Topic of the Day – Presidential and Parliamentary Form of Government

Parliamentary and Presidential form of government


Our Constitution creates an office of the President but the form of Government is not Presidential. It would be better to understand and distinguish between the Presidential and Parliamentary forms of Government. The main characteristics of the Presidential type of Government are:

  1. The President is the head of the State and also the head of the Government. He is not only the head of the political system but also of the national life. He is the real executive and not merely notional executive. The powers vested in him are in practice actually exercised by him.
  2. All executive powers are vested in the President. The cabinet appointed by President is merely to advise him. He is not bound by their advice. He may obtain their advice and yet may choose to act on his own judgement.
  3. The President is elected directly by the people who constitute the electorate. The term of the office of the President is not dependent on the will of the legislature. The legislature does not elect the President and the legislature cannot seek to oust him from office.
  4. The President and the members of the cabinet are not members of legislature. The President has no power to dissolve the legislature before the expiry of its term. The legislature cannot terminate the term of the President except by way of impeachment. In this way the President and the legislature are elected for fixed terms and are independent of each other.

Advantages of Presidential Form The advantage of Presidential systems are—

  1. Because the President remains in office for a fixed term and is not dependent on the legislature for continuing in office.
  2. All executive powers are vested in tone individual who is the President. In times of war or emergency or any other national crisis, he can arrive at a decision quickly. He does not have to apply his energy in obtaining the consent of his cabinet.
  3. The President is free to select such persons as he may deem proper to his advisors. He may select experts to head several departments. These heads would constitute his cabinet.
  4. After assuming office the President is accepted as a leader of the nation and not merely of a party. He views each problem as a national problem and not from a party angle. This provides greater unity and cohesion to the nation.
  5. Presidential form of Government is based on the doctrine of separation of powers and provides for checks and balances to keep the different organs within their allotted areas. This provides better protection to liberty.

Drawbacks of the Presidential Form

  1. The only person who is responsible for thinking and planning for the whole nation is the President. This concentration of power sometimes paves the way for dictatorship. Collective leadership has the built-in capability of correcting itself. This is lacking in the Presidential form.
  2. The President may have to deal with a legislature which may not be very friendly and accommodating. In the Parliamentary form, the policies laid down by the Prime Minister are to be followed by the legislature. If the Parliament rejects the policy the result would be either a new Prime Minister or a new Parliament.
  3. In the Presidential form, the legislature is not the rubber stamp of the Presidential policies. The President has to make effort to persuade the legislature to follow his line. The tension and differences between the President and legislature are part of everyday politics. The absence of co-operation between the legislature and the President is a source of weakness. 4. In the Presidential system, the assessment of responsibility is periodic. The people may review it only when the election of a new President is due. In the Parliamentary form, the assessment is on a daily basis because the Government is to justify its action before the legislature in every session.