Unitary state

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A map showing the unitary states of the world (in blue).

A unitary state is a state governed as one single unit in which the central government is supreme and any administrative divisions (subnational units) exercise only powers that their central government chooses to delegate. The great majority of states in the world have a unitary system of government.

Unitary states are contrasted with federal states (federations) and confederal states (confederation):

  • In a unitary state, subnational units are created and abolished and their powers may be broadened and narrowed, by the central government. Although political power in unitary states may be delegated through devolution to local government by statute, the central government remains supreme; it may abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail their powers.
    • The United Kingdom is an example of a unitary state. Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have a degree of autonomous devolved power. But such devolved power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution.
    • Ukraine is another example of a unitary state (see Constitution of Ukraine). The Republic of Crimea within the country had a degree of autonomy and is governed by its Cabinet of Ministers and legislative Council. In the early 1990s the republic also had a presidential post which was terminated due to separatist tendencies that intended to transfer Crimea to Russia. In 2014, following a referendum, Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and rejoined the Russian Federation. However this vote was declared illegal by the United Nations General Assembly and has not, as of yet, been recognised.
    • Many unitary states have no such areas having any degree of autonomy. Subnational areas can not decide any own laws. Some examples of such countries are Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
  • In federal states, by contrast, states or other subnational units share sovereignty with the central government, and the states constituting the federation have an existence and power functions that cannot be unilaterally changed by the central government. In some cases, it is the federal government that has only those powers expressly delegated to it.

Devolution (like federation) may be symmetrical, with all subnational units having the same powers and status, or asymmetric, with regions varying in their powers and status.

List of unitary states[edit]

Unitary republic[edit]

Unitary monarchy[edit]

See also[edit]