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GS Mains Foundation 2018
GS Mains Foundation 2018

Types of Political system/Types of Government/Types of Elections

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Types of Political System Types of Government Types of Electoral System

Types of Political system

A political system is the set of formal legal institutions that constitute a “state.” There are seven types of political systems namely as follows:
1) Democracy – Democracy is a system of government in which the citizens exercise power directly or elect representatives from among themselves to form a governing body, such as a parliament. Democracy is sometimes referred to as rule of the majority. India, the US, the UK, France, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Japan etc. are the democratic countries.
Features –
• The democracy consists of four key elements: (a) A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections; (b) The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life; (c) Protection of the human rights of all citizens, and (d) A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
• Other features of democracy are as follows:
a) Popular sovereignty
b) Political freedom & equality
c) Protection of minority rights
d) Independence of judiciary
e) Presence of civil & socio-economic rights
f) Legal equality & rule of law etc.
2) Dictatorship – Dictatorship is a form of government where a country is ruled by one person or political entity, and exercised through various mechanisms to ensure that the entity’s power remains strong. Nazi Germany, Soviet Union under Stalin’s rule, Napoleonic France, Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, North Korea under Kim Jong-Il & Kim Il Sung, Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, Uganda under Idi Amin etc. are examples of the dictatorship.
Features –
• It comes into existence by force.
• Nearly every aspect of the public and private behavior of citizens is regulated.
• Such systems generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.
• It is characterized by arbitrary, unaccountable & irresponsible role of the dictator.
• The distinction between the state & the government is absent.
3) Monarchy – A monarchy is a form of government in which a group, usually a family called the dynasty, embodies the country’s national identity and one of its members, called the monarch, exercises a role of sovereignty. Saudi Arabia, Brunei, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, Morocco etc. have Monarchical form of political system.
Features –
• The actual power of the monarch may vary from purely symbolic (crowned republic), to partial and restricted (constitutional monarchy), to completely autocratic (absolute monarchy). The UK is a Constitutional Monarchy; whereas the King of Saudi Arabia is an absolute Monarch. The monarchs of Cambodia, Japan, and Malaysia “reign, but do not rule” although there is considerable variation in the degree of authority they wield.
• Traditionally and in most cases, the monarch’s post is inherited and lasts until death or abdication, but there are also elective monarchies where the monarch is elected.
4) Theocracy – It is a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the king or immediate ruler, and his laws are taken as the statute-book of the kingdom, these laws being usually administered by a priestly order as his ministers and agents. Hence, it is a system of government by a sacerdotal order, claiming a divine commission; also, a state so governed. The Holy See (Vatican City), Iran, Saudi Arabia, Central Tibetan Administration etc. are the examples of theocracies.
Features –
• In a pure theocracy, the civil leader is believed to have a personal connection with the civilization’s religion or belief. For example, Moses led the Israelites, and Muhammad led the early Muslims.
• An ecclesiocracy is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation. The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.
• While secular governments have some aspects of life that are not influenced by religion, theocratic governments seek guidance from higher powers to cover all aspects of life, including law, punishment, education and marriage.
5) Totalitarian – Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible, without any respect for human rights.
In an authoritarian regime a single power holder an individual dictator, a committee or a small group of political elite monopolizes political power. The authoritarian state is only concerned with political power and as long as that is not contested it gives society a certain degree of liberty. In contrast, a totalitarian regime attempts to control virtually all aspects of the social life, including the economy, education, art, science, private life, and morals of citizens. The totalitarian government seeks to completely control the thoughts and actions of its citizens. It also mobilizes the whole population in pursuit of its goals. The Nazi Germany, USSR under Joseph Stalin, China under Mao, North Korea are examples of the totalitarian states.
Features –
• A distinctive feature of totalitarian governments is an elaborate ideology, a set of ideas that gives meaning and direction to the whole society, often involving a one-party state, a dictator and a personality cult.
• Totalitarian regimes stay in political power through such techniques as propaganda, state control of the mass media, educational system, economy, political repression, capital punishment, restriction of speech, and mass surveillance.
6) Republic – A republic is a sovereign state or country which is organized with a form of government in which power resides in elected individuals representing the citizen body and government leaders exercise power according to the rule of law. In modern sense, the term republic is commonly referred to a government which excludes a monarch. The term ‘republic’ in our Constitution indicates that India has an elected head called the President. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years. Ancient Athens, Sparta, Roman Republic, Mahajanpadas in Ancient India, the US, France, Islamic Republic of Iran are some of the examples of the republic states.
Features –
• In the republican form of government, the political sovereignty is vested in the people and not in a single individual like a king.
• All the public offices are open to every citizen without any discrimination & there is absence of any privileged class.
7) Anarchism – Anarchism advocates self-governed societies based on voluntary institutions. These are often described as stateless societies. It can be taken as institutions based on non-hierarchical free associations. Anarchism holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful.

