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Encyclopedia > Separation of Powers

Separation of powers is a term coined by French political Enlightenment thinker Baron de Montesquieu[1][2], is a model for the governance of democratic states. The model is also known as Trias Politica. For other uses, see Politics (disambiguation). ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Consent of the governed is a political theory stating that a governments legitimacy and moral right to use state power is, or ought to be, derived from the people or society over which that power is exercised. ... Information on politics by country is available for every country, including both de jure and de facto independent states, inhabited dependent territories, as well as areas of special sovereignty. ... This list summarises the country subdivisions which have a separate article on their politics. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political economy was the original term for the study of production, the acts of buying and selling, and their relationships to laws, customs and government. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political history is the narrative and analysis of political events, ideas, movements, and leaders. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political philosophy is the study of fundamental questions about the state, government, politics, liberty, justice, property, rights, law and the enforcement of a legal code by authority: what they are, why (or even if) they are needed, what makes a government legitimate, what... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Political Science is the field concerning the theory and practice of politics and the description and analysis of political systems and political behaviour. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      International relations (IR), a branch of political science, is the study of foreign affairs and global issues among states within the international system, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations (IGOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs). ... Main International Relations Theories and derivates Realism & Neorealism Idealism, Liberalism & Neoliberalism Marxism & Dependency theory Functionalism & Neofunctionalism Critical theory & Constructivism International relations theory attempts to provide a conceptual model upon which international relations can be analyzed. ... This is a list of notable political scientists. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Comparative politics is a subfield of political science, characterized by an empirical approach based on the comparative method. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Public administration can be broadly described as the study and implementation of policy. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      This article is about the sociological concept. ... Street-level bureaucracy is a term used to refer to a public agency employee who actually performs the actions that implement laws. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      In the law, the judiciary or judicial system is the system of courts which administer justice in the name of the sovereign or state, a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. ... A legislatureis a type of representative deliberative assembly with the power to ratify laws. ... “Sovereign” redirects here. ... The psychodynamics of decision-making form a basis to understand institutional functioning. ... For other uses, see Politics (disambiguation). ... This article is about the political process. ... Vote redirects here. ... For theological federalism, see Covenant Theology. ... A form of government (also referred to as a system of government or a political system) is a system composed of various people, institutions and their relations in regard to the governance of a state. ... Political Ideologies Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      An ideology is an organized collection of ideas. ... “Electioneering” redirects here. ... Political Parties redirects here. ... The Enlightenment (French: ; German: ; Italian: ; Portuguese: ) was an eighteenth century movement in European and American philosophy — some classifications also include 17th century philosophy (usually called the Age of Reason). ... “Montesquieu” redirects here. ... For other uses, see Democracy (disambiguation). ...

Under this model, the state is divided into branches, and each branch of the state has separate and independent powers and areas of responsibility. The normal division of branches is into the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. For other uses, see State (disambiguation). ... A legislatureis a type of representative deliberative assembly with the power to ratify laws. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      In the law, the judiciary or judicial system is the system of courts which administer justice in the name of the sovereign or state, a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. ...

Proponents of separation of powers believe that it protects democracy and forestalls tyranny; opponents of separation of powers, such as Professor Charles M. Hardin,[3] have pointed out that, regardless of whether it accomplishes this end, it also slows down the process of governing, promotes executive dictatorship and unaccountability, and tends to marginalize the legislature. This article or section does not cite any references or sources. ...

No democratic system exists with an absolute separation of powers or an absolute lack of separation of powers. Nonetheless, some systems are clearly founded on the principle of separation of powers, while others are clearly based on a mingling of powers.


Montesquieu's tripartite system

Montesquieu described division of political power among an executive, a legislature, and a judiciary. He based this model on the British constitutional system, in which he perceived a separation of powers among the monarch, Parliament, and the courts of law. Subsequent writers have noted that this was misleading, since Great Britain had a very closely connected legislature and executive, with further links to the judiciary (though combined with judicial independence). But in Montesquieu's time, the political connection between Britain's Parliament and the monarch's Ministry was not as close as it would later become. Montesquieu can refer to: Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu Several communes of France: Montesquieu, in the Hérault département Montesquieu, in the Lot-et-Garonne département Montesquieu, in the Tarn-et-Garonne département This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... A legislatureis a type of representative deliberative assembly with the power to ratify laws. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      In the law, the judiciary or judicial system is the system of courts which administer justice in the name of the sovereign or state, a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. ... Judicial independence is the doctrine that decisions of the judiciary should be impartial and not subject to influence from the other branches of government or from private or political interests. ...

