The Movement for Social Evolution of Black Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Sociale de l'Afrique Noire—MESAN) was founded by Barthélémy Boganda in September 1949. Boganda, himself a deputy in Paris for some years, constantly fought for greater internal autonomy and an end to French administration.
Internal antagonism to Boganda came particularly from those who resented his electoral laws, which made it difficult to contest any seats with MESAN. In the election of 25 September 1960, MESAN received 80% of the votes, while the newly founded Movement for the Democratic Evolution of Central Africa (Mouvement d'Évolution Démocratique de l'Afrique Centrale— MEDAC) received 20%. MEDAC was dissolved by the government in February 1961. In December 1962, a constitutional amendment recognized MESAN as the sole party in the republic, but with the military coup d'état in January 1966 all political activity was banned. MESAN was revived in 1972 by Jean-Bédel Bokassa.
After Bokassa's fall, the single-party system was maintained, but the name of the party was changed to the Central African Democratic Union (Union Démocratique Centrafricaine—UDC) in 1980. The February 1981 constitution allowed other parties, and five competed in the presidential election of 15 March 1981. President David Dacko, the UDC candidate, received 50.2% of the vote. His chief opponent was Ange-Félix Patassé of the Movement for the Liberation of the Central African Republic (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain— MLPC), who received 38.1%. Following the military coup of 1 September 1981, all political activity was suspended. The MLPC was formally banned on 6 March 1982 after an unsuccessful coup that the government blamed on Patassé. Patassé subsequently fled to Togo.
The Central African Democratic Party (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricaine—RDC), the sole legal political party adopted by the Kolingba regime, held its founding assembly in February 1987. The same year three opposition parties in exile in Paris, including the MLPC, established a coalition called the United Front.
In 1991, opposition parties were legalized and in October 1992, multiparty elections were held. The Supreme Court invalidated the results and on 19 September 1993, new elections led to Kolingba's defeat. His old nemesis, Patassé, became president and the MLPC gained 33 of the 85 seats in the National Assembly. The RDC won 14 seats.
Other parties in the government coalition included the Liberal Democratic Party, the Alliance for Democracy and Progress, and the David Dacko Movement (an informal grouping of supporters of the ex-president). In opposition, along with the RDC, were the Consultative Group of Democratic Forces (CFD), an alliance of 14 opposition groups; the Social Democratic Party; and the National Convention.
The second half of Patassé's term of office was dominated by army mutinies, ethnic and political unrest, and international efforts to restore peace and stability. A record 849 candidates from 29 parties and 118 independents contested the parliamentary elections that were held in November and December 1998. Patassé's MLPC won 47 of the 109 seats; Koringba's RTC had 20; Dacko's MDD (Movement for Democracy and Development) got 8; and Goumba's FPP (Patriotic Front for Progress) won 7 seats. Eleven of the 29 contesting parties won seats to the National Assembly. Parliamentary majority went to the opposition.
The defection of a National Assembly member from the 10-party opposition grouping called the Union of Forces Committed to Peace (UFAP) in December 1998, gave the MLPC and its political allies a one-seat majority in the house. Opposition parties vehemently protested this development, but the Constitutional Court upheld it. The opposition went on to boycott the inauguration of the National Assembly, and only mediation from MINURCA and the international community helped to end the boycott. The reported withdrawal of two parties (with nine National Assembly members) from UFAP to join the government in October 1999, and inactivity of the MDD in the grouping would undermine UFAP so much as to threaten its survival.
Pattasé was reelected for a second presidential term with a narrow majority of 51.6% of the vote and sworn in as president on 22 October 1999. Kolingba came second (19.3%), Dacko third (11.1%), and Goumba fourth (6%) in the 10-candidate contest.
The National Assembly was dissolved in March 2003 after François Bozizé seized power in a coup. Bozizé indicated he would establish a transitional council, and that elections would be held, without specifying when.