Essay on the Nature of Presidential System of Government



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Under the Presidential system the legislature and the executive are two distinct departments of government. There is more or less a separation between the two. The executive is neither the creature of the legislature, nor is it responsible to that body for its public acts or dependent on it for remaining in office.

The head of the State, the President, is the real executive both as a matter of law and fact, and such power is the result of a direct grant from the constituent authority affected through express provisions of the constitution.

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The fact that the President is not merely a Chief Executive but also the Executive makes all ‘ministers’ or ‘cabinet members’ his assistants and, thus, denies them the more independent positions of ministers in a Parliamentary system.

It is a misnomer to describe as ‘ministers’ who constitute the Presidential ‘cabinet’. Neither is there ‘cabinet’ in the Presidential system nor are there ‘ministers’. Both are the product of the Parliamentary system. The members of the so-called cabinet in the Presidential system are not members of the legislature and they do not belong to the legislative majority party. They have no access to the legislature.

They do not take part in the debates and have no locus stand to initiate and pilot legislation or to defend the policy of government or stand in need of seeking its confidence. Nor have they any power to advise dissolution of the legislature and appeal to the electorate, if the legislature does not approve their policy.

They have, indeed, no policy of their own. The policy of the government is that of the head of the State, who appoints them and retains them in office as long as it pleases him. They are responsible to him alone and to no one else.

The ‘cabinet’ under a Presidential system, in brief, is the tool of the head of the State. He can override the opinions of its members or he may not seek it or even if he does, it is for him to decide whether to consult them individually or collectively. And as for its members, a breath unmakes them as a breath had made.

The Chief Executive in a Presidential system has a status independent of, and coordinate with the legislature, and is not subject to the direction or control of the latter either for his continuance in office or in respect to the manner in which he exercises his powers.

The duties of the Chief Executive and his administrative officers (members of the cabinet, by law designated Secretaries in the United States) lie wholly in the executive and administrative field and they have no responsibility in respect of the legislative functions, except as it may be their duty to make known to the legislature the need for legislation in order that their executive and administrative functions may be more effectively performed.

Garner gives a matter of fact analysis of the Presidential system. He says, “What has been called ‘residential’ government as contra-distinguished from cabinet or parliamentary government is that system in which the executive (including both the head of the state and his ministers) is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect to the duration of his or their tenure and irresponsible to it for his or their political policies.”

The system is not Presidential because it has an elected President as the Chief Executive. It is Presidential because President is not the real executive who does not owe his office to the legislature nor can he be removed from office. In a Parliamentary system real executive is the creature of the legislature and remains in office at its will.

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