By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, January 29, 2024: In normal, day-to-day, and general conversation, whether social or political, people very often say: “That government is best which governs least”. This statement is ascribed to Thomas Jefferson,one of the founding fathers of the American constitution. “For forms of Government let fools contest; whatever is best administered is best”.

This was the statement of Alexander Pope, the great English poet. No wonder people would like to understand what governance is and how it is different from government, also what the forms of government are. Both the words, government, and governance, owe their origin to the word “govern” which comes from the word “Gubernair”, a Latin word meaning “to steer” like steering a boat, ship, car, or vehicle.

What is governance and what is government? How are they different, and what is their nexus.

Governance is the process of making and enforcing decisions within an organization or society. It encompasses decision-making, rule-setting, and enforcement mechanisms to guide the functioning of an organization or society.Organization can be a political entity like country in popular language or state in juristic sense. It can be a corporate body like a company, association, trust, group of individuals, cooperative society, or team.

Public governance will refer to the government of the state which will include institutions of the state as very often the words state and government are interchanged in popular conversation, and even in serious discourse.

As we will see later how the word state conveys a different concept from that of government in political science. Social governance can embrace clan, caste, tribe, sect and linguistic or ethnic group. Ecclesiastic governance will cover institutions or organizations of different religious people of whatever origin Hindu, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh, Zoroastrian, or indigenous.

Governance of groups of states can be called plurilateral governance. The best example is the European Union. There are also plurilateral association of countries like the Organization of American States (OAS), the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the Arab League and ASEAN etc. In these associations there are also elements of governance although they may be significantly different in character from the European Union.

International governance means governance of countries or states. Examples are the erstwhile League of Nations, the United Nations, the Universal Postal Union, the International Telecommunication Union (known earlier as the International Telegraphic Union in the 19th century being the first public international organization), ILO, ICAO, IMO, UNESCO, WHO, FAO etc. All these international governing institutions have been established based on multilateral treaties among states like the Covenant of the League of Nations, the Charter of United Nations, and other Conventions etc.

What is a state? In popular parlance what is called country, in political science it is called state. India, USA, Russia, China, UK, UAE, Israel, Iran, Japan etc. are examples of states. The Odisha State is not a country and hence is not a state in a political sense. It is a province like Quebec, Ontarioin Canada and New Jersey, New York, Florida in USA althoughthey are called States in USA, but they areprovinces.A province can become a state if it secedes from the main state. East Pakistan was a province until it seceded from Pakistan to become a state, called Bangladesh. East Timor became a state when it came out of Indonesia. Eritrea became a state when it parted from Ethiopia.

Quebec made attempt to secede from Canada twice through popular referendums but failed as it could not secure majority. So was the case with Scotland. Catalonia in a successful referendum attempted to separate but it failed as the central authority did not allow it to materialize. In the past Katanga seceded from Congo after it got independence from Belgium leading to civil war. The secession ended when UN peace-keeping force led by the Indian army contingent intervened to end the civil war. A state in the legal and in the political sense consists of territory, people, organization and most importantly sovereignty. The organization that runs the State is called government.

The entity must have sovereignty to qualify as a state. Sovereignty means supreme power originating from the Latin word “superanus” which means supreme. The supreme power must rest in the state itself. It means that it is not under the legal or constitutional controlof another state or another body outside its domain. India before independence did not have sovereignty. Recognition of other states and international institutions are important requirements to acquire the status of state.

Government includes the executive, legislature, judiciary, and other institutions which may have been established under the Constitution or laws passed by the law-making body generally called legislature, parliament, Congress, national assembly etc.Often the executive government is simply called government.

Government can be monocracy, whenruled by one person elected by people or by a group or by usurpation of power under a military coup, or monarchy ruled by a king, or queen or a sovereign, either hereditary or elected or selected by a group,aristocracy,governmentruled by few persons, or democracy, ruled by people through elected representatives.

A constitutional Government is generally based on awritten constitution like USA, India, France, Brazil, South Africa etc. A state can be also governed byan unwritten constitution as in the United Kingdombased on laws, judicial decisions, conventions, customs, usages, and principles of natural justice.

Hereditary monarchy exists in UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrein, Oman, Morocco, and Japan etc. Titular monarchy exists in countries like UK, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Japan. Under the titular monarchy the king or queen is only the symbolic head of the state.

Democracy must have periodic elections, separation of power, system of checks and balance, fundamental rights, free media, vibrant civil society, autonomous academia, politically neutral civil service, and professionalbureaucracy.