Montesquieu did specify that "the independence of the judiciary has to be real, and not apparent merely".[4] "The judiciary was generally seen as the most important of powers, independent and unchecked", and also considered the least dangerous.[4] Some politicians decry judicial action against them as a "criminalization" of their behavior, but such "criminalization" may be seen as a response to corruption, collusion, or abuse of power by these politicians.[5] Look up collusion in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Separation of powers vs. fusion of powers

In democratic systems of governance, a continuum exists between "Presidential government" and "Parliamentary government". "Separation of powers" is a feature more inherent to presidential systems, whereas "fusion of powers" is characteristic of parliamentary ones. "Mixed systems" fall somewhere in between, usually near the midpoint; the most notable example of a mixed system is France's (current) Fifth Republic. Continuum theories or models explain variation as involving a gradual quantitative transition without abrupt changes or discontinuities. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... States currently utilizing parliamentary systems are denoted in red and orange—the former being constitutional monarchies where authority is vested in a parliament, and the latter being parliamentary republics whose parliaments are effectively supreme over a separate head of state. ... Fusion of Powers is a feature of parliamentary democracies, wherein the executive and legislative branches are intermingled. ... This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...

In fusion of powers, one branch (invariably the elected legislature) is supreme, and the other branches are subservient to it. In separation of powers, each branch is largely (although not necessarily entirely) independent of the other branches. Independent in this context means either that selection of each branch happens independently of the other branches or at least that each branch is not beholden to any of the others for its continued existence. A legislatureis a type of representative deliberative assembly with the power to ratify laws. ...

Accordingly, in a fusion of powers system such as that of the United Kingdom, first described as such by Walter Bagehot, the people elect the legislature, which in turn "creates" the executive. As Professor Cheryl Saunders writes, "...the intermixture of institutions [in the UK] is such that it is almost impossible to describe it as a separation of powers."[6] In a separation of powers, the national legislature does not select the person or persons[7] of the executive; instead, the executive is chosen by other means (direct popular election, electoral college selection, etc.) In a parliamentary system, when the term of the legislature ends, so too may the tenure of the executive selected by that legislature. Although in a presidential system the executive's term may or may not coincide with the legislature's, her selection is technically independent of the legislature. However, when the executive's party controls the legislature, the executive often reaps the benefits of what is, in effect, a "fusion of powers". Such situations may thwart the constitutional goal or normal popular perception that the legislature is the more democratic branch or the one "closer to the people", reducing it to a virtual "consultative assembly", politically or procedurally unable—or unwilling—to hold the executive accountable in the event of blatant, even boldly admitted, "high crimes and misdemeanors." Walter Bagehot (3 February 1826 – 24 March 1877), IPA (see [[1]]), was a nineteenth century British economist. ... This article is about Electoral Colleges in general. ...

Other branches


With the title Comptroller General, Auditor General or Comptroller and Auditor General, the European Union's Court of Auditors and Taiwan's Control Yuan are individual or bodies of independent ombudsmen. They are often independent of the other branches of government. The United States Comptroller General is the director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (formerly known as Government Accounting Office), a government agency founded in 1921 to ensure the accountability of the federal government. ... Auditor general may refer to, A Comptroller and Auditor-General The Auditor General of Canada The Auditor General of Pakistan Category: ... Comptroller and Auditor General is the title of a government official in a number of nation-states, including the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and India. ... The European Court of Auditors is one of five institutions of the European Union. ... The Control Yuan building The Control Yuan main entrance The Control Yuan (監察院; pinyin: Jiānchá Yùan), one of five branches of the Republic of China government in Taipei, is a watchdog agency that monitors (controls) the government. ... For the Canadian television series, see Ombudsman (TV series). ...

Their purpose is to audit government expenditure and general activity.

Civil examination

Sun Yat Sen proposed a branch of government based on the Imperial examination system used in China. The "Examination Yuan" (Traditional Chinese: 考試院; pinyin: Kǎoshì Yuàn), as it is called in Taiwan, is in charge of validating the qualification of civil servants. This structure has been implemented in the Republic of China. Sun Yat-sen (November 12, 1866 - March 12, 1925) was a Chinese revolutionary leader and statesman who is considered by many to be the Father of Modern China. He had a significant influence in the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. ... The Imperial examinations (Traditional Chinese: ; pinyin: ) in Imperial China determined who among the population would be permitted to enter the states bureaucracy. ... The Examination Yuan (考試院) is one of five government branches of the Republic of China and is in charge of validating the qualification of civil servants. ... For the Chinese civilization, see China. ...


Costa Rica's Supreme Elections Tribunal is a branch of government that manages elections. Similar independent institutions exist in many other democratic countries, however they are not seen as a branch of government. In many countries, these are known as Electoral Commissions. The Electorial Commission is an independent body with powers in the United Kingdom, which was created by an Act of Parliament, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. ...

The people

Many philosophers and political scientists believe that democratic governments are created and constitutions exist to serve the people. The people have their own system of checks and balances by electing the legislative and executive branches. The government also draws its power directly from the people. Without the people, there is no government, just as without the legislative branch, there can be no judicial branch.

In the Constitution of Venezuela, the "citizen's power" is a formal branch of government, though it acts like auditors' branches in other jurisdictions. The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the current constitution of Venezuela. ...

See also:

Direct democracy, classically termed pure democracy,[1] comprises a form of democracy and theory of civics wherein sovereignty is lodged in the assembly of all citizens who choose to participate. ... initiative, see Initiative (disambiguation). ... Elections Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      A referendum (plural: referendums or referenda) or plebiscite (from Latin plebiscita, originally a decree of the Concilium Plebis) is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. ... A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office. ...

