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Difference Between Parliamentary and Presidential Form of Government - Indian Polity Notes

Update on 29 Oct, 22

5 minutes read

Difference Between Parliamentary and Presidential Form of Government - Indian Polity Notes

India is a democratic country and the uniqueness of democracy is that people can choose the governing officials to take all the major decisions. India has a representational democracy wherein a representative is elected by the people and he/she makes decisions on behalf of the people.

In a representative democracy, there are 2 forms of Government - "Parliamentary and Presidential".

In the Presidential form of Government, the President is selected as the chief executive by the people and along with the Legislative and Judiciary, is responsible for creating and enforcing the laws.

In the Parliamentary form of democracy which is also known as the Cabinet form of Government, the people of the country elect their representatives to the parliament and the parliament is responsible for taking decisions.

In this article, we shall discuss the different aspects of the difference between parliamentary and presidential Government, definitions, advantages, and disadvantages.

Definition of Parliamentary form of Government

India follows a Parliamentary form of Government along the lines of England. In this type of Government, the majority of representation in the parliament forms the Government. The representatives of the Parliamentary Government are elected by the citizens of the country. The Parliamentary form of Government is also known as the Cabinet form of Government.

The party that gets the highest number of votes from the people forms the government and its leader is elected as the Prime Minister or the Head of Government. The Prime Minister can be removed from their position if there is a vote of no confidence against him/her.

In a Parliamentary form of Government, the Executive and the Legislative powers are merged so that it is easy to pass and implement laws. The parties that get minimum representation form the opposition and question the decisions of the Government.

Main features of the Parliamentary form of Government

Executive as a part of the Legislature: The Executive must be a part of the Parliament in order to become a Minister otherwise the appointment of the person as the Minister will not exceed a period of 6 months.

Prime Minister as the Real Executive: The Prime Minister is the Head of the Government with the Council of Ministers from the ruling Government.

Bicameral Legislature: Parliamentary democracies like India follow the bicameral Legislature in which the members of the lower house elected by the people can be dissolved in case of the absence of an absolute majority. The decision of dissolve the lower house can be taken by the President.

Civil Service: The Civil Service members have been selected through Merit-based exams and their role is to implement the decisions of the Government. The Civil Service members continue even when a new Government is elected.

Secrecy Policy: The difference between the parliamentary and Presidential forms of Government is that in a parliamentary form, the Government maintains secrecy in policymaking and in conducting meetings and proceedings.

Dual Executive: In this form of Government, there are two Executives- Titular Executive and the Real Executive. The President is the titular Executive and the Prime Minister or the Head of Government is the Real Executive.

Role of Opposition: The opposition plays an important role in controlling the mistakes of the ruling party and maintaining their accountability to the citizens.

Advantages of the Parliamentary form of Government

  • The Parliamentary form of Government helps in the cooperation and effective functioning of the 2 arms of Government which are the Executive and Legislative.
  • This system of Government initiates quick decision-making through faster approval of the policies of the Government.
  • The Parliamentary form of Government is less expensive than the Presidential form as the joining of the Executive and the Legislative form of Government to form a Cabinet leads to a lesser cost.
  • This type of Government prevents a single authority to take control and the Prime Minister can be removed from position through a vote of no confidence by the members of the parliament.
  • In the Parliamentary form of Government, members of the parliament can check the working of the Executive to ensure good governance and transparency in administration.

Disadvantages of the Parliamentary form of Government

  • As there is no separation of powers between Legislative and Executive forms of Government, the Prime Minister is normally loyal to the party that had elected him.
  • There are chances of instability in the Government as the Prime Minister can be removed from his position through a vote of no confidence by the elected members. Usually, coalition Governments are less stable and the Prime Minister always strives to stay in power rather than looking after the well-being of the citizens.
  • Civil servants exercise a lot of power during policymaking. Since they do not work directly with the Legislature, many misuse their powers and exercise corruption.
  • In the Parliamentary form of democracy, the politicians misuse power once they are elected to office. They work for their own interest and benefit rather than looking into the National interests.
  • Owing to the convergence of the Legislative and the Executive committees, the workload of the cabinet Ministers is and sometimes these Ministers may fail to perform their duties effectively.

Definition of Presidential Form of Government

In the Presidential form of Government, the Head of the State or the Executive is the President. The President is elected by the members of the electoral college that comprises the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Legislative Assemblies of the State, and the Union territories of Delhi and Puducherry.

The President is elected for a fixed time period and cannot be removed from office under any circumstances. In a Presidential form of Government, all three branches- Legislative, Executive, and Judiciary are separate and cannot dissolve each other.

