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A one-party state, single-party state, one-party system, or single-party system is a type of unitary state in which one political party has the right to form the government, usually based on the existing constitution.[1] All other parties are either outlawed or allowed to take only a limited and controlled participation in elections. Sometimes the term de facto one-party state is used to describe a dominant-party system that, unlike the one-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.

Current one-party states

As of 2020 the following countries are legally constituted as one-party states:

Country Head of party Party Head of popular front Ideology Popular front Date of establishment Duration
Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un, Chairman Workers' Party of Korea Pak Myong-chol, President[3] Juche Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea October 10, 1945 75 years, 31 days
Lao People's Democratic Republic Bounnhang Vorachith, General Secretary Lao People's Revolutionary Party Xaysomphone Phomvihane, President of the Standing Committee Marxism–Leninism Lao Front for National Construction December 2, 1975 44 years, 344 days
People's Republic of China Xi Jinping, General Secretary Communist Party of China Wang Yang, Chairman of National CPPCC
You Quan, Head of the Department
Socialism with Chinese characteristics United Front October 1, 1949 71 years, 40 days
Republic of Cuba Raúl Castro, First Secretary Communist Party of Cuba Marxism-Leninism, Castroism January 1, 1959 61 years, 314 days
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Brahim Ghali, Secretary General Polisario Front Sahrawi Nationalism, Social Democracy February 27, 1976 44 years, 257 days
Socialist Republic of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng, General Secretary Communist Party of Vietnam Trần Thanh Mẫn, Chairman Ho Chi Minh Thought Vietnamese Fatherland Front February 3, 1930 45 years, 194 days
State of Eritrea Isaias Afwerki, Chairperson People's Front for Democracy and Justice Eritrean Nationalism, Socialism February 10, 1994 26 years, 274 days

Former one-party states

Country Party Ideology Date of establishment Date of dissolution Continent
 Ottoman Empire Committee of Union and Progress 1913 1918 Asia/Europe
 Turkey Republican People's Party Kemalism 1923 1946 Asia/Europe
 Mexico Institutional Revolutionary Party 1929 1988 North America
 Cameroon Cameroon People's Democratic Movement 1975 1990 Africa
vanguard of the people, and therefore its right to rule cannot be legitimately questioned. The Soviet government argued that multiple parties represented the class struggle, which was absent in Soviet society, and so the Soviet Union only had one party, namely the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Some one-party states only outlaw opposition parties, while allowing allied parties to exist as part of a permanent coalition such as a popular front. However, these parties are largely or completely subservient to the ruling party and must accept the ruling party's monopoly of power as a condition of their existence. Examples of this are the People's Republic of China under the United Front, the National Front in former East Germany and the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea in North Korea. Others may outlaw all other parties yet allow non-party members to run for legislative seats as independent, as was the case with Taiwan's Tangwai movement in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the elections in the former Some one-party states only outlaw opposition parties, while allowing allied parties to exist as part of a permanent coalition such as a popular front. However, these parties are largely or completely subservient to the ruling party and must accept the ruling party's monopoly of power as a condition of their existence. Examples of this are the People's Republic of China under the United Front, the National Front in former East Germany and the Democratic Front for the Reunification of Korea in North Korea. Others may outlaw all other parties yet allow non-party members to run for legislative seats as independent, as was the case with Taiwan's Tangwai movement in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the elections in the former Soviet Union. Still others may both outlaw all other parties and include party membership as a prerequisite for holding public office, such as in Turkmenistan under the rule of Saparmurat Niyazov or Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko.

Within their own countries, dominant parties ruling over one-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 pre-1991 Republic of Zambia, it referred to the United National Independence Party.

Most one-party states have been ruled by parties forming in one of the following three circumstances:

One-party states are usually considered to be authoritarian, to the extent that they are occasionally totalitarian. On the other hand, not all authoritarian or totalitarian states operate upon one-party rule. Some, especially amongst absolute monarchies and military dictatorships, have no need for a ruling party, and therefore make all political parties illegal.

The term "communist state" is sometimes used in the West to describe states in which the ruling party subscribes to a form of Marxism–Leninism. However, such states may not use that term themselves, seeing communism as a phase to develop after the full maturation of socialism, and instead use descriptions such as "people's republic", "socialist republic", or "democratic republic". One peculiar example is Cuba where, despite the role of the communist state" is sometimes used in the West to describe states in which the ruling party subscribes to a form of Marxism–Leninism. However, such states may not use that term themselves, seeing communism as a phase to develop after the full maturation of socialism, and instead use descriptions such as "people's republic", "socialist republic", or "democratic republic". One peculiar example is Cuba where, despite the role of the Communist Party being enshrined in the constitution, no party, including the Communist Party, is permitted to campaign or run candidates for elections. Candidates are elected on an individual referendum basis without formal party involvement, although elected assemblies predominantly consist of members of the Communist Party alongside non-affiliated candidates.[2]

As of 2020 the following countries are legally constituted as one-party states:

Country Head of party Party Head of popular front Ideology Popular front Date of establishment Duration