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Presidential and Parliamentary System

By ntandazm Aug 31, 2011 2658 Words
The phenomenon of political control over the public service in South Africa cannot be quantified as integral part of public administration and an essential ingredient of representative democracy.

Bureaucracies are controlled in various ways. Mechanisms aimed at ensuring public accountability towards ministers, national assemblies, the courts may be instituted. The civil service may become politicized, so that it shares the ideological enthusiasm of the government of the day. Counter-bureaucracies may be formed to create an alternative advisory service and to strengthen the hand of elected politicians. The reality of ‘government by officials’ may function behind the façade representative and democratic accountability, which is the precise reason why control over bureaucratic power is one of the most urgent problems in modern politics and public administration and why no political/administration system has found and easy solution to this problem yet. It is against this background that answers can be found to question of whether bureaucracy should be subjected to political control and how much control should be exercised.

Traditionally and persistently, typology of governmental form has been argued to rest on the location of real power. In the fifth century B.C. classified all governments as monarchies, aristocracies or democracies. “Every political system operates”, says Austin Ranney, “in an environment, and certain characteristics of its particular environment contribute materially towards determining both its form of government and its policy outputs” . This observation bears truth as the different countries have adopted different forms of the government. In some countries one form of government is functioning well, whereas in others not. The suitability of the one form of the government or the other depends upon different factors like population, economy, social structure, social tensions and consensus and political culture etc. Broadly speaking the government may be categorized either as democracy, obligarchy, dictatorship, pluralism or eliticism. It is notable that democracy is preferred over other forms of government as in it decisions are ultimately controlled by all the adult members of the society rather then by some specially privileged subgroup or one all powerful member. In forcible terminology of Abraham Lincoln, “democracy is a government of the people, for the people and by the people,” or what Daniel Webster argued, “the peoples´ government made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people”. But there is no definite mode of democratic operation; nor the examples of ancient regimes or unclassified systems are lacking.


The parliamentary system typically has clear differentiation between the head of government and the head of state, with the former being the Prime Minister and the latter, the President. The Head of Government is the chief executive and, together with the Cabinet, exercises executive power or the authority to form and implement policies and programs. In the case of South African Politics the Head of Government is also the Head of State. A Cabinet is a body of high ranking members of the government, typically representing the executive branch. It can also sometimes be referred to as the Council of Ministers, an Executive Council, or an Executive Committee. The Head of Government is also usually the leader of the political party that wins the majority of votes in the legislature or parliament, either assuming the post automatically or gets elected by the legislature. The members of the Cabinet are chosen by the Head of Government from the members of parliament and can come from the same party or from a coalition of parties. The head of state, meanwhile, is the President, often elected by a designated electoral college as a figurehead with ceremonial powers. In some cases, however, the President could take on a more significant role during a constitutional or political crisis. In the parliamentary system, there is fusion of powers between the executive and the legislative branches. This union serves to facilitate the exercise and coordination of governmental powers and functions to formulate desired policies and implement programs of government. The success of this fusion depends largely, though, on the reform of the country’s political party and electoral systems.

For some parliamentary governments, legislatures can only amend legislation on narrow terms. There are a few permanent or standing committees in the parliament that assist in the drafting and review of legislation. Given its close association with the legislative branch, the executive can be made more accountable for its performance since they are answerable to the members of parliament. There are two ways by which the Head of State and the rest of the Cabinet can be asked to step down. The first is through a vote of no-confidence by the legislature often initiated by an opposition party or coalition of opposition parties. This may or may not result in extraordinary elections. The other route is by virtue of a party vote, which does not force a new round of legislative elections.

