Parliamentary VS Presidential System
23rd July, 2018
To: LOGAN MASILMANI
The following research work has been done as an attempt to analyse and bring forth the main features of the two prominent forms of democratic governments – ‘The Presidential system of Government and The Parliamentary system of Government’. A proper consideration has been given to the system of governance and its outcomes of both these forms throughout the essay.
The research works of many scholars and academicians have been entailed to reflect the similarities and dissimilarities of the presidential system and the parliamentary system to one another. Various examples of success and failure of both the types of governance have helped to back the opinions of the scholars and finalise a concluding remark for this thesis.
(Strengths and weaknesses of the two systems have been considered with help of instances in different countries done in following excerpt aims to apprehend the
Many key facts have been taken into consideration to reflect the work ethics followed in the two systems of Governance with their compositions.)
In the modern world after the nineteenth century , most of the countries have established either a – Presidential System of Government or a Parliamentary System of Government.
The two most eminent forms of governance have various facets of their composition differentiating them from one another. In a political community, the relationship of the legislation with executive, the accountability of the executive and the broad outcome of governance determine the success of the system. The parliamentary system proves to be superior to the presidential system as an aftermath of this analysis.
Both these systems have proved to be effective during the course of history and have shaped the fundamentals of many of the dominant world powers of today. The formation of a nation’s political landscape is decided through the system of governance it follows.
The parliamentary system traces its roots to the United Kingdom where the people of the country made the King sign a Magna Carta , a document which restricted the powers of the monarch and check his powers. This system later evolved into a setup of governance with two houses of legislature which came to be known as parliament. A strongly successful parliamentary form of government now exists in countries like U.K, Australia, Canada and Germany . The Presidential system of governance stems from the U.S.A. and is being followed in most countries of the Americas .
The most distinctive commonality of both these styles of Governments, worldwide is that they are democratic and egalitarian in their true nature. The core principles of both the forms are “for the people of its nation and represented by the elected members by the masses.”
Many scholarly articles and essays have offered enormous insight in the two functioning of the two Governments and put forth the ways in which the two systems are alike and the way, the two differ from one another. Stability of one over the other will be viewed from academician’s point of view. Advantages and Disadvantages of the two will be analysed.
What is distinctive about the two systems is that both are governed by three common bodies – Executive Body, Legislative Body and Judiciary Body. Now, what differentiates one from the other is the power distribution vested in the above bodies within the two talked about systems of Governments.
Background and Overview
In PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM – president is elected directly by the people, as in U.S.A. The President is the most powerful. He is the Executive head of the states as well the Head of Government. The Executive body is completely separated from the legislature. The members of Executive are not the members of legislature. The president appoints persons from outside the Legislature, as his ministers. He has the power to remove them if he is not satisfied with his work. The legislative cannot remove the executive from the power through non-confidence motion. The executive and legislature have fixed tenure. The president stays in power for the whole term. It is not easy to remove him from the power through impeachment. The court, the supreme interprets of the constitution, must rely on both – the President and Congress (legislature) to appoint and confirm its operations. The bureaucracy looks upon the President for Leadership, but must turn to the Congress for authority to start new programmes and finance to run them. In emergencies like war, the President alone has the Supreme authority to take any decision.
In PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM the political party that wins the most seats in the parliament (legislature) during federal elections form the government. This majority party choose a leader amongst them to be the Prime Minister. In this system, Prime Minister is the most powerful. In this governance, Executive body that is council of ministers is dismissed if it loses the confidence of the legislature even before the tenure is over. There is less separation of power in the Parliamentary Government. In emergencies like war, Prime Minister cannot take any decision without gaining the confidence of members of Parliament and heads of leading opponent parties.
In the light of above mentioned frameworks of the two systems of governments, many scholars have overviewed the similarities and differences through research work including statistical studies on the success rate of the two democratic regime in different countries where they function.
PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT: Critical analysis
Juan studied extensively on the types of regimes(Linz, 1994). His work has been inspired from consistently failing of democracy in Latin America in a number of its countries between the years 1960s and 1980s when authoritarian regime were coming more into power. Various points that rose against Presidentialism were: the strained relationships of the Executive and Legislature due to which, instead of working in co-operation, they are most of the time acting in a way to let down the other one. Thus, when it comes to taking decisions on passing laws and other political matters, each one tries to be more rigid and doesn’t yield easily in time, owing to two reasons – 1) single person nature of the office. 2) Fixed tenure of both legislature and executive as removing any one of them from the office is a very tedious process. Consequently, the president has no option to dissolve the indifferent assemblies have a choice to move a vote of non-confidence. So needless to say, such a situation intervenes in the stability of the political set up, thereby, posing a threat to the ‘survival of presidential regime’ (Memanus, 2018). Furthermore, various analysts have given instances of shattering of many Latin American countries like Brazil in 1964, Peru in 1968, Chile in 1973, Uruguay in 1974 and Argentina in the year 1976.All the above Presidential groups failed due to conflicts between Executive and Legislative bodies. What-next, military forces had intervened in these countries, displacing the presidential rule by Dictatorship regimes. (Carey, 2008)
Many academicians have stood by the work done by Linz’s and supported his arguments against the Presidential rules. These scholars include Bolivia’s Lamounier 1993, ArendLijphart 1999. Furthermore, the efforts of these scholars brought to the world many case histories of different countries under Presidential rule which support the assertion that not only on the political front but also in the face of economic development issues, the Presidential government has exhibited low performance an gave signals of early breakdown. This is clear from the data and analysis of Alfred Stepan and Cindy Skach 1993, Adam Pizeworski and Fernando Limongiv in 1997(Carey, 2008)
Whatnext, the analysts world-wide have tried to link the economic growth of the country with the type of governance. A few analysis fromthe statistics of 119 countries from 1950-2015 were made which worked on extensive set of performance indicators. In the light of above analysis, the conclusion drawn, although not explicitly stated that countries under presidential rule manifested:
1) Slower Output growth
2) Higher and more volatile inflation
3) Greater income disparity (Memanus, R, Ozkan, 2018)
Continuing with the drawbacks of Presidential framework of Governance, the executive and Legislative bodies are elected by the people for fixed tenure with minimum four years for Executive and two years for Legislative assembly. Thus, it is very likely that some members of Legislative assembly are from opponent parties than the executives, so the chances in such cases are that either of the two are on a look to find fault with each-others decisions very often. Such conflicts between the executives and legislature give vent to extreme measures leading to undesirable deadlock which leads to impeachment which is not only difficult but also disgraceful. Whatsmore, the President is neither answerable to the legislature nor to the people. So in such cases, if the elected President turns out to be incompetent, worthless or rigid in adverse circumstances, even then, the only solution is to go through the entire process of grid lack leading to the state of utter chaos and confusion, till the next ballot.
In case of Veto power, in presidential regime, the president reserves the right to veto a bill to prevent its adoption. But in case, the legislature succeeds in winning sufficient votes, it may use its authority to cancel the president’s veto. However, it is believed that in presidential setup, the president’s maximum powers lie in foreign affairs. He is free to take the decisions to move military troops in maximum situations. But at the same time, president does not have the power to declare the war, like in U.S where this power lies with the congress. (SZILAGYI, 2009)
Whatnext, any contract concluded by him without taking the senateinto confidence is invalid. Critics feel that separation of power likewise slows-down the effective working of the government. From the above study, one generalization that critics came up with, is that, presidential regimes must be definitely successful in countries with weak legislature. (SZILAGYI, 2009)
PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT: Critical analysis
Parliamentary system of government is very popular amongst the academicians and politicians alike as it advocates the true spirit of democracy. It is a blend of executive and legislative powers, which in no way encourages any dictatorship mind to try and open his wings and exploit the political arena of their country, as has been witnessed in the history of many Latin American countries.
In a journal by Jose Cheibub – it has been mentioned that, undeserved candidates for influential post, if elected – can be removed easily in a Parliamentary setup by passing a no-confidence vote in parliament approved by the majority. As such, when this process is initiated either a new government comes in regime or elections are held. Now, when elections are held another party may or may not win majority- this results in either another election or it leads to formation of coalition government. So in parliamentary set-up wherein, no one side, no corrupt man can stay in the power, On the other hand formation of Coalition governments hamper the smooth working of government(Cheibub, 2009).
So the supporters of parliamentary system speaks volumes about the concept of combined power, talking time and again about not withstanding and undeserved candidate on the executive posts in legislature. Much has been talked about the team work in parliamentary set-up. The prime minister is the chosen by member of legislature-almost all from the ruling party and thus co-ordinates in the proper functioning in various matters. The critics on the other hand, feel that democracy shatters down and corruption prevails when no particular party in Parliamentary government wins absolute majority leading to unstable governments and hence democracy. Critics are of the opinion that the fixed tenures in the presidential set-up ensures stability to the government. Whatsmore, it is believed that deadlocks donot only happen in presidential set-up, but also in Parliamentary system which during the elections, when no particular party wins absolute majority in legislature. This disturbs the entire administrative work in the parliament.
Furthermore, many scholars have talked about the leaders in the parliamentary government. It is believed that leaders are no longer dependent on the party members to a large extent. Constraints have been reduced which has made the post of prime minister more independent. (Cheibub, 2009)According to the scholars, the traditional office of a P.M was characterized by unity, integrity and ideologies that bound all party members to work as one entity. But with the passage of time, as has been observed, that the parties have become less ideological and somewhat self-centred. So this had automatically led to infusing more power with the Prime minister as mentioned in (Dowding, 2013) that ‘Parties have become less ideological, which also gives the P.M. greater power as the need of coalition building across warring factions becomes less necessary. Since the prime minister works with maximum support of Legislature- he is definitely more powerful. In (Dowding, 2013), it is clearly mentioned, ‘Prime Ministers have always been more powerful than presidents.
