Federalism

Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Intergovernmental Relations in Federal Systems: Ubiquitous, Idiosyncratic, Opaque and Essential

Abstract

Regardless of institutional design, all federal systems imply substantial degrees of interaction between federal partners. “Intergovernmental relations” (IGR) refer to the many modalities through which this interaction takes place. IGR take many shapes and forms. They fluctuate with time and according to policy areas. In this sense, they are idiosyncratic. They are, however, the essential “oil in the machinery” of every federal system, and as such may be rather ubiquitous. Following a short incursion in the terminological challenges relating to intergovernmental relations (and its companion: “comparative federalism”), this article explores the actors in the IGR game as well as the rich catalogue of legislative – and mostly executive-techniques on which these actors rely to structure their relations. IGR waltz between institutionalization and informality, often in an opaque fashion which tends to reinforce the executive branch of each federal partner.
This brief overview of IGR from a comparative perspective suggests that federations grounded in the “continental civil law tradition” are more likely to structure IGR through legal mechanisms and norms than their more pragmatic “common law” counterparts. Though this is a significant simplification, the latter tend to consider IGR primarily (if not exclusively) through a political lens. Yet – somewhat paradoxically – regardless of informality and legal status, IGR play similar functions in various federal systems. Coordination functions, of course. But also para-constitutional engineering ones, through which federal actors (generally the various executives) implicitly alter the official federal architecture.

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Posted by Johanne Poirier in Theory, 0 comments
Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Political Parties: Driving Federal Dynamics, adapting to Federal Structures

Abstract

Liberal thinkers and supporters of majoritarian democracy are at odds with each other on the proper role of political parties in federal systems. Parties are seen either as guardians of the federal division of powers or as instruments to transcend federal barriers for the pursuit of uniform public policies. In analytical accounts, scholars have looked at two dimensions of territorial party politics: the level of symmetry in party competition and the degree of vertical integration within party organisations. There are many different ways, in which parties have responded to a multi-level political environment. In a complex two-way mutual interaction, parties have adapted to federal structures while at the same time driving federal dynamics.

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Posted by Klaus Detterbeck in Theory, 0 comments
The Pleasant Greyness of Australian Federalism

The Pleasant Greyness of Australian Federalism

Abstract

This article provides an overview of Australian federalism, describing its origins, design, features, evolution, and issues. Its central theme is the way that, in the notable absence of a ‘federal society’, a system that was decentralised in design and intent has given way to one much more centralised in practice. The issues that plague Australian federalism are the practical ones of fiscal federalism and intergovernmental relations.

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Posted by Alan Fenna in Case Studies, 0 comments
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
Sri Lanka: Devolution, Secession and Current Debates on the “F” Word

Sri Lanka: Devolution, Secession and Current Debates on the “F” Word

Abstract

While in constitutional theory, a unitary state is one in which there is only one ultimate source of state power, for many Sri Lankans ‘unitary’ means ‘oneness’ or ‘one country’. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution introduced limited devolution, but successive governments have been taking back powers to the Centre using all conceivable means. Sinhala nationalists who oppose any devolution equate devolution with federalism and have raised the bogey that more devolution would necessarily result in secession. On the other hand, the Tamil fear is that devolution within a unitary state would lead to rule of the majority and centralization of power. This short contribution examines the development of decentralisation in the context of Sri Lanka, including the recent interim report of the Steering Committee of the Constitutional Assembly.

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Posted by Jayampathy Wickramaratne in Case Studies, 0 comments
Federalism vs. Decentralization in Latin America

Federalism vs. Decentralization in Latin America

Abstract

Additional countries have turned to federalism in recent years in many world regions, but in Latin America the set of countries with federal institutions has not changed in more than a century. Despite this stasis, a spate of reforms have otherwise strengthened subnational governments across the region. In this short essay, I point to a number of dimensions along which Latin America’s federations have become more truly federal while its unitary systems have become less genuinely unitary. As a result, Latin America has become more important than ever as a region in which to ask what difference federalism makes.

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Posted by Kent Eaton in Case Studies, 0 comments
Cooperative Federalism and the Dominant Role of Consensus in German Federalism

Cooperative Federalism and the Dominant Role of Consensus in German Federalism

Abstract

German federalism is one of the most unitary in the world. It started from assumptions based on the subsidiarity principle. They still are to be found in the German constitution. The lack of a federalism culture, the output orientation of German politics that stresses the sameness of living conditions, and party-political centralization have shaped Germany’s federalism. The last three reforms of German federalism 2006, 2009, and 2017 have all contributed to more centralism and shared decision-making of the federal government and the Land executives.

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Posted by Roland Sturm in Case Studies, 0 comments
Are Cities Constituent Units in Brazil’s Federalism?

Are Cities Constituent Units in Brazil’s Federalism?

Abstract

The Brazilian Constitution of 1988 states that municipalities (cities) are part of the federal union. This statement reflects the relevance of local governments in Brazil’s federation. The federal structure does not guarantee municipalities the same level of federative ground the states have. However, municipal competences and roles established by the constitution and the dynamic of Brazilian federalism have shown a high level of participation of local governments in Brazil’s federation.

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Posted by Gilberto M. A. Rodrigues in Case Studies, 0 comments
Autonomous Island Regions

Autonomous Island Regions

Abstract

Research regarding autonomous island regions encounters a myriad of various definitions used in two overarching traditions within the field: autonomism and federalism. This short article sheds some light on some of the most common definitions used and maybe how we can derive some closure in the area. However, more research should be done in order to come up with a complete list of autonomous islands in the world.

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Posted by Maria Ackrén in Case Studies, 0 comments
Gender Equality and Federalism

Gender Equality and Federalism

Abstract

Gender scholars argue that a federal model of governance can provide opportunities to advance gender equality and the rights of women. Those opportunities include increased opportunities to sit in public office, multiple access points for women to lobby for reform measures, encouraging policy transfer between different regions of a country, protecting women from violence by responding more effectively to ethnic diversity and conflict through the provision of autonomy, self-rule and self-determination, and enabling local concerns including the different interests of women to be better represented. In some situations, however, gender scholars argue a federal model of governance makes it difficult to achieve uniformity of laws, programs and services that benefit women, it fragments the solidarity of the women’s movements, and that it is costly and complicated to navigate making gender reform measures more difficult to implement.

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Posted by Christine Forster in Policies, 0 comments