Forms of Power Sharing
The idea of power sharing has emerged in opposition to undivided political power. For a long time it was believed that the power of a government must reside in one person or group of persons located at one place. It was felt that if the power is dispersed, it would not be possible to take quick decisions and to enforce them.
But the emergence of democracy has changed these notions. The source of all political power are the people, it is the basic principle of democracy.
- In a democracy, through institutions of self-governance, people rule themselves.
- In a good democratic government, everyone has a voice in the shaping of public policies.
Therefore, in a democracy, political power should be distributed among as many citizens as possible.
Let us have a look at some of the most common arrangements that we have or we come across.
1. Horizontal distribution of power
Legislature, executive and judiciary, the different organs of the government, share power. This can be called horizontal distribution of power because it allows different organs of government placed at the same level to exercise different powers. This ensures that no organ exercises unlimited powers. Each organ is checked by the other, which results in a balance of power among various institutions. This arrangement is also called a system of checks and balances.
2. Federal government
Governments at different levels can share the power among them. A general government like this is usually called federal government. In India, it is referred to as the Central or Union Government. The governments at the provincial or regional level are called by different names in different countries. In India, we call them State Governments. Not all countries follow this. There are many countries where they have no provincial or state governments. But the constitution clearly lays down the powers of different levels of government, in countries like ours, where there are different levels of governments,. This is what they did in Belgium, but was refused in Sri Lanka. This is called federal division of power. The same principle can be extended to levels of government lower than the State government, such as the municipality and panchayat. We can call division of powers involving higher and lower levels of government, vertical division of power.
3. Community government
Different social groups, such as the religious and linguistic groups may also share power. A good example of this arrangement is the â€˜Community governmentâ€™ in Belgium. In some countries there are constitutional and legal arrangements whereby socially weaker sections and women are represented in the legislatures and administration. This type of arrangement is meant to give space in the government and administration to diverse social groups who otherwise would feel alienated from the government. Minority communities are given a fair share in power, in this method.
4. Coalition Government
Power sharing arrangements can also be seen in the way political parties, pressure groups and movements control or influence those in power. The citizens must have freedom to choose among various contenders for power, in a democracy. In contemporary democracies this takes the form of competition among different parties. Such competition ensures that power does not remain in one hand. In the long run power is shared among different political parties that represent different ideologies and social groups. Sometimes when two or more parties form an alliance to contest elections, this kind of sharing can be direct. They form a coalition government and share power if their alliance is elected. We find interest groups such as those of traders, businessmen, industrialists, farmers and industrial workers, in a democracy. Either through participation in governmental committees or by bringing influence on the decision making process, they also will have a share in governmental power.