Aug 31, 2020 in Analysis

Presidential Versus Parliamentary Mode Of Governance

In the world of democracy, there are two forms of governance where the citizens have a profound influence in choosing the type of government. This is made possible during the frequent elections held where the citizens have an opportunity to elect their leaders. The democracy consists of two possible forms of government one being the presidential system and the other the parliamentary system. These are two forms of governance that integrate the people’s choice in the backbone of the governance system. At the core of these systems is a president or prime minister who is given an opportunity to govern the citizens directly in the form of presidential system and indirectly in the form of the parliamentary system. The current paper aim at comparing the presidential system and the parliamentary system while referring to the United Kingdom system (parliamentary) and the US system (presidential) shedding light on the different variables at play to ensure compliance with the rule of law under these two systems.

Definition

The difference between presidential and parliamentary modes of governance lies in the aspect of separation of powers. Under the presidential form of government, there is the executive headed by the president and the legislative body that has the responsibility of making laws and distinguishing them from one another. On the other hand, under the parliamentary system, the leader who is the prime minister is also a member of the legislative body. Under the presidential form of governance, the president is the head of the executive power which consists of the deputy/vice president and the cabinet. Moreover, the legislative body is separate from the executive body and the two play different roles in line with upholding the democracy. In contrast, under the parliamentary system, the executive and the legislative bodies are intertwined with the president/prime minister also being a member of parliament and from time to time attending the sittings.

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Essential Elements of the Parliamentary and Presidential System of Governance

As mentioned earlier, the difference between these two forms of governance consists in the separation of power. However, another crucial distinction is their difference in terms of the formation of the government. In the case of a parliamentary system, the registered voters vote for political parties and the one that secures the majority seats forms the government. On the other hand, under the presidential system, the registered voters vote for a presidential candidate and not the party. Besides, in case the elections have not yielded an outright winner under the parliamentary system, the party with the greatest number of seats form a coalition government which lures other parties to support it in the formation of the governmental structures.

However, under the presidential system, the next step in getting a president is usually a runoff where the number one and the number two compete with each other once again. If there is no clear winner even after the runoff, the two candidates come together and form a coalition government. Voters’ loyalty under the parliamentary system is given to the parties and not the candidate striving under the party for the presidency. In contrast, under the presidential system, voters’ loyalty is given to the candidate rather than the party he or she is using to vie for the presidency. In other words, under the parliamentary system, the executive power is mandated by parliament and remains in the office as long as it is possible. 

Policy Making

At the heart of success in any form of government is its ability to roll out different policies crucial not only for upholding the democracy but also for running the affairs of the concerned nation. Policies are usually aimed at solving a prevailing problem or coming up with the needed regulation or guidelines on an issue that needs to be regulated in the country. Under the UK system, policies may emanate from the opposition parties, the governing party or any other party including the local citizens. However, for the policy to be implemented, it must be seconded by government minister since a lot of lobbying is required and the ministers are well placed to influence other governmental structures. It should be taken into account that under the parliamentary system, the party that forms the government has a majority of parliamentary seats. Moreover, it is this majority that is needed to enact any policy through the different stages in the parliament before it becomes law. Similarly, under the American presidential system, a policy may emanate from different sources including but not limited to the president and the White House, task forces and interest groups. However, there is a difference when it comes to adopting the policy in the UK under the parliamentary system. In the USA, a policy is rubber-stamped by the president signing an executive order. Moreover, it may become law according to the Supreme Court rules on the policy and can also be adopted if it is seconded by Congress through law. 

Regarding setting the policy agenda, the role of the government is very prominent when there is a change of governance. Under the parliamentary system in the UK, the process of setting the policy agenda is shaped during the election. Political parties have different vision/manifestos of how to manage the affairs of the nation and sell the idea to the voters. Once in power, it is the electioneering manifesto of the winning party that heavily shapes the policy agenda in the UK. Similarly in the US presidential system, setting the policy agenda is also prominent when a new president takes the reign and when the ruling parties in the Congress also change. However, under the two systems, the policy agenda setting may also be shaped by emergencies, threats, or a public agitation faced by a nation. A good example is that currently there is a public agitation for the UK to pool out of EU and the government has re-prioritized the issue above others.

Legislation

This is a process of making, improving or amending laws. It is the process in which policies are turned into law through ideas. Under the UK system, legislation is initiated by the executive power where the prime minister and the cabinets consult on the best way of handling an issue of interest. There is also an expert meeting where the cabinet consults the experts on the best way of handling the prevailing issue. A cabinet committee is the one that selects the final proposal that is to be presented to the members of parliament for scrutiny and deliberation. After the proposal has been agreed by the concerned cabinet it is presented as a bill to the parliament. On the other hand, in the US presidential system, legislation initiatives emanate from the Congress, which is the only body that is allowed by the constitution to amend, make or review laws. Under this system only a member of the Congress may introduce a bill for consideration to the Congress. However, bills that are of national importance are initiated by the president but must be presented to a Congress representative and not the executive. This means that legislation serves an exclusive role of the Congress and the executive power plays no active role during its introduction to the floor of the house after which it is passed by the Congress (House of Representatives and the Senate). 

Legislation Amendment

Amendment entails altering, making additions or deduction of demands of a particular law. Amendments are aimed at ensuring the constitutional demands reflecting the ambitions and the interests of the nation. Moreover, it is through the amendments that existing laws are realigned to meet the demands of the prevailing society. Under the UK parliamentary system, the amendment is made by the parliament. Existing laws can be amended only via an act of parliament. However, it is good to point out that an amendment process goes through the same rigorous process as the one a bill undergoes to become law. On the other hand, under the American presidential system, the Congress has the power to discharge the amendments and the procedures to be followed for the attainment of the amendment. It is, therefore, clear that the amendment process under the two systems lies in the legislative arm of the government. However, the executive power under the two systems can make proposals for an amendment, but it has to be ratified by the legislative body.

