Federal Political Systems

Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Perspectives on Comparative Federalism

Abstract

The number of countries embracing federalism is rocketing and research on federalism is booming. Federal studies are eventually abandoning the vain search for definitional clarity, and increasingly look at the potential of federalism to provide solutions to some of the most pressing challenges to contemporary constitutionalism. Federalism is indeed the oldest institutional mechanism to regulate pluralism, and has therefore a lot to offer in solving contemporary challenges originating from the quest for more pluralism, both institutional and societal.

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Posted by Francesco Palermo in Theory, 0 comments
Switzerland in 2018 – The Re-birth of Federalism?

Switzerland in 2018 – The Re-birth of Federalism?

Abstract

Switzerland is often held up as one of the most successful examples of a stable federal system. Since its creation in 1848, Swiss federalism has contributed to the country’s stability, as well as its wealth and prosperity. Notwithstanding the generally accepted success of the Swiss experiment with federalism, the Swiss themselves very much relish an opportunity to examine and criticise the federal system. This has even been institutionalised in the form of ‘National Conferences on federalism’ which, when convened every three years, provide a forum for a discussion on the development of Swiss federalism, often focusing on drawbacks and weaknesses as opposed to benefits. For the first time in many years, however, the 2017 National Conference presented federalism in a more positive light. This article briefly details the history and complexity of federalism in Switzerland, discusses the development of the National Conferences and concludes with a discussion on federalism in times of illiberal democracy.

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Posted by Nicolas Schmitt in Case Studies, 0 comments
A Federation like no other: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

A Federation like no other: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Abstract

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a complex state composed of two entities: the Federation of BiH and Republika Srpska, and one independent unit – Brčko District, as well as three constituent peoples: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. The Constitution does not mention the word federation, thus it is not formally defined whether BiH has a federal or confederal character. Strengthened competences of the state and a clear direction towards greater empowerment of the state level institutions suggest a movement from a confederation to a federation. However, while there is no agreement on what exactly Bosnia is, what is even more alarming is the abuse of the concept of federalism by Bosnian elites. Serbs consciously misinterpret federalism to underline their demand for more autonomy and, ultimately, secession. Croats see federalism as a tool to argue for a third entity, while Bosniaks promote the idea of regionalism instead. Thus, despite the fact that it has been twenty years since the first post-war elections, nothing has really changed; Bosnia and Herzegovina remains a highly unbalanced and badly constructed federation.

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Posted by Aleksandra Zdeb in Case Studies, 0 comments
Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Joint-decision Making: An Alternative to Centralisation / Decentralisation

Abstract

The text presents the concept of joint-decision making as an idea and alternative to the already established concepts of centralisation and decentralisation in federal studies. Whereas the notions of centralisation and decentralisation seem to be well established in federal studies, the idea of joint-decision making seems to count only as a German speciality or a German feature of federal studies. This paper further explores this idea and concept, drawing upon the German case as well as suggesting it is worth expanding beyond it.

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Posted by Dominic Heinz in Theory, 0 comments
Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro

Secession and Federalism: A Chiaroscuro

Abstract

The relationship between federalism and secession might be regarded as antithetical but is an unavoidable fact in multinational political communities. Integration and disintegration are both possible trends in a federation. Recent political events in Catalonia show the salience of independence claims, a political phenomenon already experienced by other countries such as Scotland or Quebec. Liberal democracies evolve and debates on self-government and self-determination cannot be discussed as they were decades ago. Constitutional right to secede is extremely rare, however we can find good reasons both in constitutional and normative analysis supporting democratic self-determination. Minority nations, as permanent minorities, claim for liberal guarantees to protect them from majorities, but also democratic rights to express their views on their constitutional future. Pacts are the basis of any political agreement and any federal arrangement requires individual and collective compromises to be respected.

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Posted by Marc Sanjaume-Calvet in Diversity Management, 0 comments
Dynamic Federalism

Dynamic Federalism

Abstract

Traditional federal theory seems no longer apt to grasp recent evolutions in state structures. By delimiting federal states in terms of defining institutional features, federalism scholars put themselves at the margin rather than the centre of where the action is: fragmenting dynamics in multinational states, secession movements, as well as centralist and decentralist tendencies within the European Union. In a dynamic approach to federalism, all multi-tiered systems are assembled with a common denominator being how they manage tensions between autonomy claims of territorial entities on the one hand, and the need for cohesion or efficiency of the central government on the other. In this approach, qualifying criteria to categorise state structures become mere indicators to rank multi-tiered systems on a gliding scale from the most central to the loosest systems. The ranking is based on three sets of indicators, one measuring autonomy, another measuring cohesion and a third, linking both, measuring participation. The core question examined in this contribution is: which mechanisms in the constitutional system have a centralising or decentralising effect?

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Posted by Patricia Popelier in Theory, 0 comments
Nigeria: A Federation in Search of Federalism

Nigeria: A Federation in Search of Federalism

Abstract

This article argues that the Nigerian federation epitomises an incomplete federal arrangement. The feelings of marginalisation, which had been suppressed during the military era are fully expressed by ethno-regional groups in the post-military era and these feelings finds expression in the potent agitation for a more functional federal system. The Nigerian political elites have at different times attempted to grapple with the imperfections inherent in the country’s federal system by putting in place a range of distributive and structural mechanisms but the increasing agitation for “true federalism” indicates that the governmental system is defective and in serious need of some bold political reform.

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Posted by Dele Babalola in Case Studies, 0 comments
Federalism and Federation: Putting the Record Straight

Federalism and Federation: Putting the Record Straight

Abstract

The terms ‘federalism’ and ‘federation’ are well entrenched concepts in the political science literature, yet remain contested because in practice people have different understandings of the terms federal, federalism and federation. In this short piece I set out the importance of definitional clarity when discussing the abovementioned terms. Secondly, I discuss the relationship between liberal democracy and federalism, noting that a number of values that undergird federal political systems equally fit with democratic principles. In the final section, I focus on the some of the misunderstood aspects of federalism, using the British case as an empirical example.

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Posted by Michael Burgess in Theory, 0 comments
Linguistic Diversity in Plurinational States

Linguistic Diversity in Plurinational States

Abstract

This article examines the politics of language in plurinational states. First, I argue that the relationship between language and nationhood is politically constructed through two broad processes: state nation-building and ‘peripheral’ activism. Second, I present three broad strategies of territorial management to accommodate the normative and practical issues derived from the politicisation of languages: self-rule, shared rule, and symbolic recognition. Third, I illustrate the discussion drawing on the paradigmatic cases of Catalonia and Flanders.

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Posted by Daniel Cetrà in Policies, 0 comments