The term government (from the verb to govern, Latin gubernāre, “to hold the helm,” itself derived from ancient Greek: κυβερνάω, kybernáō) is used in legal and political language with various meanings. In a very broad sense, government is the set of individuals in a state, whether at the central or local level, who hold political power.

This meaning is referred to when it is said that government, along with territory and people, is one of the constituent elements of the state. The meaning can be further extended to include political and social forces, such as parties and trade unions, which, although not part of the state or public institutions, participate in the exercise of political power. More specifically, government is the set of subjects in a state who hold political power in a position of independence because they are placed above and are not subordinate to other subjects (superiorem non recognoscentes).

Where there is a separation of powers, the government includes all the organs of the state and other public bodies, whether they belong to the legislative, executive or judicial branches. In modern states, these subjects are identified with the constitutional organs, i.e. those organs which, in a position of mutual independence, participate in defining the political direction of the state: the parliament, the apex of executive power, the head of state, and the constitutional or supreme court, which is entrusted with the control of constitutional legitimacy.

The complex of relations between these organs, regulated by the Constitution, constitutes the form of government of the State. In an even narrower sense, the government means only one of the above-mentioned constitutional bodies, which is placed at the head of the executive power and on which the public administration depends. It should be noted that this meaning differs from the previous one only where there is a separation of powers: in the absolute state, the two meanings coincide and identify the monarch with his direct collaborators.

Forms of Government

The form of government is the organizational model adopted by a state to exercise sovereign power. More broadly, it can be understood as the way in which power is distributed among the supporting organs of the state: the parliament, the government, and the head of state; the form of government therefore refers to the relationships established between them and the ways in which their respective powers are distributed and shared.

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