Reasons the Presidential System of Democracy Is Better Than the Parliamentary One

The presidential system is better for democracy than the parliamentary one because of its separation of powers, the role of the judiciary, and government accountability to its people.

A presidential system is advantageous because of the relationship between the executive and the legislature. This system has what a parliamentary one largely lacks: a strong separation of powers between branches of government. In a parliamentary system, the legislature elects the prime minister from parliament, which is able to remove the prime minister whenever the majority chooses, especially since he does not have a fixed term in office (O’Neil 152-53). This ability is inexistent in a presidential democracy. In most cases, the prime minister continues to hold a seat in the legislature; therefore, the executive and legislative branches do not sufficiently check each other. This concentration of unchecked power can result in corruption and abuse of power. The prime minister’s cabinet members come from the legislature too, contrasting with presidential cabinets which are comprised of professionals in their respective fields, rather than professional politicians (152, 54).

The role of the judicial branch in a presidential system is vastly different from its role in a parliamentary one. In a presidential system, the courts have the power of judicial review, that is they can determine a law unconstitutional. This provides a check on both the executive and the legislature. In parliamentary systems, opportunities for the courts to get involved in constitutional conflicts are more limited, given how closely the executive and legislature work together. Moreover, “heads of state and upper houses themselves have certain powers of constitutional review, further limiting the opportunity for independent judicial power” (O’Neil 153-54).

The presidential system is also superior because in it the government is more accountable to its people. In parliamentary systems “the public does not directly elect its country’s leader. That task is left to the parties” (O’Neil 153). This gives political parties more control over legislators, and, thus, over the government. While everyone elects a president, a prime minister is only elected by the majority of people in parliament. This distinction has a number of consequences. For instance, to get elected, a prime minister must be a party insider. Conversely, presidents can be government outsiders (O’Neil 153-55). In fact, citizens in presidential democracies may even prefer an outsider. This appears to be the case in the 2016 U.S. presidential race in which none of the top three Republican candidates: Trump, Fiorina, and Carson have ever held public office. Bernie Sanders, one of the top Democratic candidates, is not a party insider either. This is impossible under a parliamentary system, yet, as is evident in polling, it is what the majority of Americans want (Torry). The people’s ability to decide what type of leader they want, a choice they somewhat lack in parliamentary systems, is at the heart of democracy.

For these reasons, a presidential system is better than a parliamentary one.

O’Neil, Patrick H. 2015. Essentials of Comparative Politics, 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Torry, Jack, and Jessica Wehrman. “Never Holding Political Office Seen as plus for Presidential Candidates.” The Columbus Dispatch. N.p., 21 Sept. 2015. Web. 22 Sept. 2015.

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18 thoughts on “Reasons the Presidential System of Democracy Is Better Than the Parliamentary One

  1. I agree that if the definition of a “better” government is to have checks and balances as well as inclusion of the people in deciding their leaders, then certainly a presidential democracy is more superior. However, parliament, with no other branches to check its actions, can arguably get things done faster than a presidential democracy. Efficiency is not necessarily a requirement for “better” government, although I think it is an important factor to point out.

  2. I agree that the presidential system is better for democracy. It is critical that the power is separated. I’m Wendy, Sarah’s friend.

  3. I am Sarah’s friend. I believe that check and balance, and power separation are important to a well-functioning/ sustainable government system (regardless of whether it is democracy). The essence of democracy then lies in inclusiveness as Sarah highlighted. Thus, if we want a well-functioning democratic system, then presidential democracy that comprises the above-mentioned components is just the right way to go.

  4. Sarah, I felt your comments were well thought out and made a great deal of sense. However, I am also aware that the parliamentary system has been in existence in England for a very long time and the country still seems to function creditability. For this reason, it is hard for me to believe that the presidential system of democracy is substantially superior to the parliamentary system inspite of the many valid points you have elucidated.

  5. I agree with you Sarah. I am glad that the United States is a democratic system as I do believe a parliamentary system can become corrupt with out checks and balances. I also like the democratic allegiance to the people.

