THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD

One of the characteristics of democratic systems of government is the frequent holding of elections to give the citizens a chance to pick leaders of their choice. This is the case with the USA, Britain and India.

                    THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT IN THE USA

  1. What is Representative Democracy?

Name three main organs of government in the United States of America.

  1. Explain the meaning of the term Federal Republic. (Define a Federal Republic).

Name the states that make up the United States of America.

The USA attained independence in July 1776 and created a Representative Democracy I.E a system of government in which officials are elected by citizens to manage the affairs of government.

In the United States of America, there are several levels of elections to elect the President, senators and members of the House of Representatives.  The government comprises three organs I.E the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

The USA is a Federal Republic, meaning that the government comprises several states that are under one federal government.

                    THE RISE OF THE USA

The United States of America came into existence in 1776 when the thirteen British colonies of North America united to overcome British colonialism by forming an alliance under the articles of a confederation with a common armed force to fight the British. Actual independence was got in 1783 with the signing of The Peace of Paris.

  1. State/explain the problems that the United States of America faced after independence.

After independence, the Americans had so many problems to deal with. They had to:

  • Achieve unity amidst diversity.
  • Organize a representative government.
  • Reconcile freedom with authority.
  • Regulate taxation, commerce and currency.
  • Govern the yet ungoverned lands.
  • Maintain forces adequate for defense.

In 1787, a convention of delegates from the states that formed the USA met in Philadelphia and drew up a constitution, which was ratified in 1788, after which George Washington became the first President of the USA in 1789.

Describe/explain the features of the constitution of the United States of America.

  • It is federal. Each of the states that make up the United States of America has a large measure of independence. The national (federal) government only has powers identical to it I.E handling or dealing with national and international issues.
  • It is written.
  • It is the supreme law of the land. All the states and their people are bound to it. No state is allowed to secede (break away) after joining the USA.
  • It includes the Bill of Rights I.E the rights and freedoms of the individual citizen, which nobody can take away.
  • It is to be interpreted by the Supreme court.
  • The legislature, which is bicameral and which comprises two houses I.E the senate and the house Of representatives, which together became Congress.
  • Clearly spelt out processes of constitutional amendment.
  • Separation of powers between the legislature, the Executive and the judicature (Judiciary) as branches of the federal government to ensure that no branch attains or has more influence over the others.

 

                    HOW THE US GOVERNMENT WORKS

        The Legislature

Describe the US legislature.

  • It is the lawmaking arm of government.
  • It is made up of the Senate and the house of Representatives, altogether known as Congress.

Explain how the US legislature works.

  • A bill is first debated in both houses.
  • When approved, the bill is forwarded to the President for assent.
  • Congress amends the constitution when necessary. Such amendment must be approved by individual states.

Explain the role played by Congress in the USA.

  • It checks on the executive.
  • It ensures that government revenue is properly used. It controls the revenue and expenditure of the federal government I.E defense, foreign aid and salaries for federal employees.
  • It checks on the Executive. It closely monitors the conduct of the President, Vice President and other senior public officials and helps guard against serious crimes like treason or corruption.
  • It enacts and amends laws.
  • It approves the ratification of treaties with other powers
  • It approves the appointment of those who work in the senior civil service and foreign relations such as high-ranking government officials and ambassadors.
  • It appoints commissions of enquiry to investigate issues of national importance.
  • It represents the aspirations of the American people.

Explain how one becomes a member of the federal parliament (Congress) in the United States of America.

Members of Congress are elected by universal adult suffrage for different terms as follows:

  • Representatives are chosen from among the states according to the size (population). They serve for two years.
  • Senators serve for six years and are elected (two) from each state.
  • Congressional candidates are nominated from either the Republican or the Democratic Party.

Describe three main political parties in the United States of America. Three political parties are represented in the US Congress. These are: These are:

  • The republicans, which mainly comprises members that could be regarded as conservatives, with deepseated rigidity with regard to issues or matters concerning the lives and values of Americans.
  • The Democratic Party, which mainly consists of Liberals and tends to put up with emergent issues such as scientific and other social developments.
  • The Party of Independent Candidates, which comprises politicians who choose to stand or run through the elections as independent candidates. These belong to neither the Republican nor Democratic political parties. However, so far, Presidents of the USA only came from either the Republican or Democratic party.

