Types Of Government And Their Characteristics

Table Of Contents

  • Unitary Government (Unitarianism)
  • Characteristics Of Unitary Government
  • Federal System Of Government (Federation)
  • Characteristic Of Federalism
  • Confederal System Of Government (Confideration)
  • Characteristics Of Confideration
  • Presidential System Of Government
  • Characteristics Of Presidential System Of Government
  • Cabinet Or Parliamentary System Of Government
  • Characteristics Of Cabinet System Of Government
  • Monarchy
  • Characteristics Of Monarch
  • Republican Government
  • Features Of A Republic

1. Unitary Government (Unitarianism)

A unitary system of government may be defined as one in which all governmental powers are concentrated in the hands of a single authority or central government. This single authrority does not share governmental powers with any other body but can delegate powers to other subordinate bodies. The central government is the only source from which power emanates. A unitary government adopts a unitary constitution which is guided by the principle of unitarianism. Countries that adopt unitary system of government include, Britain, Italy, France, Belgium, New Zealand, Sweden, Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Togo, Cameroun, etc.

Features Or Attributes Or Characteristic Of Unitary Government

1. All governmental powers are concentrated in the hands of a single authority or central government..

2. It adopts a unitary constitution.

3. The various areas or regions into which the nation is divided for administrative purposes are created by the central government.

4. The legislature can alter the powers and boundaries of the various units or regions.

5. There is no constitutional division of powers between the central government and the local districts or regions.

6. The central government is the only source from which power emanates.

7. The central government can delegate powers to other subordinate bodies.

8. The constitution need not necessarily be supreme, for the central government may have the power to modify it.

9. The constitution also need not necessarily be rigid.

10. No constitution conflict between the central government and the subordinate bodies.

11. The central government and the nation as a whole are strong.

12. There need not be any local legislative assemblies.

13. There is no need to have any final authority that resolves conflicts between the cental government and local districts or regions.

14. Parliamentary supremacy is a prominent feature.

15. Upper chambers of the legislature if they exist tend to be relatively weak.

16. There is no judicial review.

17. The citizens owe allegiance to only one government, the central government.

2. Federal System Of Government (Federalism)

A federal system of government may be defined as one in which governmental powers that exist in the country are shared between a central government that represents the whole country and government of component regions or states, so that each government is legally and constitutionally independent and autonomous. It does not mean that the powers are shares equally between the central government and government of component regions or states. There are areas of authority reserved exclusively for the central government in the constitution known as the exclusive lists. Such matters in the exclusive list include; foreign affairs, defence, currency, immigration and emigration, etc. Both governments legislate on the concurrent list of subjects which includes, education, agriculture, collection of taxes, electric power, industry, etc.

However, where states law contradict that of the federal law on this list, the federal law prevails. Other subjects on residual lists that are not contained in the constitution belong to the state government or the component regions.

Examples of countries that adopt federalism include; USA., Nigeria, Federal Republic of Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, Australia, Yugoslavia, India among others.

Features Or Attributes Or Characteristics Of Federalism

1. Division of governmental powers between the central and component governments of the regions or states.

2. The different governments derive their powers from the constitution.

3. Adoption of a written constitution.

4. The constitution is rigid.

5. Supremacy of the constitution.

6. Supremacy of the central government.

7. Duplication of organs of government in all governments.

8. Existence of bicameral legislature.

9. Existence of supreme court for judicial interpretation and review.

10. Residual powers are reserved for the component regions or states.

11. Constitutional repudiation of secession.

12. Matters in exclusive lists are reserved for the central government

3. Confederal System Of Government (Confederation)

Confederation may be defined as a loose political arrangement in which autonomous or sovereign states or republics come together to form a union in which almost the major functions of government are reserved exclusively for the component states with a week centre.

Confederation is also defined as a loose federation. The components hold major powers except the common currency, defence, foreign affairs, etc, in which the central or national government may hold power. The component states retain their sovereignty, identity, own army, police and have the constitution rights to secede from the confederation. Example is senegambia which was a confederation made of sovereign Senegal and Gambia.

Features Or Attributes Or Characteristics Of Confederation

1. It is a union of sovereign or autonomous sates.

2. Major functions or powers to the government are reserved exclusively for the component states.

3. It has weak central government.

4. The constitution makes the component states very powerful.

5. The component sates have legal rights to secede.

6. Citizens have to obey only one government, that is their own state government.

7. The component states have their own army and police.

8. As a loose union, it is generally less politically stable.

9. Confederation has a flexible constitutional rights to secede.

10. The component states have constitutional rights to secede.

11. The component states retain their sovereignty and identity.

4. Presidential System Of Government

Presidential system of government may be defined as one in which all executive powers are vested in one person called the president and in which the executive arm of government is separated from the legislature but equal to it. The President is both the head of government and head of state and is referred to as executive president because, he has executive powers. The President who is elected by the electorate either directly or indirectly through an electoral college and not chosen by the legislature and not a member of the legislature, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President appoints members of his cabinet who are also not members of the parliament.

The principle of collective responsibility does not hold in the presidential system and members of the presidential cabinet are responsible to the President not to the parliament. The U.S.A. offers a very good example of a presidential system of government. Nigeria tried the system from 1979-1983 and is still using the system now-1999-2003 (the fourth republic).

Features Or Attributes Or Characteristics Of Presidential System Of Government

1. In a presidential system of government, the president is both the head of state and head of government.

2. The principle of separation of powers where the executive arm of government is separated from the legislature and judiciary applies in the presidential system of government.

3. The Presidential and his ministers are not members of the parliament.

4. The principle of collective responsibility that takes place in the cabinet system does not apply presidential system.

5. The Presidential exercises real executive powers.

6. The Presidential is elected by the electorate either directly or indirectly through an electoral college and not chosen by the legislature.

