The Presidential Republic | Overview and Example

The presidential form of government holds the president as the leader of the executive and legislature. The president, therefore, is the supreme elected member who holds the key of the law-making body as well as the executive body of the government. The supreme power rests in his hands. He, as elected by the popular adult franchise, for a definite period, makes his own decisions. For example, his powers allow him to distribute his offices not only to the members of parliament but also to the non-members, outstanding people of their respective fields, on his prudence, to run a smooth administration.

The presidential republic system is based on the separation of powers of legislative, executive, and judiciary as well as the sharing of powers between these three pillars for the smooth functioning of the state. The prime example of the presidential form of government is the United States, the model of which is followed by few other democracies such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines. These democracies have extensive powers vested in their independent chief executive namely the president.

The power of the president in this system is related to both internal and external affairs and foreign policies. The president is directly accountable to his people and not to the legislature. The voters, however, have no direct way to dismiss their president. As in the United States, the unpopular president, the executive officers, and the judiciary members can be dismissed through the proceedings of impeachment and conviction established by the law.

The virtue of the presidential republic government lies in its stability as believed by many political philosophers. The balance of which lies in the commitment of the sharing of the power among the legislative, executive, and judiciary, their checks and balances, their deliberation, and compromises of different laws in process and execution, which finally helps to achieve the goals of limited government and individual rights and especially the rights of minorities of the country.

Merits Of Presidential Form Of Government​

  1. Stability: It is the prime merit of the Presidential form of government. The president elected through popular vote has a fixed tenure which brings efficiency in the governance and smooth running of the administration.
  2. Separation of power: This checks the authoritarianism of any branch of the government and ensures the rights and liberties of the citizens.
  3. Prompt and effective decisions: Since the president is head of the state and government, he can take important decisions swiftly and effectively.
  4. Committed Governance: The president has powers to appoint the experts of their respective fields to head the offices irrespective of party affinity.

Demerits Of Presidential Form Of Government​

The presidential form of government has its own limitation too.

  1. Executive may become dictatorial: The President enjoys vast power and his tenure is fixed, there would be every possibility that he may act like a dictator and overlook public interest in taking decisions.
  2. Conflict or deadlock between the organs: The executive and the legislative being the autonomous bodies may find each other on the ends while making or executing certain laws. As not being answerable to each other on any matter there is a possibility of deadlock between the two.
  3. The checks and balances: It is opposing to economic planning.
  4. Stiffness of constitution: The rigidity of the constitution might be a hindrance to cope with the changing circumstances.
  5. Probability of disagreement between executive and legislature.

Semi Presidential System

A semi-presidential system is a dual form of government that combines the features of both presidential and parliamentarism where a directly elected president shares executive powers with a prime minister and a cabinet. It, therefore, offers a mid-way between the two marginal forms: the presidential constitutional system and the Parliamentary constitutional system. Semi Presidential republic system has a president elected by popular vote and enjoys the considerable constitutional authority. He is supported by a prime minister and his cabinet who have the majority in the assembly.

The aforesaid features define a dual executive where the elected president is not the only sovereign of the state and has the political and executive authority. The president in the semi-presidential system republic is although looked at as the head of the state but has limited powers unlike the presidential form of the government. The existence of the prime minister exhibits the features of a parliamentary form of government.

The semi presidential republic system has three main components: the state, the government, and the parliament. Through the constitutional or legal creation and functioning of dynamic relations of mutual understanding, the balance between these three political bodies is achieved. One body can not enjoy less prowess than any other. The semi-presidential system works best when each of its political body functions entirely within its legitimate circumference.

Salient Features Of The Semi-Presidential Republic Form Of Government

  1. The president appoints the cabinet proposed by the prime minister who has the confidence of the assembly. Eg: France.
  2. The prime minister is accountable to the parliament. There is a chain of mutual dependence between the president, the prime minister, and the legislature, which is responsible for the efficiency of the government.
  3. The tenure of the president and the legislature is fixed which ensures the stability of the government.
  4. There is a two-ballot system to elect the president and the prime minister, as referred to the semi-presidential system in France, which is the prime example of the functioning of the mixed form of government and is followed by many other countries. To maintain a balance and separation of power a different time is set for the direct election of the president and the legislature.
  5. The president and the prime minister can be from different political parties, as seen in France at times, which may create a gridlock between the powers of the two.
  6. The president can remove the prime minister, who is the head of the cabinet.

