Kerala hosts two major political alliances: the United Democratic Front (India) (UDF); led by the Indian National Congress and the Left Democratic Front (Kerala) (LDF); led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)). At present, the UDF is the ruling coalition in government; Oommen Chandy of the Indian National Congress is the Chief Minister, while V.S. Achuthanandan of the LDF is the Leader of Opposition. Strikes, protests and marches are ubiquitous in Kerala because of the comparatively strong presence of labour unions. According to the Constitution of India, Kerala has a parliamentary system of representative democracy for its governance; universal suffrageis granted to state residents. The government structure is organised into the three branches:
- Legislature: The unicameral legislature, the Kerala Legislative Assembly, comprises elected members and special office bearers; the Speaker and Deputy Speaker elected by the members from among themselves. Assembly meetings are presided over by the Speaker and in the Speaker’s absence, by the Deputy Speaker. The state has 140 assembly constituencies. The state elects 20 and nine members for representation in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively.
- Executive: The Governor of Kerala is the constitutional head of state, and is appointed by the President of India. P Sathasivam is the Governor of Kerala. Theexecutive authority is headed by the Chief Minister of Kerala, who is the de facto head of state and is vested with extensive executive powers; the head of the party attaining majority in the Legislative Assembly is appointed to the post by the Governor. The Council of Ministers, has its members appointed by the Governor, taking the advice of the Chief Minister. Auxiliary authorities known as panchayats, for which local body elections are regularly held, govern local affairs.
- Judiciary: The judiciary consists of the Kerala High Court and a system of lower courts. The High Court, located at Kochi, has a Chief Justice along with 23 permanent and seven additional pro tempore justices as of 2012. The high court also hears cases from the Union Territory of Lakshadweep.
The local self-government bodies; Panchayat, Municipalities and Corporations existed in Kerala since 1959, however, the major initiative to decentralise the governance was started in 1993, conforming to the constitutional amendments of central government in this direction. With the enactment of Kerala Panchayati Raj Act and Kerala Municipality Act in the year 1994, the state implemented various reforms in the local self-governance. Kerala Panchayati Raj Act envisages a 3-tier system of local-government with Gram panchayat, Block panchayat and District Panchayat forming a hierarchy. The acts ensure clear demarcation of power among these institutions.However, Kerala Municipality Act envisages a single-tier system for urban areas, with the institution of municipality designed at par with Gram panchayat of the former system. Substantial administrative, legal and financial powers are delegated to these bodies to ensure efficient decentralisation. As per the present norms, the state government devolves about 40 per cent of the state plan outlay to the local government.