In Focus: Presidential System of Government

In Focus: Presidential System of Government

  • The Presidential system of government is one where the Executive is constitutionally independent of the Legislature, and is not responsible to the legislature.
  • The Presidential form of government, unlike the Parliamentary system, is based on separation of powers, not on the fusion of Legislature and the Executive. 
  • The Presidential system is found, besides the United States of America, in several Latin American countries.
  • The Executive:
    • The executive branch includes the president, vice president, the cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.
    • The President is the Head of the Government, as is directly elected by the people. The President is also the Head of the State.
    • The vice president supports the president, and is elected along with the president.
      • If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president.
      • The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
    • Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate (51 votes if all 100 Senators vote).
  • The Legislature:
    • The American Legislature is called the Congress. Its two chambers are:
      • The House of Representatives (Lower House)
      • The Senate (Upper House)
  • The Judiciary:
    • The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.
    • It is comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
    • The Justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.  

Checks and Balances between the three organs:

  • Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches:
  • The president can veto legislation created by Congress and nominates heads of federal agencies.
  • Congress confirms or rejects the president’s nominees to federal agencies and can remove the president from office in exceptional circumstances.
  • The Justices of the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional laws, while their appointment is made by the president (after the nominee is confirmed by the Senate).
  • This ability of each branch to respond to the actions of the other branches is called the system of checks and balances.

Essential features of this system of government:

  • President as the real Executive:
    • All the Executive powers are vested in the hands of the President. The President is free to choose his Ministers (called Secretaries) from anywhere.
  • Separation of powers:
    • The Executive and the Legislature are independent of each other.
  • Non-responsible Executive:
    • The President and his Ministers are not members of Legislature. They are not responsible to Legislature.
  • Fixed tenures:
    • The tenure of office cannot be lessened or increased under any circumstances. The President can be removed by the Legislature only by a process of impeachment.
    • The Legislature too cannot be dissolved before the expiry of its fixed tenure.