One-Party-Dominance in Changing Societies: The ANC and INC in Comparative Perspective

  • Clemens Spieß (Author)

Identifiers (Article)


India and South Africa share a similar historical outcome as concerns their party systems albeit within very different temporal and spatial contexts. India’s system of one-party-dominance (OPD) was electorally terminated in 1977 when for the first time in the country’s history the Indian National Congress was ousted from office and power by the Janata Party, a multi-party electoral platform comprising four major opposition parties. South Africa so far had only two general (democratic) elections (1994 and 1999) wherein the African National Congress won an overwhelming share of the popular vote (62,65% and 66,35% respectively), but which do not allow to make an assessment of the country’s party system without some qualifications regarding the dynamic nature of a pattern of party competition still in the making. What are the causal factors that made the emergence of a system of OPD in India after independence possible and make it likely in the South Africa of today? Why was it that a single party in a competitive democratic environment succeeded in winning one election after another amidst processes of massive social change, and, why is it that a single party is still able to do so at the end of the twentieth century? What did OPD do to the political and socio-economic development in the world’s largest democracy, and, what will be the effects of its working in the world’s most amazing democracy? Taking India as the locus classicus of OPD in changing societies, this paper is an attempt to draw advantage from a diachronic comparison between the Indian party system after independence and the emerging one in South Africa in order to free the political phenomenon of ‘OPD’ from some of the theoretical and conceptual flaws surrounding it, to examine common thinking about a party systems’ emergence and working on the basis of two regional realities, and, finally, to enrich the current scholarly hypothesising about the correlation between the nature of the party system and processes of democratic consolidation and socio-economic development with some empirical backing.


India, South Africa, Indian National Congress, African National Congress, Party System