Presidential System | Definition & Characteristics

Presidential system of government is where power and authority is concentrated in one executive president. The United States Constitution is a model of this type of political arrangement. Nigeria of the second Republic is another example.

In presidential system of government, the executive powers are vested on the hand of one person called the President. He is not a member of the parliament and he is not accountable to the parliament. In presidential system of government, the president is elected into the office by the electorates. Although he may be a leader of political party, but once he is elected into the office as president, he is above the party.

This system of government is characterized by the election of an executive president to manage the affairs of the state. The president is the head of government, the Commander in Chief of Armed Forces and the head of state. The president ensures that government policies are executed. He is usually elected in a general election as in the case in Nigeria and through Electoral College in United States. The presidential system was developed in the United States of America after the American War of Independence. Some authorities criticize this system of government and state that it is another form of monarchy or in fact a much more powerful constitutional monarch.

In Nigeria, even though the election of the president is through a general election, parties regulate the nomination of candidates that contest the presidential election. The president is elected for fixed term of four years and can serve two tenures in office if elected the second time. The president appoints ministers from within and outside the ruling party; the ministers are responsible to the president. The president is not accountable to National Assembly but the masses.The president can recommend a bill through the ministers but he can also introduce one in the National Assembly.

He signs bills duly passed into law by the National Assembly. The presidential system of government is said to be expensive. Ministers and government parastatals are duplicated in Federal or State government. Moreover, the presidential system encourages the principle of winner takes it all. The executive can threaten, control or manipulate the arms of government and the machinery of government against the opposition in order to achieve their interests.

Characteristics of a Presidential System of Government

  • The head of state is also, the head of government. The president, therefore, combines the functions of ceremonial head with those of real executive, authority is centralized in presidential system of government.
  • The president is elected separately, from that of members of the legislature by direct popular election.
  • In presidential system, the president tenure in office is fixed for duration of time.
  • In presidential system of government, members of the cabinet are appointed by the president, subject to legislative approval but are responsible to him only. He can also dismiss them when he wishes.
  • The president can only be removed from office by impeachment by the legislature.
  • There is separation of powers in presidential system of government, the legislature makes the law the judiciary interprets the law while executive implement the law.
  • In presidential system of government, there are checks and balances; this enables one arm of government to check the abuse of power by the other arm of government to avoid tyranny and authoritarianism.
  • In presidential system the president appoints his minister and special advisers; these adviser and ministers are not accountable to the parliament.
  • The president does not make laws but can initiate bills which can be passed to the parliament for consideration into law.
  • In presidential system the adviser or ministers are different from the parliament.

Advantages of Presidential System

  • The president enjoys enormous constitutional powers that enables him to initiate and execute programmes without recourse to the national legislature.
  • Decisions are made with dispatch because it is easier for a single man to make decision than a number of men. It also encourages high degree of unity and singleness of purpose.
  • The presidential system involves separation of powers. The separation of power ensures that no arm of government enjoy excessive powers.
  • The president reserves the power to hire an fire political appointees. This places the appointee on regular system checks.
  • There is a fixed tenure for the president to rule and give chance to other and this prevents the emergence of life presidents. In America and Nigeria, the president cannot rule more than two terms of four years each term.
  • On the application of the principle of checks and balances in the presidential system makes government officials including the president cautious and meticulous in carrying out their function which make government very efficient and orderly.
  • The people are given the opportunity to elect their president through election.

Disadvantages of Presidential System

  • The over concentration of powers on the president alone can corrupt him and make him to be a dictator.
  • The presidential system as a result of non fusion of the executive and the legislature makes the system too expensive to operate.
  • Since the president has the power to dismiss any member of his cabinet, there is the likelihood that the president will use such power as an instrument of political victimization.

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