INTRODUCTION TO FORMS OF GOVERNMENT

 

UNIT STRUCTURE

1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
  Concept of Government
3. Parliamentary and Presidential forms of Government

1. Parliamentary form of Government
2. Presidential form of Government


4. Unitary and Federal forms of Government

1. Unitary form of Government
2. Federal form of Government
5. Let Us sum Up
6. Further Readings
7. Answers To Check Your Progress
8. Possible Questions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
Define a government
Describe the Parliamentary and Presidential forms of government
Describe the Unitary and Federal forms of government.
List the merits and demerits of all the above mentioned forms of governments

INTRODUCTION


In the previous unit, we discussed some of the major concepts like rights, citizenship, justice and liberty, based on which the relation between the individual and state could be determined.

The above concepts become more meaningful in the context of the particular form government that prevails in a state. The present unit therefore introduces you to the various forms of government. To begin with, we are all familiar with the term “government” as it is a very common term which people use very frequently in their day-to-day conversations. However, as students of Political science, we should know more about the meaning of the concept of government including its various forms.

This unit therefore gives us a fair idea about what is government and what are its various forms as well as presents the concept of democracy. Besides, an understanding of such concepts will help us appreciate the previously discussed concepts like rights and citizenship better.

 

CONCEPT OF GOVERNMENT



By government, we mean the machinery or organization that carries out the administration of the state. It determines the common policies of the state and regulates its common affairs. Accordingly, the government has the power to rule and issue commands to the community.

Every modern government has three organs- the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Legislature makes laws, the Executive enforces those laws and the Judiciary delivers justice as per the laws.

If we look at the Indian political system, we will find that the Legislative branch of the government is represented by the Parliament of India consisting of two houses, namely, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha while the Executive branch of the government is represented by the President of India and the Prime Minister with his Council of Ministers. The Supreme Court and the High Courts represent the Judicial branch of the government.

LET US KNOW


Dr.Stephen Leacock’s classification of modern governments is considered to be the most acceptable one. Parliamentary and Presidential forms and Unitary and Federal forms of government are all derivatives of Democratic government, which Dr.Leacock has shown in the form of a table.






PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL FORMS OF GOVERNMENT



Democratic governments are classified into Parliamentary and Presidential types on the basis of relationship between the executive and the legislature.

Parliamentary form of Government


The form of government in which the executive is selected from among the members of the legislature and is responsible to the legislature is called Parliamentary government. A Parliamentary government is also known as the cabinet form of government because the cabinet is the real executive in it. It is also called responsible government, since the cabinet always remains responsible to the legislature for its activities.

Characteristics of Parliamentary form of Government:
The following are the main characteristics of the Parliamentary form
of government:

Dual Executive: The Parliamentary form of government provides for two executives-the real executive and the nominal or titular executive. The nominal executive is represented by the head of the state who may either be a hereditary or an elective one; legally, the head of the state possesses all powers and privileges which the constitution and laws may confer upon him. But in practice, all powers are exercised by the real executive represented by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister is the head of the government. A classic example of this form of government is the UK where the King or Queen is the titular head (Head of the State) whereas the Prime Minister is the real head (Head of the Government).

Collective Responsibility: Another important feature of Parliamentary form of government is that the Cabinet is collectively responsible to the legislature. It means that once a decision is taken by the Cabinet, it becomes the responsibility of each minister to support it, in and outside the parliament. If a motion of no-confidence is passed by the parliament against a single Minister while pursuing cabinet policy, it would be considered to be a vote of no-confidence against the whole cabinet and the cabinet has to tender its resignation.

Individual Responsibility: Each Minister is individually responsible to the Parliament for the administration of his own department. The Members of the Parliament can put questions to the Minister who is responsible for all acts of omission and commission concerning his own department. For example, when China invaded India in October 1962, the then Defence Minister, Mr.V.K.Krishna Menon resigned as an instance of individual responsibility.

Close relationship between the Executive and Legislature: In the Parliamentary form of government, there is a close relationship between the executive and the legislature. The members of the executive must be the members of the legislature. If anybody is not a member of the legislature at the time of his appointment to the cabinet, he must get himself elected to the legislature, within the stipulated period. The members of the cabinet take active part in law making. The cabinet remains in office as long as it enjoys the confidence of the parliament.

Political homogeneity: It means that the members of the cabinet belong to the same political party. Usually they are taken from the majority party in the legislature. But there are instances when no single part secures the majority in the legislature. In that case, the only alternative is the formation of a coalition government, consisting of more than one political parties. In England such governments are called national governments.

