Forms of Government

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SLMtitle.png Forms of Government

By Farida Pervin Kaya

Chapter Outline

  1. Introduction
  2. Learning Objectives
  3. Lesson 1: Classification of governments
    1. Ancient classification
    2. Modern Classification
    3. The classification of Leacock
    4. Dictatorship
    5. Democracy
  4. Lesson 2: Parliamentary form of governments
    1. Merits of Cabinet form of Government
    2. Demerits of cabinet form of Government
  5. Lesson 3: Presidential form of governments
    1. Merits of the Presidential form of government:
    2. Demerits of the Presidential form of government
    3. Unitary government
    4. Federal government
  6. Lesson 4: Functions of organs of the government
  7. Let's Sum Up
  8. Glossary
  9. Practice Test
  10. Answers to SAQs
  11. References and Further Readings

SLMinto.png Introduction

Government is one of the important elements of the state. A state cannot be formed without a government. The government is changeable and it may be of different forms. Different types of government can be seen in different states in the world. In different times the thinkers have classified government in different ways. After going through this chapter, you will understand forms of governments, and functions of different organs of the governments. Ok, go through this chapter and have some knowledge on governments.

SLMobj.png Learning Objectives
After reading this chapter, you are expected to learn about:

  • Classify different types of governments using various set of guidelines
  • Differentiate between dictatorship and democracy
  • Explain merits and demerits of parliamentary form of governments
  • Describe merits and demerits of presidential form of governments
  • Illustrate the functions of different organs of the governments

Lesson 1: Classification of government

Ancient classification

In ancient time Aristotle classified government on the basis of the principle of number and the principle of purpose. On the basis of the principle purpose, the government is of two types-Normal form of government and the perverted form of government. The Normal form of government is one when the ultimate aim of the government is the welfare of the people. The Perverted form of government is one when the government seeks to promote the personal interest or the group interest of the rulers. Aristotle considered Aristocracy as the best and the polity as the most practical form of government.

SLMact.gif Activity
Please draw a diagram on Aristotle's classification

Modern Classification

Political scientists Montesque, Rousseau, Blunts!! Marriot and Leacock have classified the government. Of these the classification of Leacock's is accepted as the best. Leacock has classified Government in the following way:

  1. On the basis of the location of sovereign power, government is divided into two classes- Dictatorship and Democracy.
  2. On the basis of the method of acquiring power by the head of the state, the democratic government may be divided into two divisions: a) Constitutional Monarchy and -b) The Republic.
  3. On the basis of the relation between the Executive and the Legislative, the democratic government can be divided into two categories: (1) Parliamentary form of Government and (2) Presidential form of Government.
  4. On the basis of distribution of power between the centre and the province, the government is divided in to two divisions, the Unitary and Federal Government.

The classification of Leacock

Modern Government: Dictatorship & Democracy

Democracy: Constitutional Republic Monarchy & Republic

Constitutional Republic Monarchy: Unitary & Federal Republic: Parliamentary form of Government (Unitary + Federal) & Presidential form of Government (Unitary + Federal).


In this system of administration, the sovereign power of the state is vested in the hands of one person. This system is called the Dictatorship. The Dictator is the head of all powers of the state. He is the source of supreme power. No body can prevent him from exercising his power. The ideal of dictatorship is one country, one nation and one leader. All the powers of the state are centred in the hands of the Dictator. He is not accountable to anybody for his activities. Every body is compelled to obey his orders. In dictatorial administration there is one political party under the dictator. The Dictator conducts his administration with the advisors after his likings. The advisors are responsible to him and their duration of work depends on his satisfaction. Hitler of Germany, Franco of Spain and Mussolini of Italy were the Dictators.

Merits of Dictatorship

In this system, the Dictator can take quick decision. He is not accountable to anybody, nor does he have to consult anybody. So, it is possible on his part to take quick decision and work. The Dictator by his able leadership can lead the underdeveloped country to economic and social development and progress. Under his leadership he can achieve development in art, literature and science. The whole country is guided in the same way under the Dictator. As a result the nationat unity and integrity become strong.

Demerits of Dictatorship

Under Dictatorship the people do not have independence. It is against personal freedom. Nobody can make any criticism. The different opinions are suppressed by force. Dictatorship gives rise to violent nationalism and military power. This system is against internationalism. As the Dictator is not accountable to anybody, he can do anything, he likes. This is an autocratic system. This administrative system is temporary. Because with the death of Dictator his rule ends.


