Comparing and Contrasting Presidential and Parliamentary System

Comparing and Contrasting Presidential and Parliamentary System


A country’s type of government implies to the manner in which that particular country is organized in terms of its executive, legislature, and judicial systems. Entirely, every country needs some kind of government in order to prevent and avoid disorder. A democratic government is one that allows its civilians to manage and direct their government through elected representatives. The two most common forms of democratic government include the presidential and parliamentary system of governments. Although each system has its own merits, the presidential system as a form of government is more democratic because it allows citizens to directly choose their representatives as opposed to a parliamentary system of government. This paper, therefore, seeks to compare and contrast the two types of government, discuss their advantages, and critique each type of government. This essay will also analyze the reasons as to why the presidential form of government is more democratic as compared to the parliamentary system (Held, 2000).

The Parliamentary Form 

This form of government is the most broadly employed type of government structure that used around the globe. A parliamentary form or system of regime is well-known through features such as the prime minister being reliant on the direct or indirect support of legislature, which is usually expressed through a vote of confidence. In a parliamentary system of government, there exists no explicit separation of powers between the executive and the legislature. The parliamentary form or system recognizes the separation of power between the prime minister as well as the president. The term parliamentary system does not imply that a country is ruled by different parties in a coalition with one another.

The parliamentary system comprises two basic elements, including the prime ministers and their cabinets coming out of the legislature and the legislature acting as an instrument of electing as well as removing the prime minister from office. In this case, there exists a division of power between the head of state and the head of government. The head of state can be the president who is directly elected by the people or one who is indirectly elected by the legislature, or sometimes a monarch who has inherited the office. Their powers are typically little more than ceremonial, especially in the case of monarchs. They may also hold some reserve powers, such as the ability to reject or forward legislation to a constitutional court if seen as undemocratic (Held, 2000).

The prime minister is elected from the legislature and thus, reflects the balance of power among parties in the legislature. The prime minister is usually the one who heads the party in the lower parliament, which contains the greatest number of legislators. Usually, in most parliamentary systems, the prime minister continues to hold a seat in the lower house of the legislature, just as other members of the cabinet. This tight relationship between the legislature and the executive implies that while there is separation of power and responsibility among them, the two branches of government do not check and balance power among them as in the case of presidential system.

The Presidential Form or System  

The presidential form or system of government makes up the minority or less widely used form of democratic regimes around the globe. In this form of regime, the head of state or the president gets a direct election from the civilians for a fixed period. The president under this kind of regime enjoys the full control over his cabinet and the process of legislature. The positions of prime minister and president are totally merged in the presidency. This is the major distinction between the parliamentary form of regime and the presidential form of regime. In the parliamentary system, both the prime minister and the cabinet comes from the legislature and need to command a majority of support in order to stay in office. However, in the presidential form of government, both the president as well as the legislature serves a fixed term, which ranges between five to seven years. The dates for election might be altered in the presidential system. Moreover, in the presidential system, the president and the legislature cannot be removed from the office by vote of confidence, but only through malfeasance, which can make the elected members lose their power. The presidential system of government, therefore, is considered more democratic as compared to the parliamentary system because it allows the people to directly elect their representatives (Held, 2000).

Similarities between Parliamentary and Presidential Forms

In both the presidential and the parliamentary form of government, the leader of the executive may be removed from the office through the legislature. The parliamentary form utilizes the vote of no confidence in which the majority of members in parliament vote in order to remove the head of government or prime minister from the office. A fresh election may be held following the removal of the head of government or prime minister in the case of parliamentary form. The same process is also used in the presidential form of regime, in which the legislators vote in order to indict the president from the office (Held, 2000).

Benefits of Parliamentary form

Characteristically, many of the most reputable and successful democracies in the world today use the parliamentary system of government. The parliamentary form of regime has been found the most successful in many of the nations that have two-party systems. The parliamentary form of government puts a lot of importance on the power of legislature. The main center of focus lies in power. Most of the cabinets in the parliamentary form are got from members of the elected legislators, including the minorities from the executive. One of the commonly attributed benefits of a parliamentary system is that it is easier and faster to pass legislation. It is also advocated for producing a number of serious debates, which allows the change in power without necessarily an election. This system also allows elections any time. Moreover, the power is divided in the parliamentary system in order to allow separation of power and accountability, which reduces the incidences of corruption. However, the parliamentary system of government is sometimes criticized since the head of government is in most cases not elected directly. Another criticism lies in the premise that there is no truly independent body that opposes as well as veto legislation passed through parliament. The lack of definite election calendar can also be abused.

Benefits of a Presidential System of Government

In the case of the presidential system of government, the stability of the executive rests on the president’s fixed term in office. The office of the president can be directly held accountable or responsible for the decisions taken. It is very easy for the electorate to reward or punish the president in the parliamentary system as compared to the parliamentary system of government. Moreover, in choosing his or her cabinet, the president’s choice is not limited to parliament, but he or can choose persons of outstanding integrities or competencies in the administration of the country. In addition, in the presidential system, the president can make the cabinet ministers to devote their time and energy in the service of the nation. However, the presidential system of government faces a number of criticisms. It is often criticized in its tendency towards authoritarianism and that it is not constitutionally stable. Another criticism lies in the political deadlock in which the system creates a number of undesirable as well as long-term political deadlocks, which reduces accountability between the president and the legislature.


            While there exists a number of differences between the parliamentary system as well as the presidential systems of government,  the presidential form of government is often considered as being the best and one that is more democratic, since it allows people the chance to freely elect their representatives in a direct manner. In both forms of governments, the president may be removed from office through a vote of confidence in the case of parliamentary system, and impeachment in the case of the presidential system. Both forms of governments present a number of benefits and criticisms based in the manner in which the executive, legislature, or the judicial are organized. In both the presidential and parliamentary system, the chief executive may be removed from the office by the legislature. While the parliamentary system has a separation of power based on the head of government and the head of state, the presidential system does not have such separation, instead, the head of state and the head of government have both been fused into the presidency.


Held, D. (2000). Models of democracy. Oxford: Polity Press.