Secrecy of procedure: The secrecy of cabinet proceedings is another pre-requisite of the Parliamentary form of government. The minister should not divulge in the public or anywhere else whatever is discussed in the cabinet. Any violation of this is considered to be a serious violation of discipline and the Cabinet Minister may lose his seat.

Leadership of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister is the acknowledged leader of the Parliamentary form of government. Generally, the leader of the majority party in the lower house of the legislature is appointed as the Prime Minister. He is therefore the leader of the house. The Prime Minister has an overall control over the cabinet. On the recommendations of the Prime Minister, other ministers are appointed. He can reshuffle the portfolios of his cabinet colleagues as well as induct new ministers into his cabinet when he desires.

LET US KNOW

Great Britain is the classic home of parliamentary democracy. The system of parliamentary government is not the result of any formal constitutional device; it is rather, a result of gradual evolution. The government of England assumed its present form during the first half of 18th century. This form of government exists, at present, in the UK, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, and the Netherlands, India, Japan and many other countries of the world.

 


Merits of Parliamentary form of Government:

The following are some of the advantages or merits of the
Parliamentary system of government:

  • The Parliamentary form of government is marked by cooperation between the legislature and the executive. Accordingly, the cabinet can get its measures passed promptly by the legislature.
  • This form of government cannot become autocratic. Since ministers are responsible to the legislature, they are answerable to the legislature for their actions.
  • It provides an alternative government. In case the majority party loses its majority in the legislature, the opposition party may form the government. But it must prove its majority in the legislature.

  • A Parliamentary form of government has the advantage of flexibility. People can easily change the government and sometimes they may choose a leader to meet a particular emergency. During the Second World War, Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister in England without any difficulty.
  • The Parliamentary form of government has high educative value. The political parties mould public opinion through political meetings on important issues. During election, every party publishes its manifesto highlighting its proposed plans.

    Demerits of Parliamentary form of Government:
  • Some of the disadvantages or demerits of Parliamentary form of government are listed below:
  • It violates the theory of separation of powers and leads to the concentration of legislative and executive powers in the hands of the cabinet. This may result in tyranny. Sometimes, it is described as cabinet dictatorship.

  • In the Parliamentary form of government, the executive takes part in law-making and the legislature sometimes interferes excessively and unnecessarily in administrative matters .This may result in confusion as well as inefficiency of both the legislature and the executive.
  • When no party is in a position to get clear majority, coalition government comes into being. Its existence generally is short and at the same time it may not be efficient.
  • Parliamentary government is criticized as a government by amateurs. The ministers’ lack of knowledge of the portfolios they hold make them heavily dependent on the civil servants. Such a government becomes a bureaucratic government in practice.
  • The Parliamentary form of government tends to become election centric. Each political party only aims at winning elections. They manipulate the voters which lead to what is popularly known as “vote bank politics.”


ACTIVITY


When the Parliament is in session, there is a special programme everyday on Doordarshan about the proceedings in Parliament of India. Watch the proceedings or read about it in the newspapers and observe how the ministers face questions from members of parliament as an indication of the principle of individual responsibility of the ministers to parliament.




CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. There is a close relationship between the executive and the legislature in the Parliamentary form of government. True/False
.........................................................................................................

2. The Parliamentary form of government is not characterized by the existence of dual executive. True/False
..........................................................................................................

3. Mention two characteristics of Parliamentary Government? (within 40 words)


 

Presidential form of Government


The system of democratic government, in which the executive is constitutionally independent of the legislature, is known as the Presidential form of government. In this form of government, the head of the state who is also the head of government is designated as the President and hence the phrase, Presidential from of government.

Characteristics of Presidential form of Government:

The main characteristics of the Presidential form of government may be summarized as under:

Separation of Powers: There is a separation of powers in the Presidential government. In this system, the executive and legislature are separate from each other and they have equal status. The President and his secretaries (cabinet members) are not members of the Legislature and are not responsible to it. The legislature cannot remove them through a vote of no-confidence.

Since complete separation of powers is not possible, the Presidential system follows the principle of “checks and balances” as well. For instance, through his power of patronage and veto-power over legislation, the President exercises control over the legislature. Similarly, the legislature is empowered to remove the President by impeachment. The Supreme Court can declare the laws passed by the legislature and the orders of the President as unconstitutional.

Single Executive: In a Presidential government, the President is the Head of the State as well of the government. The President is not merely a nominal head, but is the real executive who enjoys real powers of administration. The President actually exercises all powers given to him under the constitution and the law.

