Systems of Government: Presidential and Cabinet (A Complete Overview)

Presidential System of Government

This is a system of government in which all executive and ceremonial powers and functions are vested on one person called the president who is both the head of state and head of government. The president has the powers to hire and fire; that is appoints and dismisses appointees.

In a presidential system, there is a clear separation of power between the executive, legislature and the judiciary. The president appoints members of his cabinet who are not members of the legislature.

Features of Presidential System of Government

  • The president is both the head of state and head or government
  • There 1s separation of powers amongst the three arms of government but the separation of powers 1s not Wate-tight.
  • The constitution is the supreme law in the presidential system.
  • There is fixed tenure of office.
  • There is check and balances.
  • The principle of individual responsibility applies

Advantages of Presidential System

  • Individual ministers are responsible actions (individual responsibility)
  • There is only one president who can be held responsible for any bad administration. Thus, the clashes between the president and the prime minister in a cabinet system are for their avoided.
  • The president has the right to choose anybody as his minister irrespective of party affiliations.
  • Checks and balances: Checks and balances are very effective among the three organs of government.
  • It is democratic: All institutions that make for democratic government are embedded in this system. For instance, electoral institutions, independence of the judiciary, etc are always there.

Disadvantages of a Presidential System

  • The wider powers given to the president can lead to dictatorship or arbitrary rule.
  • The legislative and executive arms of government me fall under different political parties. Hence, disagreements with regards to policies as a result of party differences which may lead to political instability.
  • Since the ministers are appointed by the president, they obey him and are more loyal to him than to the legislature. It is therefore difficult to remove any of them found wanting without the approval by the president.
  • Delay in the execution of projects: Separation of powers can cause delay in the execution of government projects. For example, the legislature can delay the approval of the budget or names of those nominated for ministerial, ambassadorial or other posts.
  • No security of tenure for Ministers: Ministers can be removed from office any time by the president.

The Cabinet or Parliamentary System of Government

In this system of government, powers are shared between two separate heads namely; the Head of state and the Head of government. The Head of state often referred to as a Monarch, a Queen, a King, President or governor General performs only ceremonial functions while the Head of government also known as the Prime Minister performs the real executive functions. In this system, the real executive powers are vested in the council of ministers known as the Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister and the legislature serves as the source of authority for the executive.

Features of a Cabinet or Parliamentary System of Government

  • Power is shared between two separate heads; the head of state and head of government.
  • There is the principle of collective responsibility
  • There is absence of the principle of separation of powers.
  • There is absence of the institution of checks and balances.
  • There is the existence of an opposition party

Advantages of Cabinet System of Government

  • Collective responsibility: Members of cabinet takes joint decision and they are collectively responsible for all the actions taken. This ensures efficiency.
  • Mutual understanding: This exists between the executive and the legislature.
  • Watchdog: There is opposition party which becomes a very effective watch dog since it sees itself as alternative government.
  • Defense of policies: The system allows ministers to defend their policies in parliament since they are also members of parliament.
  • Decisions are taken faster: The reason is because members of the executive are equally members of the legislature. Consensuses are easily reached on issues of the state.

Disadvantages of a Cabinet System of Government

  • Removal of the executive: The executive can be removed from office anytime the legislature passes a vote of no confidence on the executive.
  • Restriction to ministerial appointment: The best people y not be in government since the Prime Minister is restricted to appoint ministers into his cabinet from his party only.
  • Not popularly elected: In a presidential system, the president is popularly elected, but in parliamentary, the Prime Minister is appointed by the Head of state.
  • Collective responsibility: The poor performance of a minister can cause the fall of the government since ministers are collectively responsible for government policies.
  • Weak government: A coalition government is an indication of no clear majority winner from any party in the general elections; a weak government could result from such formation.

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