Unitary state Associated state Federalism

A federacy is a form of government where one or several substate units enjoy considerably more independence than the majority of the substate units.[1] To some extent, such an arrangement can be considered to be similar to asymmetric federalism.


A federacy is a form of government with features of both a federation and unitary state.[1] In a federacy, at least one of the constituent parts of the state is autonomous, while the other constituent parts are either not autonomous or comparatively less autonomous. An example of such an arrangement is Finland, where Åland, which has the status of autonomous province, has considerably more autonomy than the other provinces. The autonomous constituent part enjoys a degree of independence as though it was part of federation, while the other constituent parts are as independent as subunits in a unitary state. This autonomy is guaranteed in the country's constitution. The autonomous subunits are often former colonial possessions or are home to a different ethnic group from the rest of the country.[1] These autonomous subunits often have a special status in international relations.


Several states are federacies. The exact autonomy of the subunits differs from country to country.

Antigua and Barbuda

Barbuda is autonomous within Antigua and Barbuda.

Australia and Norfolk Island

Norfolk Island self-government was revoked by the Australian Federal Government in 2015. Its laws were subsumed into the laws of the Australian federal government and be subordinate to them. On 1 July 2016, the federal government increased federal regulations so that federal laws would also apply to Norfolk Island and to make it semi-autonomous. Since then, opposition by several organizations have protested these action to the United Nations to include the island on its list of "non-self-governing territories".[2][3]

Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan

Nakhchivan is an autonomous part of Azerbaijan.

Fiji and Rotuma

Rotuma has the status of dependency in Fiji.

Finland and Åland

The archipelago of Åland is a region of Finland, but compared to the other regions, it enjoys a high degree of home rule. Extensive autonomy was granted to it in the Act on the Autonomy of Åland of 1920 (last revised 1991), and the autonomy was affirmed by a League of Nations decision in 1921. The Parliament of Åland (Lagtinget) handles duties that in other provinces are exercised by state provincial offices of the central government. Åland sends one representative to the Finnish parliament, and is a member of the Nordic Council. It is demilitarised, and the population is exempt from conscription. Åland has issued its own postage stamps since 1984, and runs its own police force. Most of Åland's inhabitants speak Swedish as their first language (91.2% in 2007). Åland's autonomous status was a result of disputes between Sweden and Imperial Russia in 1809, and between Finland and Sweden 1917–1921.

France and its overseas lands

The French Republic is divided into 18 régions, 13 of which are in metropolitan France (Corsica, one of these, is strictly speaking not a région, but is often counted as such). Five of the régions are régions d'outre-mer (overseas regions). France also has five collectivités d'outre-mer, one territoire d'outre-mer, and one collectivité sui generis. All are integral parts of France and subject to French law, but New Caledonia (the collectivité sui generis), and French Polynesia (one of the five collectivités d'outre-mer, but with the designation of pays d'outre-mer) have considerably more autonomy. All except the uninhabited French Southern and Antarctic Lands are represented in the French parliament. Defence and diplomatic affairs are responsibilities of France, but they do participate in some organisations directly. Réunion, for example, is a member of the Indian Ocean Commission. In addition, France has the remote Clipperton Island in the Pacific under direct authority of the Minister of Overseas France. French overseas territories were in the past colonial possessions.

Iraq and Kurdistan

Arab Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have de jure full sovereignty over internal matters for their respective regions. The agreement was upheld in the country's 2005 constitution.

Kashmir and India/Pakistan

After independence from British rule, princely states of British India were given the choice to opt for either India or Pakistan. The Kashmir state was ruled by a Hindu king Maharaja Hari Singh but the majority of its population was Muslim. According to Burton Stein's History of India,

"Kashmir was neither as large nor as old an independent state as Hyderabad; it had been created rather off-handedly by the British after the first defeat of the Sikhs in 1846, as a reward to a former official who had sided with the British. The Himalayan kingdom was connected to India through a district of the Punjab, but its population was 77 per cent Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. Hence, it was anticipated that the maharaja would accede to Pakistan when the British paramountcy ended on 14–15 August. When he hesitated to do this, Pathan tribesman launched a guerrilla onslaught meant to sway its ruler into their favour and became fugitive leader. Instead the Maharaja appealed to Mountbatten[4] for assistance, and the governor-general agreed on the condition that the ruler accede to India. Indian soldiers entered Kashmir and drove the Pakistani-sponsored irregulars from all but a small section of the state. The United Nations was then invited to mediate the quarrel. The UN mission insisted that the opinion of Kashmiris must be ascertained, while India insisted that no referendum could occur until all of the state had been cleared of irregulars."[5]

Currently, the region is divided amongst three countries in a territorial dispute: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Gilgit–Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and the People's Republic of China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). India controls the majority of the Siachen Glacier area including the Saltoro Ridge passes, whilst Pakistan controls the lower territory just southwest of the Saltoro Ridge. India controls 101,338 km2 (39,127 sq mi) of the disputed territory; Pakistan 85,846 km2 (33,145 sq mi); and the PRC, the remaining 37,555 km2 (14,500 sq mi).

