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One-party state

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Subject: Kwame Nkrumah, President of Liberia, Elections in Angola, Parliamentary republic
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One-party state

This article is about single-party political states. For telephone recording laws and notification requirements, see Telephone recording laws#One-party notification states.

A single-party state, one-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of state in which a single political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution. All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in elections. Sometimes the term de facto single-party state is used to describe a dominant-party system that, unlike the single-party state, allows (at least nominally) democratic multiparty elections, but the existing practices or balance of political power effectively prevent the opposition from winning the elections.


Single-party states are justified for a number of reasons. Most often, proponents of a single-party state argue that the existence of separate parties runs counter to national unity. Others argue that the single party is the vanguard of the people, and therefore its right to rule cannot be legitimately questioned.

Some single party states only outlaw opposition parties, while allowing subordinate allied parties to exist as part of a permanent coalition such as a popular front. Examples of this are the People's Republic of China under the United Front, or the National Front in former East Germany. Others may allow non-party members to run for legislative seats, as was the case with Taiwan's Tangwai movement in the 1970s and 1980s.

Within their own countries, dominant parties ruling over single-party states are often referred to simply as the Party. For example, in reference to the Soviet Union, the Party meant the Communist Party of the Soviet Union; in reference to the former People's Republic of Poland it referred to the Polish United Workers' Party.

Most single-party states have been ruled either by parties following the ideology of Marxism-Leninism and international solidarity (such as the Soviet Union for most of its existence), or by parties following some type of nationalist or fascist ideology (such as Germany under Adolf Hitler), or by parties that came to power 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.

Single-party states are often, but not always, considered to be authoritarian or totalitarian. However, not all authoritarian or totalitarian states operate based on single-party rule. Some, especially absolute monarchies and certain military dictatorships, have made all political parties illegal.

The term "communist state" is often used in the west to apply to states in which the ruling party subscribes to a form of Marxism-Leninism. However, such states do not use that term themselves, seeing communism as a phase to develop after the full maturation of socialism, and instead often use the titles of "people's republic," "socialist republic," or "democratic republic." One peculiar example is Cuba, where the role of the Communist Party is enshrined in the constitution, and no party is permitted to campaign or run candidates for election, including the Communist party. Candidates are elected on an individual referendum basis without formal party involvement, though elected assemblies predominantly consist of members of the dominant party alongside non-affiliated candidates.[1]


The True Whig Party of Liberia is considered the founder of the first single-party state in the world, as despite opposition parties never being outlawed, it completely dominated Liberian politics from 1878 until 1980.[2] The party was conceived by the original Black American settlers and their descendants who referred to themselves as Americo-Liberians. Initially, its ideology was heavily influenced by that of the Whig Party in the United States. Over time it developed into a powerful Masonic Order that ruled every aspect of Liberian society for well over a century until it was overthrown in 1980. While the True Whig Party still exists today, its influence has substantially declined.

Current single-party states

The following list includes the countries that are legally constituted as single-party states as of 2013 and the name of the single party in power:

Country Formerly Party Front Single-party state adopted Incumbency due to
 People's Republic of China Single-party state (Part of the Republic of China) Communist Party of China United Front 1949 Chinese Civil War
 Cuba Semi-presidential system Communist Party of Cuba 1959 Cuban Revolution
 Eritrea Provisional government (Part of the Transitional Government of Ethiopia) People's Front for Democracy and Justice 1991 Eritrean War of Independence
 North Korea Colony (Part of Korea under Japanese rule) Workers' Party of Korea Democratic Front for the Reunification of the Fatherland 1946 World War II
 Laos Constitutional monarchy Lao People's Revolutionary Party Lao Front for National Construction 1975 Laotian Civil War
 Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Colony (Before part of the Spanish Sahara) Polisario Front 1975 Western Sahara War
 Vietnam Single-party state (North Vietnam) Communist Party of Vietnam Vietnamese Fatherland Front 1954/1976 First Indochina War/

Vietnam War

Semi-presidential system (South Vietnam)

Former single-party states

See also


External links

  • Map of One Party States, 1945-95
  • Single party states in Africa
  • List of One-Party Regimes
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