Title page for ETD etd-05162010-005403

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author De Jager, Nicola Louise
Email ndejager@sun.ac.za
URN etd-05162010-005403
Document Title Voice and accountability in one party dominant systems : a comparative case study of Mexico and South Africa
Degree DPhil
Department Political Sciences
Advisor Name Title
Prof R Southall Supervisor
  • illiberal democracy
  • democracy
  • authoritarian
  • agents of accountability
  • South Africa
  • voice and accountability
  • ruling party
  • developing countries
  • political society
  • one party dominant system
  • dominant party system
  • non-authoritarian democracy
  • Mexico
  • liberal democracy
  • hegemonic party system
  • civil society
Date 2010-04-14
Availability unrestricted
This thesis examines the impact of one party dominant systems on liberal democracy in developing countries. It is insufficient to argue that one party dominant systems – systems where one party dominates over a prolonged period - need not be further scrutinised because they occur within democracies. Instead it is contended that the term ‘democracy’ is but one public virtue in a political system and thus needs to be prefixed for it to have meaning beyond a method of government selection. The importance of this is highlighted when looking at two major trends in the understanding of democracy. The first is democracy as rule by the people -a non-authoritarian democracy- where governmental control is limited, and agents of voice and accountability are protected. Voice and accountability refers to citizens being able to exercise power over the process of decision-making and not merely power to select decision-makers. The second type of democracy is rule for the people -an authoritarian democracy- where governmental control extends over all spheres of society, and the operating space for agents of voice and accountability is constrained. Since unchecked centralisation is the anti-thesis of a non-authoritarian democracy, the observed tendency of dominant parties to use their predominant position to further consolidate their control is a concern. The apprehension is, as power is centralised so the operating space of agents of voice and accountability (including political and civil society) is constrained.

Despite differences in the type of one party dominant system, whether they be hegemonic (Mexico) or dominant (South Africa) the ruling dominant/ hegemonic party uses similar methods of consolidating dominance – they essentially centralise power through the establishment of (1) economic, (2) political, and sometimes (3) ideological monopolies. These monopolies are established using internal and external methods of control (centralising of political power; party controlled process of political leadership selection; institutional arrangements and electoral amendments, which favour the ruling party; patronage and corporatism), which in turn effectively close down or limit the operating space of civil and political society, especially in developing countries which do not have histories of liberal-constitutionalism, and have vast socio-economic inequalities making them especially susceptible to the manipulation of ruling elites.

Although one party dominant systems may initially have a uniting, stabilising effect, if continued they tend to lead towards either the entrenchment of authoritarianism or the establishment of authoritarianism, since dominance is achieved at the expense of competition, and independent and alternative voices. Uncompetitive democracies result in unresponsive governments. Pursuing a liberal democracy, while simultaneously monopolising power is to indulge in serious programmatic contradictions. Eventually something has to give and it is usually liberal democracy. Voice and accountability inevitably become inhibited in one party dominant systems due to the mechanisms of internal and external control used by the dominant or hegemonic party. These mechanisms of control culminate in, as they did in Mexico, there being ‘no life outside the ruling party’. Only when the economic, political and ideological monopolies are dismantled through either economic liberalisation, opposition maintaining its integrity, civil society keeping its independence and societies refusing to be drawn into relationships of patronage, can the space for voice and accountability be prised open again. In the interests of its citizens and the future success of its country, the ruling party of a one party dominant system needs to recognise that it is not the sole channel for the voice of its citizens and to acknowledge the space for agents of voice and accountability. Ensuring that non-authoritarian democracy remains the only game in town in a one party dominant system requires responsive and accountable government and effective agents of voice and accountability.

© 2009 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

De Jager, NL 2009, Voice and accountability in one party dominant systems : a comparative case study of Mexico and South Africa, DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05162010-005403/ >


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