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Government is the term given to the group of people that exercise executive authority over a given state. In relation to the culture, religion and ethnic composition in a given state, different systems of governments exist. All these types of systems of government are fundamentally different from each other. These differences range from their formation, their operations,the basis of their operation, how they are removed from power and the power structures they have. This paper shall look at the different forms of government with a view of understanding their functionality


This is a centralized system of government where all powers of the state are vested in one person. There is no laid out checks to the ruler’s powers. In such a system, the government maintains a strict control of its citizens. This is through state machinery such as the police and army. Due to the asymmetrical power relation between the ruler and the subjects, the ruler tends to have an almost mystic character to the people. It is not unusual for sycophancy to take hold, and the ruler is bestowed with honors that are exaggerated such as ‘Ever-Victorious, Iron-Willed Commander’ used to descried Kim II Sung of North Korea. Children are also taught to respect the ruler in totality from an early age in school. Any form of insubordination or critique to the government or ruler met with punitive measures.

Usually, this form of government is based in countries where the people isolate themselves from the rest of the world. This may be by the government’s machinations such as in North Korea or the people have a unique culture that simply sets them apart as is the case of Swaziland. Or where there is no laid out constitution or it has been suspended such during a military coup. Oftenly, the ruler assumes the throne either by inheriting it or staging a military coup. (Clarke, 197)


Nationalism is not a system of government. Nationalism is a passionate belief about the primacy of the state over the individual. Usually, it is centered upon people who have common similarities that are unique to their state only. This could be language, ideological belief or the very fact that they are within the same geographical borders. Commonly, this spirit is, brought out when the people have a common goal they seek to achieve or a common enemy. For example, during the agitation of independence, feelings of nationalism are very high in the natives against the colonized. (Ridley, 1975 pg 10)


In a republican system of government, the power belongs to the people. Through the power of the vote, the citizens of a given country elect into office leaders and political parties to form the government. In this government, the constitution is the supreme law of the land. The constitution gives express check and balances to various organs of the government. They are the judiciary, parliament and executive. The checks and balances are aimed at hindering a dictatorship by the executive. The oldest form of Republican government existed during the classical Roman era. Even though it was limited to magistrates and members of the senate, emperors were not elected, it forms the basis of modern day republics. ( Macliver 1994)

Governments assume power through a popular vote from the majority. They are in power until the next election cycle or when their term expires. The time period varies but the common is either 4 to 5 years. However, through the doctrine of separation of powers, a government can be removed from office through a vote of no confidence from parliament or by the judiciary declaring it unconstitutional. (Hink & Stewart, 1991 pg 618)

The influence of the Western world has played a great role in the spread of Republican systems of government with majority of countries in the world being republics. The biggest advantage of this system is that it allows for cosmopolitan countries with different ethnicities to allow each of them a fair chance, as their rights are guaranteed. Largely the government is limited to national matters, with the people being given the liberty to make personal choices regarding their lives. The United States of America is the most common example of a Republican system of governance. ( Macliver 1994)


Islamic states abide by the laws of Allah and Islam religion that are found in the Qur’an and the Sunnah. The government has a wide range of powers that even cuts into personal liberties such as how to wear and who to marry. However, it is not to be confused with an absolute government or totalitarian regimes. The fundamental basis, that makes this form of government unique is that all laws come from Allah through the Qu’ran and the words of the messenger Mohammed in the Sunna. The government only enforces those laws or Sharias as they are refered. Power does not belong to the people or ruler, it belongs to the Divine authority of Allah. (Hink & Stewart, 1991 pg 618)

Unlike other forms of government, in Islamic states, religion takes precedent. This means that those ruler cannot decree laws without consulting with religious leaders called Calliphas regarding the Islamic viewpoint on it. As much as rulers will always be above their subjects, Islamic states strive to abide by the example set by the prophet Mohammad. This makes them refrain from displays of wealth and power as characterized in other systems. In fact, the ruler bears no title. They are simply chosen to head the ruling committee and chair meetings. A good example is the Islamic State of Afghanistan.


Communist governments abide by the Marxist-Leninist theory. In this theory, private ownership is abolished and the government on behalf of the public. This is aimed at removing all types of social stratification and exploitation of the working class by the ruling class. Communist states are single-party ruled. There is no checks to the ruling party and it is often authoritarian in nature.

Even though elections are held, it is often within the ranks of the ruling party and in most cases, the results predetermined by those in power in the party. Forming of political parties is abolished hence true democracy can never take place. During the cold war, countries such as East Germany, Russia, Tanzania and Polland had communist governments and manifestos. Most of them were dropped after the cold war. (Stewart, 1961)

In most instances, communist regimes are installed by social revolution of the people or in the case of Tanzania, declaration of the ruling regime. The ironic twist is that they were also ousted through social revolution or declaration of dropping them.


The term was coined by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to describe his Fascist regime that ruled Italy in the World War II era. In this regime, the ruling centre has a total monopoly of power that even controls an individual’s life. In most cases, they get into power through political means such as elections or appointment. However, upon assuming power, they destroy all other manifestations of power, such as the judiciary and political parties. In its place they plant mafia like operations that control power. Adolf Hitler had the Nazis, Benito Mussolini had Fascists. (Clarke, 197)

Usually, totalitarian have a goal that they seek to achieve at all means. This can be industrialization or economic prosperity. The leaders also have overwhelming charisma. This easily makes the popular with the people at first. However, they later become unpopular due to their high-handedness.


The system of government, reflects the culture and the aspirations of the particular people governed. Islamic Governments expound the need of equality of the Islamic religion, republican states seek to give all a fair chance and voice. The same is reflected in Totalitarianism which those in power feed into the peoples desire to achieve a given goal.  Given the dynamic nature of human beings, systems of government are not static, they undergo changes as the people revolve. For example, a country may undergo different systems of government in the course of its history. A good example is Russia. In the beginning, it was ruled by an absolute monarch under Tzars. This was overthrown by a totalitarian regime under Joseph Stalin. This changed with the rise of Communism, which was largely campaigned for by Russia. With the collapse of communism after the cold war and the disintegration of USSR, Russia is now a Republican state under a democratic regime.


Clarke, T. (1791). Publicistical survey of the different forms of government of all states and communities    in the world. London: Printed for C. Dilly, in the Poultry.

Hink, H., & Stewart, M. (1961). Modern Forms of Government: A Comparative Study. The Western             Political Quarterly14(2), 618.

MacIver, R. (1947). The web of government. New York: Macmillan Co.

Patterns of democracy: government forms and performance in thirty-six countries. (2013). Choice             Reviews Online50(10),

Stewart, M. (1961). Modern forms of government. New York: Praeger.

Ridley, F. (1975). Responsibility and the Official: Forms and Ambiguities. Government And Opposition,             10(4),

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