One party state or a single party state refers to the situation where there is only one political party that makes the government and there is no other political parties allowed to present their candidates for parliamentary elections. There are different opinions about the effectiveness or rather the advantages of one party state over the multi-party state in the world. The argument on this issue ignites a very heated debate whether it is good for a state to have one party state or multi-party system kind of governance.
However, many people have different perceptions in single party state. Some see it as kind of dictatorship where still others believe that it a way of consolidating strength and bringing unity in the country. Those who are against multi-party do have perceptions that introduction of many parties catalyses a big gap for differences and consequently resulting to division which do not favor countries’ development both politically and economically.
This perception was highly regarded especially in twentieth century where Soviet Union served as such kind of model of one-party-state. It is believed that one party state favors long term policies unlike multi-party system that keep on reviewing the already set policies to favor them in their regular elections. Conversely, those who support multi-party kind of political system present their argument that unlike one-party system, multi-party system is not flexible and always advocates for status quo.
Often than not, it is resistant to changes . This makes a state to drag behind in terms of development because of the opposition experience. In most cases, the resistance is not based on good will but it is staged to favor the interests of those in power and not necessarily the interest of the citizens. Therefore, it is considered being oppressive and it is not all inclusive to the interest of the people as there is no any other choice. An example is given from Soviet Union which for a long time, it has been in one party system .
This subsequently made it unable to adapt well in new situations that might have resulted to its collapse and also the same is probably what happened in the countries of Warsaw Pact. In addition, it is argued that one party state do outlaw opposition parties and encourage subordinate parties to exist so as to form coalition in its favor. One-party states of Africa The history of one party state traces it origin, particularly in Africa, during the time of independence. Africans were no longer willing to contain any more of the colonial rule in their own land because they wanted their long waited freedom.
For so many years, they claimed that the colonial rule did not suit their demands and that they did not contain in themselves the interest of African subjects in their hearts at all. Instead they were segregated, tortured and even deprived their basic human rights. The patterns of economy and production in their state colonies were only fashioned by the needs of the colonial powers back in their native lands. This resulted to awakening of national resistance movements around the African nations though not simultaneous.
For Africans to win over the dictatorial rule from their colonial masters which they disliked with a lot of passion, they gathered in to one single party that formed the majority to give it a very strong dominance that was able to amplify the interests and the needs of citizens in their respective countries. This was so crucial if they had to realize eagerly awaited liberation. Liberia is the first single party state in Africa in the whole world. True Whig Party for long time was the monopoly political party for about hundred years since 1878 until the coup d’etat of 1980 .
The nature of African governing systems such as single party state owes their evolution from imperial rule. During pre-colonial period, a time between eighteen and nineteen century, different types of political organizations did exist. These ranged from small families groups to autonomous city states that formed kingdoms and empires such as Mali, Ghana, and Songhai among others. These were the African governments which existed prior to the scrabble for the Africa when Africa fell on to the hands of European colonial rule in the late nineteenth century.
Apart from Liberia and Ethiopia all of the other African countries became colonial nation states of respective colonial rules with direct or indirect rules. Present African systems of government trace their roots back to colonial masters where they adopted or integrated some aspects of their colonial masters in to their governments. When European colonies scrabbled for Africa, they established themselves first by restructuring the existing political kingdoms and ethnic groups into a unit regardless of their differences .
The set up of colonial governments in Africa altogether exhibited different political elements other than those which were known by former African kingdoms leaders and emperors . Little did Africans know that even after physical absence of their colonial masters their presence was to be still felt through political institutions they had already established, where their practices and institutions were handed down to their new governments during the independence.
It is firmly believed that the problems encountered in the African government states partly are attributable to the systems of government which were inherited from their colonial masters. The following is a discussion on the challenges encountered by African states in an attempt to maintain single political party and the evolution of one party state to multi-party state by taking a random check and a comparative look on some of the former and current one party states of Africa and the challenges they have faced. Ghana was the first African state to gain independence in 1957 from British colonial rule.