There can be forms of government known as oligarchy, rule by a few people, plutocracy, government by wealthy, timocracy, type of government where possession of property is required to hold office, Stratocracy, government by military forces, and theocracy, government by priests.

In the early part of the twentieth century forms of government called Fascist, Nazi and Communist types were formed, and these types of governments were based on single party rule. In Germany Nazi party ruled under dictatorship of Hitler based on philosophy of racial superiority of the Aryan race.In USSR the Communist Party ruled the country under the dictatorship of Stalinfollowing Marxism-Leninism.

In Italy under dictatorship of Mussolini, the Fascist party governed the country.In Spain, Franco was the dictator while in Portugal Salazar ruled like a dictator.In Argentina it was Peron who ruled following similar approach.For a long period,the countries in South and Central America experienced military governments set-up through military coup d’état. Examples are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Panama. To forestall such a trend, the constitution of Costa Rica specifically abolished military in 1948.

Party led Governments continue in China, North Korea and Vietnam and Cuba based on philosophy of Karl Marx, Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and Fidel Castro.

Military led governments are seen in Pakistan and in Myanmar (erstwhile Burma) now and in the past. In Africa many countries experienced military rule in the past and dictatorship through military is a common feature even now. Theocracy, a form of government is under the control of priests. The word is derived from the Greek words Theo and Kratos. Theo means God and Kratos means power. In theocracy governance is based on the religion. Religious rules guide the administration. Classical religious scriptures are the basis of dispensation of justice. Josephus coined the word theocracy. It meant the commonwealth of the Jewish people, a state of Israel.

The best classical example of the theocratic government is Papacy in the Holy See. In a theocracy citizenship is granted based on religion and guaranteed by the religious origin. People of other religion may stay but they are generally treated as second class people. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy based on Islamic religious laws. Iran is also a theocratic state. In the Middle East there are many Islamic theocratic states. Pakistan is also an Islamic State.

In this context, it is relevant to make reference to the concept of secular state.After the end of religious wars in Europe, after the Treaty of Westphalia, the power of the Church was sequestered from political power. The State cannot have any religion. It became a secular institution. Government, therefore, cannot have any religious character. A secular state cannot promote a particular religion.

Kakistocracy is an expression which conveys the meaning of bad form of the government.This is based on the Greek word.The usage of the word had disappeared from political science since mid-nineteenth century and it came back to USA during the time of presidency of Donald Trump.

There are expressions called anarchic society and failed states etc. Somalia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, ISIS ruled territory and Taliban ruled state are classified under this category. Absence of recognition by other states and public international organizations make these territorial entities vulnerable to the expression of failed state or anarchic society.ISIS could not get statehood although it had territory and organization and managed to have control over its territory for certain period, but it had no recognition from other states or international organizations.

Afghanistan, when it came under the Taliban control in the nineties of the last century recognition was not given by the United Nations toits regime under Mullah Omar in Kabul, but it was given to the government under Masood in Panjshir. After the withdrawal of US led NATO forces, Taliban had taken over control of Kabul without getting recognition of UN and any state except that some states do have their presence in the country through their missions.

In a democracy there are three classical institutions called executive, legislature, and judiciary, and where constitutional law provides other institutions like Public Service Commission, Election Commission, and Auditor General exist. Executive is accountable to legislature. The legislature can be unicameral or bicameral. The lower house usually represents the people, members being directly elected, and upper house represents the constituting units called states or provinces. In both the legislative bodies presiding officers are expected to be politically neutral.

The political party enjoying the majority in the house forms the government in the parliamentary form of government.The others who are not part of the government are called the Opposition.The presiding officer of the legislature must be fair, impartial, and neutral.If he acts based on the adviceof the ruling party, he will not enjoy theconfidence of the Opposition.While for the sake of discipline in the House, presiding officer has authority to take punitive action including suspension.The suspension of all the members ofthe Opposition will not receive the support of society.

Removal of a member from the legislative body based solely on majority votes will not have character of democracy as the party in majority can take unilateral actionagainst Opposition members freeing the legislature of all Opposition.In ademocracy criticism isfundamental, which can cover government and presiding officer. In the UK the tradition of neutrality of the presiding officer is such that the convention is that the Speakerof the House of Commons is re-elected to the House without contest.Orderliness in the conduct of the business in the legislative bodies is the hallmark of good governance.

