SEPARATION OF POWERS.
Separation of powers refers to a system of governance where the different arms of the
government are divided into branches. This is aimed at ensuring transparency and accountability.
Separation of powers is also referred to as a system of checks and balances because it is founded
upon putting measures in place to help avoid abuse of power and promoting conflict of interests
between the different branches. There are three main branches of the government which are the
executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The concept of separation of powers is an accident
idea that was addressed by legal scholars like Montesquieu (Montesquieu, 1748) .
Although the concept of separation of powers is a noble constitutional principle, it is not possible
to have a perfect separate system without creating a conflict of interest between the individual
branches. It is not equally possible to have separation of powers that meet the interests of every
branch of government. It is important to look at the separation of powers, the limitations of this
system and at the possibility of having a fusion of the powers.
Separation of powers.
The government is tasked with several obligations such as enacting laws, ensuring that these
laws are implemented and that there are institutions with the authority to help interpret the laws.
These duties cannot be done by one person and hence the need to divide them into different
branches that are then governed by different arms of the government. The main aim is of having
separation of powers is to ensure that the government has independent branches namely the
executive, the judiciary and the legislature. The executive is tasked with decision making, the
judiciary involves the court system and the legislature takes on making laws and policies. This
division of powers is aimed at ensuring that government officials exercise limited powers (Kant,
1971) . This is in line with the concept of constitutionalism and the need to have a government
and government official who respect the rule of law and that there is no abuse of power.
Limitations of separations of powers.
It is not possible to have a pure system of separation of powers. Constitutional law addresses the
concept of the separation of powers as a system of government that respects the rule of law
through implementing measures that promote the separation of the arms of government. This
gives the people power to decide the limits of each arm of the government by ensuring the power
and authority of each arm is limited. This is emphasized by the concept that the power of the
government is in its people hence the government should work for the good of the people. Hence
the government and the government official should only exercise limited authority over the
people. The concept of separation of powers comes in to ensure that power is divided across the
important arms of the government to avoid abuse and misuse of power (Hamilton, 1931) .
Separation of powers aims at ensuring that the executive does not influence the outcome of the
decisions of the legislature and the jurisdiction. This helps to ensure that the decisions of the
legislature and the judiciary are fair to the people and do not serve the interests of the
government alone. However, this system risks running into a deadlock when it comes to decision
making as the separate agencies of government must have deliberations before decisions are
made. It is clear that separation of powers necessitates the need to have measure that shall reduce
the amount of time it takes for the different arms of the government to reach a decision.
The fusion of the powers.
This term was first the British constitutional law expert Walter Bagehot who proposed that to
avoid the limitations experienced by the concept of separation of power, some branches of
government such as the executive and the legislature should be intermingled (Needler, 1991) .
The aim of having a fusion of powers is to promote quick, easy and prompt decision making by
the government. This is because the government doesn’t need to take time consulting with
different separate branches of government before reaching a conclusion. Where the executive
and the legislature are fused, there is less likelihood of having conflicts of interest as those
experiences when there is a pure separation of powers.
However, although the fusion of powers is aimed at curing the imperfections of pure separation
of powers, the fusion of powers serves to give the executive more powers. Fusion of powers
offers the executive on a higher level of authority than the legislature and the judiciary. This, in
turn, obligates the executive with finding and maintaining power and control over government
matters. This brings conflict because the executive becomes hard to question as in relations to
how to exercises its powers towards serving the people.
The influence of the executive on the legislature on laws and policy making is also a great issue
to be considered. Where the legislature is not free to deliberate on laws and is controlled by the
executive, there is a likelihood that the laws that are enacted are to the people’s disadvantage and
the government’s advantage. Too much power vested on one branch of the government is
detrimental to the rest of the other branches of the government even under the fusion of powers
The purpose of constitutionalism is to ensure that the rule of law is respected in so far as
governance is in question. The aim of the government is tasked with ensuring that the people are
governed fairly and that the government agencies and official exercise moderate power and
authority over the people. The concept of separation of powers is a noble one but it is impossible
to have a pure system because the different arms of the government still need to consult with
each other in order to make policies fit for the people. The idea of fusion of powers may have a
few advantages but it is still lacking since it posses the risk of conferring excess powers on the
executive at the expense of the other arms of government. Hence, it is important to have a system
of separation of powers with checks and balances.
Hamilton, W. H. (1931). Constitutionalism: Encyclopidea of the Social Sciences. New York Macmillan.
Kant, E. (1971). Perpetual Peace. Reiss Hans (ed) Political Writings Cambridge England pp 112-113.
Montesquieu. (1748). The Spirit of the Laws .
Needler, M. C. (1991). The Concept of Comparative Politics. Greenwood Publishing Group.
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