Democracy means administration of the people. The administrative system where the sovereign power of the state is vested in the people, is called Democracy. When people are the sources of all power and the responsibility of conducting administration is vested to the people, it is called Democracy. The political scientists have said that in democracy there is a system where all the people can take part in administration. So it is said that the government or the administrative system where the opinion of the people are valued most •and the administration is conducted by the representatives of the people, is called Democracy. The former president of the United States of America Abraham Lincoln has given a popular definition of democracy. According to him "Democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people." Democracy is of two types. (1) Direct or pure democracy. (2) Indirect or representative democracy.

Direct Democracy

The administrative system where the citizens directly participate in the administration is called the direct or pure democracy. In ancient Greece direct democracy was in vogue. In ancient Greek City-States all the citizens of the state would assemble in a special place to pass law, assess tax, appoint employees, carry on judgment etc. As the city-state and the population were small in size, conducting administration directly was possible. There was no necessity for election or sending representative. But in a hiodern state with vast population, direct democracy is not possible. But in some cantons of Switzerland direct democracy is still partially in vogue.

Indirect or representative democracy

The administrative system where the citizens do not participate in the administration directly but run the administration through the elected representatives is called the Indirect or Representative Democracy. In Indirect Democracy the elected representatives actively participate in administration. The elected representatives remain responsible to the people for their activities. In the modern democratic states Indirect Representative democracy is in vogue. To mean democracy at present is to mean indirect democracy. In modern times, democracy is the most popular administrative system.

Merits of democracy

In the system of democratic administration attention is given to the interest of the people. The representatives are elected by the people and, as they are accountable for their activities, they are conscious of the welfare of the people. In democratic system all the citizens can equally take part in political activities. This principle of equality is the characteristic of democracy. Democracy safeguards the fundamental rights of the citizens. As a result there is sufficient opportunity and independence of the citizens for the development of their personality. In this system the people actively take part in administration and political consciousness is created in them. To realize the problem of the country by taking part in development activities, discussions and criticism of government policies and activities, patriotism grows among the citizens.

Demerits of Democracy

Many political scientists consider democracy as the administration of the incompetent. When the people elect their representative they cannot elect competent and expert persons due to their ignorance and want of education. As a result, to form a good government or to introduce improved administrative system is not possible. In democracy importance is given to quantity than quality. Due to majority, many wrong and faulty decisions are taken. Sometimes, since ignorant and common people conduct democracy, this administrative system does not help the growth of art, literature and science.

In this administrative system there are many political parties. The formation of party, publicity and election are expensive. This government is not stable as democracy is dependent on changeable opinions of the people. The political parties spend huge money in the elections.

As there is no stability of this government, it is not possible to materialize long term planning of development of the state. It is also not possible to maintain the definite continuity, of the government policy with the change of government. This government fails to take good steps in emergency as the decision is to be taken through discussion. But in spite of many faults, democracy is the most prevalent administrative system in the world.

Constitutional Monarchy

A democratic system of administration where the Head of the state gets power through heredity and remains the head only in name is known as the Constitutional Monarchy. In this system the real power remains in the hands of the elected representatives of the people, as in Great Britain where the monarch reigns but does not rule. The monarch is a titular head of state.


The administrative system where the head of the state gets power through direct or indirect election of the people, is called a republic; e.g. Bangladesh.

Lesson 2: Parliamentary form of Government

The democratic system of administration where the administration is conducted by the council of ministers and, the council of ministers remain .responsible for their activities to the legislature is called the cabinet form of government or parliamentary form of government. In this administrative system the real administrators are the Cabinet Ministers. The head of the council of ministers is the Prime Minister. The cabinet form of government is there in Great Britain, India and Canada. The Prime Minister and the other ministers are the members of the parliament. The ministers are collectively responsible to the legislature for their policies and activities. The council of ministers will remain in power till the Legislature support them. If the majority of the members of the Legislature brings the vote of no confidence against the ministers they resign.

Merits of Cabinet form of Government

The main virtue of this government is responsibility. As the members of the majority party in the Legislature form the ministry, there is little chance of conflict between the legislature and the administrative department. As the administration is conducted by the elected representatives of the people, the best law and improved type of administration are possible. In this system the cabinet is responsible to the legislature. So the ministers cannot be arbitrary in their policies and activities. If they are arbitrary the ministers are compelled to resign by the vote of no confidence.

This administrative system is easily changeable. The legislature can remove the cabinet ministers from power if they are considered unfit. Again if the Legislature is against the public opinion, the Head of the state on the advice of the cabinet ministry can dissolve the parliament. By this system such as balance can be maintained.

Demerits of cabinet form of Government

In this system of administration, there may be arbitrariness of the party. At any time the government or the cabinet ministry may fall. So, its stability is less. For this reason the administrative policy and the continuity of long-term works can not be maintained. At times of emergency quick decisions cannot be taken through unanimity.

