Characteristics of federalism

Federalism proposes a multi-level system of government, where each level of government is democratic and has its own direct relationship with the citizens.

It might be understood variously as the dispersal of power within a political system – by reducing the power of the political centre – or as the linking together of different political systems by a framework of shared law and institutions.  It all depends where you are starting from.

Federalism is therefore a variant of liberal democracy, founded on multi-level democracy in which the competences are allocated to different levels of government according to the principle of subsidiarity and where relations between them are governed by the separation of powers and the rule of law.

In the development of political institutions, therefore, federalists advocate the principles of democracy, accountability and transparency.  They criticise the traditional notions of diplomacy and summits, constrained by the veto power, preferring the development of international law and the pursuit of peace.

Federalists do not accept that the demands of national sovereignty should inhibit the defence of human rights or the implementation of effective regulation where needed.  However, the legitimacy of any new institutions needs to be established in order to balance the concerns arising from national identity and self-determination.

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