Differences Between Unitary and Federal Government

Differences Between Unitary and Federal Government

How does a unitary government differ from a federal government?

In a unitary government, the power is held by one central authority but in a federal government, the power is divided between national government or federal government and local governments or state governments.

Federal Government

  • The system has multiple hierarchy levels, with both the central authority and the states (or provinces) both being sovereign.
  • The central or national rules override the state rules.
  • There is a balance between the levels of government.
  • Power and responsibilities are shared between national and local levels. In a federal form of government, the term “federal” is also used to refer to the national level of government. Examples include United States of America and Nigeria.

Unitary Government

  • There is no hierarchy of sovereign powers.
  • States have no authority to pass their own laws, and the central or national government can order the states to do anything.
  • The federal government has a huge percentage of the power. Examples include Japan and Saudi Arabia.

[Attributions and Licenses]


This is a lesson from the tutorial, Structure and Systems of Government and you are encouraged to log in or register, so that you can track your progress.

Log In

Share Thoughts