Independent executive agencies

The federal executive of the United States is a very large bureaucracy, and due to civil service rules, most middle- and low-level government workers do not change when a new President is elected. (New high-level officials are usually appointed and must be confirmed by the Senate.) Moreover, semi-independent agencies (such as the Federal Reserve or the Federal Communications Commission) may be created within the executive by the legislature. These agencies exercise legally defined regulatory powers. High-level regulators are appointed by the President and confirmed by the legislature; they must follow the law and certain lawful executive orders. But they often sit for long, fixed terms and enjoy reasonable independence from other policy makers. Because of its importance to modern governance, the regulatory bureaucracy of the executive is sometimes referred to as a "fourth" branch of government. The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      This article is about the sociological concept. ... The Roman civil service in action. ... The Federal Reserve System is headquartered in the Eccles Building on Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC. The Federal Reserve System (also the Federal Reserve; informally The Fed) is the central banking system of the United States. ...

This separation is even more pronounced in the United Kingdom. The separation was a prominent element of the Yes Minister comedy television series. Yes Minister is a satirical British sitcom written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn that was first transmitted by BBC television and radio between 1980 and 1984, split over three seven-episode series. ...

External links

The press

The press has been described as a "fourth power" because of its considerable influence over public opinion (which in turn affects the outcome of elections), as well as its indirect influence in the branches of government by, for example, its support or criticism of pending legislation or policy changes. It has never, however, been a formal branch of government; nor have political philosophers suggested that it become one. Popular press redirects here; note that the University of Wisconsin Press publishes under the imprint The Popular Press. Mass media is a term used to denote a section of the media specifically envisioned and designed to reach a very large audience such as the population of a nation state. ...

The press is also sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate, a term of French origin, which is not related to the modern three-branch system of government. In modern times, television reporters are part of the fourth estate. ...

Originally, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution explicitly guaranteed freedom of the press only against interference by the federal government. Later this right was extended by the United States Supreme Court in the Incorporation Cases to cover state and local governments. “First Amendment” redirects here. ... Wikisource has original text related to this article: The United States Constitution The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the United States of America. ... The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C. The Supreme Court Building, Washington, D.C., (large image) The Supreme Court of the United States, located in Washington, D.C., is the highest court (see supreme court) in the United States; that is, it has ultimate judicial authority within the United States... Incorporation of the Bill of Rights is the legal doctrine by which portions of the U.S. Bill of Rights are applied to the states through the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. ...

Traditionally, the press has been the "voice of the people", keeping government somewhat in check. Examples of this were the Watergate scandal, where two Washington Post reporters exposed corruption and coverup at the highest levels of government, or the Adscam (Sponsorship scandal) which was uncovered by the press in Canada. This exposure caused the resignation, firing, or prosecution of many officials. Watergate redirects here. ... ... When a scandal breaks, the discovery of an attempt to cover up the evidence of wrongdoing is often regarded as even more scandalous than the original deeds. ... The sponsorship scandal is an ongoing scandal that has affected the government of Canada, and particularly the ruling Liberal Party of Canada for a number of years, but rose to especially great prominence in 2004. ...

There exist situations where the press can affect public opinion in ways that are contrary to the spirit of separation of powers. One of the most compelling of these situations is when the state controls the content and distribution of the information disseminated by the press. However, even if the press is immune to censorship and compulsion from the government, the controlling entity of a press association or media outlet must almost always edit, and may editorialize, providing opportunities to affect public opinion in ways that may contradict public interest. In all cases, the "voice of the people" (as perceived by some) is modified by the opinions of those producing the stories. Editing is the process of preparing language, images, or sound for presentation through correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications. ... Look up editorial, op-ed in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

The press around the world

Freedom of the reporting media is generally considered to be essential for the perpetuation of democratic governments, and it is found in all strong democracies, regardless of the organizational principle of the "branches" of government. Freedom of the Press (or Press Freedom) is the guarantee by a government of free public press for its citizens and their associations, extended to members of news gathering organizations, and their published reporting. ... Public broadcasting is a form of public service broadcasting (PSB) intended to serve the diverse needs of the viewing or listening public. ...

Many governments financially support public broadcasting in some way, but in strong democracies these media outlets can enjoy wide editorial latitude.

An independent press acts as a powerful check on all forms of government by providing information about governmental activities to the public. There are weighty arguments to suggest that the press is the external 4th branch which continuously scrutinises a government's operations, with David Blunkett's two resignations as both Home Secretary(2004) and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2005) as particular examples. David Blunkett (born 6 June 1947) is a British Labour Party politician and has been Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside since 1987. ... The Secretary of State for the Home Department, commonly known as the Home Secretary, is the minister in charge of the United Kingdom Home Office and is responsible for internal affairs in England and Wales, and for immigration and citizenship for the whole United Kingdom (including Scotland and Northern Ireland). ... The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is a position in the UK cabinet, responsible for the Department for Work and Pensions. ...

