Confederal System of Government | Definition | Features | Merits & Demerits
Meaning of Confederalism System of Government
A confederal government is a form of government in which power is concentrated in the state or regional governments. This implies that the member-states of a confederation are more powerful than the central government. In any political system where the states are sovereign, the result is a confederation.
A confederation is, therefore, an association of states, which rests upon common agreement among its members to work together for certain common purposes. – K.C. Wheare
The association may be dissolved if the reasons for its creation no longer hold. The confederation is therefore not a true state.
The most common examples of a confederation are the Swiss Confederation which lasted till 1848 and the United States under the Articles of Confederation from 1777 to 1787.
A more recent example of this system or government was the Senegambia Confederation formed by Senegal and the Gambia in 1981 after Senegalese troops had successfully intervened to reinstate Sir Dauda Jawara, President of the Gambia whose government had been overthrown shortly before then by the country’s armed forces. It was, however, a shortlived confederation which collapsed few years after its formation.
International organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union are also contemporary examples of confederation.
Features of Con-Federal System of Government
- There is always a weak central government with a flexible constitution.
- There is no executive authority with given powers to impose control over the con-federal delegates to discuss on national issue like defence, trade and security.
- There is separation of diplomatic representatives like the Ambassadors and immigration department are provided and controlled by each states.
- Each state has equal status and right to secede from the confederacy and also retain their sovereignty, that is, their own state government.
- Citizens have to obey only one government, that is, their
own state government.
Advantages of Confederal Government
- Mutual benefits accruing to member states: Each member state benefits from one another in different areas of interest.
- The union is voluntary: No member state was forced to become a member of the union since they can secede at any time.
- Control over their internal affairs: The component states have total control over their internal affairs.
- Obedience to one government: Citizens have to obey only one government, that is, that of their own state.
- Equality of states: Equality exists among the states making up the confederation. No state can claim superiority over others.
- Consensus: Actions are taken by member states of a confederation based on consensus ealierreached.
- Unity of states: Independent states, both big and small, rich and poor, are brought together fora common purpose.
- Expansion of markets: Markets of member states are expanded to accommodate goods and services from member states.
Limitations of Confederalism Government
- Instability: Confederal government generates political instability because the union is loose.
- No effective central authority: This is because a sovereign power cannot be located in a confederation.
- Breaking of the union: The right of member states to secede can destabilize and break the union.
- Spirit of nationality: The spirit of nationality is out of question in a confederation.
- Delay in effecting issues: Policies discussed may not be effectively carried out in their respective countries.
- Loose union: Confederation is a loose union of sovereign states with equal status.
- Absence of national armed forces: Since member states maintain their separate armed forces, no member state may use its armed forces to assist a member fighting a war.
- Obedience to only one government: Citizens havetoobey only one government andthat is their own state government. The central government is not known or recognised.
- Separate diplomatic representations: Since member states maintain separate diplomatic representations, interests and opinions on global issues may differ and this can cause bad blood among member states.