Fixed Term of the President: In a Presidential government, the President is elected for a fixed term and except impeachment for the violation of the constitution, he cannot be removed from office before the expiry of his term.

Preeminence of the President: The President occupies a pre-eminent position in this system of government. The members of the President’s cabinet, who are designated as secretaries, are not his colleagues but his subordinates. The secretaries help the president in the administration and they are appointed by him on the basis of ability. It depends on the will of the president to accept or reject their advice.

At present, the Presidential government is seen in the United States of America, Brazil and in some other countries of South America.

LET US KNOW


The Government of the United Stales is an ideal example of the Presidential form of government. The makers of the US Constitution have provided for three branches of government, namely, the President (executive), the Congress (legislature) and the Supreme Court (judiciary) each one of which is independent of the other two and derives its authority from the Constitution.


Merits of Presidential form of Government:

The following are some of the merits of the Presidential form of government:

It is a stable form of government as the President is elected for a fixed term and the process of impeachment is rarely adopted. It can follow a continuous and consistent policy.

It is argued that the application of separation of powers and “checks and balances” as the basis of the Presidential system ensures that none of the three organs of the government can become despotic. It ensures individual liberty.

The Presidential form of government enables the appointment of experts to head the various departments of the government without consideration of their party affiliations. This leads to efficiency in administration.

A Presidential system is suitable for emergencies.It can face national crisis without difficulty. As the President need not depend too much on the direction of the cabinet or legislature, he can afford to take prompt decisions to meet a crisis and also to carry them out.

As compared to the Parliamentary government, the influence of political parties in this system is less. This is because the President has full control over administration and his survival is not dependent upon the majority support in the legislature.

Demerits of Presidential form of Government:

The following are some of the demerits of the Presidential form of government:

As the executive is separated from the legislature in this form of government, there may be conflict between the President and the legislature particularly when the latter is dominated by the opposition party. As a result of that, public interest might be hampered.

A Presidential form of government may become despotic as the President cannot be controlled by the legislature and the latter has no control over matters of daily administration. Impeachment is a difficult process and is resorted to only under exceptional circumstances.

Personal loyalty plays a very important part in securing cabinet berths. The merit or experience of an individual may be ignored.

A Presidential form of government is also very complex. There are too many commissions and committees under it.

· The Presidential system has been frequently criticized as being incapable of conducting a vigorous foreign policy. It is often said that in the US, the President’s dependence on the Congress in certain foreign policy matters makes US foreign policy a slow moving and uncertain affair.


CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. The Presidential form of Government is characterized by separation of powers. True/False
……………………………………………………………………………………
2. The Presidential form of Government exists in the United States of America. True/False
……………………………………………………………………………………
3. Mention two characteristics of Presidential Government? (within 40 words)
……………………………………………………………………………………
……………………………………………………………………………………
……........……………………………………Hint—(Single executive)
4. List out one merit and one demerit of Presidential Government. (within 40 words)


UNITARY AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTSs




Division of powers is the criterion of classification of governments as the Unitary and Federal forms:

 

Unitary form of Government


The form of government in which the constitution concentrates all powers in the single central government is known as a Unitary government. In the words of Dr.Finer, a Unitary government is “one in which all the authority and power are lodged in a single centre whose will and agents are legally omnipotent over the whole area.” Unitary government exists in the UK, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands and some other states. In a Unitary government, the central government, for the convenience of administration, may create certain political divisions but such divisions have no constitutional existence. The central government may abolish them at any time.
Characteristics of Unitary Government:

The following are the characteristics of a Unitary government:

Single government: In a Unitary government, there is only one integrated system of government. The central government consisting of a legislature and an executive exercises powers over the territory of the entire state. Accordingly, supreme power belongs to the central government alone.

Concentration of power: Concentration of power in a single centre is the basis of a Unitary government. There is no constitutional division and distribution of powers.

Administrative units at the mercy of the centre: The administrative units created under a Unitary government have no constitutional existence. Therefore, these can be abolished or reorganized without amending the constitution.

Written or unwritten constitution: The constitution of a Unitary state may be either written or unwritten. For example, the UK has a Unitary government with an unwritten constitution, but the Netherlands, another Unitary state, has a written constitution.

Flexibility of the Constitution: In a Unitary government, the constitution may be rigid or flexible. But generally, the constitutions of Unitary governments are flexible.

Supremacy of Legislature: In a Unitary system, there is one supreme legislature. It is the supreme law-making body in the land. Its actions are not subject to judicial review. For instance, theoretically, the British Constitution establishes supremacy of Parliament. There is no judicial review and no authority can declare the laws made by Parliament as unconstitutional.