Parliament buildings of the USA are in Washington DC: the capital city of the USA.

Individual state issues are in the hands of state governments. Each of the states that form the USA has its own government, which handles or runs its own (internal) affairs.

Describe the features of state government in the United States of America.

Each state has a governor, who is its administrative head.

  • Each state has a law court that handles internal affairs.
  • Each state has education, health and public welfare facilities.
  • Each state is responsible for its own development.
  • Each state has its own capital city.
  • Each state generates its own revenue.
  • Each state has a bicameral legislature to pass state laws. Ø Each state has state-police to maintain law and order.

Elections

Describe the categories/levels of election in the United States of America. In the united States of America, there are various levels of elections as follows:

  • Elections of the House of Representatives, which are held every two years. Ø Elections of the Governors, which are held every four years Ø Elections for the senate, which are held every six years.
  • Presidential elections, which are held every four years. In some cases, Presidential elections are included in the Elections for the Governors category.
  • Explain the role of political parties in the United States of |America.
    • They make electoral politics meaningful as most candidates are sponsored by them.
    • They help voters to decide on candidates, who stand for different principles and policies.
    • They are held accountable if the policies advocated by their candidates fail.
    • They help communicate the desires of the people to the government.
    • They provide political education to members.
  • State the requirements for a Presidential candidate in the United States of America.
    • Must be 35 years of age or older.
    • Must have lived in the USA for at least 14 years.
    • Must be an American by birth.

 

                    THE EXECUTIVE

In the United States of America, the Executive is charged with carrying out the laws and regulations passed by parliament. It is headed by the President. The President is the leader of the federal government in the USA.

What are the functions of the President in the United States of America? (Describe/explain the functions of the President of the USA).

  • Is the head of state.
  • Is the chief executive, ensuring that laws and policies are implemented.
  • Initiation of bills in the Congress.
  • Keeping Congress informed of international developments.
  • Is the commander in chief of the armed forces.
  • Is the head of the party that nominates him/her.

Describe the features of the Presidency in the United States of America.

  • The President serves as nominal and political head of the federal republic.
  • Although the President has much power, he is closely supervised by Congress. If his conduct is poor and of a criminal nature, he can be removed from office by the Legislature through impeachment.
  • The President’s authority over the Legislature is limited.
  • The president is elected every four years through an indirect system.

In what ways does the President of the United States of America serve as nominal and political head of the federal republic?

  • As the chief of the Executive, he appoints his cabinet ministers and senior civil servants, but with the approval of Congress.
  • He is the Commander in chief of the armed forces, whose main units are: the army, the air force and navy. These units have foreign bases in strategic parts of the world.
  • Together with Congress, he guides and controls foreign relations and aid.

Explain how the President of the United States of America is Elected.

The President of the USA is elected every four years through an indirect system as follows:

  • The people vote for either Republican or Democrat candidates of their choice in each state.
  • Those who win in the preliminaries are nominated and sponsored by their parties for the presidential elections, in which all voters participate.
  • Once elected by his party, the Presidential nominee picks a vice president as his running mate.
  • On winning the elections, the President appoints his council of ministers and senior civil servants, who must be approved by Congress before taking office.
  • The President serves for four years and can be re-elected only once to prevent an individual from ruling for too long and from becoming too powerful.

In what ways is the President’s authority over the Legislature in the USA limited? Ø He cannot appropriate federal revenue without approval.

  • He can neither dissolve Congress nor call a general election. Elections in the USA are controlled and fixed for predetermined periods. Presidential elections occur in November after every four years.
  • The new government takes over in January after the elections.

Describe/explain the functions of the Federal government in the United States of America.

  • It admits new states into the union.
  • It gives grants to individual states.
  • It levies and collects taxes.
  • It pays government debts.
  • It defends the nation from external and internal enemies.
  • It regulates commerce with foreign nations and among the states.
  • It regulates the value of the US currency.
  • It handles affairs with foreign nations.
  • It resolves disputes between different states.
  • It enacts federal laws.
  • It establishes the federal courts.