Various models around the world

Constitutions with a high degree of separation of powers are found worldwide. The UK system is distinguished by a particular entwining of powers. India's democratic system also offers a clear separation of power under Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament), Rajya Sabha (upper house of Parliament), and the President of India, who overlooks independent governing branches such as the Election commission and the Judiciary. Under the Indian constitution, just as in the British system, the Prime Minister is a head of the governing party and functions through a selected group of ministers. In Italy the powers are completely separated, even if Council of Ministers need the vote of confidence from both chambers of Parliament, that's however formed by a wide number of members (almost 1,000). The Houses of Parliament, also known as the Palace of Westminster, in London. ... A Motion of Confidence is a motion of support proposed by a government in a parliament to give members of parliament a chance to register their confidence for a government by means of a parliamentary vote. ...

Countries with little separation of power include New Zealand and Canada. Canada makes limited use of separation of powers in practice, although in theory it distinguishes between branches of government.

Complete separation-of-powers systems are almost always presidential, although theoretically this need not be the case. There are a few historical exceptions, such as the Directoire system of revolutionary France. Switzerland offers an example of non-Presidential separation of powers today: It is run by a seven-man executive branch, the Federal Council. However, some might argue that Switzerland does not have a strong separation of powers system, as the Federal Council is appointed by parliament (but not dependent on parliament), and the judiciary has no power of review. For the pop band, see Presidents of the United States of America. ... The Directory (in French Directoire) held executive power in France from October 1795 until November 1799 - from the end of the Convention to the beginning of the Consulate. ... The Swiss Federal Council (German: , French: , Italian: , Romansh: ) is the seven-member executive council which constitutes the government as well as the head of state of Switzerland. ...

Australia: three branches

The doctrine of separation of powers refers to the separation of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. ...

People's Republic of China

State power within the government of the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) is divided among three bodies: the Communist Party of China, the state, and the Peoples Liberation Army, (PLA). ...

Costa Rica: five branches

After eight years of social conflict, the question of who would lead Costa Rica and which transformationist model the State would use was decided by who killed the president. A constituent assembly followed and drew up a new constitution, approved in 1949. This document was an edit of the constitution of 1871, as the constituent assembly rejected more radical corporatist ideas proposed by the ruling junta. Nonetheless, the new constitution increased centralization of power at the expense of municipalities and eliminated provincial government altogether. A military junta is government by a committee of military leaders. ...

It established the three supreme powers as the legislature, executive, and judicial branches, but also created two other autonomous state organs that have equivalent power but not equivalent rank. The first is the Supreme Elections Tribunal (electoral branch) which controls elections and makes unique, unappealable decisions on their outcomes.

The second is the office of the Comptroller General (auditory branch), an autonomous and independent organ nominally subordinate to the unicameral legislative assembly. All budgets of ministries and municipalities must pass through this agency, including the execution of budget items such as contracting for routine operations. The Comptroller also provides financial vigilance over government offices and office holders, and routinely brings actions to remove mayors for malfeasance, firmly establishing this organization as the fifth branch of the Republic. The United States Comptroller General is the director of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) (formerly known as Government Accounting Office), a government agency founded in 1921 to ensure the accountability of the federal government. ...

European Union: four branches

The five institutions (in four branches) of the European Union are:

Berlaymont, the Commissions seat The European Commission (formally the Commission of the European Communities) is the executive branch of the European Union. ... Established 1952, as the Common Assembly President Hans-Gert Pöttering (EPP) Since 16 January 2007 Vice-Presidents 14 Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou (EPP) Alejo Vidal-Quadras (EPP) Gérard Onesta (Greens – EFA) Edward McMillan-Scott (ED) Mario Mauro (EPP) Miguel Angel Martínez Martínez (PES) Luigi Cocilovo (ALDE) Mechtild... Established 1952 Presiding Country Portugal President Luís Amado President in Office José Sócrates Members 27 (at one time) Political parties 7, including: European Peoples Party Party of European Socialists Meeting place Justus Lipsius, Brussels, Belgium, European Union Web site http://www. ... Official emblem of the ECJ The Court of Justice of the European Communities, usually called the European Court of Justice (ECJ), is the highest court in the European Union (EU). ... The European Court of Auditors is one of five institutions of the European Union. ...


Main article: Government of France

This article is about the political and administrative structures of the French government. ...

Germany: six branches

The six main bodies enshrined in the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany are: Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution[1] of Germany. ...

There is also a judicial branch made up of five supreme courts, state (Länder / Bundesländer) based courts beneath them, and a rarely used senate of the supreme courts. The President of Germany is Germanys head of state. ... The Federal Republic of Germany (in German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is a federal representative democracy. ... Type Lower house President of the Bundestag Dr. Norbert Lammert, CDU since October 18, 2005 Members 614 Political groups (as of September 18, 2005 elections) Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union of Bavaria Bloc (226), Social Democratic Party of Germany (222), Free Democratic Party (61), The Left Party. ... The Bundesrat (federal council) is the representation of the 16 Federal States (Länder) of Germany at the federal level. ... The Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) is a special body in the institutional system of Germany, convoked only for the purpose of selecting the Bundespräsident every five years. ... The Federal Constitutional Court (in German: Bundesverfassungsgericht) is a special court established by the German constitution, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). ...