Mauritius and Rodrigues

On 20 November 2001, the Mauritius National Assembly unanimously adopted two laws giving Rodrigues its autonomy, creating a decentralised government system. This new legislation has allowed the implementation of a regional assembly in Rodrigues constituting 18 members and an executive council headed by a Chief Commissioner. The council meets every week to make decisions, draw up laws and manage the budget. The Chief Commissioner has the main task of informing the Mauritian Prime Minister of the management of the island's concerns.

Moldova and Gagauzia

In 1994 Gagauzia, a territory in the southern part of the Republic of Moldova inhabited by the Gagauz people, an ethnic group distinct from the majority Moldovans, was given autonomy including "the right of external self-determination". This is in contrast to the other subdivisions of Moldova (raioane) which are county-level administrative areas with little autonomy. However, the eastern part of Moldova is an internationally unrecognized breakaway republic (Transnistria) which is de facto self-governing.

Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten

The Kingdom of the Netherlands consists of four autonomous countries, linked by the Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands as constituent parts: the Netherlands, an autonomous, independent country, and Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, three separate, non-independent, autonomous countries. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten formerly made up the Netherlands Antilles, which was a colony of the Netherlands until 1954. Aruba reached an agreement on decolonization with the Kingdom of the Netherlands following a referendum held in 1977, and became autonomous and separate from the Antilles, with a status aparte: meaning the status of an autonomous country with its full autonomous country status officially recognized in the Charter since 1986. The Charter links the four separate autonomous countries. The three countries Aruba, Curaçao, and St.Maarten don't have statehood but do have Dutch nationality and passport in common with the Netherlands. All four countries, including the State of the Netherlands, have separate constitutions, governments and parliaments, but Aruba alone has its own national currency and Central Bank.

The Council of Ministers of the Kingdom as a whole consists de facto of the Council of Ministers of the Netherlands together with three ministers plenipotentiary, one nominated by each of the other countries. The legislature of the Kingdom consists of the parliament of the Netherlands. De facto the cabinet and the parliament of the Netherlands are responsible for the administration of the dependencies Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten besides being responsible for the Dutch government. There is limited participation of politicians of the other countries. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten share a Common Court of Appeals; the Dutch Hoge Raad ("High Council") acts as their supreme court.

Dutch nationals related to these territories are fully European citizens; however, Dutch-Caribbean citizens residing in Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are normally not entitled to vote in Dutch elections, but can vote in elections for the European Parliament. Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are overseas countries and territories (OCTs), listed under Annex II of the EC Treaty. Hence EC law does not apply there.

The Netherlands Antilles was scheduled to be dissolved as a unified political entity on 15 December 2008, so that the five constituent islands would attain new constitutional statuses within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but this dissolution was postponed until 10 October 2010. Curaçao and Sint Maarten gained autonomy as non-independent countries within the Kingdom, like Aruba did in 1986, and the three remaining islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba became special municipalities of the Netherlands itself.[6]

New Zealand and Cook Islands

Cook Islands is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum and as such is part of the "Umbrella Agreement" including Australia and New Zealand, called the "Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations" (PACER). This agreement includes the future creation of a free trade area amongst the 14 ACP Forum Islands Countries (FICs) called the "Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement" (PICTA), without Australia and New Zealand. Under the Cotonou Agreement, Cook Islands is committed to negotiating the new reciprocal Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the ACP states and the EU, which was due to come into force in 2008. Cook Islands also benefits from the 9th EDF (PRIP) Regional Trade and Economic Integration Programme which provides approximately €9 million to assist the Region in implementing PICTA, negotiate trade agreements with developed partners (e.g. EPA), intensify links with the WTO and address supply-side constraints.

Nicaragua, North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region

Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two autonomous regions: North Caribbean Coast and South Caribbean Coast. The two autonomous regions formed the historical department of Zelaya and part of the Mosquito Coast.

