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.