Legislative Veto Power

Veto power is the constitutionally availed power for rejecting the law-making body’s actions or proposals. In the UK parliamentary system, the amendment process is carried out by the parliament and the parliamentary committees have the power to veto any changes to law or constitution. This is usually done at the initial stage where a bill or proposal aiming at amending the law or replacing it with a new law is denied the audience in the floor of parliament. However, the whole parliament has the legislative veto power once an amendment bill is brought to the floor of house. On the other hand, in the American presidential system, the Congress has the legislative veto power where any actions related to the law or the constitution can be rejected if they do not meet the required standards.

Implementation

Implementation entails putting the laws and policies into action to attain the goal intended when the laws and policies are being enacted. It is the process of ensuring that the laws play their intended role in safeguarding the interests of the nation. Under the UK parliamentary system, the implementation role is performed exclusively by the executive power headed by the Prime Minister. The executive power has the responsibility of ensuring that the set laws are followed through its different complimentary agencies one of which is policy. One of the mandates given to the executive is that of safeguarding the spirit of the constitution. Moreover, protecting the constitution entails making sure that all aspects of the laws covered under the constitution are followed to the letter. If the executive fails to meet this role, the parliament recalls them since this forms the most important role of an executive power under the parliamentary system. Similarly, under the American presidential system, the implementation process is headed by the president who is also the head of the executive power (Pan 2010). All forms of implementation lie exclusively in the executive policies and laws are put into action to make them correspond to their function in the American democracy.

Role of Political Parties on Policy Making

Under the two forms of governance, political parties play a crucial role in policy making. Any policy must be enshrined in law that needs to be passed in the parliament for the UK parliamentary system and the Congress for the American presidential system. The passing of any policy depends on the pro numbers in the legislative bodies and behind these numbers are the members of different political parties. In the UK parliamentary system, policy bill is passed through a debate in both houses of the parliament (House of Common and House of Lords) for it to become a law which then gives a reason for the executive power to implement the policy. Similarly, in the US presidential system, any policy taken to the floor of the Congress must be supported by both the House of Representatives and the Senate whose members belong to different political parties. In the UK system, the executive power can influence the different political parties because the prime minister is a member of the parliament but under the US system where the legislative body is independent and separate, policy making heavily depends on the goodwill of the political parties being part of the Congress. It is, therefore, clear that political parties in both forms of governance play a crucial role in policy making and remain a force that the executive power needs to align with to ensure that all desired policies receive the necessary support. Without this support, no executive power would be able to roll out its policies due to their lack of supportive law, a phenomenon that can only be attained through the support of parliamentary members.

Crucial Insights

Under the parliamentary system of governance, the political parties play a crucial role in determining not only the policies that will shape the direction of the country but also the leader of the nation. With the basis of becoming the leading political party through gaining a majority of seats in the parliament, the competition would be between the parties involved in the elections. On the other hand, the role of the political party in a presidential system lies only in the nomination process where different candidates yearning the party’s ticket compete with one another in which case the candidate given the nomination is the one who attained the majority votes needed in the nomination process. One of the candidates who gets the nomination becomes a president depending on how well the candidate markets his/her manifesto to the voters. Executive under the parliamentary system is an extension of the leading party since it is given the mandate to rule on the behalf of the party. On the contrary, the executive power under the presidential system is entirely separated from the legislative body since they are given the power to rule directly through voters’ votes. 

The two forms of government are similar in many ways with the difference being only in the separation of power where in the presidential system; the executive power is separate from the legislation branch of government. However, when it comes to law making, the two systems follow a similar pattern. Another contrast between the two systems lies in the role of the leader where the leader under the parliamentary system is also a member of the legislative body. However, the president under the presidential system is not a member of the legislative body. Besides, the executive power under the UK parliamentary system plays an active role in passing bills that are being discussed in the parliament since it is the role of the leading party while in the American presidential system; it plays a passive role with the prevailing influence of members of the Congress.

Moreover, under the parliamentary system the tenure of the executive power and the prime minister in the leadership of the country is not fixed. It relies on the mercy of the party sponsoring them and therefore can be withdrawn at any given time if it goes contrary to the interest of the party or loses the confidence of the party. On the contrary, under the presidential system like in the US, the tenure of the executive power and that of the president is predetermined and fixed. The only time that this tenure comes to a premature end is if the president engages in actions that are contrary to the spirit of the constitution where no confidence is tabled in the Congress. Furthermore, there is a clear difference on who shapes the policy agenda with the parliamentary system relying heavily on the party policies. On the other hand, under the parliamentary system, the agenda is shaped predominately by the manifesto and the agenda of the president.

Conclusion

It is evident that under the parliamentary system of governance, the competition is between the political parties where the party that wins the majority of parliamentary seats forms the government, while in the presidential system the competition is among the individuals competing for the presidency. It is also evident that in both forms of governance, the political parties play a huge role in policy making through their influence on the legislative branch of government. Moreover, it is clear that under the parliamentary system, the tenure of the executive power is not fixed since it heavily depends on their ability to win the confidence of their party. On the other hand, it is evident that under the presidential system, the executive power enjoys a fixed tenure in the office. Furthermore, it is evident that the executive power in both systems plays a crucial complimentary role in policy making where in some cases it sets the direction for the legislative branch to act in some crucial circumstances.

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