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Federal and unitary systems of government.

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Federal and unitary systems of government.

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  • April 28, 2003
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Federal and unitary systems of government have many similar qualities therefore it becomes difficult to decipher between the two. In order to illustrate the difficulty in trying to distinguish between the two, I will first define what each system of government involves and then attempt to compare and contrast.

Federalism is the creation of two layers of government, the federal government and the constituent states, which equally share the legal sovereignty of a country. Each tier of government has its own specific functions. The central government is allocated with the external political issues i.e. Foreign affairs and national defence. The constituent states' main concern is with legislation and education although the intricacies of each depend on which state you are examining.

Unitary governments when a country's sovereignty lies solely with a central tier of government. Subnational authorities do exist alongside the centre and they may make their own individual policies, however this is only permissible if first approved by the central government. The authority of the country lies absolutely within the central government and the lower levels could be abolished if the centre so wished.

Although they appear very similar in operation federal and unitary systems of government immediately individualise themselves from one another in their definitions. Within federalism the constituent states have a shared responsibility with the central government and their existence is protected. The only way they could be removed or modified would be by amending the constitution. The lower levels of the unitary system, however, only exist because they permitted to. The subnational authorities could be abolished almost immediately if the national government so demanded. Federal and unitary systems of government are classed as the two main solutions to the "territorial organisation of power1," Federalism, with some 22 federations in existence today, is becoming...