Advantages of a federal state compared with a unitary state: Distribution of power: Distribution of power ensures that there are checks and balances, helping to prevent abuse of power.
More democracy: Each citizen has two opportunities to exercise the most fundamental democratic right, namely the right to vote; in a federation, elections are held both for the national parliament and for the parliaments of the individual member states.
Leadership opportunities: Political parties have more opportunities to hold power and competition between parties is encouraged, as they can exercise political responsibility in the individual member states even if they are in the minority nationally.
This gives parties an opportunity to test and prove their capacity for leadership by offering them a chance to demonstrate how they perform once elected. Citizen-oriented action: Citizens enjoy more rapid access to the public authorities.
It is easier for them to contact politicians and the public authorities than in a unitary state with a remote and anonymous centre (Ma MP as we speak anachoka kumudzi akukhala mu Lilongwe, and will remember their electorate after 5 years). Competition: The states that make up a federation are always competing with one another, making them more vital. Diversity: The division of the country into federal states guarantees that many economic, political and cultural centres develop.
This provides a more favourable environment to preserve and develop specific regional, historical, economic and cultural features. Disadvantages of a federal state compared with a unitary state:
Lack of uniformity: The federal states’ autonomy necessarily means there are differences between the states. Each state has its own policies, e.g. education.
Complicated: As decisions are taken in many different centres in the Federal Republic, and power is shared between the Federation and the individual state, it is essential that the various tiers of government co-operate and show consideration for each other. The different bodies that hold power exercise mutual oversight and function in a checks-and- balances system.
This interweaving of responsibility is complex and sometimes hard for citizens to understand. Time-consuming: The parliaments, governments and administrations of the Federation and the federal states have to wait for initiatives, decisions or consent from each other and engage in lengthy negotiations in order to arrive at joint solutions.
This can be a time-consuming process. Costly: Running individual parliaments, governments and administrations in the Federation and the individual state is considered, on the whole, to be more expensive than maintaining the corresponding bodies in a unitary state.
So there. My choice? No to federalism. It’s too costly, time-consuming and there is no guarantee that those we will put in power at state level in a federal system will not be thieves, the kind of thieves we currently elect at national level.
There will therefore be double-dipping: the president and his people stealing at national level while the governor and his people steal at federal level. We don’t have resources to finance such extravagance.
- The author is a Malawian writer , poet , award winning short story writer and an accountant.