CONFEDERAL GOVERNMENT

Confederation may be defined as a league of sovereign states with a loose political arrangement in which autonomous states come together to form a union. However, the functions of government are exclusively reserved for the component states with a weak centre. It is also seen as a voluntary association of sovereign states with a recognized authority in certain matters affecting the whole and especially in respect of external relations and with a common course of actions in specific areas like foreign affairs, defence, currency etc.

In a confederation, there is no effective and viable central authority. The United Nations Organisation (UNO), The African Union (AU) etc, has the picture of a confederation. The usual coming together of member states to discuss issues of mutual importance and to co-operate in some areas that will be of benefits to member nations testifies to this fact. Other examples of confederacy are the 19th century German confederacy, American confederation of 1781 to 1789.

 

Features of Confederal government

  1. Consultations: This is made among them before taking independent actions.
  2. Loose union: Confederation is a loose union of sovereign states.
  3. No effective executive authority: Members only send delegates to the centre to discuss issues of common interest like defence, telecommunications etc.
  4. No national armed forces: The various members of the confederacy maintain and retain their separate military establishments.
  5. Separate diplomatic representations: Member states have separate diplomatic representations.
  6. Right of secession: Members have equal status and have the right of secession from the confederation, if and when the government of member states so desires.
  7. Unstable political system: The break away of member states from the union can bring an end to the system.
  8. Absence of effective central authority: This is because a sovereign power cannot be located in a confederation.
  9. Membership of the union is voluntary: No member state is forced to become a member of the union, since they can secede at anytime.
  10. Control over their internal affairs: The member states of the confederation have control over their internal affairs.
  11. Constitution: The constitution may be seen as very accommodating to changes.
  12. Sovereignty: Component states making up a confederal union still retain their sovereignty and identity.
  13. Even development: The system does not make for even development.
  14. Single government: Citizens have to obey only a single government and that is the government of their own states.

 

Merits of Confederal Government

  1. Mutual benefits accruing to member states: Each member state benefits from one another in different areas of interest.
  2. The union is voluntary: No member state was forced to become a member of the union since they can secede at any time.
  3. Control over their internal affairs: The component states have total control over their internal affairs.
  4. Obedience to one government: Citizens have to obey only one government, that is, that of their own state.
  5. Equality of states: Equality exists among the states making up the confederation. No state can claim superiority over others.
  6. Consensus: Actions are taken by member states of a confederation based on consensus earlier reached.
  7. Unity of states: Independent states, both big and small, rich and poor, are brought together for a common purpose.
  8. Expansion of markets: Markets of member states are expanded to accommodate goods and services from member states.

 

Demerits of Confederal government

  1. Instability: Confederal government generates political instability because the union is loose.
  2. No effective central authority: This is because a sovereign power cannot be located in a confederation.
  3. Breaking of the union: The right of member states to secede can destabilize and break the union.
  4. Spirit of nationality: The spirit of nationality is out of question in a confederation.
  5. Delay in effecting issues: Policies discussed may not be effectively carried out in their respective countries.
  6. Loose union: Confederation is a loose union of sovereign states.
  7. 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.
  8. Obedience to only one government: Citizens have to obey only one government and that is their own state government. The central government is not known or recognised.
  9. 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.

 

The differences between Federal System and Confederation

 

Federal

  1. It has a strong centre.
  2. The centre is more powerful than the component – units, e.g. states.
  3. The constitution is supreme, written and rigid.
  4. Component units making up a federation cannot secede.
  5. The central government controls the armed forces.
  6. It is a stable political system.
  7. Sovereignty still rests with central government.
  8. There are in most cases different tiers of government, e.g. central, state and local governments.
  9. Powers are shared between the centre and other component units.
  10. Component units are autonomous but still subordinate to the centre.

 

Confederation

  1. The centre is not but weak.
  2. The states (countries) making up the confederation are more powerful than the centre.
  3. There is no constitution but, if any, it is flexible.
  4. There is right for any state to secede or break away.
  5. Component states still maintain their separate military establishments.
  6. The system is fragile and not stable.
  7. Sovereignty is with the component states.
  8. They are independent states with their separate governments.
  9. There is no power sharing.
  10. Component states are sovereign and independent of the centre.

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