Federalism is a political system through which two or more governments have shared authority over the same geographical area. Most democratic countries in the world are governed by a federal system, including Canada, the U.S., Australia, India and Argentina. Even the EU is a federal system, although one of the very few examples where the members of the “upper houses” in the federation are not appointed or elected, but are delegates of the respective governments.

How Do Federal Systems Work?

The exact structure of the various Federal Systems vary greatly. Some federations have a central government that regulates the whole country, while others give more power to the different states or provinces. In some federations there are clear divisions in the law-making powers of the different entities, while in other federations the powers overlap. Federal systems are often governed by a Congress, with a President or a Parliament with a Prime Minister.

Common Characteristics of Federal Systems

All federal systems have a central government, a Constitution and a certain procedure that must be followed to resolve any disputes. The Constitution serves as a guideline, which the different constituent entities use to check on one another. Federations also usually have procedures and organisations that facilitate intergovernmental relations.