Differences Between Federal and Confederal System of Government

No doubt, the term “Federal” and “Confederal” sounds alike. They are also similar in meaning because they both emphasizes the division of government power between the central government and its component units. Nonetheless, there are still areas of differences between federal and confederal system of government. Most times, scholars use the both interchangeably, but it is not supposed to be so. A federal system is quite different in its characteristics from a confederal system of government.

differences between federal and confederal system
differences between federal and confederal system

In this article, we will be looking at those areas of differences between federal and confederal systems. However, before moving into the main content of this work, it is important to know the meaning and features of a federal and a confederal system of government. Doing this will help you to understand the crux of this work when we get there.

Also see: Differences between unitary and federal system of government

Meaning of federal system of government

A federal system of government may be defined as one in which government powers that exist in the country are shared between a central government and its component units so that each government is legally and constitutionally independent and autonomous. This does not mean that the powers are shared equally between the levels or units of government.

There are areas of authority reserved exclusively for the central government in the constitution which is known as the exclusive list. Such matters includes; foreign affairs, defence, currency, immigration etc. Both government legislate on the concurrent list of subjects which includes; education, agriculture, collection of taxes, electric power, industry etc.

However, where states law contradict that of the federal law on the list, that of the federal will supersed. Examples of countries where this is practiced is USA, Nigeria, Brazil, Germany, Switzerland, Australia etc.

Also see: Advantages and disadvantages of an unwritten constitution

Features or characteristics of a federal system

1. There is the division of government powers between the central government and its component units.

2. The different government derive their powers from the constitution

3. There is supremacy of the constitution.

4. The constitution in a federation repudiates succession

5. Political powers are more concentrated in the central government.

6. Duplication of organs of government in all government

For a more comprehensive understanding a what a federation or federal system of government is all about, kindly watch the video below!

Also see: How to prepare and pass law examinations easily

Meaning of a confederal system of government

A confederation may be defined as a loose political arrangement in which autonomous or sovereign states or republics come together to form a union in which almost the major functions of government are reserved exclusively for the component states with a weak center or central government. Confederation may also be defined as a loose federation.

In this kind of political arrangement, the component states hold major power except the common currency, defences, foreign affairs etc, in which the central government may hold power. The component states retain their sovereignty, identity, own army, police and have the constitutional rights to secede from the confederation. Example is Senegambia which was a confederation made of sovereign Senegal and Gambia.

Also see: Differences between Cross-offers and counter-offers

Features or characteristics of a confederal system of government

1. It has a flexible constitution.

2. Component states have constitutional right to secede.

3. It is a union of sovereign or autonomous state.

4. Major functions or power of the government are reserved exclusively for the component states.

5. The central government is usually weak

6. Citizens have to obey only one government, that is their own state government.

Kindly check the video below for a better explanation of a confederation!

Also see: Explanation of the various Types of Constitution

Differences between a federal and a confederal

1. One of the differences between a federal and confederal is that a federation, sovereignty rests with a new state formed represented by the central government, while in a confederation, sovereignty rests with the component states.

2. Wile the component states in a federal system of government do not have legal right of session, they have in a confederal system.

3. Major power and functions are reserved exclusively for the component states in the confederation but in a federal system, it is the central government that has more powers.

4. A confederal system of government has weaker counter than a federation

5. In a federal system, the citizens obey two government. That is, the central and state government, while the citizens obey only one government in a confederation which is their own state government.

6. While the component state government have maintained their own army and police in a confederation, in a federation, it is the central government that owns and maintains the army and the police.

7. A federal system of government is more stable politically than a confederal system of government.

8. While a federation has a rigid constitution, a confederation usually has a flexible constitution.

9. In a federal system of government, the central government is supreme, while in the confederation, the component states are supreme.

Above are the differences between federal and confederal system of government. I hope this short article impressed you? Kindly use the comment box below to tell me what you think about this article.

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