VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 26(4) pp 1460-1484

In liberal systems governing-party-turnover and third sector organisations’ engagement in public policy-making are seen as key factors maintaining the health of democracy. However, a significant lacuna in current understanding is the effect on engagement when governing-party-turnover is absent. Accordingly, drawing on qualitative interview data, this study examines the effects of one-party-dominance (OPD) in Wales; a regional polity in the UK where the Left-of-centre Labour Party has held uninterrupted government office since a new meso-legislature was created in 1999. The findings reveal OPD introduces a range of pathologies related to party institutionalisation, path-dependency and cognitive locks. These affect third sector organisations’ resource dependency and strategic bridging to elected representatives. The resulting democratic ills are self-sustaining and include diminution of NGOs’ autonomy, trust and criticality. This study’s wider significance lies in underlining the importance of governing-party-turnover- not only to effective third sector public policy engagement, but also the health of contemporary liberal democracies.