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Presidential Vis-a-vis Parliamentary Systems of Government Essay


From the top level, the type of system of government is defined by the structure of the judiciary, executive as well as the assembly.

The president is elected through a popular vote and serves over a fixed term; while the prime minister is voted by an assembly and serves under their confidence.

The head-of-state and the chief executive are vested in a single individual in a presidential system; but separate in a parliamentary system.

Assemblies under the presidential system are more liberal during voting as compared to a parliamentary one.

Even with the hybrid systems, there remains a thin line of justification as to which of the system is superior since presidential system is a common among the developing democracies; while parliament is found in developed. There is a huge discrepancy on affluence between the two.

How the organs of the judiciary, executive as well as the assembly remain organized relatively defines the system of government within a nation. This difference is at the top level of government (Dann 1). In the absence of a government, anarchy is eminent; thus the need for the same (Szilágyi 307).

Variants of assemblies include the parliament, legislature or congress (Carey 91). The degree of fundamental contrasts between the presidential and parliamentary systems lies on how the main organs (both the assembly and executive) come to office (that is being elected or selected) as well as how they dispense their duties (that is, policy formulation and administering government) (Carey 91).

Presidential system in France is regarded as an executive president; the USA has a full presidential system while in South Africa it is semi-presidential (Szilágyi 307; Siaroff 287). The word parliamentary cradled from the word parley which means a discussion. The early application of the word was in the 13th Century during the Great-Council of Britain (Szilágyi 311).

Nevertheless, the Great-Council gave way to the now House-of-Commons. In Britain, the parliamentary system is divided into three faculties, that is, the Sovereign (being the queen or the king), House-of-Lords and the House-of-Commons. States in Europe favor a parliamentary system of government (Szilágyi 311).

A president serves as the head-of-state and the oversight executive. There is power balance between the president and the legislature. Contrary, the head-of-state and the oversight executives are held concurrently by two different entities in the case of the parliamentary system.

The head-of-state is a ceremonial figure, often; while the oversight executive is the head-of-government. The head-of-state is a president elected popularly or through monarch heir; while the head-of-government is a premier or prime-minister elected by the sitting assembly (Szilágyi 312).

Most of the existing systems of government have borrowed a lot from their colonial masters. For instance, the British colonized New Zealand and Australia, since then both have the Queen of England as their president under the constitutional monarchy (Szilágyi 312).

In summary, in a parliamentary system, the executive hails from the convened assembly; while in the presidential system a popular candidate is elected through sovereign right (Buisseret 1). Therefore, the executive in a parliamentary system originates or is a subsequence of the assembly. This means that the executive comes from the assembly faction that has majority representation of members.

It is expected that the party members opt to vote strictly along party affiliation in order to have an executive emerging from their own. The term of the executive is limited to the life of the assembly that elected him/her to office, otherwise has to seek fresh mandate constitutionally. Carey argues on the grounds of distinguishing whether parliamentary from the presidential system based on the powers that are fused than those that separate (92).

Ironically, the models of the ancient monarchs in 1000AD in France, Scotland and England provided the bases for the formation of the Office of the President who is the executive such as in the USA (Szilágyi 308). In these models, power was vested in the Crown not in the assemblies or parliaments which were then called Estates.

Since the quest for clarity on the separation of power in the United Kingdom this has seen the waning of the power of the Crown shifting to the parliament headed by a less authoritative executive (Szilágyi 308). While in the parliamentary system, the party members remain loyal or disciplined along party affiliation during voting; party members in a presidential system are relatively liberal to vote their conscious with fewer repercussions anticipated from party of origin (Szilágyi 308).

The incumbent executive in a parliamentary system remains in office at the mercy of the assembly’s confidence (Inter-Parliamentary Union 81). In this arrangement, the executive can trigger the dissolving of the assembly, which ushers the need for new elections even before the end of the maximum allowed period as enshrined in the country’s constitution.

Where political parties are in a coalition government, this is relatively a product of the electoral process than government systems. Underlying reason is that, there are countries with one party regime while others run by coalitions. This is best explained under the zero-sum game (Martin and Stevenson 4). Over and above in the recent past, electoral processes in Europe end up with hardly any party garnering majority seats (Szilágyi 312).

