in single-party states are usually largely symbolic. Although other political parties are sometimes allowed by the government, these other parties must subordinate themselves to the dominant party and cannot function as an opposition. The existence of other parties is sometimes justified by appeals to a united front. Also, some one-party states may allow non-party members to run for legislative seats, as was the case with Taiwan's Tangwai movement in the 1970s and 1980s.
In most cases, single-party states have arisen from fascist, communist or nationalist ideologies, particularly in the wake of independence from colonial rule. One-party systems often arise from decolonization because one party has had an overwhelmingly dominant role in liberation or in independence struggles.
One-party states justify themselves in various ways. One common justification is that multi-party systems introduce too much division and are unsuitable for economic and political development. This argument was particular popular during the mid-20th century, as many developing nations sought to emulate the Soviet Union, which had transformed itself from a backward, agarian nation into a superpower. A common counter-argument is that one-party systems have a tendency to become rigid and unwilling to accept change, which renders them unable to deal with new situations and may result in their collapse. This counter-argument became more widely held as the 20th century drew to a close and the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact collapsed. Finally, one-party states are often criticized for their disrespect towards human rights.
In some countries, such as the Seychelles, Singapore and Malaysia, one single party dominated the government for a considerable long period of time, although there are opposition parties.
The following countries are single-party states as of 2004:
Examples of former single-party states include:
- many African governments after independence, although most have now converted to multi-party government
- Algeria (FLN), Angola (MPLA), Benin (PRPB), Cameroon (UC/UNC), Cape Verde (PAICV), Central African Republic (MESAN), Chad (PPT), Comoros (UCP), Congo-Brazzaville (MRN; PCT), Côte d'Ivoire (PDCI), Djibouti (RPP), Equatorial Guinea (PUNT), Ethiopia (EWP), Gabon (PDG), Ghana (CPP), Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC), Kenya (KANU), Liberia (True Whig), Madagascar (FNDR), Malawi (MCP), Mali (US-RDA), Mauritania (PRM/PPM), Mozambique (FRELIMO), Rwanda (MRND), São Tomé and Príncipe (MLSTP), Senegal (PSS), Seychelles (SPUP/SPPF), Sierra Leone (APC), Somalia (SRSP), Sudan (ASU), Tanzania (CCM), Togo (RPT), Tunisia (ND/RCD), Western Sahara (POLISARIO), Zaïre (MPR)
- many Arab governments such as
- the former Soviet Union and the governments of the countries of the Warsaw Pact at that time, which were ruled by Communist parties.
- Germany under the Nazi Party
- Spain under Francisco Franco
- Portugal under Salazar and Marcello Caetano
- Taiwan under the Kuomintang
- The Burmese / Myanmar military, which has ruled the country since 1988, created a "National Unity Party" to give the régime a civilian façade. An election held in 1990 was nullified. The legal status of the winner of that election, the National League for Democracy (NLD), is in flux.
- List of democracy and elections-related topics
- Map of One Party States, 1945-95 (http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/oneparty.htm)
- Single party states in Africa (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/africa/features/storyofafrica/14chapter11.shtml)