  6. Your discussion of accountability is an interesting one to consider. especially the insider vs outsider component The US system uses a candidate centered form of elections compared to the party centered form in parliamentary, thus by default dictating what types of candidates could rise to the leadership roles. If a Trump like candidate became part of Parliament and eventually somehow rose to a leadership position, would they still be the same candidate they were when they first entered, or will the party system and institutional rules/norms fundamentally alter their behavior?

  7. Sarah, these are well argued points. I will note that presidential systems like Mexico, Brazil, and Honduras have high crime rates and little accountability to the people, while parliamentary systems like Norway, Japan, and Canada have some of the lowest corruption rates and highest human development rankings in the world. Parliamentary systems are less prone to political gridlock (governments do not shut down) and have party elections on the basis of merit rather than popularity. Many parliamentary systems also have strong judicial power (Switzerland), though some do not since it would delegitimize the interests of the majority (the UK). The U.S. Supreme Court itself is for the moment, conservative, and their opinions often run contrary to the interests of the public (think Citizens United). The presidential system of democracy is a tricky one, but we will keep our fingers crossed.

  8. Reality Check.
    Presidential Systems are predominant in the US and Latin America. All of these are far more corrupt and influenced by big money than European parliamentary democracies.

    The fact that the power-corrupt Erdogan is moving Turkey from a parliamentary to a presidential system is not an accident.

    The much bemoaned grad-lock in Washington is also a direct consequence of a naive division of power construct. European parliamentary system, despite currently far greater external challenges in economy and migration, are more stable and functional than the circus that is we are witnessing in Washington right now.

    The US Presidency is something that was invented by people 203 years ago whose only role model for a chief executive were monarchs and thus designed something you may call a checked & termed monarch.


    The Executive is NEVER CHECKED on a REAL-TIME BASIS by ANYONE because of the separation of powers. The fact-finding committees or agencies or authorized groups do after-the-fact probes where the money has already been stolen or programs and policies have already been implemented. There is no alternative government and the President isn’t questioned real-time about his actions. It lacks transparency and accountability to the people and the people don’t have the power to immediately kick out a lameduck president because they have to go through the gruelling process of impeachment.

    “Half the faculty at Yale Law describes the American Presidential system as one of this country’s most dangerous exports. It is responsible for wreaking havoc in over 50 countries!” – The West Wing, “The Wake Up Call”

    And, Sarah, I am not your friend, but I would love to be, especially when I convince you that the Westminster Parliamentary System is the superior form of government. Check 2017 Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. America didn’t make it to the top 10.

  10. There is a huge mistake in vocabulary in this post. You state that a presidential system, like the United States, has checks and balances between the three branches, and that each is responsible to the people. You also state how this system must report to the people and do their will, and that none of these are present in the United Kingdom’s parliamentary system. While your arguments may work for the countries named, it is not due to their form of government, it is due to their territorial-administrative structures.

    Essentially, the U.S. is a federal democracy, meaning it has a federal and a state government. This is where the people are represented, and provides the checks on the president. The form of government you keep claiming on the U.K. is actually a form of t-a structure, specifically a unitary one. This is where the power rests fully in the government, with no representative of the people based on different parts of the states. Think of it as the U.S. without any states, no house of representatives, and the senate is filled based on majority vote. You still have the representatives, but they will not represent your specific interests, only the countries as a whole.

    The funny thing is, the U.K. is actually a federal system of government, and is considered to be more for the people than the U.S. If the leader of the state, i.e. the President of Prime Minister, is not doing what is best for the state, the parliament will vote him out of office early. Can’t do that in the U.S. If the leader runs on one position that he knows will earn him the majority vote, but then changes his mind once he is in office, he can be voted out. We see many presidents run on false premises, like “building the wall”, fixing Israel, or reducing military involvement. These happen only rarely, and are used to sometimes get votes from the other side. This “article” is so misinformed, and it is sad to see it so high in the search result history.

    I’m Sarah’s friend BTW

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