Does the presidential system of government provide a better model of governance for new and consolidating democracies than a parliamentary system? The parliamentary system of government provides a better model for governance for new and consolidating democracies than a presidential system. The parliamentary system provides for flexibility in government, preventing power to fall into incompetent hands. It also allows for deeper representation of eligible voters than the presidential system. The fusion of the legislative and executive arms of government prove the parliamentary system to be more efficient in law making than the presidential system. Finally, it is more likely for an undemocratic regime to take over a presidential government rather than one structured on the parliamentary model. These are the four key points that will be discussed over the course of this essay demonstrate why a parliamentary system of government is the superior option to the presidential system for a consolidating democracy.
There are terms in this essay prompt which require disambiguation. Political scientists Linz and Stepan’s definition of a consolidated democracy is formed by three key factors; behavioral, attitudinal and constitutional. The behavioral factor refers to a system where no political groups within the state have an interest in overthrowing government. The attitudinal factor of consolidating democracy requires the majority of society realizing that future political development is to be of that within democratic parameters. Constitutionally, democratic consolidation requires all forces within the state to be subjected to and in habit of the laws and procedures that have been newly constructed within the parameters of democracy (Linz & Stepan, 1996). Fellow political scientist, Shugart, provides a definition of the presidential and parliamentary systems. In order for a system to be parliamentary, there must be a prime minister and a cabinet which forms the executive authority and this executive authority must be accountable to dismissal through a vote of "no confidence" from the legislative assembly by a majority vote. There are three factors that Shugart has used for defining the presidential system, the first being that the president is popularly elected by the people and acts as the head of the executive. The second regards the fixed terms of the president and the legislative assembly. The final factor refers to the president having some constitutionally birthed power and must name and instruct the cabinet (Shugart, 2008). These definitions will be what democratic consolidation, the presidential system and the parliamentary system will be intended to mean within this essay.
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The parliamentary system of government is far more flexible than the presidential model. Should a prime minister be elected to later be considered inadequate in the parliamentary system, the party or parties in coalition that form government can conduct a "vote of confidence" to instate a new prime minister (Linz, 1985). This flexibility is not exhibited in the presidential system as the president has a fixed term in office (Shugart, 2008). The formal mechanism for removing an incompetent president is called impeachment, this process is very difficult, and therefore does not happen as often as it may need to (Baumgarter and Kada, 2003). It could be argued that the rigidity of the presidential system would prove beneficial to a consolidating democracy due to the forced stability factor. This however, is undermined by the fact that in many presidential models there is a limit on how many terms a president can serve (Carey, 2005). This can be a deterrence for a president to fulfill all duties required of them as their position once attained is secure, however lacks a tenure (Mainwaring and Shugart, 1997). The parliamentary system is also flexible as early elections may be called as long as they are approved by the head of state. A loss of behavioural and/or attitudinal democratic consolidation is likely to occur should a state have to be victim to an incompetent president. The ease in ability for parliament to alter the executive arm of government proves it preferable to the presidential system for a consolidating democracy.
The way in which a parliament is formed provides for a greater representation of those who voted them in rather than the presidential system. (Linz, 1985). Representation is greater in the parliamentary system due to the fusion of the legislative and executive arms of government, therefore, the people have a greater representation by the executive. The candidates whom the people cast their votes upon are usually members of a party. The benefit of party politics is that a party shares values and ideologies on which to construct their legislature (Bernhardt et al., 2008). While there are also party systems in the presidential models, it is a likely assumption that novel voters will be voting on the specific individual which they wish to be president. Regardless of how polarized parties may be from one another, voters of a consolidating democracy would be likely to base their votes upon the charismatic qualities of the presidential candidates, rather than consider the ramifications of possible incompetence. This deduction has been made as the same occurrences have happened historically in democracies that have already been consolidated (Linz, 1994). If voters chose their member of parliament based on charisma alone, this would be less of an issue due to the prime minister being selected by their fellow party members. This can be predicted because the most competent individual for managing the state’s affairs within that party will most likely be
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the one to end up in the executive position. The parliamentary system allows the people to have a greater influence on their political system than the presidential model of governance does, hence permeating a greater sense of attitudinal and behavioural consolidation of democracy.
