Some countries are large in size and have several regions. In such a case it is difficult to have only one government that can take care of the entire country. In such cases countries have two levels of government- the first one being the national or the country-wide government, the second working at the regional level. These regional units are referred to as ‘states’ or ‘provinces’. Political power is also divided between the two governments. In such cases, the central government is called National Government, Central Government, Union Government or Federal Government while the regional governments are called State Governments. Countries where such an arrangement exists are known as Federal systems or Federations.

Some countries that are geographically small in size usually have a single government at the centre. Such systems of government are called Unitary Systems.

This distribution of power amongst the central (national) government and the state governments in a Federation is a formal arrangement. It is explicitly referred to in the Constitution of that country. For instance, the American Constitution explicitly states the powers possessed by the Federal Government. Similarly, the Constitution of India, in its Seventh Schedule, lists the powers of the Central or Union Government as well as that of the State Governments. In most Federations, changes to these constitutional provisions require the approval of both the national and the state governments.

In some cases, the transition to a full-fledged Federal system occurred in a relatively shorter period of time. The best instance of this is the United States of America. Thirteen British colonies, all separate political units, rebelled against the authority of the United Kingdom and won their independence in the 18th century. When they realised that they needed to establish a single political unit in order to safeguard their independence, they came together and established the country which we today know as the United States of America. Such Federal systems are known as ‘Coming Together’ Federations. Canada and Australia are other instances where previously separate political units came together to form a single political system. In case of India, at the time of independence, there were Princely States and areas under British administration. The states that we see today were created after independence on the basis of language. Thus, in case of the United States of America, the States came together to create the United States of America; while in case of India, the Union Government created the States.

In contrast, there are also countries where hitherto Unitary systems change to Federal one through the establishment of ‘states’ and ‘provinces’. These are known as ‘Holding Together’ Federations. This is so because political power is distributed away from the national government in order to keep the country united. The United Kingdom has a unitary system of government. Today its regions, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been given some degree of autonomy. These regions now have their own assemblies

New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. This means that the head of state is a sovereign (currently Queen Elizabeth II). The Queen is represented in NZ by the Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy. Jacinda Ardern is currently serving as the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

In India, the division of powers favours the national government. Hence, India is described as a ‘quasi-federation’ or as a federation with a unitary bias. The journey of Indian federalism has been mixed. After independence, the states have been granted additional powers, however, later economic and technological changes have led to the enhancement of the powers of the Central government.

Quasi-federalism means an intermediate form of state between a unitary state and a federation. It combines the features of a federal government and the features of a unitary government. India is regarded as a semi-federal state or a quasi-federal state as described by Prof. K.C. Wheare. The Supreme Court of India also describes it as a federal structure with a strong bias towards the Centre. Article 1 of the Constitution of India states that ‘India that is Bharat shall be a union of states’. Indian model of federalism is called the quasi-federal system as it contains major features of both a federation and union.

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