Forms of Government: Discussion for Students


This is the earliest form of government, and it is characterized by the rule of a king, a queen or an emperor. The office of the head of state in a monarchical system is hereditary not elective. The monarch is always succeeded by his/her children or blood family members from generation to generation. Examples of monarch include the queen of England, king Fhad of Saudi Arabia, Hassan of Morocco and Hussein of Jordan.

Types of Monarchy

Absolute Monarchy

This is a type of monarchy in which the monarch is the chief executive of the state and has unlimited powers. The monarch is not subjected to the constitution and he/she combines ceremonial and executive offices and does not tolerate opposition. Examples of former absolute monarchs include late Emperor Hail Sellaisie of Ethiopia and Nicholas Tsar of Tsarist republic, Fredrick the great of Russia (1743-1786), Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) etc. Few examples of absolute monarchs today include those of Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Constitutional or Limited Monarchy

Here, the monarch is regulated by the constitution. He rules according to the constitution. He or she can only promulgate laws which are agreed by the parliament. In administration, the monarch is bound to accept the advice of ministers who are chosen from, and are responsible to the parliament.

In this type of monarchy, the king, queen or emperor performs only ceremonial functions. The head of state who is the monarch only reigns and does not rule and is a titular, ceremonial, nominal or figure head. The real executive powers lies with the prime minister or the parliament. Britain is an example of countries practicing constitutional monarchy. In Britain, Queen Elizabeth is a constitutional monarch. Other examples include queen Juliana of Netherlands and emperor Havohito of Japan.

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Aristocracy is literally a government by the best citizens. A state governed by the best man, upon the most virtuous principles, has the right to be called an aristocrat.


Oligarchy is government by the few who rule for their own selfish interest. Oligarchy is a term used to describe government of countries where a small group of people dominate and manipulate things as well as share power among themselves.


This is one of the oldest social-political and economic Systems in which land ownership was the major requirement for the control of power. In this form of government which was practiced in medieval Europe from AD 476 to AD 1500 land was vested in the king or monarch or emperor who also controlled all land users. Those that had land were called feudal lords”. They employ laborers known as the “serfs” who work for them. This system of inequality between the lords” and the “serfs” created a fertile ground on which capitalism later germinated and flourished.


It is a system in which only one political party exists. This system was fashioned by an Italian philosopher Giovani Gentile in June 192. All citizens are expected to join the one party and abide by its provisions and guidelines because there is no room for opposition. The mass media is under the control of the government. This system is mostly found in socialist states of Cuba, China, Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union. In this system, there is no exploitation of man by man, no unemployment as government provides everything, there is free and compulsory education, free medical health care and a high level of discipline is maintained. Cuba has 100% literary rate because she practiced it.

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This is a political cum economic system in which all or large part of means of production and distribution are controlled by the state. The theory of socialism was propounded by Karl Marx and popularized by Lenin. Productive firms or public corporations produce the goods and services used in the country are owned by the government. Arid private individuals are not allowed to own private property or employ others to work for them.

The idea of socialism is based on equality and everything is collectively owned by the people or government. Education is free for all categories of people, there is no corruption, embezzlement of public fund attracts death penalty, etc. Socialist countries today include China, Cuba, Poland, Hungary, and Vietnam. African countries like Ethiopia, Tanzania, Angola, Guinea, and Mozambique.


Capitalism is a political cum economic system in which al or most means of production and distribution are owned and controlled by private individuals and in which the economic activity of the government is at a minimum. The government observes only a regulatory role to ensure that the free competition for the available resources. Survival of the fittest is a major characteristic of a capitalist state.

The capitalist system has no respect for the less privilege. They have no place in the scheme of things and the people that are poor and weak are left to die in helpless poverty. This mode of production is highly exploitative because the level of accumulation of wealth has no limit. Countries that practice it include USA, Britain, France Germany, South Africa, Nigeria and Cameroon etc.

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The word democracy is a combination of two Greek Words “demos” meaning people and “Kratein” meaning “rule”. Literally therefore, the term democracy means “peoples rule”. A popular definition of democracy was given by Abraham Lincoln, a former president of USA. He defines democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people”. In essence democracy simply means majority rule as it creates opportunity for the people to participate actively in the governance of the state, which starts from peoples involvement in the free and fair elections conducted at periodic intervals for the purpose of having leadership who steers the affairs of the people.

Types of Democracy

  • Direct democracy
  • Indirect democracy

Direct democracy is a type of democracy whereby all the citizens in a community or state participate in decision making in order to govern the state.

Indirect democracy is the type of democracy in which all qualified adult citizens in a state elect members or representatives into the parliament who will represent and govern the state on their behalf.

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