Chapter 1 Power Sharing
What are the different forms of power-sharing in modern democracies? Give an example of each of these.
(i) Power-sharing among the different organs of government (Horizontal power-sharing). In a democracy, power is shared among the different organs of the government such as the legislature, executive, and the judiciary. This is called the horizontal distribution of power because it allows different organs of the government placed at the same level to exercise different powers. Under this kind of power-sharing arrangement, one can exercise unlimited powers. Each organ has its own powers, and it can also check the powers of others. So this results in a balance of power among the various institutions.
(ii) Power-sharing among governments at different levels: Under this, people choose separate governments at separate levels, for example, a general local government for the entire country and local governments at the provincial, sub-national or regional levels. Such a general government for the entire country is usually called a Federal government.
(iii) Power-sharing among different social groups: In a democracy, especially, in a multi-ethnic society, power is also shared
among social groups such as the religious and linguistic groups. ‘Community government’ in Belgium is a good example of this arrangement. In some countries, there are constitutional and legal arrangements whereby socially weaker sections and women are represented in the legislatures and the administration.
(iv) Power-sharing among political parties, pressure groups, and movements : In a democracy, power is also shared among different political parties, pressure groups, and movements. Democracy provides citizens with a choice to choose their rulers. This choice is provided by the various political parties, who contest elections to win them. Such competition ensures that power does not remain in one hand.
State one prudential reason and one moral reason for power-sharing with an example from the Indian context.
(1) Prudential reason:
- Power-sharing helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups,
- Social conflict often leads to violence and political instability, power-sharing is a good way to ensure the stability of political order,
- Imposing the will of the majority community over others undermines the unity of the nation as has happened in Sri Lanka,
- The tyranny of the majority is not just oppressive for the majority, it often brings ruin to the majority as well. For example, in India seats in the assemblies and parliament have been reserved. This arrangement is meant to give space in the government and administration to diverse social groups. In addition to this minorities have been granted special fundamental rights.
(2) Moral reason:
- In a democracy, power-sharing is necessary. Since all the people are affected by the policies of the government, they should be consulted in the governance of the country,
- They should be allowed to participate in the decision-making process,
- It is the basis of democracy. It is its very spirit.
- A legitimate government is one where citizens participate and acquire a stake in the system. Thus, moral reasons emphasize the very act of power-sharing as valuable. In India, people elect their representatives every five years or earlier. People have also been granted the right to information.
After reading this chapter, three students drew different conclusions. Which of these do you agree with and why? Give your reasons in about 50 words.
Thomman — Power sharing is necessary only in societies which have religious, linguistic or ethnic divisions.
Mathai — Power sharing is suitable only for big countries that have regional divisions.
Ouseph — Every society needs some form of power-sharing even if it is small or does not have social divisions.
Every society needs some form of power sharing even if they are small or do not have social divisions because :
(i) Some power-sharing is always needed to give voice to all, and representation to all the members of the country.
(ii) Power-sharing solutions are adopted to maintain stability in the system, and peace among various groups to ensure the smooth functioning of the system, irrespective of the size of the country.
The Mayor of Merchtem, a town near Brussels in Belgium, has defended a ban on speaking French in the town’s schools. He said that the ban would help all non-Dutch speakers integrate into this Flemish town. Do you think that this measure is in keeping with the spirit of Belgium’s power-sharing arrangements? Give your reasons in about 50 words.
No, the measure taken by the Mayor of Merchtem is not in keeping with the spirit of Belgium’s power sharing arrangements. As 59 per cent of the population in the Flemish region speaks Dutch, the ban on speaking French in the town’s schools would prevent French and Dutch speakers to mingle with each other, and also create feelings of distrust and suspicion. The ban ignores the regional differences and cultural diversities. It is against the spirit of accommodating every linguistic group, and creating a right environment for everyone to live. The ban, rather, makes the ground for a civic strife, and a possible division of the community on linguistic lines.
Read the following passage and pick out any one of the prudential reasons for power sharing offered in this :
“We need to give more power to the panchayats to realise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and the hopes of the makers of our Constitution. Panchayati Raj establishes true democracy. It restores power to the only place where power belongs in a democracy – in the hands of the people. Giving power to Panchayats is also a way to reduce corruption and increase administrative efficiency. When people participate in the planning and implementation of developmental schemes, they would naturally exercise greater control over these schemes. This would eliminate the corrupt middlemen. Thus, Panchayati Raj will strengthen the foundations of our democracy.”
“Giving power to Panchayats is also a way to reduce corruption and increase adminis¬trative efficiency. When people participate in the planning and implementation of developmental schemes, they would naturally exercise greater control over these schemes. This would eliminate the corrupt middlemen. Thus, Panchayati Raj will strengthen the foundations of our democracy.” In this way power sharing will help to reduce the possibility of conflicts among different social groups in the village. There will be no violence and political stability will be established. As a result of it there will be peace and the village may make progress in different fields.
Different arguments are usually put forth in favour of and against power-sharing. Identify those which are in favour of power-sharing and select the answer using the codes given below. Power-sharing :
A. reduces conflict among different communities.
B. decreases the possibility of arbitrariness.
C. delays the decision-making process.
D. accommodates diversities.
E. increases instability and divisiveness.
F. promotes people’s participation in government.
G. undermines the unity of a country.
(a) A, B, D, F.
Consider the following statements about power-sharing arrangements in Belgium and Sri Lanka :
A. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking majority of people tried to impose their domi¬nation on the minority French-speaking community.
B. In Sri Lanka, the policies of the government sought to ensure the dominance of the Sinhala-speaking majority.
C. The Tamils in Sri Lanka demanded a federal arrangement of power-sharing to protect their culture, language and equality of opportunity in education and jobs.
D. The transformation of Belgium from a unitary government to a federal one prevented a possible division of the country on linguistic lines.
Which of the statements given above are correct?
(a) A, B, C, and D
(b) A, B, and D
(c) C and D
(d) B, C, and D
(d) B, C, and D.
Match List I (forms of power-sharing) with List-II (forms of government) and select the correct answer using the codes given below in the lists :
1. Power shared among different organs of government
A. Community government
2. Power shared among governments at different levels
B. Separation of powers
3. Power shared by different social groups
C. Coalition government
4. Power shared by two or more political parties
D. Federal government
(c) B, D, A, C.
Consider the following two statements on power-sharing and select the answer using the codes given below :
A. Power sharing is good for democracy.
B. It helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups.
Which of these statements are true and false?
(a) A is true but B is false (b) Both A and B are true
(c) Both A and B are false (cl) A is false but B is true
(b) Both A and B are true.