 

                THE JUDICATURE

Identify/name the main branches/components/organs of the Judiciary in the United States of America. In the United States of America, the judiciary comprises:

  • The Supreme court,
  • Federal Courts,
  • State Courts.

The Supreme Court is at the topmost while State Courts are the lowest in the Court hierarchy.

Explain how the Judicature operates in the United States of America. (Describe the organization of the Judicature in the United States of America).

The U.S judicature operates (is organized) as follows:

  • Judges of the Supreme Court are nine, including the Chief Justice.
  • All judges are appointed by the President, with the approval of the Senate.
  • Judges make independent decisions by trying to interpret the constitution fairly.
  • Where agreement in a case is not reached by interpretation, judges cast votes to conclude the case through majority consensus.
  • The supreme court only deals with matters involving interpretation (the meaning) of the Constitution.

Explain the differences between state courts and federal courts in the United States of America.

  • State courts concern themselves with cases which involve the adjudication of rights claimed under state laws.
  • Judges of state courts are usually elected by citizens for short terms.
  • The federal judiciary consists of the supreme court, circuit courts, Courts of Appeal, District courts, Court of claims, and the Court of customs.
  • The supreme Court has original jurisdiction in all cases affecting Ambassadors and public officials.
  • Federal judges are appointed by the President, but with the consent of the Senate.

Explain how federal government operates in the United States of America. (Describe federal government in the United States of America).

  • All states are legally considered equal. Each state functions as a republic.
  • States exist almost as independent republics with their own laws, which, however, do not conflict with federal laws.
  • States raise revenue, usually from local income, property sales and excise taxes.
  • Most of the expenditure goes to education, highways, public welfare and health.
  • Relations with foreign countries are never the concern of individual states.
  • Each state is similar in structure to the federal government.

In what ways is the structure of government of individual states of the USA similar to the federal government?

In the United States of America, each state is similar in structure to the federal government in various ways as follows:

  • Every state has its written Constitution for internal affairs.
  • There is a legislative system that comprises the senate and the house of Representatives.
  • The number of senators and representatives varies. Senators serve for four years while representatives serve for two years after election.
  • Senators and representatives are elected by popular vote.
  • The Executive in each state is headed by an elected Governor, who serves for four years, but just like the President, can be re-elected only once.
  • The Judiciary in each state comprises courts of several grades, whose members are usually elected.

Explain the relationship between states and the federal government in the United States of America.

The government of the United States of America  operates on division of power between the central and the state governments in the following ways:

  • State legislatures are empowered to pass laws on purely state matters. Such laws are only applicable in the individual states.
  • States are empowered to run their own affairs in areas of provision of social services like health, education and public welfare.
  • States are responsible for maintaining law and order in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

Identify matters/affairs that are handled by the federal government but which are not the concern of individual states in the United States of America. (What matters are not dealt with by individual states in the United States of America? Or:

What matters are handled only by the Federal government in the United States of America?) Ø Foreign affairs,

  • Trade,
  • Defense,
  • Taxation,
  • Issuing of currency,
  • Mediation in disputes between states and the citizens of different states,
  • Interstate disputes.

 

                    THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE GOVERNMENT IN BRITAIN

The British system of government is a constitutional monarchy, where  by, although the Monarchy is hereditary, the government must adhere to the rules of the constitution. The Monarch (King  or Queen) is the ceremonial head of state, but political power is exercised by the Prime Minister. The monarch is the head of state, but the Prime Minister is the head of government.

THE ELECTORAL PROCESS

Describe the electoral process in Britain.

  • The electoral process is based on universal adult suffrage, where all citizens aged 18 years and above are eligible to vote.
  • British elections are by Plurality, meaning that the person attracting the highest number of votes becomes the winner. Although this method is simple and clear, its main disadvantage is that the person emerging as the winner could have less number of votes as compared to the total number of votes of the other contestants.
  • There are two main political parties that take part in elections in Britain, i.e. the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.
  • Elections are characterized by competition between the two major political parties. The party that wins most constituent seats names the Prime Minister.