Lesson 3: Presidential form of government

Presidential form of government is that form of government in. which the administration is not accountable to the Legislature. President is the real Executive. The president is elected by the direct or indirect votes of the people. In the United States of America, presidential form of government is prevalent. In this system all the powers are vested in the hands of the .president. The president is not a member of the Legislature. He is elected by the people for a fixed term. The Legislature cannot pass a vote of no-confidence against him. He can only be removed by impeachment. The president appoints the ministers and they are responsible to him. He can dismiss any minister at any time.

Merits of the Presidential form of government

In this system the government is comparatively stable. The president cannot be removed except through impeachment. As a result, long term development plans can be taken and it is possible to execute them. At times of emergency this system is helpful as the president can take a quick decision. He does not have to take advice from any body. In this system there is complete separation of power. So, the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary departments are independent of each other and can work freely.

Demerits of the Presidential form of government

The Head of the state is the real Executive. As the president and the ministers are not responsible to the legislature, they many turn to be autocratic and irresponsible. Some times conflict between the Executive and the Legislature arises. As the Legislature is not under the control of the president, he cannot pass law at the time of necessity and it hampers his administration.

Unitary government

A unitary government is a government in which all the powers of the state are concentrated in the hands of the Central Government sanctioned by the constitution. The Local Governments derive their powers from the Central Government. In this system, the constitution does make arrangements for the distribution of power between the local and the central governments. In Bangladesh there is unitary government. For the convenience of administration of unitary government the state is divided into some parts. In these parts local governments are formed. To squeeze or expand the power of the government depends on the will of the central government.

Merits of the unitary government

In the system of Unitary form of government, the same law, policies and the same administration prevail in the country under one government. Under this system the administration becomes strong and the national unity is integrated. As all the powers are in the hands of one government, greater skill and efficiency is reflected both in the domestic and International affairs.

Demerits of the unitary government

In the unitary system of government the local governments have no power. They carry on administration depending on the will of the central government. Very often the central government does not know the local problems and grievances. So, the laws passed by the central government may not be useful according to the needs and demands of the local government.

Federal government

In the system of administration where the constitution distributes the powers between the Central Government and the Provincial Government, it is called the Federal Government. This system is there in India I and in the United States of America. In the system there are two types of [government: the Central government, and the state government. The constitution distributes power between the Central and the State Government. The subjects concerning the total interest of the states remain under the [Central Government and the subjects concerning the local interest remain itt the State or Provincial Government. In the matters of regional administration the State Government enjoys self-government. In this system of administration the constitution is written and it is rigid.

Merits of the Federal government

In a Federal system the unit or Provincial Governments maintain national unity keeping their separate entity. The federal system of administration is a political contrivance. Powers are distributed between the central and the Provincial Government by the constitution so; the burden of works of the central government is lessened. As a result, the skill of both the governments increases. Besides, as there is the distribution of specific powers, the central government does not interfere with the administration of the provincial government to become autocratic.

Demerits of the Federal government

In this system of administration the state governments create laws for their own necessity and convenience; so there is no similarity in law and administration in different state governments. In the different parts of the same state different types of laws are promulgated. In both the governments conflict regarding right corps up. As the powers are divided between the two governments the central government becomes weak in many respects.

Lesson 4: Functions of organs of the government

To conduct the statecraft the government has to perform different functions. These are generally divided into three types. These are to create laws, conducting administration and judgment. To perform these functions well, the government has three organs or departments. These organs are (1) Legislature (2) Executive and (3) Judiciary.


The Legislature is an important organ of the government. This organ creates laws for conducting administration of the State and to perform judicial duties.

Every state has legislature. Different states have different names of the legislature. The name of the legislature of the United State of America is Congress. In Grate Britain its name is Parliament and in Bangladesh it is National Assembly. The legislature may be unicameral or bicameral. In the bicameral legislature there are Upper House and Lower House. The Legislature of Great Britain is bicameral. The Legislature of Bangladesh is unicameral.

The Functions of the legislature For performing the activities of the government there are three departments of which the Legislature is the most important. It is a people's representative organization. The main function of the Legislature is to create necessary laws of the state. With this end in view the Legislature makes new laws, amends, changes and annuls old laws. The members of the Legislature are the public representatives. They create laws and amend them in the Context of public opinion. In some countries the Legislature makes the constitution. The Legislature of almost all the countries amends the constitution.

The Legislature controls the executive department. The members of the opposition party of the Legislature criticises the policy and activity of the government and find out the faults. The Executive department of the Cabinet form of government remains responsible to the Legislature. The council of ministers is bound to resign if the Legislature passes a vote of no confidence. The Legislature also deals with some financial matters. To assess taxes, to pass the budget etc. are the activities of the Legislature.

