Unitary System Vs. Federal System: A Definitive Comparison

Unitary System Vs. Federal System
The development of Democratic and Republican states has sparked off a debate on the Unitary and Federal system of governance. Here, we try to shed some light on the different aspects of both these systems.
OpinionFront Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
The Magna Carta or the Great Charter is a founding step of the system of people's rule over a certain state or nation. The Magna Carta, which was signed by King John of England, is an epic document that upgraded the rights of the Parliament and the Commonwealth, and eventually led to the worldwide use of parliamentary governance. The Commonwealth of the British Crown is often credited as the medium that led to the ideology of people's rule through the parliament.

In the course of the history of democracy and the republics, the administrative aspect of a democracy can be centralized and also decentralized. With the effect of parliamentary rule, any nation comes under the governance of a government, the policies of which are dictated by a parliamentary body, which is composed of members who are elected by the common man. The administration of day-to-day operations is overseen by a group of civil servants, and the judicial system holds the rights to control both the parliament and the administrative divisions. Now, for every nation, greater geographical jurisdictions are a constraint, which has led to the sub-division of nations into states. In some cases, however, the states themselves come together to define a union and form a central government and legislative body. That brings us to the comparison between the unitary and federal system, and which amongst them is better.

Unitary System of Governance
In accordance with the aforementioned fact, nations have two governments, namely state government and central government. In a unitary system, the central government or union government, defines administrative divisions known as 'states', that would help the central government in appropriate and well dispensed governance. The doctrine that states the relation between the two is clearly established in the constitution or any charter that institutes the Union, and empowers the central government to make several administrative divisions of the state.

The states in a unitary system hold a considerable jurisdiction and power in accordance with the doctrines set by the parliament. Often, the states also have legislative bodies that are empowered to make and pass legislation and enactments. The power of the states is curtailed by the central government and also the judicial system. The United Kingdom is an apt example of the unitary system.

Federal System of Governance
As opposed to the unitary system of governance, the federal system is itself the system established by the states who come together to form the central government, central legislative body such as the parliament, and the judicial system. A distinct, defining characteristic of any federal system is that the states form the central government, and surrender a part of their powers and jurisdiction to the central government. The relation between the central government and states, and their empowerment is governed by the constitution, and is administrated by the judiciary.

In case of a federal system, the citizens tend to hold citizenship in a parallel manner. In addition to that, states have a considerable power in legislature and enactments that are passed by the state legislature, so powerful and complex, that every state has a different 'bar' exam to qualify their own lawyers. The United Sates is an example of the federal system.

There are also some nations such as India who have adopted a combination of both the systems. In such a case, the constitution of such a nation provides some stringent conditions, and confers some specific powers to people, the central government, and the state governments.