Describe voter registration in Britain.

  • Registration of voters is done by the local authorities, which update the electoral registers all the time (by keeping an annual register of the voters).
  • An annual register of those eligible to vote in each constituency is issued every February.
  • Since 1948, a postal vote is possible for citizens who are away from their constituencies during the voting period, either on business or for other reasons.
  • The constituency boundaries are based on the population and geographical size. At the moment, Britain has 650 constituencies in total.
  • There are no nominating conventions or Primaries in British politics. This is mainly due to the unpredictable timing of the elections. However, a candidate is nominated by ten registered voters of an area.
  • Until 1970, no party affiliation conditionality was required, but most of the candidates have always been affiliated to a political party.
  • In Britain, it is the house of Commons that is subjected to the electoral process. This stems from the Reform Act of 1894.

In what ways is the Reform act of 1894 important?

  • It embodies recognition that sovereignty comes from people as represented in parliament, with a modernized constitutional monarchy, respondent to the needs and wishes of the people.
  • The act served as a Back-up to the Act of Settlement (adopted in 1701).

What was the outcome (what were the results) of the adoption of the Act of Settlement in Britain in 1701?

(What were the terms of the Act of Settlement in Britain (1701)?)

  • There emerged a recognized monarch, from whom all lawful authority was derived.
  • Respect for custom was increasingly embodied in law.
  • The authority of the king and the rest was to be exercised according to the law.
  • Parliamentary sovereignty was recognized as a cornerstone of constitutional monarchy.

Describe two types of election in Britain.

There are two types of elections for the House of Commons. These are:

  • General Elections, which must be held at least once every five years. The Prime Minister determines when the elections are to take place.
  • By-elections, which take place in an individual constituency in the event of death or resignation of a member of parliament.
  • Identify four categories of citizens that are not eligible to contest a constituency seat in Britain.

There are four categories of citizens that are not eligible to contest a constituency seat in Britain. These are:

  • Clergymen of the churches of England, Scotland and Ireland, and the Roman Catholic church.
  • Holders of certain offices, E.G Judges, Civil Servants, Soldiers, Police officers and various public officials.
  • Aliens (those that are not British citizens).
  • Members of the House of Lords.
  • Name three main organs of government in Britain.

The British government mainly comprises three organs/branches. These are:

  • The Legislature,
  • The Executive
  • The Judiciary.

The British system of government clearly separates the powers and duties of the three organs of government. The principle of separation of the three organs of government is crucial for the protection of the rights and freedoms of the citizens, which is the hallmark of parliamentary systems of government. Of the three organs, parliament is the most supreme as it makes the laws of the land.

                             THE LEGISLATURE

Who constitutes the British parliament? (Identify the bodies/organs that the British parliament is made up of).

The British parliament (Legislature) mainly consists of:

  • The Monarchy,
  • The House of Lords,
  • The House of Commons.

Explain how the Organs that make up the British Parliament operate/work.

THE MONARCHY

In Britain:

  • The monarchy is represented by the King or Queen.
  • After each general election, the King or Queen invites the leader of the party with majority support in the house of Commons as the Prime Minister to form a government answerable to parliament.
  • At the beginning of each parliamentary session, the King or Queen addresses both houses together in the house Of Lords. The speech is written by the Ministers and it outlines the government’s proposed legislation of the coming session. The reading of the speech opens parliament officially.
  • The King or Queen is the legal head of state. He/she is the symbol of national unity, a focus of loyalty and an embodiment of acceptable social standards. However, the monarchy is above party politics.
  • The government functions in the name of the Monarchy.

THE HOUSE OF LORDS

  • It is made up of people nominated by the King or Queen.
  • It also consists of people in office by virtue of holding some hereditary peerage or those who hold some senior posts in the Church of England such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

  • It is the major legislative arm of the government.
  • It controls the revenue and expenditure and directs government policy.
  • Members of the House Of Commons are elected by the people.

Explain the functions of:

  • The House of Commons,
  • The House of Lords.

Functions of the House of Commons

It makes the laws together with the House Of  Lords.

