Essay on the Drawbacks of Presidential System of Government

By establishing the Presidential system, Finer says, the Fathers of the American Constitution “separated the executive sources of knowledge from the legislative centre of their application; severed their connection between those who ask for supplies and those who have the power to grant them; introduced the continuous possibility of contest between two legislative branches; created in each the necessity for separate leadership in their separate business; and made this leadership independent of the existence and functions of the executive.”

When powers are divided between the executive and legislative departments without any means of proper coordination, there is always inordinate delay to arrive at an agreement even on pressing matters which demand expeditious disposal.

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One branch of government may be operating on one policy whereas the other may be following quite a different one, particularly when the executive belongs to one party and the legislative majority to another. This condition may produce a stalemate which, in time of crisis, as during 1931-32, can be disastrous.

Lack of direct initiative in legislation on the part of the executive is really a very serious defect in the Presidential system. Legislation is the main function of the executive and here the legislature does not act under its instructions.

There can, accordingly, be no cohesiveness and the party ties, which bind the executive and the legislature, are too flimsy for an integrated policy.

The result is that the legislative procedure is different essentially from the one in a country having the parliamentary system; financial procedure is worlds apart; there is no coordination of political energy or responsibility; but each branch has its own derivation of authority and its morsel of responsibility.

And in order to remove the possibilities of concentration of authority at one single end, a system of checks and balances may have to be introduced as in the American Constitution. The system of checks and balances is not only the negation of the theory of Separation of Powers, but it is also highly injurious to administrative efficiency.

Somewhat ironically, Prof. Beard remarks, that the checks and balances in the United States “designed to promote over-all equilibrium, often operate rather to aggravate than to ameliorate the ill- effects of separation, as for example, in the case of the Presidential veto and senatorial assent to treaties.”

If the system of checks and balances has prevented the likelihood of authoritarian government, it has also led at times to the weakening of effective government.

Moreover, the Presidential system is characterised to be “autocratic, irresponsible and dangerous.” Once the President has been elected the nation must continue with him, whether they like and approve of his policy or not. He may become autocratic and even | degenerate into a dictator, subject to the provisions of the Constitution.

The legislature has no constitutional power to withdraw the mandate which the electorate gave him at the time of election. This has been well explained by Bagehot. He says, “You have bespoken your government in advance and whether it suits you or not, whether it works well or ill, whether it is what you want or not by law you must keep it.”

The Presidential system is also criticised for its rigidity, for the constitutional provisions must always be adhered to both in times of peace and war. During World War II Presidential elections in America were held twice, whereas general elections were postponed in the United Kingdom by an Act of Parliament.

In America there could not be any postponement without amending the Constitution which is a difficult and lengthy process. The rigidity of the Constitution does not take cognisance of the needs of the hour. It must take its own course, though it may, at times, prove harmful to the interests of the nation.

Finally, the Presidential system has frequently been criticised for being unequal to the task of conducting a vigorous foreign policy. It is asserted that the President’s dependence on the cooperation of a frequently recalcitrant Congress makes United States’ foreign policy a slow moving and uncertain affair. No one, including friends and foes, can guess about the degree to which executive actions or commitments will be sustained or repudiated by Congress.

Absence of dissolution in the Presidential system is responsible for less harmony and more tension than in the parliamentary system. The executive has no means to bring to book a refractory legislature.

Bryce maintains that “the parliamentary system has many advantages for countries of moderate size, the Presidential, constructed for safety rather than for promptitude in action, and not staking large issues on sudden decisions, is to be preferred for states of vast area and population such as are the United States and Germany.”

In the United States of America the Presidential system has worked vigorously well. Wherever basic unity was required in an exceptional crisis, statesmanship and patriotism has always provided it.

By effective appeals to the voters through the spoken words, press, radio, and lately television, the Presidents have succeeded in dramatizing their programmes and compelling consideration of their views.

But a system of government, which cannot be generally and easily applied to ordinary conditions, fails to command universal respect and approbation. In countries influenced by the model of the United States, the Presidential system has not been altogether successful.

Latin American systems have tended to become dictatorships, and only in a few countries such as Paraguay, Costa Rica, Chile, Brazil and Peru have attempts been made to limit executive power.

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