Presidential Form of Government

A presidential system is a system of government where a head of government is also head of state and leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. The United States, for instance, has a presidential system.

Main Features of Presidential System::

President is both the head of state and the head of government. As the head of state, he occupies a ceremonial position. As the head of government, he is the chief real executive.

The President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure of four years. He cannot be removed by the Congress except by impeachment for a grave unconstitutional act.

The President governs with the help of the Cabinet or a smaller body called ‘Kitchen’ Cabinet. It is only an advisory body and consists of non-elected departmental secretaries. They are selected and appointed by him and are responsible only to him. They can also be removed by him any time.

The president and his secretaries are not responsible to the Congress for their acts. They neither possess membership in the Congress nor attend its sessions.

The President cannot dissolve the House of Representatives-the lower house of the Congress.

The doctrine of separation of powers is the basis of the American political system. The legislative, executive and judicial powers of the government are separated and vested in the three independent organs of the government.

American political system has a special feature of Checks and Balances. It enables each organ of the government to exercise partial control on others so that no organ becomes autocratic and irresponsible. This means that no organ of government has unrestricted powers even in its own sphere.

Merits of Presidential System:

Greater Stability: In presidential systems, the Head of State has a fixed term. This ensures stability of the system. He is also free from day-to-day legislative duties and control, which enable him to devote his entire time to administration.

Valuable in time of War or national Crisis: Presidential executive is a single executive. In taking decisions, the President is not bogged down by endless discussions in the Cabinet. He can take quick decisions and implement them with full energy.

Experts may be obtained to head the Departments: The President can select persons with proper expertise to head various departments of the government. These heads of departments constitute his Cabinet. The Ministers under the presidential system, therefore, prove to be better administrators. Whereas Ministers in a parliamentary system are appointed as Ministers not because of administrative acumen, but simply because of their political affiliation.

Less dominated by Party-Spirit: Once election to the office of the President is over, the whole nation accepts the new President as the leader of the nation. Political rivalries of the election days are forgotten. People look at problem from a national rather than a party angle. This gives the system greater cohesion and unity.

No concentration of Legislative and Executive powers: Presidential system is organized on the principle of separation of functions and checks and balances. This provides much better protection to personal liberties than in the parliamentary system.

Demerits of Presidential System:

Autocratic and Irresponsible: Presidential system places immense powers in the hands of the President. It is autocratic because the President independent of the control of the legislature.

Presidential Election is an Untidy Affair: The President in this system is elected directly. In countries where constitutional traditions are not as deep-rooted as in the United States, tensions & instability of election time can even result in revolutions.

Friction and Discord between the President and the Legislature: The separation of the executive and the legislature may lead to conflicts and deadlocks between the President and the legislature. The legislature may refuse to accept executive policies, or enact the laws suggested by the executive. President, on the other hand, may show lack of interest in implementing the laws passed against his will. He may even veto the bills passed by the legislature.

Responsibility is hard to find: In the Presidential system, it becomes difficult to fix responsibility for governmental failure. The president may blame the legislature; the legislature may put the blame on President.