Presidential form of Government


  • “The parliamentary system we borrowed from the British has not worked in Indian conditions. It is time to demand a change,” writes Shashi Tharoor (MP) of the Indian National Congress.

Back to Basics:

Presidential System of Government

  • In a presidential system, the head of the government leads an executive, that is distinct from the legislature. Here, the head of the government and the head of the state are one and the same. Also, a key feature is that the executive is not responsible to the legislature.

Features of the presidential system

  1. The executive (president) can veto acts by the legislature.
  2. The president has a fixed tenure and cannot be removed by a vote of no-confidence in the legislature.
  3. Generally, the president has the power to pardon or commute judicial sentences awarded to criminals.
  4. The president is elected directly by the people or by an electoral college. 

Merits of Presidential System

The advantages of the presidential system are given below:

  • Separation of powers: Efficiency of administration is greatly enhanced since the three arms of the government are independent of each other.
  • Expert government: Since the executive need not be legislators, the President can choose experts in various fields to head relevant departments or ministries. This will make sure that people who are capable and knowledgeable form part of the government.
  • Stability: This type of government is stable. Since the term of the president is fixed and not subject to majority support in the legislative, he need not worry about losing the government. There is no danger of a sudden fall of the government. There is no political pressure on the president to take decisions.
  • Less influence of the party system: Political parties do not attempt to dislodge the government since the tenure is fixed.

Demerits of Presidential System

The disadvantages of the presidential system are given below:

  • Less responsible executive: Since the legislature has no hold over the executive and the president, the head of the government can turn authoritarian.
  • Deadlocks between executive and legislature: Since there is a more strict separation of powers here, there can be frequent tussles between both arms of the government, especially of the legislature is not dominated by the president’s political party. This can lead to an erosion in efficiency because of wastage of time.
  • Rigid government: Presidential systems are often accused of being rigid. It lacks flexibility.
  • Spoils system: The system gives the president sweeping powers of patronage. Here, he can choose executives as per his will. This gives rise to the spoils system where people close to the president (relatives, business associates, etc.) get roles in the government.

Parliamentary System of Government

  • India chose a parliamentary form of government primarily because the constitution-makers were greatly influenced by the system in England. Another reason the founding fathers saw was that the parliamentary model would only work to accommodate the varied and diverse groups within our population. Also, the strict separation of powers in the presidential system would cause conflicts between the two branches, the executive and the legislature, which our newly-independent country could ill-afford.
  • There are more parliamentary forms of government in the world than there are presidencies. In this system, the parliament is generally supreme and the executive is responsible to the legislature. It is also known as the Cabinet form of government, and also ‘Responsible Government’.

Features of the parliamentary system

  1. Close relationship between the legislature and the executive
  2. Executive responsible to the legislature
  3. Dual executive
  4. Secrecy of procedure
  5. Leadership of the Prime Minister
  6. Bicameral Legislature
  7. No fixed tenure

Although India follows this system chiefly influenced by the British model, there are a few differences between the Indian and British systems. They are:

  • In India, the PM can be from either the Rajya Sabha or the Lok Sabha. In Britain, the PM will always be from the lower house, the House of Commons.
  • In Britain, the speaker once appointed, formally resigns from his/her political party. In India, the speaker continues to be a member of his/her party though he/she is expected to be impartial in the proceedings.
  • The concept of a shadow cabinet is absent in India. In Britain, the opposition forms a shadow cabinet that scrutinizes the actions and policies of the government. It also offers alternative programmes.

Merits of Parliamentary System

The advantages of the parliamentary system are as follows:

  • Better coordination between the executive and the legislature
  • Prevents authoritarianism
  • Responsible government
  • Representing diverse groups
  • Flexibility

Demerits of Parliamentary System

The disadvantages of the parliamentary system are as follows:

  • No separation of powers
  • Unqualified legislators
  • Instability
  • Ministers
  • Failure to take a prompt decision
  • Party politics
  • Control by the bureaucracy

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