Parliamentary System of Government

Modern democratic governments are classified into parliamentary and presidential on the basis of nature of relations between the executive and the legislative organs of the government. The parliamentary government is also known as cabinet government or responsible government or Westminster model of government and is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, and India among others.

Main Features of Parliamentary System:

Nominal and Real Executive: The president is the nominal executive while the prime minister is the real executive. Thus, the president is head of the State, while the prime minister is head of the government.

Majority Party Rule: The political party which secures majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government. The leader of that party is appointed as the prime minister by the president; other ministers are appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister.

Collective Responsibility: This is the bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general and to the Lok Sabha in particular.

Political Homogeneity: Usually members of the council of ministers belong to the same political party, and hence they share the same political ideology.

Double Membership: The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive. This means that a person cannot be a minister without being a member of the Parliament.

Leadership of the Prime Minister: The prime minister plays the leadership role in this system of government. He is the leader of council of ministers, leader of the Parliament and leader of the party in power.

Dissolution of the Lower House: The lower house of the Parliament can be dissolved by the president on recommendation of the prime minister.

Secrecy: The ministers operate on the principle of secrecy of procedures and cannot divulge information about their proceedings, policies and decisions. They take the oath of secrecy before entering their office.

Merits of Parliamentary System:

Harmony between Legislature and Executive: The greatest advantage of the parliamentary system is that it ensures harmonious relationship & cooperation between the legislative and executive organs of the government. The executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work.

Responsible Government: By its very nature, the parliamentary system establishes a responsible government. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission. The Parliament exercise control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussion, adjournment motion, no confidence motion, etc.

Prevents Despotism: Under this system, the executive authority is vested in a group of individuals and not in a single person. The dispersal of authority checks the dictatorial tendencies of the executive.

Wide Representation: In a parliamentary system, the executive consists of a group of individuals (i.e. ministers who are representatives of the people). Hence, it is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government.

Ready Alternative Government: In case the ruling party loses its majority, the Head of the State can invite the opposition party to form the government. This means an alternative government can be formed without fresh elections.

Demerits of Parliamentary System:

Unstable Government: The parliamentary system does not provide a stable government. There is no guarantee that a government can survive its tenure. The ministers depend on the mercy of the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office.

No Continuity of Policies: The parliamentary system is non-conducive for the formulation & implementation of long term policies. This is due to the uncertainty of the tenure of the government. A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government.

Dictatorship of the Cabinet: When the ruling party enjoys absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers.

Government by Amateurs: The parliamentary system is not conductive to administrative efficiency as the ministers are not experts in their fields. The prime minister has a limited choice in the selection of ministers; his choice is restricted to the members of Parliament alone and does not extend to external talent.

Against Separation of Power: In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable. The cabinet acts as the leader of legislature as well as the executive. Hence, the whole system of government goes against the letter and spirit of the theory of separation of powers.