Presidency vs. Parliament

Topics: Presidential system, Parliamentary system, Separation of powers Pages: 6 (2158 words) Published: September 17, 2008
Scholars have put up a strong debate over which system of democracy is best, however in order to start analysing these arguments it is important to first distinguish between each democracy. In distinguishing the two types, Alan Siaroff sites three main points. First, in a parliamentary government the prime minister is the head of government and is dependant on the confidence of the legislature, and can be removed with a vote of non-confidence. While in a presidential democracy, the president is elected for a fixed term that will be served in full unless unusual circumstances occur. Second, in a parliamentary system of government, the prime minister (head of government) is selected by the legislature. While in the presidential system the president (head of government) is elected directly by the popular vote of the people of the state. Third, in the parliamentary system the executive, being the prime minister and his cabinet, are also members of the legislature. While in the presidential system there is a “separation of powers” as the executive, the president, is not a part of the legislature. (Siaroff, 2003, p.288) Another key difference is that in a presidential system, the president is both the head of state and head of government, while in the parliamentary system the prime minister serves only as the head of government, with the Queen or governor general serving as head of state. It is important to distinguish which type of democracy is favourable as the political landscape of the world is forever changing and more and more countries are shifting from communist and other non-democratic regimes to democratic regimes. Also some states have entertained the idea of converting from parliamentary to presidential systems and vise versa. An example of this is seen when political analysts in the Philippines in 2001 demanded a shift from presidential to parliamentary as a remedy to the problems with their 1987 Constitution. (Ruland, 2003, p.461) It is important to distinguish which system is favourable in this sense, so that future struggles and rewards can be forecasted when deciding on which type of system to use if a decision is necessary. In a presidential democracy, the power of the president is more legitimate than that of the prime minister in a parliamentary democracy. There is a direct accountability between elected officials and the voters as the president is chosen directly by popular vote. The voters can then hold the elected accountable at the next election if they are eligible for re-election. Supporters of parliamentary systems argue that this is not the case, and in many presidential systems re-election is banned, thus the elected president does not need to be too concerned with being held accountable once their term is over. However in most presidential systems, past presidents can still become secondary members in their political party or even be re-elected in the future, just not immediately. Thus it would be in their best interests to serve with the view that they are going to be held answerable. Additionally, having separate elections for the executive and the legislature gives voters a more open range of choices. Voters can choose their preferred head of government while still voting for their preferred candidate at the legislative level. In a parliamentary system the party systems are more fragmented and this greatly diminishes the direct accountability of the executive. A citizen wishing to vote for or against a certain head of government in order to hold them responsible can not be sure that voting for their desired party will increase the likelihood of the undesired candidate being elected by way of a coalition. (Mainwaring & Shugart, 1997, p. 460) Furthermore, the President is not restricted when selecting his cabinet ministers as is the prime minister who is limited to selecting from the House of Commons (in Canada). The president can choose among experts in the field, or solely someone who they feel...
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