  • It controls the Executive. For instance, it can pass a vote of no confidence if it is not happy about the way the Executive conducts public affairs.
  • It controls finance. It is the guardian of national wealth.
  • It calls attention to abuses in society and demands the settlement of public grievances.
  • It serves as a training ground for future leaders.

FUNCTIONS OF THE HOUSE OF LORDS

It initiates legislation, usually routine or non controvertial bills.

  • It examines bills as they pass through parliament.
  • It at times helps the House of Commons in checking the powers of the Executive.
  • It acts as a court of Appeal for criminal cases.
  • It facilitates the house of Commons in the process of lawmaking.
  • It holds bills from the House of Commons to seek public approval.
  • It questions ministers about the activities of the government.

Parliamentary Supremacy in Britain

Before the close of the 17th century, the Monarchy, the Rule of Law and the claims of the representative assembly had been reconciled, giving Parliament supremacy.

Explain the effects of the supremacy of parliament in Britain.

  • Flexibility of the Constitution since it is altered by an act of parliament.
  • The Majesty’s government is carried on through ministers acceptable and responsible to parliament according to the rule of law. This means that nobody can be deprived of liberty or penalized in any way except for breach of the law and in accordance with the legal process.
  • Everyone under the monarch is equally subject to the law, meaning that the king or queen cannot do anything without referring to the law.
  • Judges could and still can be removed from office for serious misbehaviour and in accordance with the procedure requiring the consent of both houses of parliament (The House of Commons and the House of Lords).
  • If all other institutions fail, the will of the House of Commons prevails.

By early 20th century, the British parliament comprised the monarchy, the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the government.

Identify the factors that limit parliamentary supremacy in Britain.

  • Members of the House of Commons have to consider the moral values of the British society.
  • Public opinion, to which parliamentarians are sensitive, especially because an unpopular government may not be re-elected.
  • Local authorities are empowered to make by-laws even without consulting parliament.
  • The interests of the institution under the spotlight are always taken into account before legislation is done in parliament. Such institutions include the Church, Universities farmers and trade-unions.
  • Legislation passed by one parliament can be changed by a future one.
  • International law is also taken into account when laws are made.
  • In spite of these limitations, the legislature remains the supreme organ in Britain.

Explain why parliament remains the supreme organ in Britain. (Why is parliament still the supreme organ in spite of its limitations in Britain?)

  • It is the only institution empowered to make, amend and abolish laws.
  • All other institutions in Britain derive their powers from Parliament.
  • It is the only institution that approves government budget.
  • Its decisions are binding to all.
  • The legislature (Parliament) can remove an unpopular government from office.

THE EXECUTIVE

Identify the components of the Executive in Britain. (Identify the institutions that make up the Executive in Britain.)

  • The Monarch (King or queen),
  • The Prime Minister, Ø The Cabinet,
  • The civil service.

(Explain the functions of the Monarch in the British government. (What are the duties/responsibilities of the king/queen in the British government?) In the British government, the King or Queen:

  • Is the head of state.
  • Sermons, prorogues and dissolves parliament.
  • Approves bills before they become laws.
  • Confers honours to citizens who have excelled.
  • Invites the leader of the ruling party to form government.
  • Heads the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • Opens and closes parliament.
  • Creates Peers.
  • Heads the Anglican Church and appoints the Archbishop.
  • Is Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces.
  • Handles foreign policy, including the enactment of treaties.
  • Pardons offenders.
  • Appoints judges.

Explain how the Prime Minister carries out his/her duties in the British government.

The Prime Minister:

  • Is the chief government official.
  • Appoints Ministers to work closely with him/her. Ministers are in turn assisted by junior ministers.
  • Then there are Government departments such as the Department of Employment and the Department of Defense, both of which are run by senior civil servants headed by a Permanent Secretary. Such departments carry out the work of the government.
  • Appoints his cabinet, which help him in government by carrying out various government responsibilities.

 Explain the functions of the Prime Minister in Britain.

