Separation of powers refers to an organizational structure that delegates certain powers to certain people or groups. This structure is a fundamental part of U.S. government where each branch of government has separate powers and responsibilities, independent of the other branches.
A bipartite democratic system of government has two levels of separation of powers. There is a group of elected representatives, or General Court, who in turn elect a governor.
Here are examples of a bipartite system in early American colonies:
- Massachusetts Bay Colony
- New Jersey
- Plymouth Colony
- Rhode Island
A tripartite system of government usually has executive, legislative and judicial branches.
Here are examples of governments with three branches:
- Australia - The Parliament, the Executive Government, and the Judicature
- Austria - Federal president, Parliament, and Administrative and Constitutional Court System
- Czechoslovakia - There is a president and cabinet, parliament and a judiciary branch.
- France - President, Prime Minister and the cabinet makeup the executive branch. The Senate and National Assembly makeup the legislative branch and the judiciary are the judicial and administrative orders.
- Hong Kong - Chief Executive and Executive Council, Legislative Council, and Judiciary
- India - Prime Minister, Cabinet and Government Departments & Civil Service make up the executive branch. Parliament is the legislative branch and the Supreme Court is the judicial branch
- United Kingdom - Prime Minister, Cabinet, Government Departments & Civil Service are the executive branch, Parliament is the legislature and the courts are the judiciary
- United States - The president is the executive branch, Congress is the legislative branch and the Supreme Court and other inferior courts makeup the judicial branch
Other Governmental Systems
- In ancient Rome, there were the Roman Senate, Consuls, and Assemblies. This is an example of a mixed government.
- Belgium has horizontal separation of powers: legislative, executive and judicial. It has vertical separation of powers that include: regional parliaments, provincial councils and city councils.
- Costa Rica has the typical three branches but added an electoral branch (Supreme Elections Tribunal) and an audit branch (Comptroller General).
- The European Union has: the Council of the European Union, European Commission, European Council, European Parliament, European Court of Justice, and the European Court of Auditors.
- Germany’s government has six main bodies: Federal President, Federal Cabinet, Federal Diet, Federal Council, Federal Assembly and Federal Constitutional Court
- Hungary has four branches: the parliament, the government, the court system, and the office of the public accuser
- Taiwan has five branches: Executive Yuan, Legislative Yuan, Judicial Yuan, Control Yuan (audits) and Examination Yuan (civil service personnel management and human resources).
- A husband and wife can be an example of separation of powers. He has a job and is the breadwinner and she takes care of the house and raises the children.
- In team sports, like football, the coach will call the play and the quarterback puts in into motion but can change parts of it if necessary. Other members have specific tasks and responsibilities.
- In a college, you have the board with certain powers, chancellors and vice-chancellors, then department heads and faculty.
- In a small business you may have partners where one runs the day to day operations of the business and the other may handle the books and the purchasing.
- In a corporation, there may be a CEO, Board of Directors, Managers, assistant managers and workers.
Now you have seen how power can be split in different contexts among different people and groups.