Independence of judiciary is an integral feature of democracy. Choice of judges should be based ona collegiumsystemwhere executive, legislature, and judiciary and other institutions must be represented. In separation of power executives also enjoy limited law-making power and judiciary also has law-making authority. Similarly, the legislature also has judicial power. Judiciary is expected to be guided by the age- old rule, justice delayed is justice denied. Equally it must keep in view the dictum, justice hurried is justice buried.

In addition, the election conducting body called Election Commission or Election Tribunal is an independent body created under the constitutions and legislative statutes. Selection of members to this body is not expected to be done by political executives but by a special procedure through a collegium system where their neutrality can never be in doubt. In Costa Rica like its apex court the election tribunal enjoys full autonomy and total independence.

In the post war period,the appointment to the election body was being done by political executives in the democracies.Since in the recent times there has been clamor around the world that elections are being manipulated through election-conducting bodies through appointees having political loyalty towards the party in power there is increasing demand for selecting members to the election- conducting body through a collegium system. Since elections are based on huge deployment of funds by political parties, disclosure of sources of funds of parties is being demanded.

The Public Service Commission, an institution created in the 19th century in Britain after the Cremean war is given a constitutional status in many states including India. It is a totally independent body meant for recruitment of civil servants, and itgives advice on promotion and disciplinary matters etc. This body is expected to be constituted by an independent committee free from political influence to ensure that selection of membership is based on political neutrality.

The Comptroller and Auditor General a body emanated from the British constitutional system has spread to all countries having constitutional and democratic systems. Selection to the post should be done not by political process. Professionals having knowledge of administration, finance, accountancy, and audit should be the candidates for this post and selection should be done by an independent body free from political influence.

In a democracy protection of weaker sections of society is of the highest consideration as they can be subject to mistreatment, and harassment and oppression by stronger, richer, and by people in majority based on race, religion, sect, language, ethnicity etc.Special commissions are created for their protection.In India Women’s Commission, Minority Commission, Commission for Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Castes and Backward Caste, persons under disabilities and Children have been established.

The concept of regulatory agencies evolved from the United States during the 19th century. These institutions were created by law having been vested with quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial authority. Regulatory bodiesunder statutes have emerged across the Commonwealth of Nations and spread to the countries in Europe and other continents.

In India the Reserve Bank of India created during the British period, Electricity Regulatory commission, Security Exchange Board of India (SEBI) are examples of regulatory bodies.

In evolution of governing systems there have been Presidential form as in USA or Parliamentary form as in UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India. The Swiss model is a class by itself. Governing architecture can be federal as in USA, Canada, India, Brazil or unitary as in UK although in last many years autonomy given to Scotland, Wales and Northern Island have federal characteristics.

Decentralization of power is another feature of governance of the states. In India under the constitution institutions of Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samity, and Zilla Parishad and urban bodies like Municipalities, first created through statutes of legislature and have now been created through constitutionalamendment and they are best examples of decentralization to pass on power and authority in a top-down approach.

Civil Service is an institution of professionals recruited by competitive, fair, and non-political process to assist the government in the conduct of business and governance.Although in the modern times it started in UK in the 19th century and in other European countries, there is evidence of their growth for centuries in the ancient civilizations like China and India.Civil service exercises delegated authority of the executive government which had been described as ‘new despotism’by Lord Hewart.Their activities,however, are subject to inspection and audit. The committees of legislature like the Public Accounts Committee and Estimates Committee scrutinize their work.Members of the civil service are subject to the established code of conduct.

Media must be free and independent from the government. Constitutional and statutory protection should be there for the newspapers, TV, and radio.In India the protection is available under Article 19 and Article 361A of the Constitution. Ownership of media should not be monopolistic. Regulatory institutions should be in place to oversee media activities. Appointment to the Regulatory body must be through a collegium system.

Autonomy of academia is another requirement in a liberal democracy. Appointment of Vice-Chancellors, Chancellors and Presidents should be open and transparent based on no political influence.Governing bodies of universities should be free from political influence.

In a democracy the civil society bodies like Non-Governmental Organizations play active role in sensitizing the government and regulatory institutions about human rights, environmental concerns andinternational issues like transnational migrations and displacement owing to civil strife and wars.Regulating their activities has become a burning problem as their cross-border funding has raised issues like national security etc.Appointment of regulators through a collegial system will be way forward.

Government and governance are subject to both internal and external scrutiny.UN bodies, World Bank, IMF, Regional Development Banks, Rating Agenciesand the International Redcross, Transparency International, and non-governmental philanthropic bodies make their reports on countries reflecting their views on governments and governance.

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