The above-mentioned features can be observed in the functioning democracies of  Russia, France, Sri Lanka, Finland, Poland, and other European countries, where a state maintains a check and balance between its political components and functions efficiently based on mutual faith and understanding.

Federal Presidential Republic System

The federal systems of democracies have many dimensions suited to the respective national needs and interests. Essentially federalism accommodates two sets of polities- one at the national level and the other at the regional level. The federal government has the authority of its own on all the issues pertaining to the democratic system.

The federal presidential repulic system, however, is best manifested in the constitutional democracy of the United States of America. Federalism in general aims to reconcile the common and divergent interests and identities and establish a balance between the units of the state for common benefit.

The key features of this system are distinct and it is exhibited in the following key factors:

  1. Under the federal presidential repulic system, the power is shared between the center and the state government. 
  2. There is a written constitution to be abided by all the components of the state. The constitution is the supreme and it could not be modifiable unilaterally, any change in the constitution requires a large share of the consent of the federation.
  3. There is common citizenship for all, regardless of their state of residence. The citizens enjoy common rights and entitlements including mobility, employment rights, and taxation.
  4. The judiciary is independent and is responsible for the reconciliation of any matter of dispute between the center and the regional machinery.

The federal constitutions have different and varied dimensions about the demands of the demographic needs and cultural variations of a particular state. The United States of America, for instance, is a presidential federal state, where the president is elected through the direct ballot and the members of legislature and executives are elected from different constituencies of their provinces.

The US has a dual-party system and the president may distribute his offices to either of the elected members of these two parties. The judicial supremacy vests in the supreme court of the United States, which is a free body. There is a single citizenship rule irrespective of the state one may belong. The safeguards of human rights prevail above all the laws. The state is secular in nature and all religious faiths are held in similar accord. These traits can be observed in other democracies too, where the system functions with few changes in accordance with the social and cultural diversities.

In India, a federal system of government has a different role to play as per the constitution of the country which is an apt example of unity in diversity. The president heads the state which is governed by a prime minister and the cabinet of ministers of his choice. The government functions on two levels namely the center and the state. The center has the prime minister as the chief of the executive and legislature while the state is headed by a governor and the functional head is the chief minister.

The constitution of the country underlines the union and state subjects, their functioning, and the laws for reconciliation of collisions. It clearly elaborates the important aspects of the division of power and establishes them in the center list, state list, and concurrent list to avoid any confusion between the central government and the state government. Both the elements of the federal system work for the benefit of the public and in harmony.

The  Constitution recognizes the separate identity of the regions and yet gives more powers to the center. As the state is seen as a separate entity, it would be evident that the state would enjoy a greater role in the power and functioning of the country. In a vast country like India, which is a union of states, this at times creates differences due to the demand of states for greater autonomy. The conflict and tension due to this can not be evaded and seek negotiations through judicial as well as constitutional intervention.

However, in the federal presidential republic system, the conflict between the center and the state is minimized due to the greater power of the president and the central government. The unanimous laws and fewer cultural and social differences also play a major part in it.

Federalism maintains the balance between the center and the States. The legal or institutional formula cannot guarantee the smooth functioning of a federal polity. The political system under federalism is based upon mutual understanding, faith, and healthy co-work culture. The system does not force any of the ideas on its components to its national interest and benefit of the country. The unity is thus not imposed but is a result of high levels of honesty and responsive government processes.

This sensibility of autonomy intertwined into the responsibilities is the very essence of federalism. The basis of cooperative federalism is thus based upon the ethos of responsible political machinery which is sensitive towards the different dimensions of the democratic country.

Merits Of The Federal System Of Government​

  1. The federal system assures that no individual or a certain group has immense political power.
  2. The federal system allows an average citizen participation and a contribution the governance.
  3. The federal system provides for better management of the country through the separation of power.
  4. The local and the central issues can be attended more efficiently in the federal system.