Main article: Government of Italy

This article or section should be merged with Italian Government Italy has been a democratic republic since June 2, 1946, when the monarchy was abolished by popular referendum (see Birth of the Italian Republic). ...


Main article: Government of Japan

This article describes the structure of the Japanese Government. ...

Taiwan: five branches

Some countries take the doctrine further than the three-branch system. The politics of Taiwan, for example, has five branches: the Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan (auditory branch), and Examination Yuan. The Executive Yuan (行政院; literally executive court) is the executive branch of the government of the Republic of China. ... The Legislative Yuan building in Zhongzheng District, Taipei City (the view is partially obscured by the childrens hospital building of the National Taiwan University Hospital). ... The Judicial Yuan is located directly east of the Presidential Office in Zhongzheng District, Taipei City. ... The Control Yuan building The Control Yuan main entrance The Control Yuan (監察院; pinyin: Jiānchá Yùan), one of five branches of the Republic of China government in Taipei, is a watchdog agency that monitors (controls) the government. ... The Examination Yuan (考試院) is one of five government branches of the Republic of China and is in charge of validating the qualification of civil servants. ...

Due in part to the Republic's youth, the relationship between its executive and legislative branches are poorly defined. An example of the problems this causes is the near complete political paralysis that results when the president, who has neither the power to veto nor the ability to dissolve the legislature and call new elections, cannot negotiate with the legislature when his party is in the minority. [2]

United Kingdom

In parliamentary systems, a separation of powers is either unclear or even nearly non-existent [citation needed]. For example, in the United Kingdom, the executive forms a subset of the legislature, as does—to a lesser extent—the judiciary. The Prime Minister, the chief executive, must by convention be a Member of the House of Commons and can effectively be removed from office by a simple majority vote. Furthermore, while the courts in Britain are undoubtedly amongst the most independent in the world, the Law Lords, who are the final arbiters of judicial disputes in the UK, sit simultaneously in the House of Lords, the upper house of the legislature, although this arrangement will cease in 2009 when the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom comes into existence. Furthermore, because of the existence of Parliamentary sovereignty, while the theory of separation of powers may be studied in Britain, a system such as that of the UK is more accurately described as a "fusion of powers." Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... States currently utilizing parliamentary systems are denoted in red and orange—the former being constitutional monarchies where authority is vested in a parliament, and the latter being parliamentary republics whose parliaments are effectively supreme over a separate head of state. ... Fusion of Powers is a feature of parliamentary democracies, wherein the executive and legislative branches are intermingled. ...

The development of the British constitution, which is not written down in one document, is based on this fusion in the person of the Monarch, who has a formal role to play in the legislature (Parliament, which is where legal and political sovereignty lies, is the Crown-in-Parliament, and is summoned and dissolved by the Queen who must give her Royal Assent to all Bills so that they become Acts), the executive (the Queen appoints all ministers of Her Majesty's Government, who govern in the name of the Crown) and the judiciary (the Queen, as the fount of justice, appoints all senior judges, and all public prosecutions are brought in her name).

The British legal code is based on common law traditions which requires: A legal code is a moral code enforced by the law of a state. ... This article concerns the common-law legal system, as contrasted with the civil law legal system; for other meanings of the term, within the field of law, see common law (disambiguation). ...

The term criminal law, sometimes called penal law, refers to any of various bodies of rules in different jurisdictions whose common characteristic is the potential for unique and often severe impositions as punishment for failure to comply. ... Enforcement discretion is the ability that executors of the law (such as police officers or administrative agencies, in some cases) have to select who they want to enforce laws against. ... Fishing expedition is a colloquial, informal legal term often encountered in the United States and other similar legal systems (and especially prevalent in TV and movie dramas). ... The prosecutor is the chief legal representative of the prosecution in countries adopting the common law adversarial system or the civil law inquisitorial system. ... An attorney is someone who represents someone else in the transaction of business: For attorney-at-law, see lawyer, solicitor, barrister or civil law notary. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... Mistrial. ... A defendant or defender is any party who is required to answer the complaint of a plaintiff or pursuer in a civil lawsuit before a court, or any party who has been formally charged or accused of violating a criminal statute. ... In law, an appeal is a process for making a formal challenge to an official decision. ... Court of Appeals is the title of certain appellate courts in various jurisdictions. ...

United Nations: five branches

The United Nations has five principle organs [3]. These are:

The members of the councils are either or both elected by the General Assembly and determined by the UN Charter. General assembly could be: The United Nations General Assembly General Assembly (presbyterian church), a supreme governing body, such as the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland See also List of Christian denominations#Presbyterian and Reformed Churches The General Assembly of Unitarian... A session of the Security Council in progress The United Nations Security Council is the most powerful organ of the United Nations. ... The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations assists the General Assembly in promoting international economic and social cooperation and development. ... The International Court of Justice (known colloquially as the World Court or ICJ; French: ) is the primary judicial organ of the United Nations. ... The United Nations Secretariat is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and it is headed by the United Nations Secretary General, assisted by a staff of international civil servants worldwide. ... The United Nations Charter is the constitution of the United Nations. ...

