Federalism as state’s administrative system

  1. Mohanad Yousuf

New Iraq Center Advisor

Translated by Shaimaa Shedeed  

Federalism concept today seems one of the most argumentative issues in Iraq today. Little number of Iraqis has a clear vision about the meaning of federalism, while those who support the idea in Iraq see that the problem of understanding federalism represents a fatal challenge. in fact, they wonder about the way Iraqis can decide their future while they don’t know the meaning of federalism concept to date although they participated in the elections of 2004 and casted their votes approving the constitution stating that Iraq is a federal state.

“Federation” was originally taken from a Latin word means “trust” and such word was added to the linguistic dictionaries and sometimes deemed synonymous to the word “union”, but in fact the word federalism refers to a specific type of union.

For more clarification for the federalism idea, we have to realize that the federalism concept is based on the idea of being an administrative system for the state. It is used in several states in the world and includes two levels of power: federal power that comprises the capital and local power that comprises the region. Both powers rule the same geography and the same people.

It means that the federal state is based on two governments one of which is dubbed as central government and located in the capital while the other one is in the region or the state. Such small regional government gives some of its political powers to the central government and vice versa.

Under such kind of systems, affairs of the national security, the army, the economy, the seigniorage, the treaties’ ratification, the foreign relations and other affairs related to the state’s sovereignty are assigned to the central government, while the regional government is assigned the mission of internal security, agriculture, trade and all affairs related to the daily life of citizens live in this region.

Thus, the state is based on tow powers, both are unified to form only one state under a collective decision in these areas in order to form a decentralized state based on its national, geographic, economic, historical and cultural reality.

Federalism as a political system for the rule means that some nationalities, groups and small constituents waive some of their powers and privileges and even independence to an upper unified power representing them internationally and hold accountability related to sovereignty, national security and foreign policy defense. This is the key feature in the state’s modern ruling systems as these states and its people solve their legal, social and political problems by such way of ruling. As long as the democratic system is a system seeks for organizing the internal affairs of the country and for facilitating the work, jobs and life in an optional way, the people voluntarily choose this way of ruling. Thus, the powers are distributed to the local authority and the central one in away affirms the respect to the federal authority.

In the systems of the successful states, we have to differentiate between the interests of the individuals and different forces in the state and the general interests of the state. It is not necessary that both interests are united but the people usually choose the federal system in order to waive their general interest such as outlining the state’s international relations for the account of interests related to the internal governorates and entities included in the state.

Federalism is a system related to the political job of the state and the administrative job of the government. It is also related to the distribution of powers of the ruling authority, organizing relations among the jobs of the three powers namely legislative, judiciary and executive and guaranteeing that these powers aren’t overlapped and none of them affect the other. In other words, federal state’s decisions are put on the top and local affairs are left for the regional authorities so the local authorities doesn’t deviate from its authorities’ line, while legislation affairs are assigned to the central parliament as it is one of the central government’s jobs.

Federalism is connected to the principles of defending the minorities’ rights whether national, religious or ethnic. Thus, it targets overcoming the concept of the central state because most of modern states in the world include ethnic, national and religious diversities and aren’t confined to national, religious or ethnic majorities.

Nevertheless, the concept of the federalism and the way of application can varies from a state to another as it is simply a political concept relevant to the political system and the power. Since democracy, political representation and self-determination are deemed as pillars for the federal system, federalism is variable in terms of concept and application. Still, its sole standard is respecting the human rights, securing the interests and keeping the sovereignty of the state and the people.

Federalism concept is related to regional and national needs and this is another standard for the federalism. It is not related to the way of establishing a state or the way side dominates more than another or even the way of taking over a power. In such away, the federal state is the paradox of the royal state and the empirical one which are both typified by much centralization where the center controls the limbs.

Consequently, the federalism concept doesn’t have a specific form, rather, it implies different types and degrees vary in terms of applicable formulas some of which are represented in an absolute union or union of completely different ethnic, national, ethnic groups. Some federalisms began as sporadic political and national groups agreed upon adoption of common policy, so they establish a federal unity in order to take common landmark decisions. In other places, other federalism is established in a united centralized state but then divided into separated units each of which enjoys freedom in its decision making processes.

However, most of federal states depend on the separation system among the authorities and also depends on two levels of peoples’ representation; one of which is on the level of the local councils directly elected by the people while the other one is on the level of parliamentary councils have united federal features representing the central federal authority.


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