In terms of stability and democratic values, parliamentarism is not the superior form of government. Parliamentarism lacks stability by sovereignty. Sovereignty leaves the power in the hand of Parliament without any checks or balances to ensure proper governing. Parliaments laws can fluctuate greatly according to whomever is in office, considering that there is no written constitution at times which describes there power, considering they have all the power there is no need for a description of it. A minister can be ousted if needed prematurely if his party lacks confidence in him. This vulnerability leaves a minister weak and easily swayable. In terms of democratic values a parliamentary system lacks the highest efficiency because of the lack of proportional representation in Parliament. Regardless of the exactly number of parties, a minority party would not hold enough seats to actually make a significant difference. 3.THE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM

The Philippines is one of the countries with a presidential form of government together with South Korea, Indonesia, Nigeria, most South American nations and the US, which is the pioneer. Under this political system, the President is both head of state and head of government. The incumbent for the position is elected nationwide on timing that has been predetermined in the Constitution. Thus, in the presidential system, the President is said to enjoy a direct mandate from the people. There is a fixed term of office for the President, which may be reelected depending on the country adopting the system.

The executive branch, which the President heads, is distinct from the legislative and judicial branches of government, which are all independent of one other. This separation of powers serves to check and to balance certain actuations of either branch of government. While the members of the legislature are elected, the members of the Cabinet are appointed by the President and may require the confirmation or consent of the legislative branch. The formulation, amendment and review of legislation are the sole purview of the legislature. However, on many occasions, the executive could endorse a legislative agenda for consideration and veto a bill that was passed in the legislature. The latter, nonetheless, could overturn it via a two-thirds vote. When it comes to the difficult process of removing a President, often the only legal way is through an impeachment process that is undertaken in the legislative branch.


The supremacy of the constitution, making South Africa a typical “rechtstaat”, with an independent judiciary, Bill of Rights and Constitutional Court and mechanisms that would ensure accountability; The Republic of South Africa is a constitutional democracy with a three-tier system of government and an independent judiciary, operating in a nearly unique system that combines aspects of parliamentary and presidential systems. Legislative authority is held by the Parliament of South Africa. Executive authority is vested in the President of South Africa who is head of state and head of government, and his or her Cabinet. The president is elected from the Parliament to serve a fixed term. South Africa's government differs greatly from those of other Commonwealth nations. The national, provincial and local levels of government all have legislative and executive authority in their own spheres, and are defined in the South African Constitution as "distinctive, interdependent and interrelated". Operating at both national and provincial levels are advisory bodies drawn from South Africa's traditional leaders. It is a stated intention in the Constitution that the country be run on a system of co-operative governance. The government is undertaken by three inter-connected branches of government: •Legislature: The National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces •Executive: The President, who is both Head of State and Head of Government •Judiciary: The Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeal, and the High Court Although the head of state is the President, South Africa does not have a typical presidential system. Instead, South Africa (still) has a parliamentary – really Westminster system where the Executive is formed only after elections and represents the strongest party in parliament and is therefore accountable to Parliament. South Africa’s electoral system is not based on geographical constituencies as basis for representation in Parliament. It is based instead on the typical European system of Proportional Representation (PR) based on party lists (this is more conducive to the representation of smaller parties);

There are divisions of functional areas of concurrent and exclusive competencies between national and provincial powers. The central level has stronger exclusive powers than provinces; it also takes precedence over provincial powers in the case of concurrent powers, making centralisation stronger than provincialisation. This suggests that South Africa has a hybrid system between federalism and unitarism (very much like the centralised federation of Canada); and finally that –

There shall be regular elections at all three levels of government – national, provincial and local; and equal and full participation for all adult citizens in public institutions where citizens normally participate in liberal democracies. So, institutionally, the system provides for “contestation” and “participation” which is a typical “polyarchy” (in Dahl’s terms), otherwise known as “plural” systems. 5.ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

