A confederal government is a loose political union of two or more sovereign or independent states with a weak central government that is subordinate to the sovereign component units. It is a loose union of independent or sovereign states in which each is free to leave the union whenever it likes. The union of these states is based on some agreed items like defence and foreign relations. The central government depends on the goodwill of the component units for her survival. Examples of confederal states include USA (between 1781 and 1789) and between Senegal and Gambia called Senegambia in the 1980s. Also, the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), etc, has the picture of a confederation.
FEATURES OF CONFEDERAL GOVERNMENT
- Weak centre: The central government is weak while the component units are strong.The central government has no power to make the component units do her will. The component units decide what the central government will do.
- Flexible constitution: The constitution is usually flexible. The constitution can be easily amended as it has no special process for its amendment.
- Allegiance: Individuals in the component units owe indirect allegiance to the central government and direct allegiance to the component units government. In other words, the people attach stronger and more feelings to the government of their immediate component state than they have for the government at the centre.
- Sovereignty: In a confederal state, each component unit is sovereign or independent. It is independent of thecentre and can opt out of the union when she deems fit.
- Separate identity: Each component state maintains and control separate identity. For this reason, individual state has separate police, civil service, judicial system, trade and foreign mission.
- Right to secede: The component units have the right to secede. This may be caused by fear of domination of others by a stronger partner. It can also be due to non adherence to agreed ideals.
- Cooperation: The operations of a confederal government are carried out on the basis of mutual cooperation, negotiation and respect among the component units and not by force.
- Source of revenue: The central government has no direct source of revenue but depends on subventions, dues and donations from the component units.
MERITS OF CONFEDERAL GOVERNMENT
- It speeds up the development process as it enables each component unit to grow and develop at its own pace.
- There is a very high degree of autonomy. The component units are independent of the central government and they have the right to opt out of the union whenever they like.
- It encouragesthe use of local initiatives in solving problems. Each component units is free to handle its problems in whichever way considered convenient without restraints from the central government.
- Equality exists among the states making up a confederation. No state can claim superiority over others.
- The adoption of a confederal government may make the component units have comparative advantages in the production of certain goods and services. This increases the exchange and availability of goods and services in the component units.
- The union is voluntary. No member state was forced to be a member of the union since they can secede at any time.
- Confederalism leads to cross fertilization of ideas. Better ideas are many a time thought out by two or more independent states than one.
- It makes the government of a wider area possible. Areas with different governments can effectively be governed under a confederation.
DEMERITS OF CONFEDERAL GOVERNMENT
- The centre is usually very weak. This is so because it depends on the component units for moral and material support. It does not have the power to compel the component units to do according to her dictates.
- The citizens in a confederal government are more loyal to their component states than to the central government which as result does not encourage national unity.
- The flexible nature of the constitution of a confederation makes the constitution prone to easy manipulation and ridicule.
- The legal right of any sovereign member state to secede from the union makes the political arrangement to he loose and fragile. In other words, it weakens the unity of the union.
- Confederalism does not encourage the even development of the sovereign member states. This is because naturally, some states are abundantly blessed in terns of human and material resources than the other.
- Policies discussed may not be effectively carried out in their respective states.
- Confederal government generates political instability because the union is loose.
- Since member states maintain separate diplomatic representations, interests and opinions on global issues may differ and his can cause conflict among member states.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FEDERAL AND CONFEDERAL GOVERNMENTS
- In a federal government, the central government is strong because she enjoys a lot of power. She has power to make law on items in the exclusive legislative list and the concurrent legislative list together with the component units. But in a confederal government, the central government is weak.
- The constitution of a federal state is rigid while it is flexible in a confederal government.
- The federal system of government entrenches a supreme court which interprets and guard the constitution. A confederal government does not have a supreme court rather, each unit government maintains its supreme court.
- In a federal system of government, the component units are denied the right to secede. But in a confederal system, the component units have the right to secede.
- The sovereign power of a federal state resides in the constitution of the state while in a confederal state, sovereignty rests with the sovereign component states.
- There is a very high degree of national integration in a federal state. The citizens see themselves as one indivisible entity. In a confederal system however, there is no national unity and integration. The citizens do not see themselves as people from one indivisible entity.
- In a federal state, the component units have limited autonomy while absolute power belongs to the central government. Thus, in a confederal state, the component units have absolute autonomy while the central government has limited powers.
- Unit governments do not have or maintain diplomatic relations with states of the world in a federal system of government. This is done by the central government. However, in a confederal system, the unit governments have and maintain diplomatic relations with other states of the world.
- In a federation, the loyalty of citizens is divided between two levels of government, that is, the central government and government of the component units. On the contrary, the loyalty of citizens of a confederal state is not divided but given only to government of their respective sovereign states.