Executive Department

The department which takes the responsibility of conducting the administration of the government is known as the Executive Department. The functions of the Executive Department are to execute the laws passed by the Legislature. In the broad sense, the Executive department is formed combining all the employees from the president to the village chawkiders. In the narrow sense the President and the members of the Council of Ministers form the Executive Department.

The functions of the Executive Department The main functions of the Executive Department are to execute the laws and to conduct the administration of the country. The functions of the Executive department are to maintain internal law and order, to appoint, transfer and grant promotion to the government employees. The Executive Department also does the functions of conducting the foreign policy, to establish relation with other countries, to make international contacts and perform the diplomatic function also.

The Executive Department forms and controls the defence force for the security of the country. It has some responsibilities of Legislative Department also. It can invite, suspend and dissolve the Legislature. Besides, the Executive Department can recommend the proposed bill and to proclaim ordinances etc. The judicial functions of the Executive Department are to appoint the judges and to pardon the sentenced condone the sentence.

Judicial Department

The department of the government that performs the functions of judgment according to law is called the Judicial Department. The Judicial Department is necessary to punish the criminal and to protect the rights of the people. The Judicial Department establishes justice in the state and passes sentence to the law violators. The Judicial department is formed with all the courts of the country.

The functions of the Judicial Department The main function of the Judicial Department is to carry on judgment applying the prevalent laws, of the country. Another function of this department is to explore the laws and to pass sentence. When the prevalent law is not adequate to carry on judgment with the help of the prevalent laws, the Judges do that according to their individual sense of justice, intelligence and good conscience. Sometimes the Executive Department takes advice from the Supreme Court. Sometime the" court, by proclamation of orders and prohibition; secure the right of the people. Besides, the Judicial Department also does the functions of appointing the guardian of the minors, supervision of the under trial property of the deceased persons, granting license etc. The independence of Judiciary is indispensably necessary to make the democratic administrative system more effective and for good administration of the state.

SLMsum.png Results

SLMgloss1.png Glossary

SLMsaq.gif Self-Assessment Questions (SAQs) - 1
1.With whom is vested the supreme power of the government in Aristotle's Aristocracy?
(a) In the hands of one person
(b) In the hands of a some persons
(c) In the hands of many persons
(d) In the hands of all

2. Of the political scientists whose classification of a modern government is the best?

(a) Leacock
(b) Marriot
(c) Rousseau
(d) Montesque

3. Which of the government is based the distribution of power between the centre and province?

(a) Unitary
(b) Cabinet
(c) Federal
(d) Democratic

4. In which type of government does the head of the state get the power by heredity?

(a) Republic
(b) Constitutional Monarchy
(c) Dictatorship
(d) Federal

5. The Legislature of which country is known as "parliament"?

(a) Bangladesh
(b) India
(c) Great Britain
(d) USA

6. What is the function of the Legislature?

(a) To execute laws
(b) To create laws
(c) To punish the lawbreaker
(d) To establish the rule of law

7. Not the function of the Executive Department-

(a) To appoint the Government employees
(b) To appoint the Judges
(c) To appoint the members of parliament
(d) To appoint the defence employees.

8. Not the function of the Judicial Department

(a) To execute law
(b) To explain law
(c) To explain the constitution
(d) To make the constitution.

SLMtest1.png Practice Test

Short questions:

1. On what principle did Aristotle classify the government?

2. How many types of government are there on the basis quality? Name them.

3. In how many types can governments be divided according to Aristotle?

4. How many types of governments are there on the basis of relation between the Legislature and the Executive? What are they?

5. Point out the definition of Democracy by Abraham Lincoln.

6. How many types of Democracy are there and what are they?

7. What is the main role of the Council of Ministers in the Cabinet form of government?

8. How the powers are distributed in a Federal system of Government?

9. What are the Legislative functions of the Executive Department?

10. How does the Legislature control the Executive Department?

Essay type questions:

1. Describe the classification of government according to Aristotle.

2. Classify government according to Leacock. Show it with the help of diagram.

3. What is democracy? Explain. Point out the merits and demerits of democracy.

4. What is the difference between the Constitutional Monarchy and the Republic Explain?

5. What do you mean by the cabinet or parliamentary form of government? Give example. Analyze the merits and demerits of this government.

6. What is the presidential form of government? What can be said in favor or against it?

7. What are Unitary and Federal form of Government? Explain.

8. Explain the formation and functions of the Legislature

9. Describe the functions of the Executive and the Judiciary.

SLMfeedb.png Answers to SAQs

SLMref.png References and Further Readings

Learners are requested to use BOU Open School Civics materials as further reading