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 Federalism around the world

By Shreya Verma

Federalism is that system of the government whereby it is governed at two levels of the government. Eg. United states of America, being a federal government, each of the 51 states that together constitute the USA is governed at two levels, i.e., by the own lanes of that particular state and by the common constitution of the United States.

Today, majority of the nations all formed of federal structure. The key characteristic of a federal Government are: -

  1. Supremacy of written constitution.

  2. Distribution of powers amongst the various organs of the federation and of the regional units of the federation

  3. Judicial review or enforcement of that Supreme Constitution as law.

Federalism as the Key feature in Modern Democracy:

Major democracies around the world today have federal structure. Be it India, Australia, America, or the federation of European Union, nations have adopted the federal structure as it allows a system of checks and balances and the Government at each level is being checked by the other. Another world, there are two kinds of federations:

  1. Holding Together Federation – In this type, powers are shared between various constituent parts to accommodate the diversity in the whole entity. Here, powers are generally tilted towards the central authority. Example: India, Spain, Belgium.

  2. Coming Together Federation – In this type, independent states come together to form a larger unit. Here, states enjoy more autonomy as compared to the holding together kind of federation. Example: USA, Australia, Switzerland.

Reasons as to why federal structure is the key feature of modern democracies are:

  1. It also decentralisation of power and prevents abuse of it.

  2. Federalism is ideal for a country like India where there is a population of cultural and ethnical differences.

  3. It is a consequence of ‘social contract theory’ which holds that the federalism in likely to emerge as a bargain between the Centre and the periphery when the centre is not powerful enough to dominate the periphery and the periphery is not powerful enough to secede from the Centre. (Eg., in United states of America)

  4. Federalism defines the limits of the Centre & the state, thus making them independent in their sphere.

Now, this federal structure can be better understood in the light of some of the federal states:

Federalism in the United States-United States is the oldest federation of modern world. When the American constitution was being drafted, the states decided to come together and to be governed by a common constitution and under a common flag. Here, the key feature that the states, though a part of federation, do not lose their personal identity and any state can leave or a new state can be added in the federations.

Federalism in India-India too is a federal state with a strong centre which means unlike America, States in India do not possess a separate identity and they cannot leave the Union as per their wish. This strong until in Indian federation acts as a centipedal force and helps the nation to be bound together despite vast variations in the country. And federations makes every state autonomous in taking its decision.

In this way, federalism as it allows a room for fair governance has been adopted by majority of the nations worldwide.


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