Papua New Guinea and Bougainville

Papua New Guinea is divided into 20 provinces. Among them Bougainville has an autonomous government.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Nevis is autonomous within Saint Kitts and Nevis, with its own deputy governor and government.

São Tomé and Príncipe

Príncipe has had self-government from São Tomé since 1995.

Serbia, Vojvodina and Kosovo

Serbia has two 'autonomous provinces' defined in its constitution: Vojvodina, and Kosovo & Metochia. A partially recognized Republic of Kosovo administers the latter, resulting in a territorial dispute.

Tajikistan and Gorno-Badakhshan

Badakhshan is an autonomous region in Tajikistan consisting of 7 local districts. Its government is considered somewhat sovereign to the Tajik government, but the region has from time to time been in militant conflict just as in 2014.[7]

Tanzania and Zanzibar

Tanzania is divided in 30 regions. Five of those regions together form Zanzibar. This island is a self-governing region. It elects its own president who has control over the internal matters of the island. Zanzibar was an independent sultanate and a British protectorate, while Tanganyika was a German Schutzgebiet until 1919, when it became a British mandate territory. The two were united in 1964, after a popular revolt against the Sultan of Zanzibar.

Trinidad and Tobago

Tobago has its own House of Assembly, with its Chief Secretary. It handles some of the responsibilities of the Trinidad and Tobago central government.


Ukraine is divided in twenty three oblasts and one municipality with special legal status, (Kiev). Until 1954 the peninsula of Crimea was an oblast of the Russian SFSR. It was transferred by Soviet Politburo as a gesture to mark the 300th anniversary of the Treaty of Pereyaslav. In 1991 the Crimea was granted autonomy. Its population mainly consists of Russians (58%), Ukrainians (24%) and Crimean Tatars (12%). The peninsula also houses the Russian Black Sea Fleet which is on the lease until 2042 and harbored in Sevastopol. Following the russian military occupation and referendum held on March 16, 2014 Crimea seceded from Ukraine and joined Russia, a move declared illegal by most of the international community and Ukraine itself.

United States and Puerto Rico

The relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is a federacy.[8][9]

Puerto Rico residents are United States citizens and may freely travel between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. Residents of Puerto Rico are exempt from some federal taxes. Puerto Rico's autonomy is granted by Congress. Federal taxes do not automatically apply to Puerto Rico unless the Puerto Rican government wants them to. Although the U.S. government has full say over its foreign policy, Puerto Rico does maintain direct contacts with its Caribbean neighbors.

Puerto Rico does not have full voting representation in the U.S. Congress, nor do its people vote for electors in U.S. Presidential elections.

Uzbekistan and Karakalpakstan

Karakalpakstan is an autonomous republic that occupies the whole western portion of Uzbekistan.

Comparison to other systems of autonomy


A federacy differs from a devolved state, such as Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom, because, in a devolved state, the central government can revoke the independence of the subunits (e.g. Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly in the case of the UK) without changing the constitution.

Associated states

A federacy also differs from an associated state, such as the Federated States of Micronesia (in free association with the United States) and Cook Islands and Niue (which form part of the Realm of New Zealand). There are two kinds of associated states: in the case of Micronesia, association is concluded by treaty between two sovereign states; in the case of the Cook Islands and Niue, association is concluded by domestic legal arrangements.[citation needed]

Crown dependencies

The relations between the United Kingdom and the Crown dependencies, i.e. the Isle of Man and the bailiwicks of Guernsey and Jersey in the Channel Islands, are very similar to a federate relation: the Islands enjoy independence from the United Kingdom, which, via The Crown, takes care of their foreign relations and defence – although the UK Parliament does have overall power to legislate for the dependencies. However, the islands are neither an incorporated part of the United Kingdom nor are they considered to be independent or associated states. The Isle of Man does not have a monarch but Queen Elizabeth II holds the position of Lord of Mann.

Overseas territories

British overseas territories are vested with varying degrees of power; some enjoy considerable independence from the United Kingdom, which only takes care of their foreign relations and defence. However, they are neither considered to be part of the United Kingdom, nor recognised as sovereign or associated states.

Asymmetric federations

In an asymmetric federation one of the substates has more independence than the others. Examples of this are Canada where Quebec has been given political deference to craft independent language and education policies.

Some unitary states, such as Spain and the United Kingdom, may also be regarded as asymmetric federations. For example, in Spain, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia (later also Andalusia, Aragon, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Navarre, Valencia, etc.) have been granted greater autonomy and political deference than the rest of the Spanish autonomous communities (see nationalities and regions of Spain).