In a presidential system, the president is at the helm within the specified time frame. Other branches of executive such as the ministries are subject to the president’s authority; because, ministerial positions are appointmented by the president. In some presidential regimes, the head-of-state is substantially ceremonial but devoid of the constitutional authority; case-in-point is Ireland. Power balances occur between the incumbent president and the legislature.

The president wields power to veto legislations passed by the assembly; while this can be overridden. In addition, such an arrangement makes it difficult for the president to initiate dissolving of parliament or pose a threat to any key parliamentary procedures. Some presidential systems provide for safe removal of the incumbent president if they are found culpable.

The styles of debating legislations differ between presidential and parliamentary, with the former allowing assembly members to use filibusters (right to deliberately issue extended speeches that delay action); while, the latter vote on an issue can start soonest by ending a debate.

A key privilege vested in an elected executive in a presidential system is appointing and guiding government composition. In other words, the outlook of a government formed reflects fully or partly of the president who comes to office. This coupled with authority to veto legislators are absent in the case of an executive in a parliamentary system.

With the advent of democracy, the safe removal of an executive from office without any constitutional crisis favors the parliamentary system over the presidential one. In other words, the presidential system is susceptible to democratic breakdown since there lacks checks that give way to a vote-of-no-confidence procedure for an executive in an office. This is a strength and a weakness depending on the nature of leadership.

For instance, Latin American states have favored the presidential system are fast putting in-place mechanisms that allow executives to be replaced through a legislative process thus averting a government crisis. In addition, restrictions are in place to reduce chances of reelection for an additional term. Carey perceives this to be a convergence by presidential regime towards the parliamentary ones (117).

In conclusion, the rise of a hybrid system that borrows heavily from the concepts of either parliamentary or presidential systems amid the strengths that fall under each is a justification for neither as a pure panacea. The hybrid fusion has a president with some level of powers and the prime-minister and a cabinet who are under check by the assembly members.

Assessing suitability of either presidential or parliamentary has remained challenged since most originally developed states in Europe adopted the parliamentary; while the democracies in the developing world have tended to the presidential or hybrid system. On these bases, the level of affluence may disguise the true strengths and weaknesses of either system (Linz 69).

Nevertheless, in the recent past, incidences of political and constitutional instability have attracted empirical quests into the presidential electoral process (Carey 93). On the center of scholarly interests is the efficacy of the designs and performance of a presidential system (Carey 94). There are few stable democracies under the presidential system (Lawrence 1; Mainwaring 2).

Works Cited

Buisseret, Peter.n.d. Parliamentary or Presidential Government? 2012. Web.

Carey, John. “ Presidential versus Parliamentary Covernment.” Handbook of New Institutional Economics. Ed. C. Menard and M. M. Shirley. Netherlands: Springer, 2005. 91-122. Print.

Dann, Philipp. “The Gubernative in Presidential and Parliamentary Systems: Comparing Organizational Structures of Federal Governments in the USA and Germany.” ZaöRV. 66 (2006): 1-40. Max-Planck-Institut für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht. Web.

Inter-Parliamentary Union 2007, . PDF file. Web.

Lawrence, Christopher, 2000, . PDF file. Web.

Linz, Juan. “The Perils of Presidentialism.” Journal of Democracy. 1.1 (1990): 51-69. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Web.

Mainwaring, Scott 1990, . PDF file. Web.

Martin, Lanny and Stevenson, Randolph, 2000, Government Formation in Parliamentary Democracies. Web.

Siaroff, Alan. “Comparative presidencies: The inadequacy of the presidential, semi-presidential and parliamentary distinction.” European Journal of Political Research. 42 (2003): 287–312. European Consortium for Political Research. Web.

Szilágyi, Ilona Mária. “Presidential versus parliamentary systems.” AARMS. 8. 2 (2009): 307–314. Harvard. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2019, August 27). Presidential Vis-a-vis Parliamentary Systems of Government. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/presidential-vis-a-vis-parliamentary-systems-of-government/

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1. IvyPanda. "Presidential Vis-a-vis Parliamentary Systems of Government." August 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/presidential-vis-a-vis-parliamentary-systems-of-government/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "Presidential Vis-a-vis Parliamentary Systems of Government." August 27, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/presidential-vis-a-vis-parliamentary-systems-of-government/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Presidential Vis-a-vis Parliamentary Systems of Government'. 27 August.

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