The Legislature enforces the laws, the judiciary exercises the laws, and the Chief Executive or the President enforces the laws.

Main features of the Presidential form of Government

  • Constitution is Supreme: The Constitution is considered Supreme and citizens who exercise their powers outside the Constitution are considered null and void by the judiciary.
  • President has a fixed tenure: The President has a fixed tenure and cannot be removed unless that time period is completed. In the case of a Presidential form of Government, a no-confidence motion cannot remove the President from power.
  • President has partial judicial powers: President has quasi-judicial powers that he/she can commute or pardon sentences given to criminals.
  • The President is elected through the Electoral college: In India, the President is not elected directly by the people of the country but through an electoral college.
  • The President can reject the acts of the Legislative Council: Government, the President has the right to veto or refuse the enactment of law by the parliament.

Advantages of the Presidential form of Government

  • The administrative and the political powers are divided among the 3 branches of the Government that is Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The President selects Cabinet members who are not members of the Legislature. Since there is a separation of power between the three branches, all the branches work separately and are more efficient.
  • The Presidential form of Government is more stable than the Parliamentary system as the President is elected for a fixed tenure and there is no fear of dismissal of the Government by political parties. Hence the Presidential form of Government is more rigid in terms of decision-making.
  • The Presidential form of Government is an expert Government that is the President selects the Cabinet from the experts of different Departments. As a result of this, the selected Cabinet has people with more knowledge and experience. This ensures the smooth functioning of the Government and better policymaking.
  • The Presidential form of Government is not influenced by the political parties and since the tenure of the Government is fixed, there is no threat of removal from power.

Disadvantages of the Presidential form of Government

  • The separation of powers between the Executive and the Legislative forms of Government leads to a lack of coordination between both branches. This results in a waste of time and delay in the enactment of policies.
  • Since the President has the power to select his cabinet this may lead to biased decision-making. The President can select members who are known to him and these members may not efficiently deliver duties.
  • The Presidential form of Government is rigid and it is not possible to remove him/her even if there is inefficiency. There is no flexibility and the President can only be removed only when the tenure is over.
  • A President has the right to impose curfews or restrict public movements whenever necessary. This form of Government has sweeping powers and there is a possibility of overuse or misuse of power by the President.

Difference Between Parliamentary and Presidential Forms of Government

Categories

Parliamentary Government

Presidential Government

Three organs of Government

Coordination between the Executive and Legislative while the Judiciary works independently.

Separation of powers between Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary.

Separation of powers

No separation of power and there is harmony in the working of the Executive and the Legislative

Powers and ways of working of Executive and Legislative are strictly separated and these bodies work independently of each other

Executive

The Prime Minister is the actual Head of the Government and takes all major decisions along with the Cabinet of Ministers. The President is the nominal head.

The President is the real Executive and there is no difference between the actual head and the nominal head.

Cabinet

The Cabinet of Ministers is responsible for formulating policies and taking all the major decisions for the country.

The Cabinet is an advisory body and all the major decisions of the country are taken by the President.

Accountability

The Executive and the Legislature work in harmony and hence they are accountable to each other.

The Executive and the Legislative are separate and hence do not work in harmony.

Tenure

The serving tenure of the Executive and the Legislature is not fixed. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet MInisters have to step down from power if they fail to get the majority of support from the house. The chances of falling of the Government take place more in the case of a coalition.

The time duration of the Executive and the Legislative is fixed and the President cannot be removed from power until the full tenure is over.

Division of powers

The powers are divided between the Executive and the Legislative authorities, that is, the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers.

The entire power lies with the President and there is no division of power between the Executive and Legislative.

Autocracy

Owing to the division of powers between the Executive and Legislative organs of the Government, autocratic rule cannot be enforced.

The Presidential form of Government is autocratic in nature as there is no division of power and all powers lie with the President.

Cabinet of Ministers

Only the members of the parliament can be appointed to the Council of Ministers.

The Council of ministers is selected by the President and can include people outside the parliament.

Dissolution of the lower House

The lower house can be dissolved before the tenure is complete. The President can dissolve the lower house anytime.

The President has a fixed tenure and the lower house cannot be dissolved before the completion of a term.

Conclusion

The difference between the Parliamentary and the Presidential form of Government is that they have different ways of functioning and organization.

Both systems of government are unique and have their own pros and cons. A country chooses its Government based on its needs and suitability. India is a diverse country with various groups, geopolitical divisions, and ethnicities.

In such a scenario, the parliamentary form of democracy works best for India and implements the best practices of governance for the benefit of the citizens.

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