Essay, 8 pages (1900 words)

Parliamentarism versus presidentialism

Many developing countries are faced with political instability owning to the way in which the rule of power is applied. In essence, civil wars and even ugly incidence such as genocides have been attributed to the political instability existing in many developing countries. Despite this there are numerous signs of struggles and efforts by these countries to establish and eve n to reestablish democracy by some of the countries. Countries which have previously faced political instability have or are trying to strategize on how to restore political stability and democracies and to eliminate the existing and dividing differences.

Many of these nations with the help of the international community have sought to establish constitutional government aimed at campaigning for democracy and political stability in general. There are various factors that lead to political instability in developing world including institutional, cultural, political, historical experiences, geographical recourses among others (Lijphart, 1998, 98). While it may be easy to change some of the above factors in order to promote political stability, some of the factors are difficult to manipulate or deal with thus will always pose a threat to the political stability of many developing countries.

For example, it would be easier to change policies and laws affecting the political and economic arenas of a country but it takes time and patience to deal with cultural or ethnic differences that divides a country. On the other hand, institutional factors as provided for by the constitution may or may not be easy to deal with but this is dependent on the issue of conflict which in turn brings political instability. There are two types of constitutional governance and these include presidentialism and parliamentarism.

Different countries in the world adopt different types of governance with each having its own merits and demerits. In some countries, one type of governance has been applied with great success but fail to retain democracy in other countries. The success of any type of constitutional governance is dependent on a number of other factors such as cultural and economic factors. Perhaps this is the reasons as to why a given system of governance can be successful in one country and unsuccessful in another (Kent, 2001, 33).

Parliamentarism system of governance is one in which the parliament is the only legitimate institution democratically. In such a system, the authority of the government is completely dependent on the confidence that the parliament has in it. In other words, there is no complete separation of powers between the executive and the legislature and the parliament has the mandate to dismiss or impeach the government through a vote of no confidence. There is fusion of executive and legislature powers and the parliament is capable of ruling out a government.

If such a situation occurs, a new government is formed and where this is impossible, the population is asked to hold new elections. The president or the prime minister depending on who is the head of the government is elected commonly through a popular vote and given tenure of office for a specific term. However, the head of the government can be removed between elections is an impeachment by the parliament becomes successful. On the other hand, presidentialism system of governance is one in which there is complete separation of executive and legislative powers.

In this system, both the government and the parliament serve a fixed term and are independent of each other in terms of their offices. As opposed to the case of parliamentarism, governments in presidentialism do not always receive legislature majority due to the fact nothing in the system would guarantee the existence of the required majority. As a result, countries with a presidentialism system of governance experiences repeated political instability since the two powers will tend to be in constant conflict with each other.

Further, the process of making decisions in a presidentialism system is mostly decentralized with the president simply responding to policy and law proposals originating from the parliament. In many of the developing countries, such proposals are usually organized in a way such that politicians are able to follow their political ambitions and interests rather than the interests of the voter. This undermines democracy as politicians seek to achieve individualistic interests other than partisan’s strategies.

Consequently, the ability of the government to implement and influence the policies introduced is considerably reduced a factor that may further foster political instability in the country (Colomer & Gabriel, 2005, 60). Despite the fact that the above argument may encourage countries to establish parliamentary system of governance as opposed to a presidential regime, the former is known to be rather ineffective when it comes to developing countries largely due to the lower per capita income and if introduced may turn the system to dictatorship in the long run.

On the other extreme, deadlocks between the legislature and the executive also occur in a parliamentarism system of governance. For example, if an election is held and the government losses the majority to the parliament, it gets less support from the legislature and thus a vote of no confidence can be quickly and easily passed by the parliament to dismiss the government. The process could repeat itself time and again jeopardizing the democracy in any given country.

Political leaders and parties under a parliamentary system of governance may also express interests to form coalition governments with the elected government. Research conducted and evidence collected from existing cases shows that the probability or the incentives of forming a coalition in the two regimes are similar though dependent on specific institutional factors. In this context, it can be argued that the only existing difference between a coalition formed between parliamentarism and presidentialism systems of governance is one characterized by numbers and not the quality of governance (Bagehot, 1992, 66).

