Meaning and Differences Between parliamentary and presidential system of government: Parliamentary and presidential systems are apparently the most practiced systems of government in the world today. These two systems can work properly in a democracy. For example, the United States of America has a democratic and presidential system while Britain is both parliamentary and democratic in nature (Also known as parliamentary democracy).
In this article we will be looking at the meaning, features and differences between a Parliamentary and presidential system of government. I encourage you to read painstakingly as I demystify everything you need to know about these two systems of government.
What Is Parliamentary System Of Government?
The Parliamentary system of government is a type of democratic government in which executive powers are derived from the legislature or parliament. The executive are also accountable to the parliament as regards all their official actions.
This system of government is practicalised in several countries in the form of Constitutional Monarchies and Republican States that also practice Parliamentarianism.
In a typical Parliamentarian State, there are the offices of the Head of State and the Head of Government. In Constitutional Monarchies, the Head of State is usually the King or Queen as the case may be (using Britain as a case study), while a member of the Parliament becomes the Head of Government. But in Republics, the Head of State is usually a ceremonial Head or President, while the Head of Government is usually a member of the Parliament.
The Head of Government in these states is usually called the Prime Minister. Prime Ministers may loose their office once they loose the confidence of the Parliament, or the majority party which he belongs too. The Prime Minister also has no official tenure which is the period that he would occupy office for. He will usually remain in power until and unless the Parliament collectively feels he is no longer fit for the position. In this case, once a vote of no- confidence is passed by a majority of the Parliament, it signifies the end of his term.
The summary of the formation of a Parliamentary system of government is that the political party that won most of the seats in the Parliament elect a person for the position of Prime Minister from among themselves.
Features Of A Parliamentary System Of Government
1. The most important feature of a Parliamentary system of government would be the supremacy of the Parliament itself. Even as they are elected by the people into office, the duty falls on them to elect the Prime Minister. This is aside the functions of making and passing laws.
Regarding the structure of the legislature, it can be either unicameral or bicameral. However, if it is bicameral, the Prime Minister will usually be elected from the lower house.
2. The executive roles exists in two offices – the Head of State and Government. However, the Head of State is usually just a ceremonial head, except in few cases. On the other hand, the Head of Government oversees the affairs of the Parliament and the State too.
3. If a bill receives majority votes and support in the Parliament, it is passed into law, and the Prime Minister has no veto power to stop the law in the tracks of its passage.
4. The Prime Minister’s stay in office is not defined by a tenure length. As long as the Parliament – the representatives of the people – are still satisfied with his performance, he will be allowed to carry on in office. However, if they have lost this satisfaction, they can oust the Prime Minister from his position by means of a vote of no-confidence.
5. There is no institutionalised system of checks and balances. This would have helped each arm of government to check and help curb the excesses of the other. This is not so with the Parliamentary system of government and it seems that the legislature weilds more power than any other arm.
What Is Presidential System of Government?
A typical Presidential system of Government operates on the principle of separation of powers. Each arm of government operates independently of the other in terms of autonomy, yet they also work collectively for the common goal of public good.
The President, who is both the Head of State and Government, is elected directly by the people or by means of an electoral college and so derives powers from the people and the Constitution and not the legislature.
This system of government usually operates with bicameral legislature, often known as the Senate (the upper house) and the House of Representatives (the lower house). They have the function of making and passing bills into law.
The third arm is known as the Judiciary. Interpretion of the law is the main function of this arm. Here, there is also a hierarchy in the order of courts. They include the Supreme court at the top, the various courts of appeal and the lower courts of record such as area courts, district courts, magistrate courts, etc.
Finally, the President can be removed from office by means of impeachment by the legislature. However, this process isn’t as easy as it is with the Parliamentary system of government.
Features Of Presidential System Of Government
1. The Presidential system of government runs on the concurrent principles of separation of powers and checks and balances. The former means that each arm of government are granted clearly defined powers by Constitution and are elet by the will of the people. The latter on the other hand means that despite this autonomy, each arm of government can check on the excesses of the other and ensure that none tries to use the powers given for selfish reasons.
2. If the executive is not satisfied with an act of the legislature, they can veto the act. In turn, the legislature may override this veto if the vote of the majority of lawmakers required is attained.
3. The President is granted several office privileges, such as the power to give an executive order upon a situation of necessity. He also has the power to grant state pardon to convicted criminals.
4. Presidents also a fixed tenure length. Upon the expiration of the tenure, a newly elected President comes into power. Elections are held at intervals towards that purpose.
Differences Between Presidential and Parliamentary System of Government
There are several differences between the Presidential and Parliamentary system of government. They include;
1. In presidential system of government, there is a fixed term of office for the position of the President. This means there’s a fixed period at the end of which their term will run its course and the next elected President will assume office.
In a Parliamentary system of government, there is no fixed term of office for the Prime Minister. The term only runs its course upon the collective decision of the members of the Parliament.
2. The President can be removed from office by impeachment only upon gross misconduct, while the Prime Minister can be removed from office by the members of Parliament through a vote of no-confidence.
3. In a Presidential system of Government, each arm of government acts independently from the other, based on the principle of separation of powers. However, the executive arm of government relies heavily on the legislature for its powers in a Parliamentary system of Government. The office of the Prime Minister is occupied at the start of each term by a person elected by the Parliament and no other. This creates an interdependency between both arms and a sort of joint operation.
4. Only members of the Parliament can be appointed to the cabinet by the Prime Minister in a Parliamentary system of Government, but in a Presidential system of Government, the Ministers are appointed from outside the legislature.
5. A Prime Minister can dissolve the lower house before it’s term expires, but a President has no such powers.