  • Appoints and dismisses cabinet ministers.
  • Chairs cabinet meetings.
  • Is the leader of the House of Commons.
  • Is the chief executive in the British government.
  • Initiates both domestic and foreign policies.
  • Represents Britain in international forums.
  • Recommends the appointment of senior civil servants such as the Chief Justice, High Commissioners etc.

What are the functions of the cabinet in Britain?

  • Initiation, control and implementation of political policies.
  • Serves as the most important decision making body.
  • Initiation of most legislations.
  • Control of the legislative process.
  • Coordination of government activities.

Identify the conventions that guide the operation of the cabinet in Britain.

  • A government that is defeated on a major issue or on a vote of no confidence is expected to resign.
  • The cabinet is usually drawn from the House of Lords and the House Of Commons.
  • Except during a crisis, the cabinet comes from the ruling party.
  • Advice given by the cabinet must be accepted by the King or Queen.
  • All members of the Cabinet take the oath of the Privy Councilors and are bound to secrecy by this and the Official Secrets Act.
  • Members of the Cabinet are collectively responsible for all decisions and actions and are individually responsible for the departments they head.

Explain the provisions of the 1854 Northcote-Trevelyan report on the civil service in Britain.

  • The civil service became a single organization rather than separate department staff.
  • Entry into the civil service was based on merit.
  • A civil servant could be transferred from one department to another.
  • All civil service examinations are conducted by the Civil Service Commission.

By   2003,  people working in the British civil service got engaged in a variety of activities, ranging from coalmining and teaching, to scientific research and diplomacy. While some of the civil servants are employed by local authorities, others are employed by various government departments and boards.

State the principles that characterize/govern the civil service in Britain.

The civil service in Britain is characterized by four main traditional rules. These are:

  • The tradition/practice of Anonymity, Whereby the minister alone is responsible for the work of his/her department. The Minister therefore gets credit for all that goes well and censure (he/she is blamed) for all that is criticized. The civil servants are therefore taken as carrying out the instructions of the minister.
  • The Principle of Impartiality, whereby civil servants are required to serve whichever minister is in office. This explains why senior civil servants are not allowed to take part  in national politics, with the exception of voting.
  • Ministers make policies and the civil service executes them.
  • The Tradition of Assumption, whereby it is not the task of the civil servants to initiate change or take responsibility for future policies. They do not plan future lines of social and economic development. The British civil service is organized according to departments.

Explain the role of the civil service in Britain.

The role of the civil service in Britain includes:

  • Advising ministers on formulating policy and decision making.
  • Implementing government policy.
  • Providing continuity in the government.

 

                    THE JUDICIARY

Explain the main importance of independence of the Judiciary in Britain.

In Britain, the Judiciary operates as an independent branch of the government.  Therefore, judges are not political appointees. This independence is important, as it helps the Judiciary to check the other branches of government (the Executive and the Legislature).

Explain the main function of judges in Britain.

The main function of British judges is to apply the law before their courts. They do not decide on the desirability or correctness of the law itself, meaning that it is not the task or responsibility of judges to argue or decide as to whether a particular law is acceptable or not.

British judges have long had the reputation of  being  impartial. This results partly from the Common Law tradition and judgment based on precedents.

Explain how independence of the Judiciary is protected in Britain. (In what ways is independence of the Judiciary ensured in Britain?)

Various mechanisms have been established to ensure the independence of the judiciary in Britain as follows:

  • The constitution recognizes the Judiciary as a separate  organ from the other organs of government.
  • The tenure of office of judges is longer than that of other public servants. In Britain, judges retire at 75 years of age.
  • A judge’s tenure can only be terminated when the judge is unable to perform duties.
  • Since 1701, judges have been appointed on good behaviour until retirement.
  • A judge can only be dismissed by a resolution from both houses of the British parliament.
  • Judges and magistrates are not answerable to the Executive.
  • The Judiciary has a separate system of command under the Chief justice.
  • The salaries of judges are not open to discussion by parliament.

 

                        THE ELECTORAL PROCESS AND FUNCTIONS OF GOVERNMENT IN  INDIA

India attained political independence from Britain in 1947. Her constitution was promulgated in 1949 and was formally effected in 1950.

