Opinions on Debatable Issues #40
According to LawTeacher.net, in a parliamentary system, people elect lawmakers into the parliament and the leader of the majority party becomes prime minister. So, the executive power derives from the legislature and the two branches work collaboratively. In a presidential system, voters vote directly for candidates or representatives, so the legislature and executive branches check on each other. In the instances where two opposing parties control the two branches, a divided government that is full of checks and balances occurs.
Some of the countries that have adopted a form of parliamentarianism are the United Kingdom (UK), Israel, Japan, Canada, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. Countries that have a presidential system include Afghanistan, Brazil, France, and the US. Both systems have their distinct advantages and flaws. Very few nations are strictly committed to one in particular. Most times, presidential elements are incorporated into parliamentary government and vice versa.
Here are some advanatges of Parliamentary system compared to Presidential system (in general, not exlusively US):
The parliamentary system effectively prevents political polarization and rivalry. We all recognize the danger of political polarization as shown by the heated discussion of whether a civil war is going to happen in the US due to the conflicts between the democratic and republican parties. The country is divided and people are disunited. This won’t be too big a problem in a parliamentary system. Continued co-operation between the executive and legislature is required for the government to survive and to be effective in carrying out its programs in a parliamentary system, according to AP Comparative government and politics. In a parliamentary system, people directly elect members of the parliament to represent their constituents. The amount of votes determines the number of seats that a political party gets, which means minority parties will always get at least some say in the lawmaking process even they do not get plural or majority vote. As a result, the majority party would not have full control of the parliament and usually need the support of other parties to pass laws. Because there are more than two parties, they seek cooperation rather than competition as the US does.
Parliamentary systems are more flexible than presidential systems. According to John Gerring, Strom Thacker, and Carols Moreno from Boston University, the Parliamentary system allows a flexible government that is responsive to the changes of citizens’ demands. “The prime minister and the ruling coalition may be removed at any time by a parliamentary vote of no confidence and elections may also be called at any time”. For example, 6 motions of no confidence were passed in UK history. According to Historylearningsite, “if a Prime Minister loses the support from his party’s backbenchers, his position becomes very weak. For instance, this happened to both Margaret Thatcher and John Major. Presidential systems, on the other hand, are rigid. For instance, impeachment is the only way to remove a sitting president in between elections. However, it is really difficult to do. In fact, successfully removing a president from office through impeachment has never happened in US history. Even when impeachment is issued by the House and is carried out by the Senate, the presidents such as Trump and Clinton were acquitted.
In a parliamentary system, the government headed by the prime minister can decisively make executive decisions, whereas the head of the presidential system is limited by the separation of power. “Government must be empowered to do the right thing,” as people say. But in a presidential system, problems like “various forms of gridlock, greater fiscal pork, and rents, and a tendency toward larger budget deficits are common”. This means the president face great challenge when trying to implement changes, especially during the second half of their term when the Senators are reelected. In comparison, according to a Professor at the University of York and Senior lecturer at Christ Church University, “executive power in a parliamentary regime is generated by legislative majorities and depends on these majorities for survival”, so collaboration, rather than opposition, happens more often between the two branches. Thus, the Parliamentary system allows more efficient lawmaking and policymaking processes.
Not just political efficacy, Parliamentary countries seem to perform better economically as well. The two professors aforementioned also used data from 119 countries across the period 1950 to 2015 and found that “parliamentary regimes are consistently better for a country’s economy. On average, annual output growth is up to 1.2 percentage points higher, inflation is less volatile and 6 percentage points lower, and income inequality is up to 20% lower in countries governed by parliamentary systems.” Moreover, 91% of the best performers on income and growth inequality study are countries that adopt a parliamentary system. That is because the direct voting system to elect representatives that makes up the entire parliament allows wider representation from various political parties and broader participation in decision making.
Though not commonly realized, the Presidential system can more easily lead to the tyranny of the majority. Let’s use the US, the most successful presidential country, as an example. From one aspect, the two-party system created by the electoral college means that almost only all senators and the house of representatives come from the two major parties and none can represent independents or smaller political party members. As a result, a decent number of citizens are not getting their voice heard in the federal government and have no say over legislation. In addition, “a separate powers system encourages the formation of a highly fragmented, non-party aligned (“independent”) interest group community.” Such a system can cause groups to represent narrow (“special”) interests to be able to “veto legislation that serves the general interest with more economic capability or lobbying influence”, and “defect rather than cooperate with other political actors,” according to McConnell (1953) and Olson (1982).
Presidential systems also are more prone to individuals amassing political power than parliamentary systems do. According to Boston University, the presidential system leads to “a more personalized and free-floating style of leadership centered on individual politicians and smaller, less established organizational entities”. According to a Stanford professor Dan Edelstein, this is caused charismatic legitimacy, which is when people puts authority onto individual rather than the law, tradition, or larger institutions. This can threaten a country’s stability because individuals can make wrong decisions or hold radical opinions as Trump does. If Americans were attached to the Republican Party rather than Trump, they would not have stormed the capital. In addition, Russia, Mexico, and Nigeria are all presidential countries, and it is clear that democracy is not a thing in Russia. Also, According to Brookings.edu, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took over the presidency of Mexico in 2018, and was “ a populist who amasses power and weakens the rule of law and accountability” and “furthered the de-institutionalization of governance”. In that case, the presidential system gave full power to the president, who has the constitutional right to remain in office for 6 years, allowing him to encourage corruption and destroy law and order.
Though it is true that the Parliamentary system means the prime minister is not directly elected by the people, the representatives of the legislature from which the prime minister is chosen are directly voted by the people. Similarly, in a presidential system, who becomes president does not always accurately reflects the public’s will. It depends on the election system used by countries. For instance, the US’s electoral college method means one candidate who did not win the popular vote/or a majority of the votes can still become the president as happened to Donald Trump in 2016. People‘s voices are obviously not well represented. So I think it is not helpful to compare which system is more “democratic” because both are designed in a way that helps the public to be respected and engage actively in politics and the lawmaking process. What really makes one more democratic is not the system itself but rather the political culture of the individual countries.
Check out other Opinions on Debatable Issues:
- The World Needs International Monetary Fund. https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/04/03/the-world-needs-international-monetary-fund/
- Why Kids Should Continue Learn About Greek Myths https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/04/10/why-kids-should-continue-learn-about-greek-myths/
- Are Humans Inherently Good? I say YES. https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/04/17/are-humans-inherently-good-i-say-yes/
- To Succeed, The Feminist Movement Must Address Toxic Masculine Social Norms. https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/05/08/to-succeed-the-feminist-movement-must-address-toxic-masculine-social-norms/.
- Should Human Cloning be Legalized? https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/06/05/should-human-cloning-be-legalized/
- Why people are shifting focus from IQ to EQ?https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/08/07/why-people-are-shifting-focus-from-iq-to-eq/
- Was Withdrawing from Afghanistan a Mistake? https://mypathtowardsmindfulness.org/2021/08/21/was-withdrawing-from-afghanistan-a-mistake/