Chapter-1 Power Sharing
Belgium and Sri Lanka
Belgium is a small country in Europe, smaller in area than the state of Haryana.
It has borders with France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Luxembourg.
59% in the Flemish region speaks Dutch.
Another 40% of people live in the Wallonia region and speaks French.
Remaining 1% of the Belgians speak Germany.
n the capital city Brussels, 80% of people speak French while 20% are Dutch-speaking.
The minority French-speaking community was relatively rich and powerful.
This was resented by the Dutch-speaking community who got the benefit of economic development and education much later.
The tension between the two communities was more acute in Brussels. Brussels presented a special problem: the Dutch-speaking people constituted a majority in the country, but a minority in the capital.
The Story of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is located south of India.
This island nation has a diverse population of two crore people. In Sri Lanka, the major social groups are the Sinhala-speakers (74 percent) and the Tamil-speakers (18 percent).
Tamils in Sri Lanka were divided into two groups:
Sri Lankan Tamils (13 percent) – Tamil natives of the country
Indian Tamils (5 percent) – came from India during the colonial period as plantation workers
Sinhala-speaking people are mainly Buddhists while the Tamil speaking people were either Hindus or Muslims.
There were even 7 percent Christians, who are both Tamil and Sinhala.
Majoritarianism In Sri Lanka
Sri Lankan emerged as an independent country in 1948.
The leaders of the Sinhala community sought to secure dominance over the government by virtue of their majority.
In 1956, an Act was passed to recognize Sinhala as the only official language, thus disregarding Tamil.
A new constitution stipulated that the state shall protect and foster Buddhism.
All these coming measures, coming one after the other, gradually increased the feeling of alienation among the Sri Lankan Tamils.
As a result, the relations between the Sinhala and Tamil communities strained over time.
The Sri Lankan Tamils launched parties and struggles.
But their demand for more autonomy to provinces populated by the Tamils was repeatedly denied.
The distrust between the two communities turned into widespread conflict. It soon turned into CIVIL WAR.
The civil war caused a terrible setback to the social, cultural and economic life of the country.
Ques – What have you learned from the Stories of Belgium and Sri Lanka?
Both countries are democracies but they dealt differently with the concept of power-sharing.
In Belgium, the leaders have realized that the unity of the country is possible only by respecting the feelings and interests of different communities and regions. This resulted in mutually acceptable arrangements for sharing power.
Sri Lanka shows that, if a majority community wants to force its dominance over others and refuses to share power, it can undermine the unity of the country.
ACCOMMODATION IN BELGIUM
The Belgian leaders took a different path. They recognized the existence of regional differences and cultural diversities. Between 1970 and 1993, they amended their constitution four times so as to work out an arrangement that would enable everyone to live together within the same country.
The arrangement they worked out is different from any other country and is very innovative.
In Belgium, the leaders have realized that the unity of the country is possible only by respecting the feelings and interests of different communities and regions.
Sri Lanka shows us a contrasting example. It shows us that if a majority community wants to force its dominance over others and refuses to share power, it can undermine the unity of the country.
Here are some of the elements of the Belgian mode:
Constitution prescribes that the number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers shall be equal in the central government.
Many powers of the central government have been given to states government of the two regions of the country.
Brussels has separated the government in which both the communities have equal representation.
Apart from the central and state government, there is a third kind of government. This is a community government.
Why is power sharing desirable?
- You will find the answer to this question in the points below.
- Power-sharing is good because it helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups.
- The second reason is that, a democratic rule involves sharing power with those affected by its exercise, and who have to live with its effects. People have a right to be consulted on how they are to be governed.
- Let us call the first set of reasons Prudential and the second moral. The prudential reasons stress that power-sharing will bring out better outcomes, whereas the moral reasons emphasize the act of power-sharing as valuable
Forms of Power Sharing
One basic principle of democracy is that people are the source of all political power. In a democracy, people rule themselves through institutions of self-government. In a democracy, Everyone has a voice in the shaping of public policies.
In modern democracies, power-sharing can take many forms, as mentioned below:-
Power Sharing in Different Organs of Government
Power is shared among different organs of government, such as the legislature, executive and judiciary.
This type of distribution can be called the horizontal distribution of power.
This type of power-sharing allows different organs of government placed at the same level to exercise different powers.
Such separation ensures that unlimited power is not vested in any organ of the government. This ensures a balance of power among various institutions.
The executive enjoys official power but is answerable to the legislature. The legislature has the right to make or amend laws but it is answerable to the people. The judiciary is independent and ensures that the law of the land is obeyed by legislature and executive.
Power Sharing at Different Levels
Power can be shared among governments at different levels.
Usually, a central government is responsible for the entire nation and state governments are responsible for different units of the federation.
There is clear cut demarcation on subjects that come under the union government and those which come under the state government. However, there are some subjects that come under the concurrent list, i.e. both state and central governments exercise power on such subjects.
Power Sharing Among Social Groups
Power may also be shared among different social groups.
In a diverse country, like India; there are various social, linguistic and caste groups and power is shared among each group. For example; people from the minority communities, OBCs, and SC & ST are given reservations so that there could be adequate representation for them in the government machinery.
Power Sharing Among Various Pressure Groups
Power-sharing among various political parties is more apparent for most of the people.
Usually, the largest political party or the largest political coalition becomes the ruling party. The other parties form the opposition. While the opposition is not in power, it is responsible for seeing to it that the ruling party functions as per the wishes of the people.
Heads of various committees come from various political parties; which is another way of sharing power among different political parties.
Pressure groups also get their share in power. For example; the trade unions, ASSOCHAM, students’ unions, etc. get some power by certain mechanisms. Representatives of these associations become part of many decision-making bodies and thus enjoy their share of power.
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