A Mixture of Presidential and Prime Ministerial System

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DIVISION OF COMMERCE
ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN ARTS
DEPARTMENT OF GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL STUDIES
SEMESTER ONE: AUG – DEC 2012

Question: ‘When examining Guyana, Cuba and Venezuela what are the features that make the mixture of the Presidential and Prime Ministerial system so attractive to so many democracies?’

“A prime ministerial government system is a system in which executive power is concentrated in the prime minister’s hands through the suppression of collective cabinet government” (Heywood: Pg 429: 2002). A Prime ministerial government has two key features. First the office of prime minister is the central unit between the legislative and the executive branches of government, its holder being drawn from and accountable to the assembly and also serving as chief executive subordination of both the cabinet and departmental ministers. In this, it parallels presidentialism. Prime ministerial government has been criticized for the following reasons: * It strengthens centralization by weakening the constraints formerly exerted by the cabinet and government departments. * It narrows policy debate and weakens scrutiny by excluding criticisms and alternative viewpoints. However, it can be defended on the following grounds:

* It reflects the personal mandate that prime ministers acquire in general elections. * It gives government policy clearer direction by checking the centrifugal pressures, embodied in departmentalism and the ‘nudge and fudge’ of collective decision making (Heywood: Pg 344: 2002). The cabinet is the senior executive organ and policy making responsibility is shared within it, the prime minister being ‘first’ in name only. The system is usually underpinned by collective responsibility all the cabinet ministers are required to ‘sing the same song’ and support official government policy. The virtues of cabinet government are: * It encourages full and frank policy debate within the democracy of cabinet meetings, subjecting proposals of elective scrutiny. * It guarantees the unity and cohesion of governments since the cabinet makes decisions collectively and stands by them. However, cabinet government has been criticized for the following reasons: * It acts as a cloak for prime ministerial power because it forces dissenting ministers to support agreed government policy in public. * It means that government policy becomes incoherent and inconsistent, as decisions are based on compromises between competing ministers and departmental interests. “Presidential government is a system in which executive authority is concentrated in the hands of a president, whose office is politically and constitutionally separate from the legislative” (Heywood: Pg 429: 2002). Presidential systems are based on the strict application of the assemblies and executives are formally independent from one another and separately elected. The classic example of this is found in the USA where the so called ‘founding fathers’ were particularly anxious to prevent the emergence of an over strong executive, fearing that the presidency might assume the mantle of the British monarchy. Outside the USA, presidential systems have been confined largely to Latin America. In this system there is a dual executive in which a separately elected president works in conjunction with the prime minister and cabinet drawn from and responsible to the National Assembly. The principle virtue of presidential systems is that, by separating legislative power from executive power, they create internal tensions that help to protect individual rights and liberties. As Hobbes put it, ‘liberty is power cut into pieces’. In particular, presidential systems may be ineffective and cumbersome because they offer an ‘invitation to struggle’ to the executive and legislative branches of government. Presidential executives may be either limited or unlimited. Limited presidential executives operate within constraints imposed by a constitution,...
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