Centralization: What Form?
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- Issue: how much centralization of power into the hands of a State government?
- classification = 4 types
- 1. Unitary
- central State government = all powers & govern whole state
- no legal challenger in political system, unlcss created by central government
- most common form: 150 states
- often: no constitution but traditional rules
- 2. Devolution
- central government creates lower levels of government with varied law-making and administrative powers and roles
- central government hands over responsibilities, money, etc., to a lower level
- central government can remove powers, etc., or get rid of lower levels
- 3. Federalism
- central governments shares power with lower level governments — regional, states, provinces, cantons, districts, parishes, etc.
- usually has a constitution delineating which level of government has which power, but some overlapping or dual jurisdiction areas
- usually have a bicameral legislature, with one section providing representational equity amongst sub-units of the State
- in case of conflict of powers or jurisdiction, residual powers belong to central government
- 4. Confederation
- similar to federalism BUT residual powers belong to lower levels of government
- many states have a constitution: “a set of fundamental rules and principles by which a state is organized”
- most: written constitution
- few: unwritten constitution = no single unified document but numerous laws and rules form a constitution
- usual elements:
- rights of citizens vis-a-vis other citizens and their government(s)
- division of powers of the central/top level: legislative, executive, judicial
- division of powers between different levels of government
- procedures for changing constitution
- can include conventions
- branches of government:
- legislative: make general laws
- executive: take general laws and make into specific rules, policies and procedures, and enforce them; includes bureaucracy
- judicial: adjudicate matters of law, determine punishment for crimes, etc.
- judicial review vs. legislative or executive supremacy
- some states and constitutions have legislative or executive supremacy: constitution and other institutions are subordinate to the legislature’s or executive’s laws or final decisions
- judicial review
- courts overruling legislatures or executives
- assert their power as final interpreter / arbiter of meaning / spirit of constitutional provisions
- strike down legislation or rules as unconstitutional
Parliamentary and Presidential
- two main forms of democratic government derived from British system
- key question: how are powers divided at the top/central level?
- usually have a bicameral legislature
- fusion of powers: executive able to propose and usher through legislation, and then enforce it; creates concentration of power, but may increase effective governance
- parliamentary supremacy: top legislative body cannot be overruled by other institutions or constitution
- responsible government: government and its leader are accountable to Parliament’s members
- usually have a prime minister as Head of Government, and a president or monarch as Head of State (ceremonial, to greet foreign dignatories, sign passed legislation, etc.)
- separation of powers: executive, legislative, judicial are separate branches and one can only sit in one of them; prevents concentration of power, but may limit effective governance
- checks-and-balances: each branch of government is a check upon the other, and balances out the power of the others
- judicial review: courts take role in using constitution to trump other branches of government
- president and legislative representatives are accountable to “the people” through general elections
- many states have hybrid systems, such as France, Iran, and India
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