Explain Presidential System and Highlight Its Major Features

Features of the Presidential Form of Government

The presidential system of democracy has the main virtue of stability. It concentrates powers in the strong hands of one President. President is elected by popular vote for a fixed term, need not bother of counting heads of legislatures, and can take measures on his own initiatives. In the formation of his cabinet, the choice would not be limited to the members of Parliament. The President may choose persons of outstanding competence and intellectual integrity to help him in the administration of the country.

Therefore, a democratic system may function very well with all its liberal tenets. The Presidential executive has several salient characteristics which are totally different from the salient features of the Parliamentary executive. This system of Presidential form of government has the following basic features:  

1. Elected Executive Head

In the United States of America, the role of the head of government is performed by the Chief. The executive knew as President. He is not a member of the legislature and unlike Monarch in Parliamentary democracy, he is directly elected. The framers adopted the formula for the election of President by the Electoral College.

It was adopted as a compromise combining the virtues of independence from the legislative branch with indirect popular participation. Each state chooses, as its legislature and Congress specify, electors equal in number to the representatives and senators from that state. All states now use popular elections on a state-wide basis. 

The electors meet in their own states and cast ballots for Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates. The results sent to the national capital are opened in the presence of Congress. Hence, a Prime Minister is a Parliamentary system is chosen by a few individuals of the legislature while a President is usually elected by the people. According to supporters of the Presidential system, a popularly elected leadership is inherently more democratic than a leadership chosen by the legislative body.

It is also submitted that the direct mandate of a President makes him more accountable. The reason behind this agreement is that a Prime Minister is the shield from public opinion by the apparatus of the state, being several steps removed, however, the President in the presidential system cannot be removed from power when their policies no longer reflect the wishes of the citizens. They can only be removed by impeachment.

2. Political Homogeneity is not essential

In the Presidential system, the President has the right to appoint any person, whom he considers fit to head any government department. President can appoint persons belonging to different political parties or men of eminence in various spheres of activity, to high offices. He has the free right to choose and appoint his team of ministers who belong to the same political party which has the majority in the legislature. It is only during exceptional circumstances, e.g., when no single party emerges as a majority party in the elections to the legislature, or when there is a national emergency arising out of war or internal revolt that the cabinet can consist of ministers drawn from different political parties.

The criterion for appointing the ministers is not really their qualification but their status in the party hierarchy. As such the cabinet of a Presidential system is an organization of professional experts selected by the President for running the administration. The cabinet in a Parliamentary system is the highest political organization acting as the policy framing body at the apex. The presidential system has a cabinet but no cabinet system of the government. It is a system of presidential supremacy over the government.

3. Separation of Powers - Separation of powers which appears to be a cure-all for political ills, there is separation not only as regards the actions of the three departments is concerned. There is also separation as regards the personal are concerned. At a time no person may hold office in more than one of three branches of government. The root of the American Presidential system rests on the separation of powers which is absolutely essential for the protection of liberty. 

Without the separation of powers, without the institution of an independent judiciary, without a champion furnished by the government against government says Professor Sutherland, Constitutional rights would become ghosts that are seen in the law, but that are elusive to the grasp.

A Presidential system that separates the executive from the legislature is sometimes held up as an advantage. In that, each branch may scrutinize the actions of the other. In a Parliamentary system, the executive is drawn from the legislature. The division of powers between the Executive and legislative is clearly explained in the Constitution. President, however, has a very wide range of powers. He is free from the legislative council and legislative assembly's influence on administration and policy formation on the country. The legislature has unlimited powers for legislation.

Thus, unlike the Parliamentary form, in which there is a close relationship between the two. In the Presidential form the Executive and the Legislature and independent of each other. Each exercises powers only in respect of its allotted sphere, the executive in the field of law enforcement and administration, and the legislature in the field of law-making. Legislature and Executive are two separate and distinct organs of the government.

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