United Federation of Planets
The Federation is governed by a President and the Federation Council, both of which have offices on Earth. The means by which Federation officials attain their positions has never been clearly described. Evidence suggests that the Council consists of ambassadors appointed by the planetary governments of their homeworlds, but the election process for the Federation President is completely unknown.
The Federation, or at least parts of it, seem to operate on a socialist or even communist economic model. Evidence includes the lack of currency in many episodes, descriptions of the Federation's non-capitalist economy base, and government monopolies that appear to control space travel, interstellar communications, and scientific research. In any event, their society is so far removed from a free market economy that many Federation citizens have completely forgotten about capitalism. Captain Picard and Beverly Crusher are both intelligent, educated people by Federation standards, yet neither one understood the concept of investment or payment for services rendered.
In the TNG episode "Offspring", the Federation attempted to declare Lal Starfleet property, despite previously ruling such an action as tantamount to slavery. This tendency to ignore checks on their power is more characteristic of a dictatorship then a democracy, despite the Federation's ostensible love of freedom.
The Federation consists of approximately 150 member planets spread across approximately 8,000 light-years of space. They share borders with the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Star Empire, and the Cardassian Union.
The Federation has technology comparable to that of the other major powers in the Alpha Quadrant. Their military readiness, however, is lacking compared to that of their neighbors. While their ships are individually powerful, often substantially more powerful than those of their neighbors, they tend to be few in number, as indicated by the perpetual shortage of ships in position to respond to military emergencies. Furthermore, many Starfleet officers do not regard Starfleet as a military organization (despite its control of nearly all military assets in the Federation), and Starfleet itself does not conduct routine combat exercises to keep its crews prepared for military action.