In the episodes of Babylon 5 President Clark seems to have extensive powers. His ability to instate martial law is challenged on Earth itself by some senators but it seems to end there.
But it is clear that Earth Alliance is made up of Member States which would hardly relinquish significant power. Such an alliance would tend to have a President with limited powers and strong checks and balances.
Even less likely would be the acceptance of martial law without a confirming vote by the member States governing body.
The reaction of the Member States would be MUCH stronger than this. Disbanding the Senate would only create more problems if each member State is not under control.
Given the setting I find hard to believe the development of events after Santiago's death.
Is there any other source that states a substantial change in the structure of government? Maybe during / after the Earth / Mimbari War?


Clark's power grab was not facilitated by changes to the structure of government. In fact, his actions were illegal, as Sheridan points out on more than one ocassion. Notably, in s3e10 Severed Dreams:

President Clark has violated the Earth Alliance Constitution, by dissolving the Senate, declaring martial law, and personally ordering the bombing of civilian targets on the Mars Colony.

Clark gets away with this (initially at least) due to two main factors. These are mentioned on numerous ocassions throughout season 2 and the early episodes of season 3, mostly in short snippets of conversation. My memory isn't good enough for me to list these without going back and watching about 30 episodes. However, in short:

  1. Following the events of the Earth-Minbari war, there is a lot of public paranoia about aliens invading and/or interfering with affairs on Earth. Clark takes advantage of this. In s4e15: No Surrender No Retreat, Sheridan sums up his actions:

    Clark's propaganda machine is feeding the anti-alien hysteria back home

  2. More than a year elapses between the death of Santiago and Clark declaring martial law. During this time, Clark quietly moves 'yes men' into positions of power. Major Ryan neatly sums this up in s3e10 Severed Dreams:

    He spent the last year putting his people in key places. Anyone who raises a voice is immediately arrested and charged with treason. Under conditions like that, it's easier to keep quiet.

(I must have watched both No Surrender No Retreat and Severed Dreams 100 times; two of the best episodes of any sci-fi in existence, in my opinion).

One can see evidence that Ryan's assessment is correct on Babylon 5 itself throughout s2 and the early part of s3 (before Severed Dreams). One example is the Night Watch. Another is Sheridan continually walking a proverbial tight-rope, conspiring with General Hague, and keeping high profile and potentially very dangerous visitors such as Al Bester, Frederick Lantz and David Endawi firmly in the dark about his true loyalties.

By the time Clark declares martial law, his opponents are either too marginalised or too afraid to stop him. Ironically, Sheridan was chosen for the post of B5 commander because his war record made him appeal to the 'Clark supporter mentality', but Santiago knew there was far more to him (see the conversation bewteen Sheridan and General Hague near the end of s2e11 All Alone in the Night).

Now, I'm sure governments feeding hysteria about outsiders and leaders moving yes men into key positions reminds me of something...

  • 1
    Doesn't look like there was an official change in policy or system that allowed Clarke to declare martial law - as per the answer above Clarke had spent a year manipulating circumstances so that a possibly illegal process couldn't/wouldn't be challenged (at least, not successfully). – Michael May 7 '20 at 17:00
  • 2
    @Michael --- Indeed, Clark's actions were illegal. Sheridan used this in counter-propaganda on more than one occasion. – Ian Thompson May 7 '20 at 17:19
  • @Michael --- I have updated the answer in view of your comment. – Ian Thompson May 7 '20 at 18:27
  • Looks good to me. – Michael May 7 '20 at 18:49
  • This implies though that either member states have limited powers (contrary to what the term 'Alliance' may suggest) or that Clark's faction has been able to infiltrate / control all of the member states local governments. The latter is unlikely in the limited time frame unless done for many years right under Santiago's nose without him or the other senators realizing what is going on. – Duncan Drake May 8 '20 at 10:53

Short Answer:

What do we know about the functioning of Earthgov except for what we see onscreen and are told onscreen and maybe read in Babylon 5 novels? And does that total as many words as someone might find in a textbook about their government in a high school or college class?

Do we understand how Earthgov functions?

My long answer includes a discussion of forms of government and how Earthgov might be classified as having one of those forms

Long Answer:

The OP asks:

In the episodes of Babylon 5 President Clark seems to have extensive powers. His ability to instate martial law is challenged on Earth itself by some senators but it seems to end there. But it is clear that Earth Alliance is made up of Member States which would hardly relinquish significant power. Such an alliance would tend to have a President with limited powers and strong checks and balances. Even less likely would be the acceptance of martial law without a confirming vote by the member States governing body...

They are making a big assumption, that Earthgov is like the European Union or NATO, or the United Nations, an organization of independent and sovereign states.

But there are two possible forms that Earthgov might have:

One) an alliance or international organization of independent and sovereign states, which is how they describe Earthgov, using the word "alliance".


Two) an independent and sovereign government which is divided into a number of administrative subdivisions.

And guess what. Almost every independent and sovereign country that exists has administrative subdivisions.