5.1.Advantages of a parliamentary system
In general, the majority of the world´s “established” democracies use parliamentary systems. Parliamentary system has proved most successful in countries having developed two-party system .Parliamentary system of the government has placed more and more emphasis on the power of Parliament. The main emphasis is on the centre of the power. Parliament becomes the main focus and the institution Head of State has been getting more and more importance. Cabinets in Parliamentary System are usually drawn from members of the elected legislature; parliamentary government enables the inclusion of all political elements represented in the legislature including minorities in the executive. Cabinet comprising a coalition of several different parties are a typical feature of many well-established parliamentary democracies. In most government the parliamentary system can change on the floor of the legislature without resource to a general election, advocates of Parliamentarism point to its flexibility and capacity to adopt to changing circumstances as a strong benefit By making the executive dependent, at least in theory upon the confidence of the legislature parliamentary system are said to foster greater accountability on the part of the government of the day towards the people´s representative. Proponent argues that this means that there is not only greater public control over the policy-making process, but also greater transparency in the way decisions are made. 5.2.Advantages of a presidential system

In presidential government, executive stability is based on the president´s fixed term of office. It contrasts with the executive instability that may result in a parliamentary system from the frequent use of the legislature´s power to upset cabinets by vote of ´no confidence´ or, without any formal ´no confidence´ motion being adopted, as a result of the cabinet´s loss of majority support in the legislature. The office of the president can be held directly accountable for decision taken because, in contrast to the parliamentary system, the chief executive is directly chosen by popular vote. It is thus easier for the electorate to reward or retrospectively punish a president (by voting him or her out of office) than is the case with parliamentary system. In formation of his cabinet, the choice would not be limited to the members of Parliament. He may choose persons of outstanding competence and intellectual integrity help him in administration of the country. The country may have benefit of the persons of integrity who may not be interested in election due to its curruptionist nature. The Presidential system also offers the cabinet ministers to devote their full time and full energy in the service of the nation, instead of wasting their time and energy in endless politicking. Presidential system will cure the cancer of defection which ha snow become the property of legislators. The expertise of defection and desertions on the part of the legislators motivated by thurst for power and hunger for office, will disappeared some sort of cleaning in political life would be obvious as a result. 5.3.Disadvantages of a parliamentary system

Parliamentary systems are inherently less accountable than Presidential once, as responsibility for decision is taken by the collective cabinet rather than a single figure. This is especially problematic when diver coalition from the executive, as it becomes increasingly difficult for electors to establish who is –responsible for a particular decision and make a retrospective judgment as to the performance of the government. Some parliamentary systems are typified by shifting coalition of different forces, rather than disciplined parties. Under such circumstances, governments are often weak and unstable, leading to a lack of continuity and direction in public policy. Many parliamentary governments, particularly in new democracy, are not comprised of inclusive multi party coalition but rather by discipline single parties. In divided societies, such parties can represent predominately or exclusively are ethnic group. When placed in a parliamentary system, a 51% majority of the seats in such cases can result in 100% of the political power, as there is few or no ameliorating device to restrain the power of the executive- hence the term “elective dictatorship” associated with some cases of single party parliamentary rule. Moreover, and in direct contrast to the separation of powers that occurs under Presidentialism. Many parliaments in practice provide a very weak legislative check on government because of the degree of party discipline-which means that a slim parliamentary majority can win every vote on every issue in the parliament. In such cases, parliamentary government can lead to almost complete winner-take-all result. 5.4.Disadvantages of presidential system

In presidential system no real checks on the executive become more true when there is a direct concordance between President´s party and the majority in the Parliament. In this case the parliament has almost no real check on the executive and can become more of glorified debating chamber then a legitimate horse of review. One of the most common criticism of presidentialism is, it difficulties in sustaining democratic practices. With the outstanding exception the United States, Presidentialism has stepped into authoritarianism at least once in every nation where it has been attempted. These failures are due to political cultures unconvinced to democracy, the parliament role of the military, but also to the design flows of Presidentialism itself. Unlike a Prime Minister, who is likely to have to form coalition, a President´s party can rule without allies for four to six years, a worrisome situation for many interest group. The danger that zero-sum Presidential system pose is composed by the rigidity of the President´s fixed term in office winners and losers are sharply defined for the entire period of the Presidential of the mandate. Losers must wait four or five years without any access to execute power and patronage. The zero sum came in Presidential regimes raises the stakes of Presidential elections and inevitably exacerbates their attendant tension and polarization.

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