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Hyperfederalism is a system that gives regions a great deal of autonomy, and/or that devolves power to a large number of regions. Regions may make ad-hoc agreements with the center, in a system also known as "bargaining-federalism".[1]

Boris Yeltsin's hyperfederalism is credited with preserving Russian nascent statehood as much as the centralist reforms of Vladimir Putin.[2]

During the Iraqi constitutional process, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq shared, in common with the Kurdish leadership, a vision of a hyperfederation in which Iraq would largely be divided into ethnosectarian regions, with the Kurds controlling northern Iraq, Sunni Arabs controlling the country's center, and the Shia controlling the south.[3] The 1886 Colombian Constitution, the legal basis of La Regeneración, put a drastic end to more than two decades of hyperfederalism by introducing a unitary system of government that empowered the president to appoint governors in all states.[4]

Joshua Hill advocates "a hyper-federal system with a center that is strong but circumscribed to transaction cost-reducing activities."[5] Election administration in the United States, especially that which took place in the early years of the republic, has sometimes been described as hyperfederalized, due to the many decisions that were made at the local level.[6]

Steven Calabresi argues that "the increase in the number of states in the U.S. federation from thirteen to fifty has led to a kind of hyperfederalism where both the economic case for leaving things at the state level and the economic case for handling things at the national level become augmented" and opines that the European Union, with 27 member nations, or the G20 economies, with 20 member nations, are optimally sized federal or confederal entities. In his view, federations with too few states (e.g. Canada, with only ten provinces, one of which is Quebec) may have big or populous states that can realistically threaten secession to hold up the federation for special benefits, while on the other hand, the fifty U.S. states are so weak and powerless relative to the central government that too much centralization occurs.[7]

Another critique of hyperfederalism is that overlapping state and national law can provide shelter to scofflaws.[8]

Potential for separatist movements[edit]

Nigeria is sometimes cited as an example of hyperfederalism's failures. Adam M. Smith argues, "Nigeria's federal system, in which its 36 states have more power than almost any other sub-national bodies in Africa, is unique. It has meant that the national government has been unable to overcome the increasingly centrifugal tendencies of the disparate localities. Nigerian 'hyper'-federalism, at best, denies even its most popular leaders a true national mandate and, at worst, sets the stage for a disastrous Balkanization of Africa's most populous state." Specifically, the oil industry's development in the south, concurrent with the first stirrings of religious and ethnically exclusive politics, began to fracture the state, leading to the Biafra War, waged in response to the attempted secession of southwestern states from the country.[9]

Graham Stack notes that in Russia, "The smallness of the regions has a further consequence: the majority are financially dependent on the centre. While this puts a fundamental strain on relations, it also puts a damper on separatist movements. Furthermore, none of the donor regions, and only a small minority of the other regions have an international border."[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Stack, Graham. "Neoinstitutionalist Perspectives on Regionalisation in Russia" (PDF). 
  2. Lankina, T. Regional Developments in Russia: Territorial Fragmentation in a Consolidating Authoritarian State. Social research. (04/01/2009) , 76 (1), p. 225 - 256,C3.
  3. al-Istrabadi, F. A Constitution Without Constitutionalism: Reflections on Iraq's Failed Constitutional Process. Texas law review. (06/01/2009) , 87 (7), p. 1627 - 1655.
  4. Mazzuca, S. Political Conflict and Power Sharing in the Origins of Modern Colombia. The Hispanic American historical review. (05/2009) , 89 (2), p. 285 - 321.
  5. Hill, Joshua P. Analytic Libertarianism. Perspectives on political science. (04/2015) , 44 (2), p. 77 - 86.
  6. "The Impact of State Party Organization on the Voting Experience". 
  7. Calabresi Federalism and Subsidiarity: Perspectives from U.S. Constitutional Law. Nomos (New York, N.Y.). (01/01/2014) , 55 p. 123 - 189.}}
  8. Graeme Orr (13 Feb 2007). "Political Disclosure Regulation in Australia: Lackadaisical Law". Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and PolicyV. 6 (1). 
  9. Smith, Adam M Fractured Federalism: Nigeria's Lessons for Today's Nation Builders in Iraq. Round table (London). (01/2005) , 94 (378), p. 129 - 144.