United States: three branches

Each branch is able to place specified restraints on the powers exerted by the other branches[citation needed]. The federal government refers to the branches as "branches of government", while some systems use "government" to describe the executive. theSeparation of powers is a political doctrine under which the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government are kept distinct, to prevent abuse of power. ... This article describes the government of the United States. ...

Checks and balances

To prevent one branch from becoming supreme, and to induce the branches to cooperate, governance systems employing a separation of powers typically are created with a system of "checks and balances", a term which, like separation of powers itself, is generally credited to Montesquieu. Checks and balances refers to the various procedural rules that allow one branch to limit another, such as the authority of the president to veto legislation passed by Congress, or the power of Congress to alter the composition and jurisdiction of the federal courts. “Montesquieu” redirects here. ...

Executive (government)
  • Writes and enacts laws
  • Enacts taxes, authorizes borrowing, and sets the budget
  • Usually has sole power to declare war
  • May start investigations, especially against the executive branch
  • Often appoints the heads of the executive branch
  • Sometimes appoints judges
  • Ratifies treaties
  • May veto laws
  • May refuse to spend money allocated for certain purposes
  • Wages war (has operational command of the military)
  • Makes decrees or declarations (for example, declaring a state of emergency) and promulgates lawful regulations and executive orders
  • Often appoints judges
  • Has power to grant pardons to convicted criminals
  • Determines which laws apply to any given case
  • Determines whether a law is unconstitutional
  • Has sole power to interpret the law and to apply it to particular disputes
  • May nullify laws that conflict with a more important law or constitution
  • Determines the disposition of prisoners
  • Has power to compel testimony and the production of evidence
  • Enforces uniform policies in a top-down fashion via the appeals process, but gives discretion in individual cases to low-level judges. (The amount of discretion depends upon the standard of review, determined by the type of case in question.)
  • Polices its own members
  • Is frequently immune to arbitrary dismissal by other branches

A legislature is a governmental deliberative body with the power to adopt laws. ... In political science and constitutional law, the executive is the branch of government responsible for the day-to-day management of the state. ... The judiciary, also referred to as the judicature, consists of justices, judges and magistrates among other types of adjudicators. ...

Maintaining balance

The theoretical independence of the executive and legislative branches is partly maintained by the fact that they are separately elected and are held directly accountable to the public. There are also judicial prohibitions against certain types of interference in each others' affairs. (See "separation of powers" cases in the List of United States Supreme Court cases.) Judicial independence is maintained by life appointments of judges, with voluntary retirement, and a high threshold for removal by the legislature. In recent years, there have been accusations that the power to interpret the law is being misused (judicial activism) by some judges in the US. In the checks and balances system, the judicial branch has the right to say that something is unconstitutional, like a law or a bill (Credited to an opinion piece by Chief Justice John Marshall presiding over the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803).) This is a chronological list of notable cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States. ... Judicial activism is a term used by political commentators to describe a tendency by judges to consider outcomes, attitudinal preferences, and other public policy issues in interpreting applicable existing law. ... Holding Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 is unconstitutional to the extent it purports to enlarge the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court beyond that permitted by the Constitution. ...

The legal mechanisms constraining the powers of the three branches depend a great deal on the sentiment of the people. A common perception is that popular support establishes legitimacy and makes possible the actual implementation of legal authority. National crises (such as the Civil War, the Great Depression, pre-Pearl Harbor World War II, the Vietnam War) have been the times at which the principle of separation of powers has been most endangered, either through official "misbehavior" or through the willingness of the public to sacrifice such principles if more pressing problems are solved. The system of checks and balances is also self-reinforcing. Potential abuse of power may be deterred, and the legitimacy and sustainability of any power grab is hindered by the ability of the other two branches to take corrective action; though they still must actually do so, therefore accountability is not automatic. This is intended to reduce opportunities for tyranny sometimes.

However, as James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 51 regarding the ability of each branch to defend itself from actions by the others, "But it is not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense. In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates." Bicameralism was, in part, intended to reduce the relative power of the legislature by turning it against itself, by having "different modes of election and different principles of action." (This is one of the arguments against the popular election of Senators, which was instituted by the Seventeenth Amendment.) But when the legislature is unified, it can obtain dominance over the other branches. Madison redirects here. ... James Madison, author of Federalist No. ... Amendment XVII in the National Archives Amendment XVII (the Seventeenth Amendment) of the United States Constitution was passed by the Senate on June 12, 1911 and by the House on May 13, 1912. ...

State and local governments

The American states mirror the executive/legislative/judicial division of the federal government. Major cities tend to do so as well, but the arrangements of local and regional governments vary widely. Because the judicial branch is often a part of a state or county government, the geographic jurisdiction of local judges is often not coterminous with municipal boundaries.

