Federal Government vs. Unitary Government

Government system of a country can be classified into two types of government. Either it can be a federal government or can be a unitary government. It is important to understand the differences between these two type of government due to different forms of relationships that exists between the center and the units or the states.

Federal government is a type of national government in which government has powers to delegates the power to other elected member of the states while the unitary government is a kind of government system in which a single power, which is known as the central government, controls the whole government.

What is Federal Government?

Federal government is a type of national government in which government have powers to delegates the power to other elected member of the states. There can be two level of federal government in a country either it is performing through common institutions or through powers as prescribed by a constitution of the state.

It is totally opposite to the unitary government. In federation or federal government, provinces or territories enjoys some rights as are available to the independent states. However international diplomacy, national security, foreign affairs and other kinds of international dealings are solely made by the federal government. It can be in form of federal republic and federal monarchy government. Currently there are 27 federations in the world. India, Brazil, Switzerland, Sudan, etc. are examples of federal republic government while Australia, Belgium, Canada, etc, are examples of federal monarchy government.

Mostly the federal government system is referred to the United States government. This government is based on the republicanism and federalism. In the federal system, power is jointly shared between the state and federal governments. In the federal government system, the powers never rest with one national government.

However, there can be certain powers and authorities that remain totally with the federal government like policies on defense, budget, international diplomacy, etc. The hierarchy of power in federal government system starts from the federal level and then cascades to the state and then local level. It is new government system as compared to the unitary and confederal systems of government that were popular before the introduction of the federal government.

The power of federal always remains superior to the state power. The federal institutions can interfere in the matters of state level in case of violation of the federal laws or constitution. In short, the federal government can be said as a system of government where there is institutionalized division of authority between national (federal) and subnational units (state).

Federal Government

What is Unitary Government?

Unitary government is a kind of government system in which a single power, which is known as the central government, controls the whole government. In fact, all powers and administrative divisions authorities lies at the central place.

Today most of the government system in the world are based on unitary system of government. It is slightly different from federal states and con-federal states. In unitary government, central government has the power to broadened or narrowed the power of sub-national units. It can create and abolished the same up to his will. It can be in form of unitary republic or unitary monarchy. Afghanistan, Italy, Zambia Ukraine, etc. are examples of unitary republic government while Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Barbados, Morocco, Spain, etc are examples of unitary monarchy government. 

The unitary government system is based on the concept of consistency, unity, and identity that’s why the centralization of power and authority system remains at the top priority. The decision-making power rest with the central government that are shared by the government with the lower level government when needed. There are not so many options for change and new innovation as the people have a very limited voice in this government system. There are many merits and demerits of unitary government. It is useful in the term that rules and regulations in this government systems remain consists and equal throughout the country.

Moreover, it is less expensive as compared to the federal government because the number of powerful people remains very low.  In a time of emergency, it makes timely decisions as compared to the federal government system. But at the same time, the concept of freedom of speech and expression always remains at a low priority that’s why most of the principles of unitary government are much similar to that of dictatorship system of government.

Unitary Government

Key Differences between Federal Government and Unitary Government

  1. In unitary government system powers remained at central place and central government have the authority to make all the decision while in federal government most of the powers except powers related to international affairs are delegated to local governments or provinces.
  2. Unitary government is not as much democratic form of government due to decision making power at central place while federal government is a pure democratic government in which local governments, territories, constituents states or provinces can enjoys some powers regarding governing and decision making in their respective regions.
  3. Unitary government have just one government that’s why it is also known by the name of central government while in federal government there are two governments, one at central position and other at state or province level.
  4. Unitary government may or may not have constitution. Like England has no constitution while France has constitution and both are unitary government. While federal government must have a constitution.
  5. In case of disputes between institutions in federal government or any bill passed by parliament, judiciary will interfere in the matter. While in case of unitary government, even highest court cannot give judgment or remarks on the law or bill passed by parliament.
  6. In the federal government, there is a hierarchy of power from federal level to state and local level. In unitary government, the powers and authorities are shared with the lower level government when needed.
  7. There are the common set of rules and regulations in the entire country under the unitary system of government. In a federal government system, there can be variations in rules and regulations at central and state level.
  8. So, the unitary government is a government system where there exist only one national tire of government. There can be more self-governing territories as well but in most of the cases, it remains mostly centralized.
  9. In the federal government, the central and government and the independent states government can form a collation or agreement to operate jointly. While it is not common practice in the unitary government system where the independent regions or states exist by the permission of the central government. This permission can be revoked anytime by the unitary government.
  10. In both federal and unitary government, the power of devolution rests with the central government however the process for the establishment of federation starts from the below level while in unitary government it is established by the self-governing regions at their own.
  11. In the unitary government, despite the fact how many states are connected in a central government, the people remain the nationals of a central government and territories are also considered as the territory of a single national government. Federal government system in this regard is entirely opposite where the nationality of anyone depends upon the component of state from where a person belongs.
  12. The federal government is the name of democracy, diversity, freedom of choice and expression. The unitary government is the name of unity, identity and consistency.
  13. To some extent, the federal government is the form of democratic government that believes in the decentralization of power and authorities and giving more freedom to the people. The unitary government system is much similar to the dictatorial government where there is a concept of centralization of power and authorities and no choices and freedom of expression for the people.
  14. In the case of emergency where timely decisions are required, unitary government is more responsive as compared to the federal government that believes more on the formalities and legal aspects.
  15. Federal government system requires more budget to be properly maintained as numbers of people will be required to be elect to hold the public office. As in unitary government, there are is a very narrow chain of command, so the budget expenses to manage the public offices remains significantly low.
  16. United States government system is federal government system while the United Kingdom government system is unitary government system.

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