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What Are The Relative Merits And Drawbacks Of Parliamentary And Presidential Systems? Why Have Most East European Countries Adopted Parliamentary Systems?

2723 words - 11 pages

There has been much argument amongst political academics concerning the virtues and failures of both parliamentary and presidential systems. While all systems of governance vary from country to country, parliamentary systems can broadly be defined as where the executive, in the form of a prime minister and his cabinet are drawn from the elected legislature (parliament). In presidential systems however the executive (president) is elected separately from the legislature and members of the executive cabinet are appointed from outside any of the elected legislatures. Presidents are also forced to serve a fixed term in office, unlike a legislative cabinet, which has an ambiguous duration.While these are the two basic models of governance, this essay will also examine hybrid models, often referred to as 'semi-presidential systems', or 'presidential-parliamentary systems' . These forms of governance use both an elected president and a prime minister and cabinet drawn from the elected legislature. There are many forms of semi-presidential system, with varying political weight given to the president and prime minister. It will be important to examine these alternative systems of governance as they are found as frequently amongst the post-communist East European countries as parliamentary systems . As such any attempt to analyse East European countries without addressing hybrid systems would lead to misleading conclusions.Juan Linz, an outspoken critic of presidential systems argues that as the executive is elected separately of the legislature, conflict and potential deadlock is an inherent flaw in presidential systems. He argues that as both the executive and legislature are democratically elected, they both believe they have a mandate for passing legislation. While this will not pose a problem if the executive and the legislature have the same ambition, if they disagree there is no democratic principle upon which the deadlock can be solved. Linz suggests that in extreme cases this has led the armed forces to act as a mediator.The fixed term of office ascribed to a president is often held up as an example of the stability afforded by presidential government. In parliamentary systems it is possible to have a change of prime minister throughout the life of a government, which can cause executive instability. Linz suggests that it is in fact the rigidity of presidential terms of office that creates the instability. The suggestion is that in cases of special events, presidential systems are unable to cope. If the incumbent president dies for example, his vice-president takes over, but the vice-president does not necessarily have the support of the electorate. There was so little public faith in vice president Dan Quayle in 1992 for example that there was economic upset on Wall Street Stock Exchange when George Bush Sr. collapsed at a Japanese summit, creating worries that his vice president would take charge.This poses another area of presidentialism that...

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