Demerits Of The Federal System Of Government​

  1. The federal system leads decision-making more complex and difficult. National decisions can sometimes collide with state decisions.
  2. There might arise an issue if the center and state have different parameters of serving the citizen.

Unitary Presidential Republic System

The president is the prime holder of the power in the unitary presidential system. He is the one who keys the formation of the government, allotment of offices, takes important decisions on all the levels, and exercises all the supreme powers relating to internal and external matters. The administration functions on the basis of his decisions and the government formed by him are accountable only to him and not to the public in general. The powers and responsibilities are delegated by the president solely.

In the unitary presidential republic system, as it is evident, the supreme power lies in the popularly elected president. The president is the center of all the decision making and without his consent and willingness, the executive and legislature can not function on their own might. He has command over the center, the states, the external and internal affairs, the defense, and all major stakes of the country. There is an immense power vested in the president, as can be referred to in the United States of America. Although, this centralized absolute power is the very matter of concern as at times the decisions seem to be autocratic in behavior.

There is no distribution of powers in the constitution. All powers belong to the president. The constitution is rigid and could hardly be amended. The laws once made remain unchanged because of the sovereign powers of the president who may use them to satisfy the nature of the chair he holds. As there are no checks, the system may become despotic. Although these might be the apprehensions, the unitary presidential system can be quite responsible and accountable within its defined institutions and towards its citizens.

Merits Of A Unitary Presidential State​

  1. The unitary presidential republic state can promote national unity.
  2. It is beneficial for the nations which are smaller, culturally even, and socially not divergent in nature.
  3. There is a good chance of running the country economically smooth as there are fewer conflicts.
  4. The unitary system promotes harmony in its ethnic groups.
  5. The unitary system allows for swift decision-making due to single-window decisions.
  6. The stability of the government counts the most as it allows the growth of the economy and financial wellness.

Demerits Of A Unitary Presidential State​

As the government is solely accountable to the president, the public rejoinder is quite sluggish in the unitary presidential system of the government. For example, there are no state defense forces that could be dispatched in cases of emergency. The armed forces are stationed and ordered by the supreme authority of the government. It also easily loses track of local issues. This system enumerates the possibility of competition among the components for prime roles and key positions.

  1. There is a burden on the president and the center for every work since there is no division of work and all the decisions are concentrated in the supreme chair of the president.
  2. There is every possibility that the president becomes a dictator.
  3. There is little room for analysis of the performance of the government led by the president. The loopholes and the pitfalls of the policies would hardly be argued in such a system.
  4. There is a possibility of the negligence of the minority communities. Since some regions might be neglected for political reasons.
  5. Many citizens under unitary presidential republic governments may keep waiting for the central government to initiate and implement policies and this could smother local initiatives.

Presidential Republic Observation on Some Nations​

These are the different forms of the Presidential republic system observed by many democratic nations of the world. The following are the key features of constitutional democracy of the United States, the United Kingdom, and France for reference to the working of the different systems under the Presidential form.

The United States

  1. The executive branch constitutes of a separately elected president, a cabinet nominated by the president and confirmed by the legislature.
  2. The legislature can not remove the president. The president cannot dissolve the legislature.
  3. The upper house is called Senate. the cabinet and legislation draft the various bills which can be vetoed by the president.
  4. The bills of the legislation must be introduced by a senate member.

The United Kingdom

  1. The prime minister and the cabinet are elected by the popular vote. The state is headed by the royal entity.
  2. The elected government can be dissolved through a no-confidence motion. After which an election must be announced to form a new government.
  3. The Upper house is known as the House of Lords and the lower house is the House of Commons. The cabinet, prime minister and the bureaucracy form the government.
  4. The bills can be amended by the executive branch. The houses have limited rights and can suggest amendments only on technical grounds.

France 

  1. The president presides over the cabinet and is separately elected. The president has major powers including the appointment of the prime minister and his cabinet.
  2. The upper house is known as Senate and the lower house is the national assembly.
  3. The president can dissolve the lower house.
  4. The legislature can remove the prime minister and dissolve the cabinet.
  5. The bills are drafted by the executive body and both the houses.

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