Parties and Party Systems Mainwaring and Scully follow Sartori and define “parties” as “any political group that presents at elections, and is capable of placing through elections, candidates for public office.”
Unlike Sartori, their definition of parties excludes vanguard revolutionary groups that do not compete in elections yet still call themselves parties. For this reason, Cuba is not included in their study of party systems in Latin America. Based on their definition of parties, Mainwaring and Scully define “party systems” as “the set of patterned interactions in the competition among parties,” which excludes single-party systems.
The two authors are not alone in treating single-party systems as a special category. In a review of the literature on the decay and breakdown of communist single-party systems, Kalyvas criticizes the study of parties and party systems since the 1960s for subsuming single-party systems as a subtype under a comprehensive party system typology, together with dominant party, two-party, and multiparty systems.
According to Kalyvas, such a typology has been justified on two grounds. First, parties in single-party dictatorships perform many functions that are similar to parties in democratic systems. These parties also recruit and present candidates for public office. Some authors argue that these parties more or less aggregate social interests. Second, as Duverger argues, “there is no fundamental difference in structure between single parties and the parties of democratic regimes.”
Essentially they are modern organizations and bureaucracies. Despite these shared characteristics between single-party systems and other systems, Kalyvas disagrees with those who put them all under one typology.
Such a comprehensive typology adds little to our understanding of how single-party systems work, and obscures a fundamental difference between the two kinds of systems, which is competition in democratic systems and the lack of it in authoritarian systems. Kalyvas is not entirely consistent, however. On the one hand, he suggests that “one-party systems” is a misnomer; a better term
Scott Mainwaring and Timothy Scully, “Introduction,” in Building Democratic Institutions: Party Systems in Latin America, eds. Mainwaring and Scully (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), 2.
Mainwaring and Scully, “Introduction,” 4.
Stathis Kalyvas, “The Decay and Breakdown of Communist One-Party Systems,”
Annual Review of Political Science
2 (1999), 323-43.
Cited in Kalyvas, ibid., 326.