Unitary Constitution | Definition, Features, Merits & Demerits

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Unitary Constitution – Definition, Features, Advantages and Disadvantages

Unitary Constitution
Unitary Constitution

Definition of Unitary Constitution

In a unitary constitution, all political powers goes to the central and concentrated in the hands of a single authority or government. The constitution recognises the sole authority of the central government. Other component units, for instance, state or local governments, had no powers deposited in them.

However, the central government in a unitary constitution has the power to create local authorities and give them power to make policies and decisions peculiar to their localities. Countries operating unitary constitution are – Britain, France and Italy.

Features of Unitary Constitution

Unitary constitution has some certain features which differenciate it from the federal constitution. They include:

  1. Flexibility – The constitution of a unitary state is flexible, making it easy to amend.
  2. Political powers – All political powers are concentrated in the hands of a single central government.
  3. Component units – Component units created by the central government and their subordinates to the centre.
  4. Supremacy of the legislature – There is supremacy of the law makers and not the constitution.
  5. Exercise of political powers by other component units is derived from the central government and not from the constitution.
  6. Loyalty – Citizens pay allegiance to the central government.

Advantages of Unitary Constitution

The advantages of a unitary constitution include the following:

  1. Flexible Constitution – The constitution is generally flexible, and may be unwitting, making it easy to amend. The amendment procedure is in line with the process of law-making in the Parliament.
  2. Development – The developments of the various region and units are even and uniform because the centre decides for all.
  3. Unity – The concentration of power is in the hand of a single central authority makes it possible for it to enforce unity in the country.
  4. Changes are easily made – Changes of different proportion can easily be made in the system. For example, in the areas of infrastructure, restructuring of the economy and appointments.
  5. Non-Duplicate of functions – Unnecessary duplication of powers and functions are avoided.
  6. Cost saving – Not many workers are involved in government and so the cost of running the system is reduced to the barest minimum.
  7. Strong centre – This is because all the powers in a unitary states are concentrated in the hands of the central government. The central government in a unitary state is stronger than that of the federal state.
  8. Quick decision making – Decisions, policy quickly implemented in a unitary state. This is because the central government makes decision for the whole country.

Disadvantages of Unitary Constitution

A unitary constitution has certain disadvantages, which may, however, significantly reduces its usefulness.

  1. Homogeneous society – Unitary constitution is only suitable for a company that is homogeneous and ethnic composition, religious, culture and language.
  2. Dictatorship – A unitary constitution may produce a dictator. This is because all powers are concentrated in the hands of the central government.
  3. Power is concentrated – Concentration of power in one arm of government can lead to abuse or misuse of political power.
  4. Human rights – The rights of the individuals in the system could denied.
  5. Grassroots input – The centre of decision-making is very far from the areas of implementation.
  6. Lack of care for the people – The central government may not be responding to the problems are the needs of the masses.
  7. Small country – Constitution is mostly suitable for a country with a small relatively population.
  8. Interest groups – It is not possible for a unitary constitution to accommodate every interest groups in the system.
  9. Amendment procedure – The central government can easily amend the constitution for selfish purposes.
  10. Apathy – The people may not be politically active and adequately involved in the decision-making process of the country.
  11. Seccession – The concentration of power ma favour a particular tribe or group and this may create bad blood in the system. The aftermath of this could be seccession or breakaway of a part.


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