Contemporary Forms of Government


Constitutional government is defined by the existence of a constitution-which may be a legal instrument or merely a set of fixed norms or principles generally accepted as the fundamental law of the polity- that effectively controls the exercise of political power. Virtually all contemporary governments have constitutions, but possession and publication of a constitution does not make a government constitutional. Under constitutional government, those who govern are regularly accountable to at least a portion of the

governed. Accountability can be enforced through a great variety of regular procedures, including elections, systems of promotion, fiscal accounting, recall, and referendum. In constitutional democracies,

the accountability of government officials to the citizenry makes possible the citizens’ responsibility for the acts of government.

Few states in the modern world have constitutional arrangements that are more than a century old. The vast majority of all the world’s states have constitutions written in the 20th century. This is true of states such as Germany, Italy, Japan, and of some other states, such as Spain and China, that have experienced civil war and revolutions in the course of the century. Great Britain and the United States of America are almost alone among major contemporary nation-states in possessing constitutional arrangements that predate the 20th century.

In the contemporary world, constitutional governments are generally democracies, and in most cases they are referred to as constitutional democracies or constitutional-democratic systems.

A monarchy is a form of government in which supreme power is actually or nominally lodged in an individual (the monarch), who is the head of state, and “is wholly set apart from all other members

of the state.” The person who heads a monarchy is called a monarch.

There is no clear definition of monarchy. Holding unlimited political power in the state is not the defining characteristic, as many constitutional monarchies such as the United Kingdom and Thailand are considered monarchies. Currently 44 nations in the world have monarchs as heads of state, 16 of which are Commonwealth realms that recognize Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom as head of state.

Different nations grant different powers to their monarchs. In the Netherlands, Denmark and in Belgium, for example, the Monarch formally appoints a representative to preside over the creation of a coalition government following a parliamentary election, while in Norway the King chairs special meetings of the

cabinet. There also exist today several federal constitutional monarchies. In these countries, each subdivision has a distinct government and head of government, but all subdivisions share a monarch who is head of state of the federation as a united whole.


A Answer the questions to the text:

a) What contemporary forms of government are mentioned in the text?

b) What countries are described as having constitutional government?

c) How many countries have monarchs as heads of state?

B Find in the text the information referring to:

1. definition of a constitutional government;

2. powers of monarchs in different countries;

3. the countries the constitutions of which predate the 20th century;

4. responsibility of those who govern under constitutional government.


C For sentences 1-6 choose the right variant (a, b) which fits best according to the text.

1. Constitutional government is defined by ……………………

a) the existence of systems of promotion.

b) the existence of a constitution.

2. Under constitutional government those who govern ………..

a) are accountable to the government.

b) have unlimited political power.

3. The majority of states have constitutions written in …………

a) in the 20th century.

b) before the 20th century.

4. Holding unlimited power in a monarchy is …………………..

a) not a defining characteristic.

b) is a defining characteristic.

5. Monarchs in different countries have ………………………..

a) the same powers.

b) different powers.

6. In federal constitutional monarchies all subdivisions have ….

a) a common head of government.

b) a distinct head of government.


D Find in the text the verbs that complete the expressions below. Translate these word combinations into Russian.

….…. as the fundamental law; ……. the constitution; ………. constitutional arrangements; ………. a monarchy; ………. political power; ……. different powers; ………. a representative; ………. meetings.

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