The presidential system of government is one of the most popular systems of government in the world today. It is because it its peculiar features. On the other hand, some States do not like it due to its disadvantages. In other words, instead of adopting the presidential form of government they prefer other types.
Nigeriais one of the countries that operates the presidential type of government. But is it really working here in Nigeria?
In this article, we shall examine the meaning of the presidential form of government, its features, advantages and disadvantages.
What is the meaning of the presidential system of government
The presidential system of government is a type of government where Executive powers are in the hands of one man called the President. The President is both the head of State and also the head of government. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. In other words, the forces are under him and they obey his laws. For these reasons, the president is referred to as Executive President.
Unlike the parliamentary system of government where these powers above are shared between two heads. One serves as the head of State while the other serves as the head of government.
Nigeria tried presidential government under Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983. The 1979 marked the second republic of Nigeria.
Under the presidential system, powers are concentrated on the President. However, its under check by the Constitution and other arms of government. The fact that he is both the head of State and the head of government does not make him autocratic or a dictator. He still gains his powers from the Constitution and he can still be impeached if he mismanages his powers.
The major thing a presidential government tends to express is that both executive and ceremonial powers are in the hands of the President.
Characteristics of the presidential system
From the explanation above, it is easier to note the characteristics of this type of government.
1. The president is both the head of State and the head of government.
2. He performs both the executive and ceremonial functions.
3. He is not a member of the Legislature.
4. The President is the head of the executive arm of government.
5. He has the power to make appointments and also to dismiss it. He appoints other members of the Executive known as the ministers. The president also makes other appointments such as appointment of foreign ambassadors and head of government corporations.
6. Powers are shared between arms of government (Separation of power).
7. The principle of checks and balances applies in a presidential type of government.
8. The president and his ministers are not members of the Legislature.
9. There is principle of individual responsibility. The principle of individual responsibility means that any minister who is guilty of a wrong act has to resign.
10. The President can be impeached by the Legislative arm if found guilty of gross misconduct.
11. He has veto power. He has power to override some decisions made by other arms government. With his veto power, he can grant amnesty.
From the features listed above, most of the features of presidential system seem to be the opposite of the parliamentary type of government. That means we need to examine the difference between the presidential and parliamentary system of government. (Will soon be posted here).
Advantages of presidential system of government
1. Separation of Powers
2. Individual responsibility
3. Free choice of Ministers
4. Avoidance of clash of Heads
Let’s examine each of these advantages one after the other.
Separation of Powers
The presidential government observes the principle of power sharing between the arms of government. The arms of government include the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary.
The Legislature makes the law, the Executive implements the law while the Judiciary interprets it. These are the major functions of these arms.
Each of these arms has its one peculiar functions. No arm of government interferes in the affairs of other arms of government. The only thing it does is to watch against mismanagement of powers by other arms of government. This is where the principle of checks and balances comes in.
The principle of individual responsibility is of the opinion that each minister and even the president is accountable for any wrong in his office. In other words, any minister who is guilty of wrong act has to resign.
Same thing applies to the president. The Legislative arm impeaches the president if found guilty of gross misconduct.
Free choice of ministers
The president has the Constitutional power to choose his ministers from any part of the country. These ministers form members of the executive.
If the president appoints a person who is already in the legislative house as minister, such person would have to resign before becoming a minister.
However, the appointment of ministers by the President is subject to approval by the Senate.
Avoidance of clash of Heads
Clashes may exist in a State where there are two or more heads. Where the head of State is different from the head of government, the two operating as heads in the same government at the same time, conflict is bound to occur. So, to avoid such, it is better to vest both powers in one man, the President.
The best practice is to vest such powers in his hands and regulate it using the Constitution.
Disadvantages of the presidential system
1. No clear separation of Powers.
Let’s briefly examine each of these disadvantages one after the other.
No clear separation of Powers
Separation of power is a principle in theory. In practice it can be easily abused.
The Executive has the main function of implementing the law. But we see that it also has power to grant amnesty. With this power, he can release people in prison who were sentenced by the Judiciary. Looking at it, they have jumped from their functions to the function of the Judiciary. This kind of function is called a Quasi-Judicial function.
Furthermore, the Legislative House investigates the president for any allegation of gross misconduct. The Legislature also takes the final decision and removes the president from office. One shocking thing about the removal process is that no court is competent to entertain it. In other words, the president cannot sue.
Decisions which the Court should have taken are being taken by the Legislative arm. That means there’s no clear separation of Powers.
In another development, while the Legislature makes the law, the judgements given by the Judiciary also forms part of the law. In other words, if a judge of a superior Court passes judgement, it is binding and becomes a yardstick for making subsequent decisions.
Lobbying is one of the common features of a presidential type of government. Very often, corrupt methods are used to influence the decisions of the members of legislature especially in developing countries like Nigeria. Lobbying arises as a result of the separation of Executive from the Legislature.
When a President or a member of the House initiates a bill, he Hass to lobby the members of the House to ensure that such bill will be passed. Without such lobbying, the bill may never be passed and that can cripple the intention and initiative of the executive.
Good examples of countries that practice presidential type of government are Nigeria and USA. Nigerian president has the same powers as mentioned here. So is the American president.
Their powers are derived from the Constitution. The Constitution lists the powers of the president and he cannot act beyond that. If he does, he will be punished in line with the law.
Moreso, in his appointments and dismissal of appointees, he also acts according to the provisions of the Constitution.
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