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The Congress Party Model: South Africa's African National Congress (ANC) and India's Indian National Congress (INC) as Dominant Parties

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

The paper argues that the model developed to analyze the dominance of the Indian National Congress of the political party system during the first two decades of independence helps in our understanding of the unfolding party system in South Africa. A comparison of the Congress Party and the African National Congress suggests many similarities. The paper is divided into three broad sections. The first part focuses on the dominant party system in India. In the second part, I apply the model of the Congress System to South Africa. I argue that the three features of the Congress System – a dominant party with mass based legitimacy, constituted by many factions and operating on the idiom of consensus-seeking internal politics, and sources of opposition who cooperate with factions in the dominant party to influence the political agenda – prevails in South Africa. In the third part, I draw on the comparison between the ANC and Congress Party to account for why certain nationalist movements become dominant parties. I emphasize that broad nationalist movements displaying high degrees of legitimacy and embracing democratic practices are adaptive to changing contexts and develop organizational mechanisms to manage internal party conflict. They contribute to the consolidation of democracy rather than undermine it.


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