Countries without the "Three Branches of Government"

Every child in the US learns about the Three Branches of Government, namely the Legislative branch, which makes laws, the Executive branch, which enforces laws, and the Judicial branch which interprets laws. Later, kids learn that many other countries also have similar divisions in government, even though there may be minor differences, for example the UK where there is no person with the Executive role of President per se, but there is still an Executive branch of government.

Are there any countries, or possibly self-governing jurisdictions within countries, that are missing one or more of these branches? For example, is there a country where there is literally no legislature to make laws, and judges in legal cases apply community consensus for every case? Is there a country where there are no courts, and instead of criminal trials, one writes a nice letter to their congresscritter asking for a Bill of Attainder to be drafted, introduced, and voted on against the person who stole your money? Are there any countries that have no executive department, lacking police, immigration officers, public prosecutors, probation officers, health inspectors, child welfare officials, and other executive positions?

Alternatively, are there jurisdictions where branches are really and truly-o merged? For example, a country in which there is no legal distinction between a police officer, a prosecutor/district attorney, a judge with subject matter jurisdiction over criminal cases, and a prison guard, effectively meaning that a cop can arrest you (wearing an Executive hat) and “try” you himself (wearing a Judicial hat), then if he finds you guilty, manage your sentence?

I am primarily interested in it from a theoretical perspective rather than language games regarding translations of laws or the official, legal names of government offices. For example, if a country has officials that perform many or most of the typical functions of judges, such as mediating at trials and ruling on the interpretation of laws, but their official title translates as “Community Peace and Decision Captain”, then they are judges and part of the Judicial branch according to the meaning of my question.

I’d be extremely surprised if there were any countries that did not have some sort of apparatus to fulfill all of the three functions. Some extremely small countries like Monaco and the Vatican, however, contract out some of their executive functions to the larger surrounding state (e.g., Italian authories prosecuted the man who shot the Pope, and I think Italy handles the rare occasions when the Vatican sentences someone to a term of imprisonment).

Nearly every place separates the three branches, at least on paper, too. Monaco has a legislature, and even the Vatican has a Pontifical Commission. North Korea has a legislature and a judicial sysytem, although I don’t think anyone thinks they’re independent of the executive.

Parts of Somalia presumably have fairly atomized and rudimentary legislative and judicial functions; I don’t really know. And Mali is in a state of complete upheaval just now.

The executive - the prime minister, and the cabinet - are members of the legislature / parliament in the British system.

Technically, the head of state - Queen/governor general, or in places like Italy or Israel, the president - are a spearate branch, but except for a situation like France, the head of state is just a ceremonial role with no real power.

I think it’s changed nowadays, but the House of Lords (upper house of parliament) used to be the “Supreme Court” for Britain.

Taiwan/the Republic of China has 5 branches of government.

Depends if you mean that the three branches have to be distinct and equal in power (like the US): if so, then Britain doesn’t have such a system.

The legislature is sovereign and can force the other branches to do whatever it wants them to do - although the executive is firmly lodged in Parliament so can bank on a lot of permission for its activities.

And the British courts have absolutely zero authority over Parliament. They won’t even touch it.

A lot of parliamentary governments could be argued to have a blurred area between the Executive and Legislative branch since the Head of Government and the Cabinet and the majority party or coalition in the legislature is always synonymous.

For what it’s worth, the “three branches” model was originally a direct reference to the British government; it appeared first as “trias politica” in Montesquieu’s De l’esprit des lois referring to the monarch, Parliament and the courts. It’s certainly true that it is no longer applicable to the British government, of course.

While the US Constitution sort of fixed the relationship between the different parts of government in stone, British history has been more malleable (without a single Constitution document.) Thus, the Monarch held all power, and the development of Parliamentary power has been historical (you may recollect things like the Magna Carta?). During the Victorian era, power shifted from the Monarch to Parliament.

In many ways, the US system is from an early time and borrows from older concepts than the present US Constitution - it harks back to the 1660s constitution and medieval concepts of divided power.

1660s Constitution? :confused:

English constitution of the latter 17 th century.

Yep! England had a constitution then, of course, but it was greatly different to the constitution Britain had in, say, 1776. It was much more divided in the ‘US’ sense - royal executive, independent Parliament and a continued concept of judicial supremacy over the law.