In many American states and local governments, executive authority and law enforcement authority are separated by allowing citizens to directly elect public prosecutors (district attorneys and state attorneys-general). In some states, judges are also directly elected.

Many localities also separate special powers from their executive and legislative branches through the direct election of sheriffs, school boards, transit agency boards, park commissioners, etc.

Juries (groups of randomly selected citizens) also have an important role in the checks-and-balances system. They have the sole authority to not only determine the facts in most criminal and civil cases, but to judge the law, acting as a powerful buffer against arbitrary enforcement by the executive and judicial branches. In many jurisdictions they are also used to determine whether or not a trial is warranted, and in some places Grand Juries have independent investigative powers with regard to government operations.

Venezuela: five branches

Under reforms to the constitution promoted by President Hugo Chávez and accepted in a referendum, the government of Venezuela has five branches: the executive, the legislature, the judiciary, an electoral branch, and a citizen's branch that acts as an auditor. The Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is the current constitution of Venezuela. ... List of Presidents of Venezuela José Antonio Páez (1830-1835) José María Vargas (1835-1837) Carlos Soublette (1837-1839) José Antonio Páez (1839-1843) Carlos Soublette (1843-1847) José Tadeo Monagas (1847-1851) José Gregorio Monagas (1851-1855) José Tadeo Monagas (1855-1858) Julián Castro (1858... Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías (IPA: ) (born July 28, 1954) is the current President of Venezuela. ...

However, the representatives of this new "Citizen power" are not elected, but put by organized human groups. (Proposed Constitutional reform by Hugo Chavez, Art 136). There's no clear wording into how this representatives will be "put" in their jobs, but the reform is very clear in saying that won't be by elections. Since those organized human groups won't be able to vote for representatives, the assumption is that these representatives will be put by some bureaucrat from the socialist party and their credibility as unbiased auditors is very low.


It can be argued that there is no natural distinction between executive and legislative forms of government: legislation that is passed must always be executed, and much executive action requires new laws. As such, the division can be said to be an artificial one. This is borne out by the fact that there is currently no constitutional system which has a complete separation of powers where there is a distribution of the three functions among three independent organs with no overlapping or cross-coordination. Some of the early American States and the French Constitution of 1791 tried to enforce this doctrine strictly, but they failed. Instead, most constitutions give slightly overlapping powers to each branch, such as the US president's ability to veto legislation, or the power of judicial appointment. Image File history File links Emblem-important. ... The short-lived French Constitution of 1791, adopted during the period now known as the French Revolution, went into effect in September 1791 but, due to a series of constitutional crises, had effectively ceased to function as a national constitution by August 1792. ...

Some observers believe that no obvious case exists in which such instability was prevented by the separation of powers. In parliamentary systems such as the United Kingdom the three "powers" are not separated (although the judiciary is independent). However, this has not threatened British stability, because the strong tradition of parliamentary sovereignty serves the purpose of limiting executive power.

In contrast, many countries which have adopted separation of powers (especially in Latin America) have suffered from instability (coups d'etat, military dictatorships, civil war and unrest, etc). If the separated executive is granted strong powers, it may well encourage instability, because it is less consensus-oriented than a parliamentary system, and because it inures the population and political elite to a the influence of a dominant leader. In times of instability, competing political groups can become obsessed with controlling the executive office, and it is often the loss of a presidential election which triggers greater instability. In a presidential system, there can only be one winning party, and all others fail entirely to gain power. In contrast, a parliamentary system can allow all political groups to have some share in control of the executive by participating in a coalition.

Alternatively, if the executive branch is granted few powers, there is the danger of political gridlock. When the executive cannot control or cannot operate alongside the legislature, then government action to solve society's problems can be limited. This can hamper efforts to deal with short-term crises (such as the French government's finding it difficult to pass laws to deal with a faltering economy) as well as with long-term problems (like the failure of the US government to provide universal healthcare, despite numerous bills and perennial public support for such a system). In politics, gridlock refers to difficulty of passing party agenda items in a legislature that is close to being evenly divided. ...

Political scientists have also noted the tendency for separation-of-power systems, especially those with strong executives, to develop into two-party systems [citation needed]. As the executive is as a "winner-take-all" position, voters and lobby groups tend to adopt a strategy of supporting their preferred choice from the two leading candidates, the perception being that a vote or donation to a third-party candidate is a waste. As the executive is usually considered the most important position in government, members of the legislature will coalesce into groups supporting the two dominant executive candidates.

The categories of the functions and corresponding powers of government are inclined to become blurred when it is attempted to apply them to the details of a particular constitution. Some hold that the true distinction lies not in the nature of the powers themselves, but rather in the procedure by which they are exercised.

Sometimes systems with clearly defined separation of powers are difficult for the average person to understand, resulting in a nebulous political process and leading to a lack of engagement. Proponents of parliamentary systems claim that they make it easier to understand how "politics is done" by providing a clearer view of who does what, who is responsible for what, and who is to blame. This is important when it comes to engaging the people in political debate and increasing citizens' interest and participation in politics. However, for a parliamentary system to work effectively, institutional arrangements such as fair electoral laws, freedom of the press, independent courts, due process, and the independence of the Houses of Parliament must be so designed as to prevent executive supremacy over the legislative and judicial branches while also encouraging a culture of public debate, open government, accountable office holders, and policy contestability and compromise, rather than a culture of "winner takes all" political domination.