Wikipedia has a list of administrative divisions by country. Of all the independent and sovereign countries that are recognized or unrecognized by other countries, only the Vatican city doesn't have any administrative divisions. And the Vatican City has an area of only 0.49 square kilometers or 0.19 square miles, and a population of only 825 in 2019.

Note that every country on the list beside the Vatican City has first-level divisions, and many have second-level divisions, and some have third-level divisions, and fourth-level divisions, and some countries seem to have fifth-level divisions.

In the United States of America, the first-level divisions are the 50 states, the 567 tribal governments, the Federal District, a number of territories, etc., and the second-level divisions are 3,142 counties and equivalents, and the third-level divisions are 35,930 municipalities and equivalents. There are also other government types like school boards and authorities that provide utilities, etc. And the vast majority of them have governments elected by their citizens.

There are several types of governments, though real governments may be hard to classify and be near the borderline between different types of states.

Type One: a confederation.

A confederation (also known as a confederacy or league) is a union of sovereign states, united for purposes of common action often in relation to other states. Usually created by a treaty, confederations of states tend to be established for dealing with critical issues, such as defense, foreign relations, internal trade or currency, with the general government being required to provide support for all its members. Confederalism represents a main form of inter-governmentalism, this being defined as ‘any form of interaction between states which takes place on the basis of sovereign independence or government. Confederation is almost as a Federation with the Federal Government being as a combination or alliance of all the states.


The Wikipedia article Confederation lists just a few contemporary confederations:

1) Belgium.

2) Canada.

3) The European Union.

4) Indigenous Confederations in North America, of which the Iroquois are a surviving example.

5) Switzerland, which calls itself a confederation but has been more like a federation since 1848.

6) And Serbia and Montenegro from 2003 to 2006.

There have been other confederations in history.

Type Two: a federation.

A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism). In a federation, the self-governing status of the component states, as well as the division of power between them and the central government, is typically constitutionally entrenched and may not be altered by a unilateral decision of either party, the states or the federal political body. Alternatively, a federation is a form of government in which sovereign power is formally divided between a central authority and a number of constituent regions so that each region retains some degree of control over its internal affairs.

The list of contemporary federal states or federations includes 27 nations.


And 5 entities are listed as De facto federations.

1) Spain.

2) South Africa.

3) The European Union.

4) The People's Republic of china.

5) Myanmar.

There is also a list of defunct federations.


Type Three: a unitary state.

A unitary state is a state governed as a single power in which the central government is ultimately supreme. The central government may create (or abolish) administrative divisions (sub-national units).1 Such units exercise only the powers that the central government chooses to delegate. Although political power may be delegated through devolution to regional or local governments by statute, the central government may abrogate the acts of devolved governments or curtail (or expand) their powers. A large majority of the world's states (166 of the 193 UN member states) have a unitary system of government.2


Here is a link to the list of unitary states:


So according to the statistics, 166 out of 193 UN member states are unitary states, or 86.010 percent. Of course, there is the old saying that there are three types of lies, lies, damn lies, and statistics, and certainly statistics can be misleading since governments may be more or less centralized than they claim to be and there is controversy about how to classy various governments. But clearly the majority of independent sovereign governments are unitary governments.

But all independent sovereign governments, including unitary states, have administrative subdivisions which have various degrees of political power and authority, widely varying between different countries.

So the fact that Earthgov has administrative divisions does not have to mean that those administrative divisions have a lot of political power to resist when the president seizes dictatorial emergency powers.

It is possible that the OP imagines that the Earthgov must be an alliance or a confederation when it is actually a federation or a unitary state.

According to The Babylon Project, a site about Babylon 5:

The Earth Alliance Central Government, more commonly referred to as Earthgov or Earth Central, was the central government of the Earth Alliance, founded in 2085 after the end of World War 3 with headquarters at Earthdome in Geneva, Switzerland.1

The Earth Alliance is a Multi-Tiered Democratic Republic and is governed as a whole through a balance of power between a regionally elected representative body called the Senate, a President elected by the Alliance population as a whole, and a Judicial Branch. Both the Senate and the President have offices in the Earth Alliance Capitol Earthdome, located in Geneva, Switzerland, Earth.[2

The Earth Senate is the Legislative Branch of Earthgov and makes up the central body of the EA government. The Senate is comprised of representatives elected from each of the Earth Alliance member states, such as the Russian Consortium, the Indonesian Consortium, and (from 2262 onwards) the independent colony worlds such as Mars. Alongside these are The Vice President of the Earth Alliance the President of the EA Senate.

Different planets in the Alliance and often different regions on a given planet are governed by semi-autonomous local governments which are usually some variation of Earth Alliance democracy. Some regions of Earth have three or four distinct levels of governments, each with a specific jurisdiction (city, province or region) or purpose.2


So the Earth Alliance is formally called an alliance, implying that the members are independent and sovereign. But the description of the government structure implies that it may function more like a federation or even a unitary state. Thus it is possible that the members of the Earth Alliance do not have sufficient autonomy to resist the central government.

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