Dr Lako Jada Kwajok
As stated earlier, the two models of Federalism are adopted by many countries in terms of practical application as systems of governance and appear to be the options available for South Sudan to choose from.
- The federal presidential system: In this form of Federalism, the people directly elect the executive (the President) and the legislative (the Parliament) bodies. The third arm of government (the Judiciary) remains fully independent of the other arms of government; namely, the executive and the legislative.
- The federal parliamentary system: The fundamental difference between this system and the presidential one; is that the people elect the legislative body or Parliament, which then selects the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. In other words; the people indirectly put the Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet into office.
Furthermore, the key distinctive features between the two systems could be summarised in the following:
- The executive and the legislative are closely related in the parliamentary system while the Judiciary acts independently. The executive, the legislative, and the courts work without outside influence in the presidential form of Federalism.
- The executive comprises of two elements, i.e. the Head of the State (President) and the Head of the Government (Prime Minister). In contrast, the President is the Chief Executive of the presidential form of Federalism.
- In parliamentary Federalism, the executive body, i.e. the Council of Ministers, is accountable to the Parliament for its decisions. There’s no such accountability in the presidential form of Federalism.
- Only members of Parliament could take up Ministerial positions in parliamentary Federalism. In the presidential form of Federalism, persons outside the legislative could be appointed by the President as Ministers.
- The Prime Minister has the power to dissolve the lower house in the parliamentary system before the completion of its term. As opposed, the President cannot terminate the lower house in the presidential system of governance.
- A vote of no confidence passed by the Parliament; ends the reign of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. In other words, the tenure of the executive is not fixed in the parliamentary system. Contrary to the above, the executive has a fixed term in office in the presidential form of Federalism.
The members of the Cabinet enjoy dual membership, i.e. of the legislative and the executive organ of the government. Conversely, in the presidential form of government, the members of the Cabinet possess the membership of the executive only.
In terms of dominance, the President is only a ceremonial head of state, while the real powers lie in the hands of the Prime Minister in the parliamentary system. On the contrary, in the presidential form of Federalism, the President has got the supreme power.
Many positive observations could be drawn from the examples of Federalism as a system of governance across the globe.
Firstly – the most influential nations on planet Earth seem to be the ones ruled by a federal system of governance.
Secondly – federal governments are topping the list of the world largest economies and are the richest in the world.
Thirdly – they lead the world in all aspects of activity known to mankind. They are the home of cutting edge technology in all the fields of human innovation.
Fourthly – the rule of law and civil liberties are upheld and strictly enforced in these countries. They also have the best Human Rights records except in few countries among the group.
Fifthly – their achievements in terms of economic prosperity and growth is unmatched by countries adopting a unitary system of governance. Even countries that are new to the system have quickly started to reap the benefits of the federal system. The clear example is Ethiopia, a country that had suffered decades of desertification and drought. Yet, because of Parliamentary Federalism, it got transformed into the fastest growing economy in the whole of Africa.
I would argue that Parliamentary Federalism is the right remedy for the problems related to governance in the Republic of South Sudan for the following reasons:
- It abolishes the concentration of power in the hands of one person, which is the President in the presidential system. To a great extent, the conflict in South Sudan emanated from this very fact.
- The parliamentary system is more capable of fostering unity in diversity and thus meets the needs of a diverse community like ours.
- Limits the influence of tribalism and regionalism in electing the top political leaders into office because the people do not directly elect the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
- The fact that the lawmakers select the PM and the Cabinet ensures that competent politicians get the top jobs in the land.
- It promotes efficiency, productivity, and provides a high level of accountability. The PM and the Ministers would do their best in performing their duties lest they get voted out of office through a “Vote of No Confidence”.
- The parliamentary system promotes stability in policies and programs.
- It encourages political compromise because very often, the government is born out of a coalition of parties. In such a situation, the legislation that comes out of the Parliament is centrist.
- The people can demand early elections to rid themselves of an unpopular government.
- Reduces or stops polarization within the society as the parliamentary democracy serves several different parties simultaneously instead of 2 large parties.
- As variety within a society is a source of strength, the parliamentary system creates diversity within the government which can only mean the same.
- And finally, it reduces political gridlock since leadership within parliamentary democracy comes from within the ranks of elected officials.
Historically, liberals used to look at Federalism with suspicion and scepticism. Their resistance stems from a perception that Federalism leads to poorly funded welfare programs, opposition to guidance from the federal government, and paralyzing debts. On the contrary, Federalism remains the darling of the conservatives. But after a series of setbacks by governments led by liberals in setting up a robust national policy, things began to change within the liberal camps. In the USA, liberals found what they want in what Justice Louis D. Brandeis pointed out; that States are laboratories of democracy, where a “single courageous State” can “try novel social and economic experiments.”
There are those in South Sudan, including the supporters of the current decentralized system who argue that Federalism requires a high level of literacy and South Sudan is nowhere close to that ill-conceived arbitrary level. But such a notion falls flat when confronted with the fact that Federalism was established in the USA in 1789. Mexico and Brazil followed suit in 1824 and 1889 respectively.
South Sudan, at present, has a “higher” level of literacy [26.83% according to UNESCO] as compared to the aforementioned countries, particularly Mexico (10%) and Brazil (15%) at the time when they adopted Federalism. Therefore, if Federalism could be the right choice for those countries in the Eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, then it should be good enough for South Sudan in the twenty-first century. In conclusion, Federalism works for everyone and should be the way forward for our young nation.
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