Competitive Exams: Presidential Form of Government
Main features of a Presidential form of Government are:
- No distinction between the Notional and the Real Executive. The executive powers of the Government are not only vested in the President, they are exercised by him in actual practice also. The President is, thus, both the head of the State and the head of the Government.
- President is elected by the people for a fixed term. The President is elected, not by the Legislature, but directly by the entire electorate. Thus, both in regard to his election and tenure the President is not dependent on the Legislature.
- The President is the sole Executive. All executive powers of the Government are vested in the President and are exercised by him. His Cabinet has merely the status of an advisory body. Constitutionally, he is not bound by its advice. He may take the advice or may not take it at all. After getting the opinion of the Cabinet, he may refuse to accept it and may choose to act according to his own judgement.
- Both the President and the Legislature are independent of each other in respect of their terms. The President and the members of his Cabinet are not members of the Legislature. The Legislature has no power to terminate the tenure of the President before its full constitutional course, other than by impeachment. Similarly, the President has no power to dissolve the Legislature before the expiry of its term. Thus, the President and the Legislature are elected for fixed terms.
The following are the merits of the Presidential form of Government:
- Greater Stability: In the Presidential systems, the head of State has a fixed term. This ensures stability of the system. He is also free from day-to-day Legislative duties and control, which enable him to devote his entire time to administration.
- Valuable in time of War or National Crisis. The Presidential executive is a single executive. In taking decisions, the President is not bogged down by endless discussions in his Cabinet. He can take quick decisions and implement them with full energy. Such a government, therefore, is very useful in the times of war or national crisis.
- Experts may be obtained to head the Departments. The President can select the persons with proper expertise to head various departments of the Government. These heads of departments constitute his Cabinet. The Ministers under the Presidential system, therefore, prove to be better administrators, whereas Ministers in a Parliamentary system are appointed as Ministers not because of administrative acumen, but simply because of their political affiliation.
- Less dominated by the Party Spirit. Once election to the office of the President is over, the whole nation accepts the new President as the leader of the nation. Political rivalries of the election days are forgotten. Both inside the Legislature and outside it, people look at problems from a national rather than a party angle. This gives the system greater cohesion and unity.
- No concentration of Legislative and Executive powers. Presidential system is organised on the principle of separation of functions and checks and balances. This provides much better protection to personal liberties than in the Parliamentary system.
Presidential system has been criticized on the following grounds:
- Autocratic and Irresponsible. The Presidential system places immense powers in the hands of the President.
- It is autocratic because the President is independent of the control of the Legislature. He may govern largely as he pleases. He cannot be made answerable regularly for the misdeeds of his administration. The Legislature (Congress) in the United States can turn down the appointments and treaties made by the President, but it can in no way remove him from the office, except through the impeachment. A power hungry President may misuse his powers to amass wealth, and to finish off political opponents.
- Presidential Election is an Untidy Affair. The President in this system is elected directly. The election to this office generates great heat and tension. The whole national life gets disturbed. In countries where constitutional traditions are not as deep rooted as in the United States, tensions and instability of the election time can even result in revolutions.
- Friction and Discord between the President and the Legislature. The separation of the Executive and the Legislature may led to conflicts and deadlocks between the President and the Legislature. The Legislature may refuse to accept executive policies, or enact the laws suggested by the executive. The President, on the other hand, may show lack of interest in implementing the laws passed against his will. He may even veto the bills passed by the Legislature. Such deadlocks are more frequent when the party to which the President belongs does not have a majority in the Legislature.
- Responsibility is hard to find. In the Presidential system, it becomes difficult to fix responsibility for the Governmental failures. The President may blame the Legislature, the Legislature may put the blame on President. In the US, most of the bills are referred to the committees of the Legislature, on the report of which the bills are passed. The powers of these committees are immense. The committees have not only seized the power of law-making, they have also made fixing of responsibility in this regard very difficult.