Single citizenship: In a Unitary government, there is only one citizenship-the citizenship of the whole country.

Merits of Unitary Government:

A Unitary government has certain advantages:

A Unitary system has only one government which can maintain uniformity of laws, policy and administration in the whole country. It provides better scope for bringing about unity among the people.

As the Unitary form of government is marked by a single executive and a single legislature, there can be no conflict regarding authority and responsibility for work. This accounts for administrative efficiency.

In a Unitary government, the central government can follow a vigorous domestic and foreign policy. The government is known for its promptness of decision and firmness of action.

This government is very much suitable during emergency. As the government can take decisions promptly, it can face any situation quickly and with determination.

The constitution in a Unitary government is relatively flexible. It can be more progressive and responsive to the people as the constitution can be amended without much difficulty to meet the demand of particular situations.

Demerits of Unitary Government:

The following are some of the demerits of a Unitary government:

The greatest demerit of the Unitary form of government is its inapplicability in states with larger territory inhabited by people of different religions, cultures and languages, etc. In such a state different laws may be necessary for meeting the needs of different localities, or else some areas may be neglected.

In a Unitary system, all powers are concentrated in the central government. As such, a Unitary state may be transformed into a totalitarian state.

In a Unitary government, sometimes, local self-government is ignored. The central government has no time to devote attention to local matters. Thus, people may not take interest in local matters.

In a Unitary government, people have to depend on only the central government for everything. As a result, the single government in a Unitary system has to bear the heavy burden and responsibility of all work.

As there is no separate legislature in the states and there is less local self-government in a Unitary government, elections are also less frequently held. As such, the people and their representatives do not receive much political education in this form of government.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. Concentration of power in a single centre is the basis of a Unitary government. True/False
...........................................................................................................….
2. In a Unitary government, there exists dual citizenship. True/False
...........................................................................................................….
3. Mention two characteristics of Unitary Government? (within 40 words)
...........................................................................................................….
...........................................................................................................….
.................................................................. Hint—(Single government)
4. List out one merit and one demerit of Unitary Government. (within 40 words)

 

Federal form of Government


The idea of Federal government is a comparatively modern concept in Political Science. In fact, it may be said that it started with the establishment of the USA in 1787.In this form of government, a number of independent units combine to constitute a sovereign state keeping the autonomy of each unit intact in its internal administration.

According to K.C.Wheare, in this system “the powers of the government are divided between a government for the whole country and governments for parts of the country in such a way that each government is legally independent in its own sphere.”

Characteristics of Federal Government:

The co-existence of two sets of governments is the most important feature of a Federal government. In every Federal state, there is a central government and one government in each of the constituent units. The units have their constitutional existence and are, therefore not subject to abolition by the central government.

Constitutional division of powers between the central government and the governments of the units is another feature of a Federal government. Both the central and the state governments have the right to promulgate laws and run the administration. The division of powers is not similar in all cases. The United States and Australia follow one pattern but Canada and India follow another.

LET US KNOW


In India we have a Federal structure of government with two sets of government- Central and state governments. The Constitution of India has provided for division of powers between the Centre and the states. The scheme established by the Constitution consists of three Lists, the Union List, the State List and the Concurrent List. The Central government makes laws on the items enlisted in the Union List which include matters of national importance such as defence, armed forces, foreign affairs, currency, etc. The state governments make laws on the items enlisted in the State List which include matters of local interest such as public order, police, education, forests, etc. With regard to the items enlisted in the Concurrent List, both the Union and state governments can make laws. The Residuary Powers not mentioned in the Union, State and Concurrent Lists are vested in the Lok Sabha. In the United States, the residuary powers are vested with the Federal government.

The Constitution of a Federal state should be written and rigid, enumerating the powers of the central government and of the constituent units, so that there is no confusion regarding the same. Every Federal constitution must be rigid to the extent that its Federal
character cannot be changed.

Supremacy of the Constitution: The constitution of a Federal state is the supreme law of the land. Both the centre and the units obey the constitution and have full faith in the same. Any act violating the Constitution is declared illegal.

Supremacy of Judiciary: In a federation, there must be a supreme independent and impartial judiciary as the guardian and interpreter of the constitution. It is necessary for settling constitutional conflicts between the centre and the units.

Double Citizenship: An ideal federation is characterized by double citizenship. A person is a citizen of the whole country as well as of the particular State in which he or she lives.

Equal representation of the units in the upper house of the central legislature is considered to be a characteristic of a federation by some scholars.

