Governance, from a national point of view, refers to the process of decision making for the whole nation. Different countries grant the power to make policies and decisions to different bodies of the government. Likewise, different arms of the government play different roles in a particular country. The three main arms of the government are; the executive, which has its members selected from the parliament and it is answerable to the parliament and the people for any of its actions; the legislature, also known as a parliament, it is responsible making laws and policies for the country; and the judiciary, which interprets and reinforces the laws made by the government. However, there are two main systems of governance: the parliamentary system of governance and the presidential system of governance. This paper will give an insight look into the way parliamentary, and presidential systems of governance operate.
The parliamentary system of governance operates in a way that the executive branch of the government gets its democratic rights form the parliament or legislature. The executive is also accountable to the legislature for its actions. In this system of governance, the legislature and executive branches of the government work side by side and can be said to be interconnected. In a parliamentary system of governance also, the head of state does not play the role of the head of government. A country with a parliamentary system of governance can either be the parliamentary republic or constitutional monarchies. In parliamentary republics, the president heads the state where as the head of government is selected form members of the legislature. Countries which operate in this manner include Italy, India, Germany, and Pakistan. Constitutional monarchies operate in a way that a monarch heads the state while a member of the legislature heads the government. Countries which operate in this manner Japan Sweden, and the United Kingdom (Lijphart, 2012, p.56).
The presidential system of governance is an arrangement where the head of government is also the head of state. This single person is in charge of the executive arm of the government. In this system of administration, the executive arm of the government is a separate and independent body from the legislature. The head of government, state, and executive is an elected person and titled the president. He is not responsible for the actions by the legislature and cannot dismiss what it decides. In extreme cases, the legislature may have the right to terminate the executive through persecution. Such instances are, however, very rare. In United States for instance, only two presidents have ever been prosecuted, and neither of the cases led to their removal.
There are several elements of the presidential system of governance which apply in different governments. For example in Britain, the executive can reject acts made by the legislature. However, a specific quorum of the legislative members can supersede the rejection. The democratically elected president serves for s fixed period of time/ term. Presidential elections are held at regular intervals and cannot be initiated by parliamentary procedures or a vote of no confidence. Nevertheless, some stated have exceptions where the president can be removed from office when found to be a law breaker. In a presidential system also, the president can command members of the military, cabinet, or employees of the executive but has no power to dismiss or direct top members of the judiciary. The head of state also has the authority to pardon judgements of criminals.
The main difference between the presidential system of governance and the parliamentary system of governance is that, in a presidential system, the elected president is an independent and detached body from the legislature. On the contrary, in the parliamentary system of governance, the head of executive e.g. the prime minister, is a member of the legislature. In a presidential system of governance, the functions of the legislature and the executive arms of the government are separate. To manage this, such governments have checks and balances to control and limit the authority of both the chief legislature and the chief executive. In a parliamentary system of governance, more power is skewed towards the legislative arm of the government and therefore the chief legislature has more power than the chief executive. The chief executive, therefore, is answerable to the chief legislature. Another major difference between the two systems of governance is that, in a presidential system, members of the legislature and the chief member of the executive are democratically elected by the people. In a parliamentary system of governance, members of the legislature are also democratically elected by the people and them in turn elect the top executive officers.
Both the parliamentary and presidential systems of governance have advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of the parliamentary system is that passing of legislation is easy and fast. It is because the executive branch depends on the legislature and the executive has a large number of votes hence enabling them to consent to legislation. In the presidential system, the fact that the executive and the legislature are independent. Therefore, if a majority of the legislative members and members of the executive have unlike political parties which have different ideologies, then the passing of legislation will be slowed down.
The parliamentary system is also good for nations that are divided along race, ethnic groups, and ideologies. In a presidential system of administration, the elected president is given all the power. This is opposite to the parliamentary system of governance where there is great power sharing between the executive and the legislature.
The presidential system of governance also has some advantages over the parliamentary system. First, the separation of power is a good thing for the entire country. Each of the groups in power (the president and the legislature) keeps each other in check and so prevent each other from misusing power. The presidential system can also be fast in passing legislatures. When a president has strong powers, the enacting of laws is fastened. A presidential system is stable. It is because in a parliamentary system, the top executive leader, such as the prime minister, can be terminated form operating at any time. Finally, the fact that the president, in a presidential system of election, is democratically elected by the people, makes the power given to him more legitimate that a top executive official who is selected by the legislature, in a parliamentary system of governance.
Lijphart, A. (2012). Patterns of democracy: Government forms and performance in thirty-six countries. Yale University Press.