Comparing Parliamentary and Presidential Systems of Government Essay

Compare and Contrast a parliamentary system a presidential system, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. Use specific examples. Do you think one system is more or less “democratic”. Why? Which system do you prefer? Why? In a parliamentary system of government the head of state (usually called a prime minister) is the head of the party with the majority of legislative representation. That is, unless one party fails to win a majority of the legislative seats or 50%+1.

In that case the party with the highest percentage of legislatures attempts to form a coalition government by promising members of lesser parties a role in the government in turn for their support. This is done until that group has 50%+1 legislators backing the head of state. In a presidential system the head of state (the president) and the legislative branch of the government are elected independently. The winner in both the legislative and executive elections is decided in a “first-by the-post” fashion. In laymen terms the candidate with the highest number of votes wins.

The strength of a parliamentary system is that the executive and most powerful party in the legislature are always in agreement. As a result of the guaranteed agreement more legislation is likely to pass and changes in policy are enacted swiftly, political party’s are forced to enact policy that they promised when they were elected.. The availability of swift change could also be seen as a weakness as well because it could lead to more uncertainty within the country regarding taxation changes, federal funding, and governmental programs.

An example of swift change is in England where the conservative party now has formed a coalition government with the liberal democrats (in most cases the lesser parties in a coalition government just have token powers, like heading legislative committees). The conservative government was elected on a platform of spending cuts, deficit reduction, and taxation reform. While holding power in office Cameron and the conservatives have cut spending on no less than 41 government institutions. They were elected on a platform of spending cuts and opposition parties can only weakly oppose their power.

The strength of a presidential system is the lack of change. A a result of the president and legislature branch being elected independently they often times come from opposite parties. This can lead to political stagnation, because if the president and majority of legislatures oppose each others policy very little legislation can be passed. A contemporary example is president Obama and democrats trying to pass legislation with a Republican majority in the house of representatives. Democrats are not able to pass legislation they want and Republicans are also not able to enact policies that they think would be beneficial to the country.

For instance Democrats probably want to enact more stringent pollution standards but they aren’t able to do so because Republicans in the house would block any regulatory legislation. An argument for the presidential system is that it allows for protection from tyranny of the majority. I think for the most part a parliamentary system of government is more democratic than a presidential system. If people want changes in their government they are able to vote for an opposing party and if that party gains a majority of the seats in the legislature they generally enact the changes that they promised.

In contrast, a presidential system has many protections against swift changes that keep people from expressing their views and hopes for swift effective change. I personally prefer the parliamentary system of government because I think it forces political parties and individual parties to really stand for something. Politicians are forced to outline a specific agenda and work towards those ends. The political party that is in power is forced to enact their agenda and they aren’t able to blame the opposing party for difficulties they’ve had. It also works because people are able to associate partys with policy changes.

For instance in the United States Republicans run campaigns with complete anti-government rhetoric, if we had a parliamentary system they would have to eliminate some parts of the government. My point is it’s easy to point fingers in a presidential system, but in a parliamentary system parties actually have to enact the policy changes that they promised. I sincerely doubt republicans would actually want to shrink the government’s power if they were in control, the only time they argue for a smaller government is when they’re not in control of congress or the presidency.

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