SESSION 4:
OTHER SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT


From world history, we find different kinds of governments providing different systems of leadership and the selection of leadership.

These are very brief definitions for the styles of government and how officials hold authority.

Monarchy

Power and authority are inherited, no matter the qualifications of the heirs. Most monarchies in the modern world have given up the kind of ruling power that they used to enjoy in the past. Holding largely ceremonial positions, they may still have great influence because of the symbolic force of the crown. The question of who rules is determined by birth.

Aristocracy

The rule of noble men. This system is related to the power of the crown and thus has to do with accident of birth as well. The bloodlines of power include families and clans related in some way to the royalty. There are time that even with a king or queen on the throne, those in the court may be the real power behind the throne.

Oligarchy

The rule of a few men of wealth, power and influence. The oligarchy can operate along with an elected government as each president or prime minister can form a circle of influential and wealthy persons who influence official decisions. The system is usually associated with  corruption of power.

Dictatorship

Rule of one man who claims the power and authority, usually by gaining the support of those in the military; ruling through control, repression and with all kinds of coercive force.

Theocracy

Rule of religion, leaders of the religion hold the highest office, designated to hold power from force of religion.

Consider then how superior democracy provides for the method of selecting who will lead.

Monarchs are born to rule, whether or not they have the capacity.

Almost every other system results from people wanting to exercise power over the people.

Democracy places that responsibility in the people who must therefore consider the profound significance of how they vote.

Still, democracies are not all the same. Currently, there are also different kinds or styles of democracy. There are democracies that hold elections but impose limits on expressive freedoms or operates a dominant party system with little chance of giving other parties the opportunity to share power.

The Philippines like the US has a constitution that is worded almost exactly: No law shall be passed that abridges freedom of speech and press freedom.”  Very few other countries have adopted the first amendment.

There are many democracies which do not state this protection, often called the First Amendment,” as strongly as it is expressed in our constitution.

SINGAPORE

Singapore is an example of a well-managed state.  It is very well run, providing for the needs of the people in long term, so that enough housing, roads, hospitals and schools provide for these very important public needs. But for the longest time, under the leadership of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his chosen officials, including his son, Li Hsien Loong, the state has restricted political and civil liberties, including access to information; and has maintained controlled space for the opposition to challenge the ruling party, People’s Action Party (PAP).

Newspapers and dominant broadcast stations are owned by government and strongly guided and regulated in what they can report.

BHUTAN

Bhutan is a small kingdom in the landlocked highlands of Eastern Himalayas in Southeast Asia. Bhutan was ruled by a royal family or House of Wangchuck who in the fifties began to experiment in more representative government as a way of preparing for democratic government, giving up their power to rule to invite the people to choose their government leaders.  In 2007, the royal family decided to hold a mock election to practice for democracy. In 2008, the country held the first election to select members of a bicameral parliament.

It has since gone fully to become a democratic state with the king as head of state, and the royal family retaining ceremonial status and influence.

NORWAY

Norway has had longer practice becoming a democracy since 1814, transforming Norway from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy. Their royal family travels and goes around the city without security, without the usual pomp and circumstance we have come to associate with royalty. Their royals have been described as “cool” and their democracy has been rated highly as to how it provides not just for freedom and equality to citizens, the observance of human rights as well as a quality of life for its citizens.

Committed to democratic practice, their elected officials are expected to travel like ordinary people and not enjoy privileges of their office.

Rival political parties can collaborate on policies, sharing power amongst themselves, including debate and argumentation. Citizens are engaged in public affairs with different associations involved in civic activities, serving the public good.

Norway’s newspapers are read widely, some claiming readership of 2.1 million in the second half of 2019 out of a population of 5.328 million.

ASPECTS OF DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT

Institutions which support power sharing and democratic government

Checks and balance must be part of democratic government. In a presidential system, the legislative is separate from the executive branch. The president as executive enjoys great influence that can help him persuade lawmakers to support his policy or programs.

The separation of equal powers can sharpen the conflict among different groups in government, at times, halting government operations in a gridlock. The system is always open to political opportunities to manipulate for their self- or their party interest.

The parliamentary system joins both executive and legislative powers in one unit, exercising both executive and legislative powers. It has been observed how this may facilitate the building of consensus but it could also lead to frequent policy conflicts where the ruling parties can be dislodged by a move to dissolve parliament and install new leaders in parliament.

In parliamentary or presidential systems, the judiciary exercises separate power and assures a check on abuse of authority. Fundamental disagreements between leaders of the branches of government could lead to crisis or the surrender of one, the legislative or judiciary, to another.

In whatever system, citizens organize civil society organizations and can build up a force to express disagreement or protest against what government is doing.

Political Parties are important in the development of democratic governance. These should be identified with certain views of society and power, and how these are exercised and for what goals in society. When they win in an election, such a party can work to establish programs that are faithful to their vision.  

Unfortunately, not all democracies are able to develop political parties which are founded on a principles or a philosophy about government and power. Present politics do not show much difference among the parties that politicians are supposed to identify with as members.

Decentralization also enhances the exercise of power by the people, as authority is devolved to lower or local government units, the province, municipal or city units. This provides the local population to check how well or how poorly they are served by those they elect.

Federalism is one of the ways local or regional governments govern autonomously from the national or central government. A federal system identifies the areas under the authority of the state; and those under the central or national government.

The Philippine system uses the presidential system with extensive decentralization of powers to local government: provincial and city governments. The Philippine constitution of 1987 provides for the three branches of government to be separate and independent from one another and are equal in power. But the presidential system brings much weight for the implementation of laws and policies on the executive who exerts much persuasive influence over the conduct of all.

Any of these systems can help. But the systems can only be as good as the people who make them work. The success and enhancement of any system depend on the quality of leaders who exercise power that the system assigns to them. Their character, honesty and integrity, along with the values they bring to their task are the true determinants of how well democracy can work for the good of the people.


Discuss the different kinds of government and how the leaders come to power.

Do you think democracy has an advantage? What changes would you like to see in our democracy? 


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