The difference between an asymmetric federation and federacy is indistinct; a federacy is essentially an extreme case of an asymmetric federation, either due to large differences in the level of autonomy, or the rigidity of the constitutional arrangements.


Dr. Jaime Lluch, has critiqued the classification and description of "federacy" as used by Elazar and Watts. Lluch argues that the category of "federacy" is misapplied to the case of Puerto Rico (and to other comparable cases), and that it is an example of "conceptual stretching". He finds that "federacies" is in the end not a helpful category to understanding the types of institutional arrangements referred and recommends that scholars of comparative federalism need to find a more nuanced category to describe contemporary actually-existing autonomies such as Puerto Rico. Lluch shows that federacies have little to do with federalism, and are in fact distinct status arrangements that are more properly seen as "autonomies," of which there is a wide variety. This variety includes autonomies which are classified along a continuum that would take several "federacies" and reclassify them thus:

The case of Puerto Rico

In examining the Puerto Rico case, Lluch notes that although Elazar has mischaracterized the nature of the Puerto Rico-USA relationship, it is still cited as the prototype of a "federacy". Lluch defines Puerto Rico as a non-federal autonomy, which is officially an unincorporated territory belonging to the federal political system that is the USA, and subject to the plenary powers of the U.S. Congress under the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution and states that it is not a "free-associated" state.[10] Similar conclusions were made by three Presidential Task Forces on Puerto Rico's Status in 2005, 2007 and 2011. In particular, Lluch notes that contrary to Elazar's assertions in his 1987 and 1991 works, the power to terminate or modify the Puerto Rico-USA relationship rests squarely on the U.S. Congress and that the US government contends that sovereignty over Puerto Rico resides solely in the United States and not in the people of Puerto Rico.[10]

Lluch notes that both Watts and Elazar define a "federacy" as "political arrangements where a large unit is linked to a smaller unit or units, but the smaller unit retains considerable autonomy and has a minimum role in the government of the larger one, and where the relationship can be dissolved only by mutual agreement". However contrary to this definition he notes that far from having a minimum role in the government of the United States, Puerto Rico has no effective representation in Congress, except for a token representative that has no right to vote there. Nor do the residents of Puerto Rico vote for the U.S. President. However, Puerto Ricans are eligible to join US political parties, and both major parties conduct primary elections for national positions in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico thus has no direct representation in the institutions of the central state. He notes that essentially the Puerto Rico-USA relationship exhibits some elements of empire, and nearly none of federalism. Puerto Rico is better conceptualized as an exemplar of autonomism with the category of "federacy" being less helpful to explain it.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Stepan, Alfred (1999). "Federalism and Democracy: Beyond the U.S. Model". Journal of Democracy. 10 (4): 19–34. doi:10.1353/jod.1999.0072.
  2. ^ "Norfolk pleads for Canberra to delay NSW absorption". 18 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Norfolk Islanders seeking UN oversight". 28 April 2016.
  4. ^ Viscount Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of British India, stayed on in independent India from 1947 to 1948, serving as the first Governor-General of the Union of India.
  5. ^ Stein, Burton. 2010. A History of India. Oxford University Press. 432 pages. ISBN 978-1-4051-9509-6. Page 358.
  6. ^ "Antillen opgeheven op 10-10-2010" (in Dutch). NOS. 1 October 2009. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Retrieved 1 October 2009.
  7. ^ "'Many dead' in Tajikistan clashes". BBC News. 24 July 2012.
  8. ^ Elazar, Daniel J. (1991). Federal Systems of the World: A Handbook of Federal, Confederal and Autonomy Arrangements. London: Longman. p. 326. ISBN 0-582-08694-9.
  9. ^ Rezvani, David A. (2007). "The Basis of Puerto Rico's Constitutional Status: Colony, Compact, or "Federacy"?". Political Science Quarterly. Academy of Political Science. 122 (1): 115–140. doi:10.1002/j.1538-165x.2007.tb00594.x. ISSN 0032-3195. OCLC 128034053.
  10. ^ a b c d Lluch, Jaime (13 April 2011). Federacies and Conceptual Stretching: A Critique of the Category of "Federacy" (PDF). PSA Annual Conference, 19–21 April 2011, London, British and Comparative Territorial Politics Group panel. The Political Studies Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 March 2012. Retrieved 24 April 2012.