Constituent units should have a share in the amendment of the constitution. In a federation, the constituent units should have a share in the amendment of the constitution. No amendment is to be given effect without the consent of the Central legislature and the legislatures of the constituent units.

Merits of Federal Government:

The following are the merits of Federal government:

Federation provides an opportunity to small and weak states to unite together and become part of a large and powerful state. This gives them better security and more prestige.

In a Federal government, the federating units maintain their autonomy although they become parts of large and powerful state. Accordingly, both regional autonomy and national unity is possible.

A Federal form of government is the most suitable one for vast states with heterogeneous populations. Under a federation, people with linguistic, cultural and religious diversities can have autonomy on affairs which particularly concern them.

The Federal system prevents despotism. In such a state the autonomous units with constitutional powers can successfully prevent the central government from assuming despotic powers.

The division of powers between the central government and the governments of the constituent units relieves the central government of the responsibilities of solving local issues and leaves it free to give more attention to matters of national importance.

Demerits of Federal Government:

The following are the demerits of Federal government:

There is every possibility of conflict between the central government and the Governments of the units as well as among the governments of the constituent units themselves regarding authority and responsibility for work.

The Federal system is inconvenient for arriving at quick decisions. In certain matters, the central government requires the support of the state governments and in certain matters, the governments of the units require prior approval of the central government for taking decisions.

A Federal government also involves more expenditure as the organization of the government is highly complex. Expenditure has to be incurred with regard to both the Central and provincial governments.

As the Federal system is often characterized by a rigid constitution, it is very difficult on the part of a Federal government to cope with the changing needs of the people. Amendments to the constitution cannot be brought about easily.

In the federations allowing dual citizenship, the allegiance of a citizen is divided between the whole country and the province in which he lives. This kind of mentality may be a source of regionalism and could weaken the federation.

ACTIVITY


Examine the chief characteristics of the Unitary and Federal governments. In India we have two sets of governments-the Central Government and the State governments. At the same time, the people of India have only one category of citizenship, namely, Indian Citizenship. Which one is a Federal and which one is a Unitary feature in the above cases.




CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


1. In every Federal state, there is a central government and one government in each of the constituent units. True/False
................................................................................................................
2. In a Federal system, the constitution of the state need not be written and rigid. True/False
................................................................................................................
3. Mention two characteristics of Federal Government? (within 40 words)
...Hint—(Two sets of government)
4. List out one merit and one demerit of Federal Government. (within 40 words)


LET US SUM UP


After going through this unit we have learnt to define a government and its various organs, describe the Parliamentary and Presidential forms of government on the one hand and Unitary and Federal forms of government on the other. Accordingly, the unit has helped us get an overall understanding of the different forms of government.

FURTHER READING


1. Political Theory – R.C.Agarwal
2. Principles of Political Science-A.C.Kapoor
3. Political Theory- Eddy Asirvatham, K.K.Misra
4. Political Theory- V.D.Mahajan

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS



ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 1
Q no.1 True

Q no.2 False

Q no.3 a. Dual Executive
b. Collective Responsibility

Q no.4 a. This form of government cannot become autocratic as the executive is responsible to the legislature. (Merit)
b. Parliamentary government is criticized as a govern ment by amateurs.(Demerit)

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 2

Q no. 1. True

Q no. 2. True

Q no. 3 a. Separation of Powers
b. Single Executive

Q no. 4. a. It is a stable form of government as the President is elected for a fixed term and the process of impeach ment is rarely adopted. (Merit)
b. As the executive is separated from the legislature in this form of government, there may be conflict between the President and the legislature. (Demerit)

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 3

Q no 1. True

Q no 2. False

Q no 3. a. Single government.
b. Concentration of power

Q no 4. a. It provides better scope for bringing about unity among the people. (Merit)

b. The central government in a Unitary system has to bear the heavy burden and responsibility of all work.(Demerit)

ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS 4
Q no 1. True

Q no 2. False

Q no 3. a. The co-existence of two sets of governments b. The constitution of a Federal state should be written and rigid

Q no.4 a. A Federal form of government is the most suitable one for vast states with heterogeneous populations. (Merit)

b. The Federal system is inconvenient for arriving at quick decisions. (Demerit)



POSSIBLE QUESTIONS



QI. Define Parliamentary and Presidential forms of government.
Q2. Explain any four characteristics of the Federal form of government.
Q3. Explain any four characteristics of the Unitary form of government.
Q4. Point out two merits and two demerits of the Federal form of government.
Q5. Point out two merits and two demerits of the Presidential form of government.