The comparison between the two highest executive posts come naturally in mind, when talking of political powers as these are the ultimate two who exercise the power.
Parliamentary government is believed to have its origin in Great Britain. But nowadays many countries all over the world are using this formate of democracy. For instance, Australia and Germany are both exercising Parliamentary form of governments. Even then, some functions of certain offices in power have been altered, thus differentiating between the two Parliaments that is Australia, which is a member of British Common Wealth has a parliamentary government like the one in Great Britain. Its parliament has two houses – The Senate and The House Of Representatives. (This is much in line with US congress). The political party that wins majority in elections in house of representatives forms the government and selects its Prime minister.
The Parliament in Australia witness a lot of commotion and debate. Both the majority and minority parties participate in regular debates with their speakers. The Prime minister has got to be efficient enough to respond and justify all his decisions and actions and in alignment. This is true with most of the Parliaments in the world- only the names of houses vary in different countries. The working as almost similar in India with 2 houses – Vidhan Sabha (upper) and Lok-Sabha(lower) also on the other hand, Germany has a parliament characterized by 2 houses – The Bundesrat (upper) and The Bundestag(lower). The party in majority in Bundestag elects a chancellor who heads the government. But unlike Australia – debate sessions are not held in Parliament, but in small meetings. Different committees come where via voting, different decision are finalised.
ANALYSIS – ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Needless to say, as per the views of many scholars an analysts who have given their opinion on statistical data – Parliamentary government seem to hold more promises for a stable, more efficient government due to the very obvious reasons of Executive and Legislative powers working together. Amongst the most successful Parliaments we can look at the parliaments of Great Britain, Australia, Germany and India.
In presidential form of governance there is always a fear of having members of Executive body and Legislative body from two opponent parties and no one can deny the chances of uncertainty and deadlock if the two continue to pull each other by finding faults. In 2013, a big financial blow due to debt crises shook the government, when the president and the Congress could not reach to one consensus. Talking in favour of Presidential system of governance – many academicians and scholars have emphasized that failure of presidential government in Latin America was due to the interference of military in the politics, so attributing failure of Presidential system in such places to the form of governance is not appropriate. Had it not been Presidential government in such countries, any other form of governance would have also failed.
Supporters of Presidential form of government even view a lot of stability in the government due to the separation of power in the three bodies including their fixed tenures. They believe, that this is by large more protective to ensure stability in any country as compared to Parliamentary form of government in which any time the legislature can pass a no-confidence vote to bring down the executive head by succeeding in getting majority votes.
One of the major advantages of Presidential government as viewed by analysts is that, Presidential holds only one office with a national constituency thereby symbolizing President as an iconic figure unity and integrity especially when there are times or situation of high volatility.
Contrary to the Parliamentary government, where the legislative members are elected heads by people in different constituencies and they in turn choose their leader as Prime Minister, provided one particular party emerges out in elections has choice of majority member.
In light of all the above discussions – it may brought forth that, In both presidential and parliamentary forms of governments which are democratic in spirit, the occurrence of government coalitions is higher when the largest party in the legislature holds less than 33% of the seats than when it holds between 33% to 50% of seats.
In both the democracies- how much help the executive gets from the legislature mainly depends on the above ballot report. A lot depends on the head that is president or the Prime Minister in their respective government. A strong intelligent and inquisitive mind can seek support of the assembly by proving his wit, the member’s assembly can sense the difference between right and wrong between able and unable between strong and feeble and so on. Then last but not the least, the success of either of the two democracies is by large affected by the people of the country who ultimately influence the vote bank.
The more educated are the people, the more efficient they will to make choice of leaders of head and heart. Finally if the leader is strong, he will lead his team towards the ultimate growth and therein lies the success of any democracy.
Carey J.M. (2008) Presidential versus Parliamentary Government. In: Ménard C., Shirley M.M. (eds) Handbook of New Institutional Economics. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
Cheibub, J. A. (2009). Presidentialism, parliamentarism, and democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Keith Dowding; The Prime Ministerialisation of the British Prime Minister, Parliamentary Affairs, Volume 66, Issue 3, 1 July 2013, Pages 617–635.
Lijphart, A. (2010). Parliamentary vs presidential government. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Memanus, R. & Ozkan, F.G. (2018). Who does better for the economy? Presidents versus parliamentary democracies. Public Choice.
SZILAGYI, I. M. (2009). Policymaking Accountability: Parliamentary versus Presidential Systems. Handbook on the Politics of Regulation.
Verma, G.L. (2010). Parliamentary vs presidential system of government. New Delhi: Atlantic & Distributors.