Parliamentary systems are more efficient in law making than the presidential system. This is because the legislative and executive organs of government are fused with each other, whereas in the presidential model they are completely separate. The two being separated from each other can cause a gridlock in the system as the executive must approve of the law before it can be passed as a bill, this is not an issue in the parliamentary system as the executive is part of the legislative arm of government (Moe and Caldwell 1994). Moe and Caldwell raise these points in reference to the works of Woodrow Wilson and Walter Bagehot, both of which where published in the late 1800s. The analyses of Woodrow and Bight evidently still holds viability in this modern age. An example of such is the 2013 Whitehouse shutdown, the 17th occurrence of a shutdown of the Whitehouse since 1976. In October 2013, Congress refused to pass legislation regarding a short term budget, this significantly affected Americans nationwide (Carswell, 2013). Such an occurrence in a consolidating democracy must be avoided at all costs in order to maintain efficiency and stability. It would be probable for a state to be dissuaded from the notion of democracy should their whole state be put in indefinite standstill and hence, lack attitudinal democratic consolidation. Efficiency is vital as a state in the process of consolidating democracy would need to pass several pieces of legislature in order to attain constitutional consolidation of democracy. The parliamentary system is a significantly more efficient model in terms of passing legislature than the presidential system.
The parliamentary system exhibits more democratic stability than the presidential system. Due to the legislative power being spread over an entire party rather than one person, an authoritarian, communist or military uprising would be far less likely to come about. Meaning, behavioral democratic consolidation is more likely to be achieved under parliamentary governance. If a prime minister suddenly went against their party’s ideology, the party could instigate a vote of confidence to have the position renamed (Mainwaring and Shugart, 1997). There have been several occurrences world wide of a loss of democracy in presidential systems. Despite their official name being the “Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea”, this state has evolved into the world’s most notorious dictatorship. Several countries in Latin America which use the presidential model have been in political turmoil for decades, countries such as Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Chile and Uruguay, along with several other neighboring states, have been victim to military coups. Such
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movements are not exclusive to the Americas, African countries such as Uganda, Kenya, Sudan and Liberia, and Asian countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Indonesia have too experienced military coups; all of which have been while utilising the presidential model of government. China is a communist state who’s politics are crafted upon the presidential system, indicating that a communist government may be better facilitated by the presidential model rather than democracy (Yahya, 2015). The ample number of examples provided indicate a strong lack of behavioural democratic consolidation. Democracy has historically struggled to thrive in presidential states, rendering the parliamentary system a much more viable candidate for consolidating democracies.
This essay has explored the strengths of the parliamentary system and therefore why this system would be more beneficial to consolidating democracies than the presidential system. The flexibility in leadership provided for by the parliamentary system ensures that the government is competent and reliable. The parliamentary model facilitates greater representation of its citizens through the electoral process than the presidential system, further permeating effective government. Passing bills can be done at a more efficient rate in the parliamentary system rather than the presidential, increasing the likelihood of a successful consolidation of democracy. An authoritarian uprising is not as likely in a parliamentary system than a presidential system, meaning a state can consolidate its democracy, also allowing for a healthy continuation of democracy. These arguments highlight why the parliamentary system is a far better model for consolidating democracies than the presidential system.
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1. Linz, J and Stepan, A 1996. “Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe”, pp. 4-230. 2. Shugart, M 2008. “Comparative Legislative-Executive Relations”, pp. 345-359. 3. Linz, J 1985. “"Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?” 4. Baumgarter, J and Kada, N 2003. “ Checking Executive Power: Presidential Impeachment in Comparative Perspective”, p. 8.
5. Carey, J 2005. “Presidential versus Parliamentary Government” pp. 91-117. 6. Mainwaring, S and Shugart, M 1997. “Comparative Politics”, vol. 29, no. 4. pp. 449-471 7. Bernhardt, A, Campuzano, L, Squinting, F and Camera, O 2008. “On the Benefits of Party Competition”
8. Linz, J 1994. “The Failure of Presidential Democracy”, vol. 1, pp. 3-13. 9. Moe, T and Caldwell, M 1994. “The Institutional Foundations of Democratic Government: A Comparison of Presidential and Parliamentary Systems”, Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Vol. 150, No. 1. pp. 171-195.
10. Carswell, S 2013. “What’s happening in Washington? Government shutdown explained”, The Irish Times.
11.Yahya, H, 2015. “Presidential Systems Have Failed All Over The World”.