Types of Government

Modern democratic governments can be classified into parliamentary, presidential & semi-presidential forms on the basis of nature of relations between the executive and the legislative organs of the government.
1) Parliamentary system – It is the form of government in which the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts. Cabinet is the nucleus of this system hence it is also called as the ‘Cabinet system’. The Cabinet (the real executive) is responsible to the legislature & stays in office so long as it enjoys its confidence hence it is also called as the responsible government. It is described as ‘Westminster model’ of government after the location of the British Parliament. This system is present in the UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Japan, India etc.
2) Presidential system – In this form, the executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts. The executive is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office. Hence, the Presidential system is also known as non-executive or non-responsible or fixed executive system of government. Such system is present in the USA, Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka etc.
3) Semi-presidential system – In a semi-presidential the President exists alongside a Prime Minister & a cabinet. It differs from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected head of state, who is more than a purely ceremonial figurehead. In contrast to the presidential system, the cabinet is responsible to the legislature, which may force the cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence. There are two separate subtypes of semi-presidential system, namely premier-presidential system and president-parliamentary system. France, Russia, Mongolia, Madagascar etc. have the semi-presidential system.

1) Features of the Parliamentary System
A) In the Parliamentary system, the political party which secures majority seats in the Lower House forms the government. The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister & other ministers are appointed on the advice of the Prime Minister.
B) The nominal and real executives are different. The President is the nominal executive (titular executive) while the Prime Minister is the real executive. The President is head of the State, while the Prime Minister is head of the government.
C) The principle of collective Responsibility is the bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament.
D) The ministers operate on the principle of secrecy of procedure and cannot divulge information about their proceedings, policies and decisions. They take the oath of secrecy before entering their office.
E) The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive. Hence there is a double membership. This means that a person cannot be a minister without being a member of the Parliament.
F) The lower house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) can be dissolved by the President on recommendation of the Prime Minister and he can advise the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha before the expiry of its term and hold fresh elections.

Parliamentary System

Merits Demerits
1.      Harmony between legislature and executive A.    Unstable government
2.      Responsible government B.     No continuity of policies
3.      Prevents despotism C.     Against separation of powers
4.      Wide representation D.    Government by amateurs


2) Features of the Presidential System

A) The President is both the head of the State and the head of government. As the head of State, he occupies a ceremonial position. As the head of government, he leads the executive organ of government.
B) The doctrine of separation of powers is the basis of the presidential system. The legislative, executive and judicial powers of the government are separated and vested in the three independent organs of the government.
C) The President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure. He cannot be removed by the legislature except by impeachment for a grave unconstitutional act.
D) President governs with the help of a cabinet. It is only an advisory body and consists of non-elected departmental secretaries. They are selected and appointed by him, are responsible only to him & not to the legislature.
E) President and his secretaries are not responsible to the legislature for their acts. They neither possess membership in the legislature nor attend its sessions.
F) The President cannot dissolve the Lower House of the legislature.

Presidential System

Merits Demerits
1.      Stable government A.    Conflict between legislature and executive
2.      Definiteness in policies B.     Non-responsible government
3.      Based on separation of powers C.     May lead to autocracy
4.      Government by experts D.    Narrow representation

3) Features of the Semi-Presidential System

A) Semi-presidential systems may sometimes experience periods in which the President and the Prime Minister are from differing political parties. This is called cohabitation.
B) Under the premier-presidential system, the prime minister and cabinet are exclusively accountable to parliament. The president chooses the prime minister and cabinet, but only the parliament may remove them from office with a vote of no confidence. The president does not have the right to dismiss the prime minister or the cabinet.
C) Under the president-parliamentary system, the prime minister and cabinet are dually accountable to the president and the assembly majority. The president chooses the prime minister and the cabinet but must have the support of the parliament majority for his choice. In order to remove a prime minister or the whole cabinet from power, the president can dismiss them or the assembly can remove them by a vote of no confidence. This form of semi-presidential system is much closer to pure presidential system.