The Conventional People’s Party (CPP) was the earliest political party in Ghana that took lead of the road to the independence. The origin of CPP dates early back in 1947 with the creation of United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) that was formed with a goal to bring about the independence for Ghana. This was after the Kwame Nkrumah realized that UGCC was slow towards achieving the independence objective. He immediately abandoned this UGCC party and founded CPP. Shortly after, CCP party gained much popularity and in 1956 elections it won with majority seats and led to Ghana’s independence.
After the CCP ruled for about seven years, the constitution was changed to make it the only country’s legal party and hence Ghana became one party state. But in 1992, after a period of ten years, many political parties were legalized . Now Ghana government takes form of presidential representative democratic republic where the president is the head of state and of the government and it has multi-party political system. Angola is another country in south West Africa that was under the Portuguese colony from sixteenth century to 1975.
National movements started after forced cotton harvesting which evoked the Angolan War for independence which took about thirteen years. It had separate movements such as UNITA, the MPL and the FNLA that staged a guerrilla war to fight Portuguese Armed Forces. During this time several atrocities were witnessed from all the forces in war . As a result of this, Angolan Separatist Final converged and founded Party of United Struggle for African in Angola (PLUA) which was the first political party to advocate for independence. After two years later another movement was founded which was referred to as Angola Communist Party (PCA).
However, by the end of 1956 Party of United Struggle for Africa in Angola merged with PCA to form a grand party known as Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). MPLA, though struggle from Portuguese troops managed to maintain control over Luanda, Angola, capital city for sometime. In 1975 MPLA declared Angola’s independence after Portuguese left the capital city and Agostinho Neto became first president of Angola. Later, Angola faced civil war and power struggles between MPLA and its political party opponent UNITA for about fifteen year since it received independence.
The first multi-party elections after 1991 peace agreement was held in 1992 but saw Angola back to a civil war for ten years due to disagreement over election results with UNITA leader. Since then, there are about one hundred and thirty four registered political parties but only fourteen that are approved by Constitutional Court by July this year. Since 1992, for the first time this year, Angola held parliamentary elections which saw fourteen political parties and party coalitions participate after a period of postponement of parliamentary elections.
Angola is one of the biggest oil producers in Africa and endowed with wealth of other natural resources. However, there exists a great disparity between the rich and the poor. This is because of inequitable distribution of resources as its wealth is concentrated on the hand of the few. Therefore, political power is the main actor linked with control of the economy. As it can be observed, Angola is no longer a single party state now. The MPLA no longer enjoys privileges of party monopoly.
The reasons why there has risen a need for multiparty system in this country as seen by signing of a peace a agreement of 1991, may probably be due to lack of confidence in the government that is constituted by the long time single party that has failed to meet the citizens expectations . In North Africa, a good example of former one -party state is Algeria. It was a colonized by France for almost a century. The National Liberation Front (FLN) was created from unification of factions of national movements and coercion of other small organizations.
However, Messali Hadj’s Movement National Algerien (MNA) refused to be merged. Instead it remained parallel to FLN. FLN strategically divided itself into small units of guerrilla for fighting against France. These units later emerged again to form a powerful opposition that later predominated Algerian politics . The fight for independence finally came to an end when French government signed Evian Accords which was a ceasefire agreement with FLN in 1962. In this same year Algerian people accepted the accord and demanded social and economical cooperation between France and their country .
Full independence shortly followed with FLN taking the center stage while other opposing parties such as MNA became outlawed. This made Algeria to be one-party state. However, later the party started experiencing power struggle and political leaders. Presently Algeria is no longer a one-party state and FLN now does not dominate. In 2002 elections, FLN got about 34% of the parliamentary votes. In 2006 legislative elections FLN though took lead with majority of parliamentary seats, it was followed by National Democratic Front (FND) and many among other political parties following.
Now Algeria is a multi-party system as opposed to the past. Surprisingly unlike during the time of independence when other parties were outlawed, currently, Algeria has got about forty political parties that are very active in Algerian national politics since the time of independence. However no single party being independent of other parties can be able to get to power. A coalition needs to be established to win during legislative elections. In Algeria, formation of any party is permissible as long as it caters for the interests of all citizens.