Give examples of Indian political institutions that are inspired to some extent by the British parliament system.

    • The Indian President,
    • House Of The People,
    • Council Of States,
    • Council Of Ministers,
    • The Cabinet,
    • The Prime Minister.

In what two ways is the Indian political system mainly different from the British model?     Two major differences of the Indian system from the British model are:

  • The provision for a federal system of government, which divides power between the central government and the states.
  • The Presidency. India is neither a republic nor

 

                         The electoral process in India

Explain how democratic institutions that are enhanced by the electoral system were established in India.

  • To facilitate the illiterate people to pick their candidates, the ballot contains the names and party-symbols of the candidates in each constituency. Voters mark the symbols and drop the ballots in the ballot-box.
  • The Indian political structures are heavily borrowed from the British system. For instance, the house Of The People in India is the equivalent of the House Of commons  in Britain.
  • India is divided into Single-Member districts, some of which are traditionally reserved for members of the Minority groups, E.G people of the lower castes.
  • The candidate who wins the largest number of votes takes the seat.
  • Candidates are required to file nomination papers and must pay a deposit, which is refunded if a candidate garners over a sixth of the votes. The Indian Electoral Commission scrutinizes Campaign finances to curb or prevent corrupt practices in the electioneering period, such as buying of votes by unscrupulous politicians.

Explain the functions of the Electoral Commission of India (ECI).

  • Preparation of the electoral register.
  • Setting polling dates.
  • Establishment and making of polling stations.
  • Allocation of party symbols.
  • Publishing election reports according to the electoral laws.
  • Counting of votes.
  • Drawing constituency boundaries.

Identify the political parties in India.

  • The congress party.
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • Communist Parties of India. These are: CPI-M and CPI-ML.
  • Dravivita Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
  • India Ana DMK.
  • Telegn Desam
  • The National Conferences
  • The Alkali Dal.

Participation in elections in India is usually high in spite of the high population of economically underprivileged and illiterate people.

Name three main organs of government in India.

India’s government is a Representative Democracy comprising three main organs. These are:

  • The Legislature,
  • The Executive,
  • The Judiciary.

It is also made up of several federal states.

                                     The Legislature

  1. Describe the formation/structure of parliament in India.
  2. State the powers of Parliament in India.
  3. Describe the two chambers that India’s parliament is made up of.
  4.  The Indian parliament is the supreme lawmaking body. Its powers include:
  • Initiating amendments to the constitution.
  • Scrutinizing the technical aspects of a legislation before it becomes law.

The Indian parliament is made up of two chambers or houses. These are:

    • The Lower chamber, also referred to as the House of the People (Lok Sabha). It has 545 members.
    • The Upper House (Rajya Sabha), also known as The Council Of State. It has 250 members.
  • The president nominates twelve members to the Upper House to represent special interests, such as the Arts and other professions. The other members are elected by the state legislatures.
  1. Members of the Upper House (Rajya Sabha) are elected to serve a term of six years, but one third of them stand for elections every two years. Any bill, with the exception of a money-bill, can be introduced in either house. All bills must pass through both houses. In the case of a conflict, a joint meeting is organized in order to resolve it. Therefore, the upper house serves as a link between state-governments and the national government.
  2. Lower House members are elected on the basis of a single-member (to represent)  constituencies for a term of five years. The house meets twice every year.
  3. The Speaker comes from the Lower house and is elected from among the members, as is in the House Of Commons in Britain. The Speaker is required to be impartial (not to take sides) in the exercise of his/her duties.
  • The house Of The People (the most powerful of the two houses) has several standing committees, E.G the Rules Committee. These committees supervise a whole-range of government operations, including the Budget,  performance of ministries,ETC. English and Hindi are the official languages of this house.
  • All bills must be debated by both the Lower House and the Upper House.

 

                    THE EXECUTIVE

According to the Indian constitution, the Head of State is the President, who is elected for a five-year term by an electoral college consisting of members of parliament and the Legislative Assembly.

The vice President is elected for a five-year term by both houses of parliament in a joint session. As is in the USA, The Indian Vice President presides over the upper house of parliament and is empowered by the constitution to take over the Presidency whenever it falls vacant apart from during election.

