What is the difference between the Presidential and Parliamentary form of Government?

Law students aren’t the only ones who need to be familiar with the different forms of government – it’s everyone.

Governments aren’t just the prime governing body of a country but rather the machine that houses all the cogs and screws required to keep a country functioning in the correct way. One misplaced screw and the entire ‘will of the state’ is screwed (pun unintended). In the common parlance, the government is the ‘soul of a state’ and it is a ‘machinery’ through which ‘the will of the state’ is determined. Now, the government is that ‘man-made system’ of the state which ensures that there is proper functioning of the state. The word ‘government’ is derived from a Greek verb which means to steer with gubernaculum (rudder), the metaphorical sense being attested in Plato’s Ship of State. It is important to note that the government has a much narrower scope than the state and the government is one of the four main essentials of the state. I will be explaining more about the topic ‘state’ in my upcoming articles.

There are different forms of governments including monarchy, aristocracy, timocracy, oligarchy, democracy, theocracy, and tyranny. In this article, I will be focussing on the two much more prevalent forms of the government i.e., parliamentary and presidential form of government.

The major difference between the two abovementioned systems is that in a Presidential system, the executive leader, the President, is directly voted upon by the people (Or via a body elected specifically for the purpose of electing the president, and no other purpose), and the executive leader of the Parliamentary system, the Prime Minister, is elected from the legislative branch directly.

Meaning of Presidential form of government

  1. When a nation follows the presidential government, it indicates that only one person, i.e. the President, is the head of state and government. The election of the President shall take place for a fixed period either directly by the citizens or, sometimes, by members of the electoral college.
  2. This form of government can be found in countries like the United States of America, Russia, Brazil, and Srilanka.

Meaning of Parliamentary form of government

  1. A system of democratic governance in a country, in which the Executive Branch is derived from a legislative body, the parliament, represents a parliamentary government form. In this context the Head of State, i.e., is divided into two parts. President, who is only the nominal executive head and the government leader, that is to say. In the true sense, Prime Minister is the real executive.
  2. This system is prevalent in countries like the United Kingdom, India, Japan, and Canada.  

Primary Differences between the presidential and parliamentary government are as follows:

  1. In Parliamentary form of government, the executive is divided into two parts, i.e. the Head of the State (President) and the Head of the Government (Prime Minister). On the contrary, the President is the chief executive of the Presidential form of Government.
  2. The fusion of powers exists in the Parliamentary system, whereas the powers are separated in the Presidential system. This implies that there is less separation of powers in the Parliamentary government. For instance, let’s take the example of USA and India. In the former, the SOP is followed in a strict sense and it is very much evident in it’s Constitution. In the U.S. Constitution, Article 1,2, and 3 talks about legislative, executive, and judiciary respectively. On the contrary, the latter does not follow the SOP in it’s strictest sense. One example is that of the judiciary exercising Article 13 of the Indian Constitution which basically gives the judiciary to look into the matters of the legislators.
  3. In the presidential form of government, the president is the supreme authority whereas, in the parliamentary form of government, the central legislature is the supreme.
  4. The president is elected by popular vote in most presidential systems, although certain nations such as the United States have an electoral college or some other methods.
  5. The executive body in the Parliamentary government form is answerable to Parliament for its acts, i.e. the Council of Ministers. And on the other hand, there is no such answerability in the presidential form of government, i.e. the Executive Board is not accountable for its actions to Parliament.
  6. The Prime Minister has the power in the parliamentary government to dissolve the lower house even before the term has ended. By contrast, the President in the Presidential Government can not dissolve the lower house.

“Arguing with a fool proves that there are two.”

– Doris M. Smith

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