Presidential Vs. Parliamentary Systems
The article titled “The Perils of Presidentialism” by Linz Juan fits the topic of this essay. I will this reading material as the basis for evaluating the best system of governance. Indeed, a government represents a set of machinery and agencies that supports political authority. Additionally, it is a system and structure that has control over a population. A government formulates policies, makes laws, and administers justice. Most governments are established through well-defined democratic processes. The most significant function of democracy is to give power to the people while allowing them to decide the form of governance they desire. Three types of governance that are commonly used are presidential, parliamentary, and hybrid. The presidential system of governance is best suited to promote democracy and political accountability than a parliamentary system.
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In this reading material, Linz Juan mentions that under a parliamentary system, the government relies on parliament to formulate and enforce policies. Besides, a parliamentary system gives a lot of power to the prime minister, who is the leader of the government. The in-depth description of a parliamentary system is a major strength of the article. Though, I wish to add that in countries that have dominant political parties, prime ministers exercise more control than presidents. Linz reinforces the merits of a parliamentary system but does not explore the negative aspects, such as the system not being accountable to the people because the prime minister does not appeal to the general population. The president is rendered powerless in this structure of governance yet he or she campaigns and makes promises to the electorates that they expect him or her to deliver.
I agree with Linz Juan on control of power between the president and prime minister. The article mentions the inability of a president to compete for power with the prime minister in a parliamentary structure. For example, the president may not have control over the representatives tasked with making policies and laws hence he may not have control of the legislation that they draft and enact. I have witnessed parliaments fail to perform their roles to make fundamental policies touching on youth, women, and people living with disabilities.
In my opinion, many failed states have parliament representatives who pursue their interests first before those of the general population thus the public suffers. Therefore, I believe that the parliamentary system cannot be trusted to enhance democracy and accountability. I do not agree with the arguments presented regarding the formulation of laws without involvement of the public and interested parties. It is important to take into account the views of the general population when making drastic changes to the constitution or deciding on an issue that affects them because they experience the consequences of these laws. Therefore, since the parliamentary system stifles the process of inclusivity, it is ineffective.
The presidential system promotes democracy and political accountability but leaves room for abuse of power. Linz Juan explores the roles that a president plays in a presidential system of governance (53). Unfortunately, the author fails to elaborate on how a president can promote unity through governance. I believe that the argument that the presidential system has been hijacked by dictators and selfish politicians to pursue personal interests at the expense of the general population is valid, but it does not apply everywhere the system is used, indeed, the presidential system only fails in countries that do not have mature democracies, which explains why the presidential system has been used to promote authoritarianism in Burundi but not in the United States, which is democratic.
Though prefer a presidential system over a parliamentary one, I concur with the author that the president being elected with minority votes is problematic. The article mentions Salvador Allende’s election as the president of Chile in 1970 by 36.2 percent and the achievement of plurality through disjointed coalitions as an example of such an instance (53). Linz Juan argues that winning by a minority vote means that a president is unpopular or not representative and may lead to stand-offs between parliament representatives and the presidency with the former claiming they are more representative of the population than the latter. While the author’s arguments are valid, I believe that such political stand-offs and power wrangles are exacerbated by the absence of a stable democracy.
Moreover, while I believe that presidents should not be elected by a minority vote, I also think that the issues should not be used to discredit a presidential system. In modern democracies, when the president is sworn after winning an election by minority votes he or she becomes a symbol of unity. It is a matter of time before the president is accepted by those who voted or did not vote for him or her.
In conclusion, the reading material has provided distinctive features of both presidential and parliamentary systems of governance. The arguments presented show that in a parliamentary system the president loses power to the parliament headed by the prime minister. Hence, he or she loses some degree of control over the supervision of projects and the formulation of policies meant to change the lives of people. Conversely, the presidential system gives power to the president to control projects that he or she pledged during an election. Fundamentally, the president is more accountable and answerable to the public under a presidential than parliamentary system. Future analysis of reading materials will focus on examining accountability and democracy on a hybrid system of parliamentary and presidential systems
Linz, Juan. “The Perils of Presidentialism”. Journal of Democracy, Vol 1, No 1, Winter
1990, pp. 51-69. The Johns Hopkins University Press, DOI: 10.1353/jod.1990.0011