  1. What conditions must one fulfill in order to be elected President of India?
  • Be a citizen of India by birth.
  • Be elected as a member of the house of the people ( the Lok Sabha).
  • Be the winner of most votes in a presidential election.
  • Must have attained the age of 35 years and above.
  • Must have lived in India for at least 14 years.
  • Should not be holding any office of profit under the government of India. (b) Outline the powers of India’s President.

The Indian constitution vests overwhelming powers in the President. In this respect, the President has powers to:

  • Dissolve parliament.
  • Declare a state of emergency and rule the country by decree.
  • Assent or veto a bill. However, the veto may be overcome if both houses repass the bill.
  • Serve as commander in chief of the Armed Forces.
  • Appoint state governors and supreme court judges.
  • Appoint the Prime Minister. However, the constitution demands that the President acts only on the advice of parliament.
  • Serve as the major symbol of national unity.
  1. Apart from elections, identify other circumstances in which the office of the president of India could fall vacant.
  • In the event of death of the sitting president,
  • Incapacitation of the sitting President,
  • Removal of the sitting President from office,
  • Resignation of the seating President.

In such an event, Presidential elections must take place in six months’ time.

Explain how the cabinet is formed/constituted in India.

  • The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, but must be the winner of elections in the Lower House. In spite of the President’s power to appoint, the President has no choice as the leader of the Majority party in the Lower House must be appointed. If this is not done, the government would not secure the confidence of the strongest party.
  • The Prime Minister picks (appoints) Ministers. These must however be officially appointed by the President. Ministers in India must be members of parliament. However, nonmembers of parliament may be appointed if within six months they become members of parliament through a by-election.
  • The Ministers constitute the council Of Ministers and are collectively responsible to parliament for all government decisions. However, by tradition, only the most important ministers (between twelve to eighteen) are invited by the Prime minister to Join the Cabinet. This is mainly because the council of ministers is too large, since it is made up of both ministers and their deputies.
  • The cabinet meets regularly, usually once a week. Other ministers and experts can attend these meetings, but only on invitation. Normally, the Prime Minister picks an Inner cabinet to help him/her  in decision making on important policies.

Explain the functions of the cabinet in India.

  • Approval of all proposals for legislative enactment.
  • Giving recommendations on all major appointments.
  • Settlement of interdepartmental disputes.
  • Co-ordination of government activities.
  • Overseeing the implementation of government policies.
  • Formulation and coordination of all government policies.

Explain the role played by the special agency of the Civil service that is assigned to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in India.

A special agency of the Civil service is assigned to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, just like in Britain. The agency provides specialized  secretarial and administrative  services.

These include:

  • Preparing agenda.
  • Keeping records;
  • Recovering decisions, which involves going into the records to establish earlier decisions made by the government regarding a particular policy.
  • Making follow-up on implementation.
  • Coordinating the various special committees of the cabinet.

After independence, the Indian government replaced the colonial civil service. The Indian civil service was named the  Indian Administrative services (AS). The Indian Administrative services is made up of people of proven talent and intelligence, who are then provided with special training so as to act as the core of the huge civil service.

Analyse the structure of state government in India.

  • Executive power is vested in the governor, who is appointed by the President.
  • The Governor appoints the Chief Minister, who, on his advice, appoints other ministers.
  • The Governor nominates one sixth of the legislative Council.
  • All decisions of the Council of Ministers in a state  must be communicated to the governor.
  • The governor has the power to dissolve the legislative assembly.
  • The Governor’s assent is necessary for a bill to become law.

 Describe/discuss the organization of the Judiciary in India. (Explain how the Judiciary in India operates/works).

The constitution of India creates and provides for organization of the Judiciary as follows:

  • The most senior is the Supreme Court, made  up of 17 judges and the Chief Justice.
  • Judges are appointed by the President but  in consultation with the sitting members of the Supreme court.
  • A judge holds office until 65 years of age.
  • There exist lower courts.
  • State-courts serve in various Indian states.
  • Privileges and allowances of a judge cannot  be changed to his/her advantage after appointment.
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