England repudiated the latter in 1689.

Ireland is a particularly good example of this, since not only does the government (Executive) have a built-in majority in both houses of parliament, but it also has a ruthlessly-imposed party whip system. Unlike in Britain, where MPs are sometimes allowed conscience votes (recent abortion bills and the war on Iraq come to mind), this is pretty much unheard of here, at least in recent times. So that built-in majority will always vote in accordance with Executive instructions. This means that parliament essentially serves as a rubber-stamp for Executive-introduced legislation, while opposition-introduced legislation is guaranteed to fall unless the Executive parties decide to support it.

Of course, this is not an Irish constitutional feature, but simply a matter of party practice.

And FWIW, the Montesqueiu description covers no system today with the growth in the early 20th century of delegated legislation and Quasi-Judicial Administrative Tribunals. The executive now has extensive law making powers, in theory that is based upon a delegation of authority from the legislature and is overseen by them, in practice few legilsators have the time, ability or the inclination to touch the huge volume of detailed and highly technical subordinate legislation. In the same way, administrative tribunals have case loads almost as heavy as some Courts do and while these are under Judicial Review and their decisions can and are set aside it is perfectly possible and normal for a citizen to be in a situation where the law maker, interpreter and enforcer is the executive.

While its true that the executive controls the legislature, the converse is also true, the Executive is the executive only as long as it controls the legislature. Furthermore the executive does not only mean the PM, (or tea shack or whatever the hell it is you Irish call him;)), and ministers, it also means the huge bureaucracy of Civil servants and public officials. Those are certainly not people for who Parliament is a rubber stamp.

To the OP, Saudi Arabia is the one example where there is a de jure lack of seperation, the King makes all laws, rules as the Chief Executive and is the Head of the Judiciary. Although even here, the actual day to day work is done by a plethora of diverse agencies

In most Dictatorships–
[li]The Dictator/Former Coup Leader[/li][li]The Secret Police /Future Coup Leader[/li][li]The Army /Future Coup Leader[/li][/ol]

In Somalia–

[li]Local Warlords[/li][li]Islamic Radicals[/li][li]Pirates[/li][/ul]

Sure, but I don’t think administrative tribunals or regulatory authority constitute a fourth branch. They’re just an increase in the relative power of the executive.

Old poli sci joke:

In a democracy, what is not prohibited is permitted.
In a dictatorship, what is not prohibited is compulsory.

What powers does the parliament have over them that won’t be exercised in the way the government determines they should be exercised (for reasons outlined in my previous post)?

It’s more the threat of them being exercised that determines the executive’s response. A group of backbench MPs may begin moving to rally Parliament to drastically amend a Bill against the government’s wishes, and the executive will then try to outmaneouvre them by bringing in their own amendments which meet them part of the way, or at least maintain the spirit of the amendments within their general ‘plan’ for the Bill.

If you observe the discussions in Committee Stage of Bills in the UK Parliament, and read between the lines about what happens with the ‘usual channels’ (i.e. the whips), there’s a constant tug of war between the government, its own backbenchers, and the Opposition who will seek to alter legislation for its own ends.

Oftentimes Parliament doesn’t end up using its powers independently of the executive because of this interaction. The threat is always there, and a successful government will be flexible enough to undermine it.

Once Parliament passes a law, the executive has to follow it. If the law that regulates a particular agency says “If X conditions are met, the agency must do Y,” that is a legal requirement which the agency must do, even if the current government does not like that policy. If the government wants to change it, it must introduce legislation in the Parliament to do so; it cannot simply tell the agency, “If X, do Z instead.”

What if the government of the day wants to change that agency’s mandate? It must introduce legislation in the Parliament to do so, if it thinks it is important enough, and if it thinks there won’t be political blow-back at the polls for doing so. Even if the government doesn’t like the policy set by a previous government in the law, if that policy is politically popular generally, it will think twice before changing it.

Plus, the discussion of Parliament being a rubber stamp assumes a majority government. If there is a majority, then the government can generally count on getting its amendment through (depending on the strength of party discipline in that particular legislative context), but if there is a minority, it will have to do a calculus on whether the opposition parties will support the measure.