7. The powers to pardon prisoners, appointment of judges to the supreme court, assenting of bills etc, invested in Nigeria’s President between 1979 to 1983 made President to perform legislative and judicial functions.

8. The principles of checks and balances apply in the presidential system.

9. The constitution is the supreme law in a presidential system.

10. The tenure of office of the president is limited to a fixed term.

11. The president is not above politics, he is a member of a party and may be head of his political party and above the party.

12. The apllication of the rule of law.

13. The application of judicial review and interpretation which empowers the highest court- the Supreme Court the right to declare any bill or executive action unconstitutional.

14. Cabinet ministers are responsible to the president not the legislature.

15. The executive and the legislature could be controlled by different political parties.

16. The President is responsible to the constitution not the legislature.

17. Ministers are appointed outside the legislature and not members of the legislature. Any member of the legislature appointed a minister automatically loses his membership of the legislature.

18. The President has the power to dismiss any member of his cabinet at anytime.

19. The party system is loose and lacks discipline.

20. Absence of opposition party.

5. Cabinet Or Parliamentary System Of Government

Cabinet or parliamentary system of government may be defined as one in which the Head of State is different from Head of Government and where there is no strict separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. In this system, the real executive powers are vested in the council of ministers known as the cabinet or executive, headed by the Prime Minister and all cabinet ministers are chosen from the legislature and are still members of the legislature from where they derive their powers. This is the reason why the cabinet system of government is also known as parliamentary system. The Prime Minister who exercise s real executive powers is the Head of Government while the Queen or the King as in Britain or the President as it is in some countries is the Head of State who performs ceremonial functions. Britain offers a very good example of a cabinet system of government. Nigeria practised it in its first republic.

Features Or Attributes Or Characteristic Of Cabinet System Of Government

1. The Head of State is different from the Head of Government.

2. There is no strict separation of powers between the executive and the Legislature arms of government: they are fused.

3. The Prime Minister is the Head of Government while the Queen or the King or the President is the Head of State.

4. The Prime Minister exercises real executive powers.

5. The Head of State performs ceremonial functions.

6. The Prime Minister and all cabinet ministers are chosen from the legislature and they form what is called parliamentary executive.

7. The Prime Minister and all cabinet ministers are also members of the parliament or legislature.

8. The executive arm of government derives its authority from the legislative arm.

9. The executing is directly responsible to the legislature.

10. The party having a majority in the legislature controls both the executive and the legislature from where the Prime Minister and ministers of his cabinet are chosen.

11. The Prime Minister is also the parliamentary leader of the party in power

12. The Prime Minister has the power to dismiss any minister in his cabinet.

13. The executive is indirectly responsible to the electorate.

14. The stability of this system depends upon the ruling party controlling a reasonable majority in the parliament.

15. The system operates on collective responsibility.

16. There is an official opposite party in the parliament.

17. There is over-lapping of power between the three arms of government.

18. Membership of the legislature and the executive is determined in one election.

19. The Prime Minister stays in office as long as his party controls majority seats in the parliament.

20. The Prime Minister is controlled by his party.

21. A vote of “no confidence” by the parliament can force the prime Minister and his cabinet ministers to resign enbloc.

22. The formation of a coalition government is inevitable if no signal party wins overall majority in a general election.

23. The Prime Minister is regarded as ” primus Inter pares” that is first among equals because of his position.

24. In Britain, the Highest Court of Appeal is the legislature- House of Lords.

25. There must always be at least two parties the ruling party and the opposition party.

6. Monarchy

Monarchy may be defined as a form of government under the rule of a King, Queen or Emperor known as the Monarch. In some countries, the monarch is the sole ruler and has absolute authority. This means that the power of the monarch is unlimited and is both the head of state and head of government. In modern times, some countries operate monarchical form of government in which the monarch has limited power and therefore, performs ceremonial functions. Monarchy is a dynastic system of rule in which the monarch is succeeded by his or her children and power is transferred from generation to generation.

Characteristics Of Monarchy

1. It is government by a King of Queen.

2. This form of government is hereditary

3. It is based on age-long cultural practices.

4. The monarch is the individual representative and organ of the supreme power.

5. Monarchy is a natural institution. Obedience to the monarch is as natural as obedience of a child to his parent.

7. Republic Government

A republican government is that which has an elected Head of State by the people. That means that a sovereign state is referred to as a republic if the country has no traditional ruler or its representative as it Head of State but with the one chosen by the people with a fixed term of office. Such Head of State is known as President in a republic.

The President may be an executive president or a ceremonial President. Nigeria became independent in 1960 and still remained a monarchy with the British Queen represented by the Governor- General as Nigeria’s Head of state. In 1963, Nigeria became a republic with an elected Head off State called President in the person of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. He was a ceremonial President because in a republican parliamentary systems of government the President is a ceremonial Head of State while Head of Government who exercise the real power is the Prime Minister, a post held by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Both presidential and parliamentary systems of government can be operated in a republic.

The President in a republican presidential system of government exercises executive powers and is both the Head of State and Head of Government. Nigeria operated the republican presidential system from 197n-1983 otherwise called the second republic in which Alhaji Shehu Shagari the executive President was both the Head of state and Head of Government. Other republican states include U.S.A, U.S.S.R, France, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal etc.

Features Of A Republic

1. The Head of State known as the President is elected by the people.

2. A republic must be politically independent.

3. Members of the legislature in a republic are directly elected by the people.

4. The functions of government in a republic are performed by officials and not traditional rulers.

5. A republican constitution is entirely home made.

6. There exist political and legal equality in a republic.

7. Rule of law is an essentials feature of a republic.

8. Popular sovereignty in which the ultimate power of the state rests with the People is another essential feature of a republic.

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