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Power Sharing in Belgium

Belgium is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a smaller state in terms of land area and population than Haryana. The Netherlands, France, Germany, and Luxembourg encircle it on four sides.
Its ethnic composition is fairly varied. 59 percent of the overall population of the Netherlands resides in the Flemish region and speaks the Dutch language.
The remaining 40% of the population lives in Wallonia and speaks French. The remaining 1% are native German speakers.
The capital of Belgium is Brussels, where 80% of citizens speak French and 20% speak Dutch. French speakers were a tiny but rich and powerful group.
This incensed the Dutch-speaking populace, who gained economic wealth and education much later.

Tensions Between The French And Dutch Communities

During the 1950s and 1960s, the socio-economic gap exacerbated tensions between the Dutch and French-speaking populations.
This tension was heightened in Brussels due to a unique circumstance. The Dutch-speaking population was a majority across the nation, but a minority in the capital.

Accommodation In Belgium

Belgian officials took a different approach, embracing the country’s geographical distinctions and cultural richness as well as its similarities and differences. Belgium’s Constitution was changed four times between the 1970s and 1993, the most recent being in 1993.
The following are the arrangements the Belgian government is putting in place to allow everyone to live together in the same country:

  1. The Constitution demands an equal number of Dutch and French-speaking ministers in the Central Government. Certain specialised legislation requires the support of a majority of members of each language group. As a consequence, no one community has the authority to act unilaterally.
  2. The State Governments are not subordinate to the Central Government. More powers of the Central Government have been given to the State Governments of two regions of the country.
  3. Brussels has its government, with an equal number of Dutch and French-speaking residents.
  4. In addition to the Central and State governments, there is a third type of government, known as the ‘Community Government’, that exists in every community. It is chosen by people who are members of a single language community—Dutch, French, or German-speaking—regardless of where they live. When it comes to issues such as culture, education, and language, the government has the power to take action.

So far, the Belgian model has proven successful in preventing civil strife between two major communities while keeping the country together. Brussels has been chosen as the European Union’s headquarters from the very beginning.

Power Sharing in Srilanka

Sri Lanka is an Indian Ocean island republic. It is located only a few kms off Tamil Nadu’s southern coast. Sri Lanka’s population of around two crore people is varied, with 74 percent Sinhalese and 18 percent Tamils.

Sub-Groups Of Tamils

Tamils Are Divided Into Two Subgroups:

Sri Lankan Tamils : Sri Lankan Tamils are people who are natives of the Tamil language who live in Sri Lanka. They make up 13% of the population and are concentrated in the north and east of the country. Sinhala speakers are mostly Buddhist, while Tamil speakers are either Hindu or Muslim

India’s Tamils: Indian Tamils are Tamils whose forefathers arrived in Sri Lanka as plantation labourers under colonial rule. They constitute 5% of the total population. Around 7% of the population, including Tamil and Sinhala speakers, are Christians

Majoritarianism In Sri Lanka

  1. Majoritarianism refers to the concept that the majority community should be able to rule a country in whichever way it likes, regardless of the ambitions and needs of the minority.
  2. In 1948, when Sri Lanka gained independence, the leaders of the Sinhala minority were able to establish influence over the government as a result of their numerical majority.
  3. In 1956, an act was passed declaring Sinhala to be the single official language of the country, with Tamil being disregarded.
  4. When it came to academic positions and government jobs, the government used preferential hiring rules that favoured Sinhala applicants. The state is required to protect and promote Buddhism, according to the new Constitution.
  5. All of these government initiatives contributed to a growing sense of alienation among Sri Lankan Tamils. No major political party led by Buddhist Sinhala leaders, they believed, was sensitive to their language and culture. Over time, the relationship between the Sinhala and Tamil communities became strained.

The Struggles Of Sri Lankan Tamils

Sri Lankan Tamils established political parties and campaigns for Tamil’s recognition as an official language. Regional autonomy as well as equality of opportunity in securing education and employment were among the demands made by these protestors. However, their request was repeatedly turned down by the authorities.
By the 1980s, various political organisations such as the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) had been created, calling for the establishment of an independent Tamil Eelam (state) in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern regions. The tensions between the two groups quickly escalated into a Civil War.

Result Of Struggles

Thousands of members of both groups were killed during the Civil War. Additionally, the Civil War had a devastating impact on the country’s social, cultural, and economic life.
Numerous families were compelled to flee the nation as refugees, and many individuals suffered economic hardship.