Types of Electoral System

A voting system or electoral system consists of the set of rules followed for a vote to be considered valid, and sets out how votes are cast, counted and aggregated to yield a final result of an election or a referendum. Adoption of a particular system by a country depends on various factors including historical evolution, size, type of voters, considerations of stability, nature of population, etc. Some of the most common electoral systems are as follows:

A) Plurality System (First-Past-the-Post System)
• In this system country is divided into single member territorial constituencies, usually of equal size. Voters select a single candidate, usually marking against the candidates’ name. A candidate who receives the highest number of votes, may be less than even half the votes polled, is declared the winner.
• This system is easy to operate and establishes a clear link between representatives and constituencies. It also allows governments to be formed that have a clear mandate from the electorate, of course, on the basis of plurality of support amongst the electorate.
• However, a number of shortcomings are pointed out in this system. The system wastes many votes, those cast for losing candidates. It undermines the legitimacy of government in so far as governments often enjoy only minority support. In this system some social groups like minorities may remain under-represented.
• In spite of these limitations this system is quite popular in a number of countries including the UK and India.

B) The Majority System
• The majority system requires that a person declared winner in a single member constituency wins by a clear majority that is getting more than 50 per cent votes. This can be obtained by two methods:

1) Second Ballot System:
• In this system there are single candidate constituencies and single choice voting, as in the first past the post system. To win on the first ballot, a candidate needs an overall majority of the votes cast. If no candidate gains a first ballot majority, a second run-off ballot is held between the leading two candidates. This system is popular in France.

2) Alternative Vote System:
• In this system there are single member constituencies. There is preferential voting. Voters rank the candidates in order of preference i.e. 1 for their first preference, 2 for their second preference, and so on. Winning candidates must gain minimum 50 per cent of all the votes cast. Votes are counted according to the first preference.
• If no candidate secures 50 per cent in first preference, the candidate with least number of votes is eliminated and her votes are redistributed according to the second (or subsequent) preferences. This continues until one candidate has a majority. This method is used in Australia and some other countries and for elections of President and Vice-President in India.

C) The Proportional Representation System
• The term proportional representation is used to designate various electoral devices based on the principle that parties should be represented in an Assembly or Parliament in direct proportion to their overall electoral strength, their percentage of seats equalling their percentage of votes.
• It is claimed that under this system any party, interest or group would secure representation in proportion to the support, it has among the electors. This is achieved by two systems:

1) Single Transferable Vote System:
• In this system there are multi member constituencies. Parties may put forward as many candidates as there are seats to fill in each constituency. Electors vote preferentially, as in the alternative vote system. Candidates are elected if they achieve a quota. This is the minimum number of votes needed to elect, the stipulated number of candidates, calculated according to the following formula as explained below:

• The votes are counted according to first preference. If not all the seats are filled, the candidate securing least number of votes is eliminated and the votes are redistributed according to second preference, and so on, until all the seats have been filled. This system is used to elect members of Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils in India.

2) Party List system:
• In this system either the entire country is treated as a single constituency, or, it is divided into a number of large multimember constituencies. Parties compile lists of candidates in descending order of preference and the list is presented to voters. Electors vote for parties, not for candidates.
· Parties are allocated seats in direct proportion to the votes they gain in the election. They fill these seats from the party list. A minimum percentage (for example 5 per cent fixed in Germany) can be fixed to exclude small parties. This is the only potentially pure system of proportional representation, and is therefore, fair to all parties. However, its operation in big countries is very difficult.
Since framers of the Constitution in general followed the British model, they preferred the plurality or first past the post system for elections to both Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. To make the office of President a real representative of national opinion majority system with transferable vote was adopted. As the Rajya Sabha was meant to be a representative House of States and not of people or constituencies, system of proportional representation was favoured.
While in general, these systems have been working well, there is a view that first past the post system has shortcomings which need to be looked into. It is pointed out that in India not only various parties and groups either remain unrepresented or under-represented in spite of significant support among voters as a whole but also parties getting just 30 per cent or so of the polled votes are able to emerge as majority parties and form government.

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