n Journal of African Elections - Party systems in the SADC region : in defence of the dominant party system




In the past ten years or so the process of democratisation in emerging democracies has continued to face numerous and persistent challenges. The most pertinent of these is the rapid movement towards one-party dominant political systems. This phenomenon has been observed by scholars who have administered a series of tests to determine the possibility of democratic consolidation. This paper makes a detailed study of the detrimental implications of dominant party systems. It also explains the distinguishing features between a de jure and a de facto dominant party system using examples from the SADC region. The paper, however, argues that although dominance is, in many instances, created by forms of coercion and electoral manipulation, there are some parameters of politics that do indeed aid dominance in democratically acceptable ways. The paper addresses five basic types of parameters, examines the ways in which they function and discusses their relevance in terms of aiding dominance democratically. The central argument maintains that certain dominant party systems can function within and respect the essential parameters of constitutional democracy. That said, a number of important political questions must be addressed about what such dominance means to the future prospects for democracy in these countries.


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