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Power Sharing Notes | Class 10 - Civics

Why is Power Sharing Important?


An intelligent sharing of power among a legislature, executive and judiciary is very important to the design of democracy.


For a long time, it was believed that all power of a government must reside in one person or group of persons located at one place. It was felt that if the power to decide is dispersed, it would not be possible to take quick decisions and enforce them. 

What are Prudential Reasons for Power Sharing?


Power sharing is good because it helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups.


Power sharing is a good way to ensure the stability of political order. 


What are Moral Reasons for Power Sharing?


Power sharing is the very spirit of democracy.


A democratic rule involves sharing power with those affected by its exercise, and who have to live with its effects.





Power Sharing in Belgium




What were the problems that led to issues in power sharing in Belgium?


Linguistic distribution in Belgium


  • 59% of Belgium's population lives in the Flemish (Flanders) region and speaks Dutch language.

  • Another 40% people live in the Wallonia region and speak French.

  • Remaining 1%  of the Belgians speak German. 


Linguistic Distibution in Capital of Belgium - Brussels


In the capital city Brussels, 80 per cent people speak French while 20 per cent are Dutch- speaking. 


Brussels presented a special problem: the Dutch-speaking people constituted a majority in the country, but a minority in the capital. 


Why was there a conflict between the French and the Dutch?


The minority French-speaking community was relatively rich and powerful. This was not liked by the Dutch-speaking community who got the benefit of economic development and education much later. 


This led to tensions between the Dutch-speaking and French-speaking communities during the 1950s and 1960s. The tension between the two communities was more acute in Brussels. 





How did the Belgian leaders solve the power sharing issue?

Belgian leaders recognized the existence of regional differences and cultural diversities. They amended their constitution four times so as to work out an arrangement that would enable everyone to live together within the same country. 


  • Number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government. That is equal representation. 


  • Some special laws require majority from each linguistic group, so no community could make laws uni-laterally or on their own


  • Many powers of central government were given to state government of two regions. State governments are not subordinate to central governments. 


  • The capital Brussels has special government with equal representation of French and Dutch. French accepted this because the Dutch had accepted the equal representation in Central Govt. 


  • A third kind of government called ‘community government’ is also elected by people speaking one language with representatives from Dutch, French and Germans. This government has the power regarding cultural, educational and language-related issues.





Failure of Power Sharing in Sri Lanka - Case of Majoritarianism


What are the linguistic and religious divisions in Sri Lanka?


  • The major social groups are the Sinhala-speakers (74 %) and the Tamil speakers (18 %). 


  • Among Tamils there are two sub- groups.   


1. Tamil natives of the country are called ’Sri Lankan Tamils’( 13 %).  


2. The rest, whose forefathers came from India as plantation workers during colonial period, are called ‘Indian Tamils’. 


  • Most of the Sinhala- speaking people are Buddhists, while most of the Tamils are Hindus or Muslims.

  • There are about 7%  Christians, who are both Tamil and Sinhala. 





What were some majoritarian measures taken in Sri Lanka?


The democratically elected government adopted a series of MAJORITARIAN measures to establish Sinhala supremacy. 


  • In 1956, an Act was passed to recognize Sinhala as the only official language, thus disregarding Tamil.


  • The governments followed preferential policies that favoured Sinhala applicants for university positions and government jobs.


  • A new constitution stipulated that the state shall protect and foster Buddhism.



Straining of Sinhala-Tamil relations


The Tamils felt that the constitution and government policies denied them equal political rights, discriminated against them in getting jobs and other opportunities and ignored their interests. None of the major political parties led by the Buddhist Sinhala leaders was sensitive to their language and culture. 


As a result, the relations between the Sinhala and Tamil communities strained over time. The Sri Lankan Tamils launched parties and struggles for the recognition of Tamil as an official language, for regional autonomy and equality of opportunity in securing education and jobs. But their demand for more autonomy to provinces populated by the Tamils was repeatedly denied. 


By 1980s several political organisations were formed demanding an independent Tamil Eelam (state) in northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka 





The distrust between the two communities turned into widespread conflict. It soon turned into a Civil War.


As a result thousands of people of both the communities have been killed. Many families were forced to leave the country as refugees and many more lost their livelihoods.





What are forms Of Power Sharing?


In modern democracies, power sharing arrangements can take many forms.





Horizontal Distribution of Power


Power is shared among different organs of government, such as the legislature, executive and judiciary. This arrangement is called a system of checks and balances.


  • It allows different organs of government placed at the same level to exercise different powers.


  • It ensures that none of the organs can exercise unlimited power. Each organ checks the others. This results in a balance of power among various institutions.


  • Judges are appointed by the executive, they can check the functioning of executive or laws made by the legislatures.





Vertical Distribution of Power


Power can be shared among governments at different levels – a general government for the entire country and governments at the provincial or regional level. The constitution should clearly lay down the powers at different levels of government


  • Federal Government : A general government for the entire country is usually called federal government. In India, we refer to it as the Central or Union Government.


  • State Government : The governments at the provincial or regional level are called by different names in different countries. In India, we call them State Governments.


This is called federal division of power. The same principle can be extended to levels of government lower than the State government, such as the municipality and panchayat.







Sharing of Power among different Social Groups


Power may also be shared among different social groups such as the religious and linguistic groups.


This type of arrangement is meant to give space in the government and administration to diverse social groups who otherwise would feel alienated from the government. This method is used to give minority communities a fair share in power.


The ‘Community government’ in Belgium is a good example of this arrangement.


Sharing of Power among political parties, pressure groups and movements


  • Political Parties : In contemporary democracies, this takes the form of competition among different parties. Such competition ensures that power does not remain in one hand.


Sometimes this kind of sharing can be direct, when two or more parties form an alliance to contest elections. If their alliance is elected, they form a coalition government and thus share power.


  • Interest Groups : Interest groups such as those of traders, businessmen, industrialists, farmers and industrial workers have a share in governmental power, either through participation in governmental committees or bringing influence on the decision-making process.

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