It is a known factor that multi parties in any given country promote democracy in such a country. In essence, presidentialism is and cannot be seen as being totally incompatible with multiparty systems. On the other hand, such a system may end up collapsing in an authoritarian regime in cases where only a small number of political parties exist. Further, as the number of political parties in a country increases, the propensity to form coalitions in both systems of governance increases further increasing the probability of political instability in a country.

This does not imply that political stability cannot be achieved through coalitions but the opposite is most common in developing countries. Furthermore, decision making process which is decentralized is not inherent in presidentialism system of governance but rather, there exists some means of structuring the whole process in an effort to neutralize or eliminate existing centrifugal forces in all the systems. The historical developments of the two systems of democracies also inhibit a big difference to the existing contemporary differences between the two.

Presidentialism emerged and to some extent persists in countries where the military can make interventions in the political arena of a country. Regard and despite the fact that presidentialism system may succeed, the frequent breakdown of democracies in presidential regime occurs due to the fact that they exists in societies in which any form of democracy is likely to collapse (Colomer & Gabriel, 2005, 89). Though the two systems are not directly democratic, presidentialism has its own merits and principle demerits whereas parliamentarism has demerits and principal merits when compared.

To start with, despite the fact that presidentialism exhibits more executive stability and more limited powers of the government, it has a major demerit of repeated deadlocks between the executive and the legislature which brings about political instability especially in developing countries. On the other hand, parliamentarism system of governance allows the parliament to exercise control on the actions of the government thus making sure that it meets the needs of its citizens.

Though this may create some conflict between the two powers, the propensity of conflict is relatively low as compared to the other system. Moreover, parliamentarism system of democracy is more flexible as compared to the presidentialism system of democracy. In the latter system, there exist no element of elasticity but rather, everything is rigid, dated and specified. The rigidity of the executive may lead to dictatorship as has been witnessed in many developing countries and democracies.

In this respect, coups and dictatorships have in history characterized countries where presidents have attempted to retain their offices. Further the presidentialism system of democracy is argued to posses a winner take all character which is directly related to the political party and electoral system. It has been known that presidentialism openly disfavors the formation of coalitions and convergence of multiparty which posses the risk of zero sum game.

On the other extreme, instability in executives in a parliamentary system of democracy may give an opportunity to change the governments as quickly as possible and as dictated by the pressing issues. There exist institutionalized mechanisms in this system for dealing with multiparty as opposed to the case of presidential system of democracy. This arises from the fact that parties are required to agree on the formation of a government (Kent, 2001, 62).

Another strong advantage of parliamentarism system of governance is its capability to offer solutions regarding deadlocks between the legislature and the executive through the factor of legislative confidence. In other words, by the virtue that the government has to seek majority in the legislature, conflicts are rare between the two powers. The legislature is important in making the executive to exercise responsibility over its action. In fact the two powers affect each other in a way that enables smooth administration of democracy in a country.

For example, though it acts as the government’s watch dog, the legislative is usually demoralized by liberty or by the virtue of taking decisions affecting others but not itself. Moreover, parliamentarism system of democracy is more inclusive than presidentialism which has been seen as exclusive. The role of electoral system becomes important in ensuring that politics in this system of democracy are becomes more inclusive as opposed to being exclusive.

Studies conducted have shown that systems of democracies where there is executive power sharing tends to have a high per capita income, riots and demonstrations, political strikes and assassinations as opposed to cases the system of governance led by a single party or bare majority cabinets. Under the system of parliamentarism, myriad actors in the context of political parties, leaders and other officers in the legislature may adopt certain changes and realignments or criticize prime ministers and presidents between elections (Stefan, 1994, 67).

On the other hand, despite the fact that predictability and the need for authority may favor presidentialism, there is always the probability of unexpected developments which ranges from serious errors in the type of committed judgment given the pressure exerted by circumstances which are unruly to the death of an incumbent all of which makes the governance under presidentialism weaker and less predictable than in the case of parliamentarism. The latter system can seek to shore up its authority and legitimacy either through dissolution of the parliament to pave way for new elections or through a vote of confidence.

Moreover, the head of state can be elected without any crisis in the system. In conclusion, it is clear that the two systems of democracies have their own merits and demerits but it is also true that for any developing country, parliamentarism is the best system to be adopted in an effort to establish or reestablish democracy. In any case, parliamentarism is good in keeping a watchful eye over the actions of the government and in ensuring that the government does not exercise dictatorship or excessive powers than necessary. It is thus advisable for a country in the developing world to use parliamentarism in its quest for democracy.

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