Presidential versus parliamentary systems
Miklós Zrínyi National Defence University, Budapest, Hungary This article is a comparison of presidential and parliamentary systems. They are the two most popular types of democratic governments. They have common and dissimilar features. In both presidential and parliamentary systems the chief executive can be removed from office by the legislature but the way of it is different. Dissimilar feature is the election of the chief executive and the debate styles. I present the two best examples of these systems: the USA (presidentialism) and the UK (parliamentary system). Consequently nations can choose which system they sympathise: the more classic parliamentary system or the less rigid presidential system, or the mixture of them. I do not want to stand by neither of them in my essay. I just want to show and compare them. Introduction
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A nation’s type of government refers to how that state’s executive, legislative, and judicial organs are organized. All nations need some sort of government to avoid anarchy. Democratic governments are those that permit the nation’s citizens to manage their government either directly or through elected representatives. This is opposed to authoritarian governments that limit or prohibit the direct participation of its citizens. Two of the most popular types of democratic governments are the presidential and parliamentary systems .
First I write about presidential systems then parliamentary systems in general and in the USA and UK. After these I show the differences and the common features of the two systems, and give a conclusion.
My aim is to show the presidential systems in general and after the American presidential system. I am going to write about the president in more details, his power and his limitations.
There are presidential republics that have a full presidential system (e. g. the USA), semi-presidential system (e. g. South-Africa), and executive presidency (e. g. France) linked to a parliament . I. M. SZILÁGYI:
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The office of President characterizes the presidential system. The President is both the chief executive and the head of state. The President is elected independently of the legislature. The powers invested in the President are usually balanced against those vested in the legislature. In the American presidential system, the legislature must debate and pass various bills. The President has the power to veto the bill, preventing its adoption. However, the legislature may override the President’s veto if they can muster enough votes. The American President’s broadest powers rest in foreign affairs. The President has the right to deploy the military in most situations, but does not have the right to officially declare war. More recently the American President requested the right to approve treaties without the consent of the legislature. The American Congress denied this bill and was able to override the President’s veto . A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch exists and presides (hence the name) separately from the legislature, to which it is not accountable and which cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss it. It owes its origins to the medieval monarchies of France, England and Scotland where executive authority was vested in the Crown, not in meetings of the estates of the realm (i. e., parliament): the Estates-General of France, the Parliament of England or the Estates of Scotland. The concept of separate spheres of influence of the executive and legislature was copied in the Constitution of the United States, with the creation of the office of President of the United States.
Perhaps ironically, in England and Scotland (since 1707 as the Kingdom of Great Britain, and since 1801 as the United Kingdom) the power of a separate executive waned to a ceremonial role and a new executive, answerable to parliament, evolved while the power of the United States’ separated executive increased. This has given rise to criticism of the United States presidency as an “ imperial presidency”. Some analysts dispute the existence of an absolute separation, referring to the concept of “ separate institutions sharing power”. Although not exclusive to republics, and applied in the case of absolute monarchies, the term is often associated with republican systems in the Americas. The defining characteristic of a republican presidential system is how the executive is elected, but nearly
all presidential systems share the following features. The President does not propose bills. However, the president has the power to veto acts of the legislature and, in turn, a supermajority of legislators may act to override the veto. This practice is derived from the British tradition of royal assent in which an act of Parliament cannot come into effect without the assent of the monarch. The President has a fixed term of office. Elections are held at scheduled times and cannot be triggered by a vote of confidence or other such parliamentary procedures. InI. M. SZILÁGYI: Presidential versus parliamentary systems AARMS 8(2) (2009) 309
some countries, there is an exception to this rule, which provides for the removal of a president in the event that they are found to have broken a law. The executive branch is unipersonal. Members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the president and must carry out the policies of the executive and legislative branches. However, presidential systems frequently require legislative approval of presidential nominations to the cabinet as well as various governmental posts such as judges. A president generally has power to direct members of the cabinet, military or any officer or employee of the executive branch, but generally has no power to dismiss or give orders to judges.
The power to pardon or commute sentences of convicted criminals is often in the hands of the heads of state in governments that separate their legislative and executive branches of government.
Presidential governments make no distinction between the positions of head of state and head of government, both of which are held by the president. Some political scientists consider the conflation of head-of-state and head-ofgovernment duties to be a problem of presidentialism because criticism of the president as head of state is criticism of the state itself.
Presidents in presidential systems are always active participants in the political process, though the extent of their relative power may be influenced by the political makeup of the legislature and whether their supporters or opponents have the dominant position therein.
Supporters generally claim four basic advantages for presidential systems: direct mandate, separation of powers, speed and decisiveness, stability. Direct mandate means that the President is often elected directly by the people. To some, this makes the President’s power more legitimate than that of a leader appointed indirectly. In the United States, the President is elected neither directly nor through the legislature, but by an electoral college . In the system of Electoral College people vote for electors, who vote for a particular candidate, in each state. All the electoral votes of a state go to one candidate. It is therefore possible for the President to be elected without getting a majority of the American people’s votes. Many US people think that this system should be changed because it is old fashioned .
Separation of powers establishes the presidency and the legislature as two parallel structures. Supporters claim that this arrangement allows each structure to supervise the other, preventing abuses.
Speed and decisiveness is some argue that a President with strong powers can usually enact changes quickly. However, others argue that the separation of powers slows the system down.