CSS Constitutional Law Notes
Presidential – Constitutional Structure
Presidential form of government has become one of the leading democratic political institutions along with the parliamentary system of government. However, Presidential system exists in different forms in various countries depending upon the political situation and environment of the given time when it was established. For instance American presidency, which is regarded as the oldest and purest form of presidential government, came into being under different circumstances and situation as compared to the French presidency which is considered by the academicians as semi-presidential because of its peculiar co-existence of the presidency and the cabinet.
The term “presidency”, “presidential system” or “presidential government” was coined by Walter Bagehot in 1867 (Bogdanor 1987: 493). Presidential system is one of the greatest Americas contributions to political system. President today is a common title for the head of state of most republics, often adopted by dictators as well, whether popularly elected, chosen by the legislature or a special electoral college.
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There are many definitions for presidential system. Oxford dictionary defines president as “the elected head of a republican state.” In other words, president is a formal head of state, a title which is held in some states by the constitutional monarch or emperor. However, the definition of presidential ism offered here involves a sharp distinction between two key roles found in representative governments: that of head of state and head of government.
This distinction is basic because non-presidentialist systems often have elected “presidents” who are heads of state but not heads of government. In parliamentary systems, the two roles are easily distinguishable. The head of government is a prime minister, while the head of state is either a constitutional monarch or an elected president. Such “presidents” usually also serve for a fixed term and cannot be discharged by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, but this does not make their regimes presidential. “In presidentialist regimes the elected head of government always serves concurrently as head of state. A regime is presidentialist only if the effective head of government (President) is elected for a fixed term: the mode of election may be direct or indirect” (Riggs 1994: 72-152).
According to Garner (1910: 190), the executive presidential system is that “in which the executive is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect to the duration of his or their tenure and responsible to it for his or their political policies”. For Heywood (2000: 179), “presidential system of government is characterized by a constitutional and political separation of powers between legislative and executive branch of government”. Sartori (1987: 1) further elaborates that a polity should be defined as presidential only if (1) head of state is popularly elected; (2) during his pre- established tenure parliament can neither appoint nor remove the government; (3) the head of state is also the head of the government (cabinet).
From the above given definitions, it can be said that the executive in a presidential government has a fixed tenure and is not responsible to the legislature. The president is not an organic part of the legislature. The president is also not merely the titular executive but he is the real executive and actually exercises the power, which the constitution and the law confer upon him. Executive power is thus vested in an independently elected president who is not directly accountable to or removable by, the assembly or parliament. This type is found in USA and in many Latin American countries.
The principle strength of presidential government is that, by separating executive power from the legislative power, it creates internal tensions that help to protect individual rights and liberties.2 Further advantages are that the president, as both head of the state and head of the government and as a single politician who is nationally elected, serves as a strong focus for patriotic loyalty and national unity. The dispersal of power between the executive and the legislature also allows the government to be more democratic in the sense that it is responsive to competing minorities. However, presidential system may also be ineffective and cumbersome because it offers an ‘invitation to struggle’ (Heywood 2000: 180) between the executive and legislature branch.
Features or characteristics of Presidential type of government and its distinction from the parliamentary government:
1. There is a separation of powers in the Presidential government. In this system the executive and legislature are separate from each other and they have equal status. But in a Parliamentary Government, there is no separation of powers. In this system the executive is under the legislature.
2. In a Presidential government, the President is the Head of the State as well as of the government while in a Parliamentary government, the Head of the State is President, King or Governor-General and the Prime Minister is the Head of the government.
3. In a Presidential government, the President enjoys real powers of the administration and he exercises all those powers, which are given to him under the constitution and the law. In a Presidential government there is no Prime Minster. The secretaries help the president in the administration and they are appointed by him on the basis of ability. It depends upon the will of the president to accept or reject their advice. In a parliamentary government, though constitutionally the Head of the State (President, King or Governor-General) has many powers, yet in practice these powers are enjoyed by his ministers. Thus, in practice the President has only nominal powers and real powers lie with the Prime Minister or his ministers.
4. In a Presidential government the President and his secretaries are not responsible to the legislature. The legislature cannot remove them through a vote of no-confidence. Moreover, an adjournment motion or a censure motion cannot be brought against them. The President and his secretaries are not the members of legislature and they do not attend its sessions. Thus, they cannot be asked questions and supplementary questions. In a Parliamentary government the Prime Minister and other ministers are the members of either House of the Parliament and any-one who is not the member of the Parliament, he or she has to seek the membership within a specified period of time. They attend the sessions of the Parliament and answer the questions and supplementary questions. They place bills before the parliament and make statements relating to policies. A vote of no confidence, adjournment motion and censure motion can be brought against them. In a Parliamentary government only the President, King, or Governor-General make a speech at the time of the inauguration of the Parliament. They are neither members of the House nor do they take part in its deliberation. The Head of the State is not responsible to the Parliament.
5. In a Presidential government, the President is elected for a fixed tenure and except impeachment for the violation of the constitution; he cannot be removed from his office before the expiry of his term. In a parliamentary government, though similar is the position of the President, yet the Prime Minister can be removed only through a vote of no-confidence by the Parliament?
At present Presidential government is seen in the United States of America, Brazil and in the some other countries of South America.
Before you leave check our other collection of CSS Constitutional Law Notes
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