Need Of Power Sharing – Prudential : The First Set Of Reason

It stresses the need for power sharing in order to get superior outcomes. Sharing power is advantageous because it decreases the possibility of conflict amongst social groups. Because social discontent often culminates in violence and political instability.
Power sharing is an efficient way of ensuring the stability of the political system. Imposing the will of the majority community on others may seem to be an attractive option. In the long run, though, it erodes the nation’s unity.
Tyranny of the majority is not just destructive to the minor community; it may also bring the end of the ruling elite.

Moral : The Second Set Of Reason

It emphasises that the simple act of power sharing is valuable in and of itself. Power sharing is at the heart of democracy’s ideology. The right to be consulted on how they will be governed exists for all people. A legitimate government is one in which citizens can gain a stake in the system through participation.

Forms Of Power Sharing

All political power in a democracy originates with the people. Through institutions of self-governance, people rule themselves, and everyone, including minorities, has a voice in the shaping of public policies. Thus, political power must be divided equally among as many individuals as feasible in a democracy.

Power sharing arrangements can take numerous shapes and forms in modern democracies, including, for example,

Horizontal Distribution Of Power

Government’s judicial, legislative, and executive departments all share authority. This arrangement is referred to as horizontal power distribution because it permits diverse government units positioned on the same level to exercise separate powers.

This separation of powers ensures that no organ has limitless authority.

Each organ has a role of self-containment.

As a result, several organisations maintain a delicate balance of power. A check-and-balance structure is used to describe this system.

For example, the Executive selects judges, and their function is to supervise the Executive’s administration and execution of legislative laws.

Federal Government And Vertical Division Of Power

Power may be shared at several levels of government. A central government that is responsible for the whole country, as well as provincial or regional governments.
Typically, this kind of centralised government is referred to as the Federal Government.

The Central or Union Government is how it is referred to in India. The term “provincial” or “regional” government varies per country.
Several states and provinces are absent from numerous countries. In countries with many levels of government, such as ours, the Constitution specifically outlines the vertical division of power.

It is possessed by Belgians but not by Sri Lankans. The term “federal division of powers” refers to this arrangement. The similar idea may be used at the municipal and panchayat levels of governance.

Community Government

Additionally, power may be shared among different social groups, such as religious and linguistic groups. Belgium’s Community Government is an excellent example of this arrangement.
In some nations, there are constitutional and legal provisions to ensure that women and members of lower social classes are represented in legislatures and administrative positions. This strategy is used to ensure that minority communities receive an equal share of power.

Coalition Government

Power sharing arrangements can also be observed in the ways in which political parties, pressure groups, and movements exert control over or influence persons in positions of authority.

In a democracy, citizens must be able to choose among the numerous contenders for political office from a variety of different political parties. A democracy is characterised by the distribution of power among various political parties that represent various ideologies and social groups.

When two or more political parties create an alliance to contest elections, this type of sharing might take place in a direct way. If their alliance gets elected, they will form a Coalition Government, which will allow them to share power.

Different Interest Groups

In a democracy, we can discover interest groups such as traders, businessmen, industrialists, farmers, and industrial workers who represent their own interests.

Their participation in government committees and exerting influence on the decision-making process also gives them an interest in the government’s power

NCERT Question Answer Notes Class 10 Political Science (Civics) Chapter 1 – Power Sharing

What are the different forms of power-sharing in modern democracies? Give an example of each of these.


  1. Power-sharing among the different parts of government (Horizontal power-sharing). In a democracy, power is shared among the different parts of the government, such as the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
  2. This is called the horizontal distribution of power because it lets different parts of the government on the same level have different powers. Under this kind of power-sharing arrangement, one can have unlimited power.
  3. Each organ has its own powers, and it can also check the powers of other organs. So, this leads to a balance of power among the different institutions.
  4. Power-sharing between governments at different levels: In this system, people choose different governments at different levels, such as a general local government for the whole country and local governments at the provincial, sub-national, or regional levels. A general government for the whole country is usually called a Federal government.
  5. Power sharing among different social groups: In a democracy, especially in a multi-ethnic society, power is also shared among social groups, such as religious and linguistic groups. “Community government” in Belgium is a good example of this kind of arrangement. In some countries, the constitution and laws make sure that socially weaker groups and women are represented in the legislature and government.
  6. Sharing power among political parties, pressure groups, and movements: In a democracy, power is also shared among political parties, pressure groups, and movements. In a democracy, people get to choose who runs their country.
  7. This choice is made possible by the different political parties, which compete in elections to win them. Such competition makes sure that power doesn’t stay in one hand.

State one prudential reason and one moral reason for power-sharing with an example from the Indian context.


