Characteristics of Unitary Government | Structure and Systems of Government

Characteristics of Unitary Government

Characteristics of Unitary Government

The following are the features, attributes and characteristics of a unitary state or government:

1. Centralization of Powers

In a unitary system, all powers are centralized in the hands of the central government and that centre is the reservoir of all state powers. In this system, there are no provincial governments and the constitution empowers the central government to legislate, execute and adjudicate with full might. There is no other institution to share governmental powers with the central government. On one hand, the central government has full powers to rule without any external pressure and runs the state administration with confidence without any fear and terror. On the other hand, the rulers exercise their powers in an absolute way without any check. Centralization of powers is itself an administrative problem. Although in many unitary states, there is a local government system arrangement but powers are delegated to these units with strict central control or supervision.

2. Single and Simple Government

A unitary government is very simple system. With the exception of Britain, there are neither provincial assemblies and executives nor the upper chambers at the center. There is a single central government at the center. There is a unicameral legislature popularly elected. The central legislature is there to legislate, executive to execute and the judiciary to adjudicate without any share. Their expenses are less and the state is run with a unified command. Upper chambers are usually expensive and weak states cannot afford these expenses. So, it is a simple and understandable system. The ordinary citizens easily, understand its structure and powers.

3. Uniformity of Laws

Another characteristic of a unitary government is that the laws of the unitary system, unlike in a federation, are uniform because laws are made only by a single central government for the whole state. Laws made by the centre are equally enforced in the rest of the state without any territorial distinction while in a federation, the nature of the law varies from province to province. So, uniformity of laws in the unitary set-up is according to the principles of justice and nature of human beings. In a federation or federal system, sometimes, sharp contrasts are seen in the laws of the same nature, which complicates the situation.

4. No Distribution of Powers

Constitutions of the federal form of state distribute powers between the centre and the provinces. However, in a unitary system, there is no list of distribution of powers in the constitution. All powers belong to the central government. In this system, the government is not in the business of powers distribution. This shifts government attention on development because government is free of this headache.

5. Flexible Constitutions

The constitutions of the unitary states are ever flexible in nature. A rigid constitution is required only in federation in order to establish firm and safe relations between the centre and the federating units. The constitution of a unitary system has an advantage that it may be changed according to the needs of time and changing circumstances. A constitution is a document necessary to run a state according to the changing orientations. People’s desires change with the passage of time and constitutions are amended accordingly. Its flexibility paves way for its progressiveness. Constitutions of the unitary systems are evolutionary and may face any immediate situation.

6. Potential for Despotism

It is one of the important characteristics of this system that it may become despotic when the rulers are not faithful and patriotic. All powers are in the control of the centre and there are no checks upon the exercise of these unlimited powers. It could become absolute and state powers may be abused because it lacks an internal check system.

7. Responsibility

This system is arguably more responsible than federations. It is an important feature of this form of state that responsibility is fixed in the defined institutions. A central legislature is responsible for legislation, executive for implementation and judiciary for adjudication. These institutions are accountable for their constitutional responsibilities and therefore they try their best to remain within the circle of the law of the land.

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