A confederal system of government is a union of states with a common recognised authority in certain matters affecting the whole and especially in respect of external relations. This is a type of organisation in which the member states retain their full sovereignty and act unanimously in all major questions of policies and on amendment to the confederation basic laws. In a confederation, sovereignty rests with the component states. It follows that while the units of a confederation have the legal right of secession, the units of a federation have not. This differentiates between the two forms of ultimate authority and sovereignty. An example of this system is the Senegambia confederation formed by two independent sovereign countries of West Africa namely Senegal and the Gambia.
Advantages of Confederalism
The following are the advantages of a confederal system of government:
1. The formation of a confederal state by small states can enable them be in a position to influence international politics.
2. It can also enable small states to defend themselves against external attack after forming a confederal system of government.
3. Confederation looks attractive to a large country like Nigeria where a centralised federal system makes the work of government difficult for the country.
4. A confederal system of government provides opportunities for minorities to protect themselves since each state in the confederation is independent and equal in status.
5. Since the legal right of secession is recognised under a confederal system of government, it is preferable for states that may want independence from the federation.
6. A confederal system of government is preferable for countries with several ethnic groups with diverse cultural values.
7. Where state discovers that they are blessed with natural resources like petroleum, tin, uranium, etc., they may choose confederation because they believe that each state can be independent under a confederal system of government.
Disadvantages of Confederalism
1. This system of government is loose and fragile. A member-state can decide to pull out of the union at any time. When this happens, the confederation immediately ceases to exist.
2. A confederal system of government is difficult to operate.
3. The relationship between the central confederal government and the state government is not well- defined. The result has been the constant disagreement between the states that form the confederation.
4. Where it has been operated, the confederal system has failed. Example is the defunct Soviet Union. Confederation therefore, is an unreliable system of government.