The politics of Algeria revolves around presidential republic where president is both the head of state and of the government. The political climate of Algeria is always changing. It can be said that the country is a constitutional republic that exercises democracy. What has made such dictate for need of multi-party in Algeria seem to conform to the global trends particularly in the third world countries. In the eastern Africa, Kenya has not been left behind. It is a good example of former one party state. Before gaining independence it was under British colonial rule.
Kenya African National Union (KANU) was the political party that saw Kenya through independence. But earliest ever formed political party in Kenya was Kenya African Study Union (KSU) in 1944 to address the complaints against the colonial rule by that time. It was later called the Kenya African Union (KAU) to ensure inclusiveness to avoid tribal politics and cater for the interests of all Kenyan tribes. Later, KAU united with other political parties called Kenya Independent Movement and the People’s Congress Party to form Kenya African National Union- KANU.
For seven years from 1952, Kenya was under state of emergency as a result of fierce fight from freedom fighters- Mau and British colonial rule . By this time there was fast political process that resulted to direct elections for Africans Legislative Council that took place in 1957. Meanwhile, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) was founded as a rival to KANU so as to defend the interest of some community that seemed to be marginalized in the on-going political movement. KADU was for federal government while KANU was for centralized form of government.
When Kenya gained independence in 1963, KANU took over from the British rule and KADU was immediately dissolved. Kenya was officially made to be one party state in 1982 through a constitutional amendment. Nevertheless, in 1991 Kenya was again a multi-party state. Currently there are several political parties in Kenya. In western Africa, a good example of former one party state country is Senegal. Currently, it has about eighty political parties with the successful post colonial democratic transitions than any other African country.
Socialist Party of Senegal has been a predominant political party for along period since independence. As it can been seen, Senegal has got a true multiparty and democratic culture with principal parties that have contributed to the best successful transition from independence among the African countries. In the Horn of Africa, we have Eritrea as the only current one party state in Africa. It was one time an Italian colony. It got its independence in 1993 from the Ethiopian government. It is has only one party state which is run by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).
As per now it is illegal for other political parties to organize in the Eritrea. Therefore, the culture of multi-party system in Eritrea has been outlawed. From this discussion of sampled African countries namely Ghana, which was the first African countries to gain independence, Senegal that has so far exercised the most successful transition government in Africa, Algeria and Kenya are real good examples of the former single party states while Eritrea is the only current single party state in the whole of Africa. This has given a good insight on how the ideology of single party state has been fairing particularly in Africa.
But what can clearly be deduced from this is that single party state will be soon become a relic by the end the twenty first century in Africa. African countries which have been practicing single party state seemed to be exercising dictatorship in some sense by other democratic nations. In single party state there is high tendency to concentrate the political power to the ruling party resulting to leniency to existing laws and the states’ constitutions and hence element of dictatorship emanating from this ruling political party. Seemingly, multi-party state therefore may have been necessitated by the need for democracy.
Democracy has now been one of the cherished global ideologies. Every nation in the world is expected to practice democracy in all possible aspects. Democratic governance is supported by view that it is representative and inclusive of people needs. It allows checks of excesses of power and manipulation from few at the expense of many. It and can only be realized through transparent, free and fair elections for it to be acceptable. But on the other side it may give opportunity for a few to attain power and influence, who may not actually in their hearts be sincere democrats, causing great havoc in the society .
Currently most of African counties have embraced multi-party kind of political systems however much some may have disliked it. Democracy ideology served as an epitome to multi-party system that saw coming up of many political parties in African states which were previously outlawed. Therefore, those African countries that seemed not to embrace the ideology, they were coerced by developing countries particularly those who acted as their donors by presenting sanctions with failure to implement democracy. Basically, the response to this was prominently seen in many African states like Kenya by adopting multi-party system.
All those countries which had outlawed multi-party system had to conform. It is no doubt that one party states of Africa have utterly failed though after long struggle. From this discussion the expectations of African states to maintain one-party state exceed their capabilities because one-party system failed to satisfy majority of citizens in most of the African countries and the need for global ideology for democracy implementation dictated adoption of multi-party state in these countries without option.