Related restraint-of-power concepts

  • Federalism, also known as vertical separation of powers - Prevents abuse by dividing governing powers, usually by separating municipal, provincial, and national governments. See also subsidiarity.
  • Rule of law - Prevents arbitrary exercise of the executive power, preserves general and minority rights, and promotes stability and predictability.
  • Democracy and civil society - Attempts to constrain elected branches of government to act in the public interest, not in self-interest.
  • Separation of church and state or Laïcité - Ensures freedom of religion by preventing government interference in its practice. Also constrains the power of government by maintaining freedom of conscience and belief.
  • Civilian control of the military - Helps prevent dictatorship that otherwise might occur through military rule.
  • In some systems, an independent central bank.
  • Separation of duties in organizations.
  • Independent Civil Service.
  • Negarchy.

A map displaying todays federations. ... Subsidiarity is the principle which states that matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or, the lowest) competent authority. ... The rule of law is the principle that governmental authority is legitimately exercised only in accordance with written, publicly disclosed laws adopted and enforced in accordance with established procedure. ... The Politics series Politics Portal This box:      Civil society is composed of the totality of voluntary civic and social organizations and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society as opposed to the force-backed structures of a state (regardless of that states political system) and commercial institutions. ... Constantines Conversion, depicting the conversion of Emperor Constantine the Great to Christianity, by Peter Paul Rubens. ... Motto of the French republic on the tympanum of a church, in Aups (Var département) which was installed after the 1905 law on the Separation of the State and the Church. ... U.S. President Abraham Lincolns active involvement in the conduct of the American Civil War, which frequently involved pressing his generals to undertake more aggressive actions, set a precedent for the power of the civilian Commander-in-Chief. ... Separation of duties (SoD) is the concept of having more than one person required to complete a task. ... The Roman civil service in action. ... Negarchy was a term coined by Daniel Deudney [1] to mean a form of status quo maintained by the inter-relations of the power structure and authority that modern states hold in relation to each other which negate each other due to their respective affluence. ...


  1. ^ http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/montesquieu/#4
  2. ^ http://www.kevinboone.com/separation.html
  3. ^ The Review of Politics, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 391-396
  4. ^ a b Przeworski 2003, p.26, p.13, p.223-4
  5. ^ Przeworski 2003, p.14 [1]
  6. ^ Cheryl Saunders. Separation of Powers and the Judicial Branch (doc).
  7. ^ Two examples of executives of more than one person are a triumvirate (three rulers) and a constitutional monarchy (two rulers).

The term triumvirate is commonly used to describe a political regime dominated by three powerful political and/or military leaders. ... Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      A constitutional monarchy is a form of government established under a constitutional system which acknowledges an elected or hereditary monarch as head of state, as opposed to an absolute monarchy, where the monarch is not bound by a...

See also

Motto Senatus Populusque Romanus Roman provinces on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar, c. ... Forms of government Part of the Politics series Politics Portal This box:      An autocracy is a form of government in which the political power is held by a single person. ... Balance of power refers to the division, distribution, or separation of powers within a national political system. ... Overview of the index of perception of corruption, 2006 Since 1995, Transparency International has published an annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI)[1] ordering the countries of the world according to the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians.[2] The organization defines corruption as... Judicial activism is a term used by political commentators to describe a tendency by judges to consider outcomes, attitudinal preferences, and other public policy issues in interpreting applicable existing law. ... Proponents of strong constitutional signing statements: Ronald Reagan, left, and George H. W. Bush, right. ... In American political and legal discourse, the unitary executive theory is a theory of Constitutional interpretation that is based on aspects of the separation of powers. ... The fifth power, as a continuation of the series that begins with the three classical powers or branches of Montesquieus separation of powers (being the media a fourth power), can be understood since two points of wiev: The power exerted by governments in the economic sphere, thorough public sector...


  • Alec Stone Sweet, Governing With Judges: Constitutional Politics in Europe 2000 Oxford University Press ISBN 978-0-19-829730-7
  • Adam Przeworski, JM Maravall, I NetLibrary Democracy and the Rule of Law (2003)
  • The Invention of the Modern Republic (March 2007) ISBN 978-0-521-03376-3
  • Manin, Bernard Principles of Representative Government (English version 1997)
  • MJC Vile Constitutionalism and the Separation of Powers (1967, Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1998) Second edition.

Profesor of Political Sciences. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
The constitutional boundaries between the powers of the branches must be determined "according to common sense and the inherent necessities of the governmental co-ordination." J.W. Hampton, Jr., and Co. v.
Furthermore, although the general principle marks the boundary of the law of separation of powers, it is inappropriate for the executive to regard this as defining the outer limit of proper separation of powers policy objections to legislation.
The power to suspend an officer, finally, was held to be "an incident of the power of removal." Burnap v.
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