  • Prudential reason:
  • Power sharing makes it less likely that different social groups will fight with each other.
  • Power-sharing is a good way to keep the political order stable. Social conflict often leads to violence and political instability.
  • As has happened in Sri Lanka, forcing the will of the majority community on others hurts the unity of the country.
  • The tyranny of the majority doesn’t just make life hard for the majority; it also often leads to ruin for the majority. In India, for example, seats in the legislature and assembly have been set aside. This plan is meant to give different social groups a place in the government and administration. Minorities have also been given special rights under the law.
  • Moral reason:
  • In a democracy, people need to share power. Since all people are affected by government policies, they should be asked for their opinions on how the country is run. They should be able to take part in making decisions. This is the basis of democracy. It is the very essence of it.
  • A legitimate government is one in which the people have a say and a stake in how things work. So, moral reasons stress how important it is to share power. People in India choose their leaders every five years or sooner. People also have the right to know what is going on.

After reading this chapter, three students drew different conclusions. Which of these do you agree with and why? Give your reasons in about 50 words.
Thomman — Power sharing is necessary only in societies which have religious, linguistic or ethnic divisions.
Mathai — Power sharing is suitable only for big countries that have regional divisions.
Ouseph — Every society needs some form of power-sharing even if it is small or does not have social divisions.

Answer: Even if a society is small or doesn’t have a lot of social differences, it still needs some form of power sharing because:

  • Everyone needs a voice and a chance to be heard, and everyone needs to be able to vote.
  • Power-sharing solutions are used to keep the system stable and to keep the peace between different groups, so that the system works well no matter how big the country is.

The Mayor of Merchtem, a town near Brussels in Belgium, has defended a ban on speaking French in the town’s schools. He said that the ban would help all non-Dutch speakers integrate into this Flemish town. Do you think that this measure is in keeping with the spirit of Belgium’s power-sharing arrangements? Give your reasons in about 50 words.

Answer: No, the action taken by the mayor of Merchtem is not in line with how Belgium shares power. As 59 percent of the people in the Flemish region speak Dutch, a ban on speaking French in the town’s schools would make it hard for French and Dutch speakers to meet each other and create feelings of distrust and suspicion. The ban doesn’t take into account regional and cultural differences. It goes against the idea of making room for every language group and creating a good place for everyone to live. The ban, on the other hand, sets the stage for civic strife and could cause the community to split along linguistic lines.

Read the following passage and pick out any one of the prudential reasons for power sharing offered in this :
“We need to give more power to the panchayats to realise the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and the hopes of the makers of our Constitution. Panchayati Raj establishes true democracy. It restores power to the only place where power belongs in a democracy – in the hands of the people. Giving power to Panchayats is also a way to reduce corruption and increase administrative efficiency. When people participate in the planning and implementation of developmental schemes, they would naturally exercise greater control over these schemes. This would eliminate the corrupt middlemen. Thus, Panchayati Raj will strengthen the foundations of our democracy.”

Answer: “Giving Panchayats more power is also a way to cut down on corruption and make government work better. When people help plan and carry out plans for development, they naturally feel like they have more control over these plans. This would get rid of the crooked people in the middle. So, Panchayati Raj will help make our democracy stronger. Sharing power will make it less likely that different groups in the village will fight with each other. There won’t be any violence, and there will be political stability. Because of it, there will be peace, and the village may make progress in different ways.

Different arguments are usually put forth in favour of and against power-sharing. Identify those which are in favour of power-sharing and select the answer using the codes given below. Power-sharing :

  1. reduces conflict among different communities.
  2. decreases the possibility of arbitrariness.
  3. delays the decision-making process.
  4. accommodates diversities.
  5. increases instability and divisiveness.
  6. promotes people’s participation in government.
  7. undermines the unity of a country.

Answer: (a) A, B, D, F.

Consider the following statements about power-sharing arrangements in Belgium and Sri Lanka :

  1. In Belgium, the Dutch-speaking majority of people tried to impose their domi¬nation on the minority French-speaking community.
  2. In Sri Lanka, the policies of the government sought to ensure the dominance of the Sinhala-speaking majority.
  3. The Tamils in Sri Lanka demanded a federal arrangement of power-sharing to protect their culture, language and equality of opportunity in education and jobs.
  4. The transformation of Belgium from a unitary government to a federal one prevented a possible division of the country on linguistic lines.

Which of the statements given above are correct?

(a) A, B, C, and D

(b) A, B, and D

(c) C and D

(d) B, C, and D

Answer: (d) B, C, and D.

Consider the following two statements on power-sharing and select the answer using the codes given below :

  1. Power sharing is good for democracy.
  2. It helps to reduce the possibility of conflict between social groups.

Which of these statements are true and false?

(a) A is true but B is false (b) Both A and B are true

(c) Both A and B are false (d) A is false but B is true


Answer: (b) Both A and B are true.

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