Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

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Text of Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

  • A Comparison

  • Only one elected body: a parliament of representatives. Its bills are law.Executive power is housed in a cabinet. Cabinet members typically are MPs who perform executive duties (foreign relations, etc.) in addition to their legislative duties.Cabinet only serves as long as there is parliamentary confidence. A Vote of Confidence can be called at any time, and a majority vote can unseat the existing cabinet (government falling) and call for a new one to be formed. But the cabinet can also hold the parliament in check. The leader of the cabinet (Prime minister, premiere, etc.) can disband a parliament and call for new elections.

  • Advantages:

    Always unified governmentGreater party disciplineNo veto power and typically no judicial reviewClear lines of responsibility voters know who to blame/rewardDisadvantages:

    Divided government may be a good thingJudicial review and veto power are important Minority rights get washed awayWhat if theres no clear majority? Then coalition governments must be formed between the main parties, and cabinet positions are divvied up accordingly.

  • Non parliamentary systems are committee dominated they have the power, and they can easily obstruct(interfere) in the work of government.Strong committees in a parliamentary system would weaken central unity Strong leadership is important to parl. Systems.Consequently, in Britain, for example, there are no standing committees per se, but ad hoc committees for each bill. No permanent staff and no open hearings, etc

    The parliament itself tries to maintain the open spirit of debate.

  • The key distinction is the Separation of Powers

    Separation of Powers Doctrine and Checks and BalancesSecondly and related to the first point, above there are differences in party systems/structures/politics/elections

  • Policy leadership > with presidential systems, but...Responsibility for policy more difficult to identify with presidential systems.Comprehensive policies harder to accomplish in presidential systems.Differences in recruitment of leaders.Differences in review/control of executive leaders.Symbolic/political aspects.

  • Parliamentary SystemPresidential SystemFusion of executive and legislative branchesExecutive and legislative branches separated

    The assembly becomes a parliament, comprisingboth an executive (government) and assemblyThe assembly remains an assembly only; theexecutive is a separate institutionExecutive is divided into two parts: A prime minister(or chancellor) as head of government and a monarch(or ceremonial president) as head of stateExecutive is not divided: Head of government(president) is also head of statePrime minister usually appointed by head of state(symbolic); in actuality, selected from largest party inassemblyPresident elected by the people for a definite term (in America 2 years)

  • Prime minister appoints ministers; can be personalchoices or outcome of bargaining to form coalitiongovernmentPresident appoints heads of departments; usuallypersonal choices although often with consent ofassembly (as in U.S.)Cabinet is collective body; since ministers exert greatdeal of influence (especially in coalitiongovernments), prime minister is just first amongequalsPresident is sole executive decision-maker; heads ofexecutive departments are subordinate; not a cabinetin parliamentary senseGovernment (cabinet) is politically responsible toassembly; by withholding support, parliament may beable to force government to resign and cause head ofstate to appoint new governmentExecutive is responsible to constitution: Presidentsmust follow constitutional prescriptions


  • Head of government may dissolve parliament andcan threaten or coerce assembly by using this threatPresident cannot dissolve or coerce assembly, thus,has no ability to threaten or coerce assemblyParliament as a whole is supreme over its constituentparts (government and assembly), neither of whichmay dominate the other: Government depends on thesupport of the parliament but it may also dissolve it.Therefore, neither dominatesAssembly is ultimately supreme over other branchesof government; although power is separated,assembly generally has more options (including toimpeach a President) than President