Any classification of the form of government may be recognized as scientific only provided that it is based on and has due regard to its constitutional features. The use of other criteria makes the classification of the form of government look relative. Only legal features of the form of government reflect its essential properties and its inherent logic according to which state power is organized.
The purpose of this article is to identify the most important legal features of the form of government and to substantiate their importance as the criteria which make it possible to classify the form of government in a truly scientific manner, and also to criticize the empirical approach to its classification.
Since in many cases the actual characteristics of state governance are discordant with a legally defined form of government, some scholars argue that formal legal criteria are insufficient to adequately classify the form of government, and they believe that it requires the use of the so-called functional principle and should be based on explicit empirical data. However, the form of government is an arrangement of state power set as a norm, and not its functional characteristic. And the fact that a certain form of government functions differently under different external conditions does not indicate that its constitutional essence is thus changed. Political practice which essentially offsets or even completely eliminates the constitutional elements of the form of government does not create a new form of government, since it does not change its constitutional characteristics. The empirical approach to the classification of the forms of government has entailed the emergence of a potentially unlimited number of “new” forms of government. Subjectivism underlying the empirical approach evokes false results and makes it impossible to develop a classification of the forms of government which would be generally recognized in the professional environment.
The methodological approach to the classification of the form of government which ignores its legal features and replaces them with empirical data is the explanation why in different “private” classifications the same States fall into different classification groups. Furthermore, classifications drawing on personal intellectual preferences of their developers are often characterized by excessive complexity of the classification criterion which makes it difficult to understand its logic.
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