Difference Between Parliamentary And Presidential Form Of Government


The literal meaning of the phraseology democracy is ‘rule by the people, where considerable significance has been granted to the voices of people. Abraham Lincoln construed its exact sense by describing it as the government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Primarily, the term is derived from the Greek word dēmokratia, which connotes People’s (demos) Rule (Kratos), coined to denote the political system in Greek city-states. The notion of democracy can be ascertained as a government in which the people exercise their conferred supreme power either directly or indirectly through elected periodical representatives. Thus, it is the principle of sovereignty of people or a political entity that has a democratic government.

The democratic government is of two types, viz. direct democracy and indirect democracy. On which the former is called pure democracy, since it prescribes the direct participation of people in determining the government policies, bills and enactments rather than by the representatives elected by the people. Concerning the latter, it allows the people elected individual to act as an intermediary.

Subsequently, the representative democracy has subdivided into two systems of government, namely parliamentary and presidential forms. In a parliamentary system, the majority party forms the government and nominates one among them as Prime Minister, whereas, in the presidential form of government, the President is the chief executive, who would be elected directly by the people.

A greater emphasis has been placed on the separation of powers doctrine in scrutinizing the difference between the aforementioned systems of government. It implies the degree of power, at what range it has been divided among the governmental branches. In finer terms, does or does not a branch have power over another, if so, then to what extent?

In a presidential form of government, legislature, judiciary, and executive functions separately, and no branch can dismiss or discharge another/ carry out complete authority since each being independent of another. Whereas, in the parliamentary form of government, those three government agencies will exist, but there will a great deal of interconnection between the branches responsible for the promulgation of the law, execution of the law, and interpretation of the law.

In order to comprehend the differences between the two forms of democratic government in detail, it is a prerequisite to perceive the in-depth knowledge of its definition, features, merits, and demerits.

Presidential form of Government: An Overview


If a country is said to follow the presidential form of government, it will be headed by only one person i.e. the President. That is the reason behind being called as congressional system. Reiteratively, the president is the chief executive qua directly elected by the country’s citizens, hence, answerable to the people. President appoints/ chooses his cabinet of ministers to assist him in government governance. As the presidential political system is lead by the doctrine of separation of power, neither the President nor his secretaries are accountable to the parliament. It is pertinent to note that the members of the executive can never simultaneously take part in the legislature, as a matter of fact; legislation and executive are independent of one another.

The country that is recognized for the active form of presidentialism is the United States, where the President is the head of both the state and the government. Besides, the prevalence of this form of government can be found in Srilanka, Brazil, Russia, and Indonesia so on.


1. One president head, being elected by the people, he can initiate the measure of his own without concerning the counting heads of the legislature for approval.

2. President is the chief executive who performs the government’s head role.

3. President is empowered to appoint any person to head any governmental department irrespective of political difference at the time of unexceptional situations.

4. As being a member of one governmental branch, the same person cannot become a member of another branch. (Separation of Power)

5. Though three governmental branches independent, all three will check and restrain the other from transgressing their powers. (Checks and Balances)

6. It is impossible to remove the President of a presidential system from power unless the misconduct is alleged to be committed. If so, he could be removed by impeachment.


1. People elect President for a fixed period of four years tenure. Hence, it brings stability and efficacy in government administration since there is no need to secure majority support in legislation. Therefore, if once the President obtains power after the election, he will remain in the position throughout the tenure.

2. Branches of government work independently, consequently, the country’s wellbeing can be ensured by checking the despotism of any governmental branch.

3. It is preferable at the time of emergence and crisis since being the head of both the government and the state, the President can take important decisions more adequately and promptly.

4. In presidential form of government, the President is the person who can choose his ministry/cabinet; he could choose the expert to head the portfolios regardless of the political affinity.

5. In General, presidentialism has never entertained political homogeneities.


1. Presidentialism may lead to executive despotism, as enormous power has conferred on the President for a fixed tenure. There are possibilities that he may act like a despot.

2. The dilemma, conflict, or deadlock may exist between the executive and the legislature.

3. Lack of harmony between the executive and legislature may result in the enactment of poor laws or covering up the incompetency by blaming one another.

4. Usually, the Presidential form of government follows a rigid constitution, and thus, it has lambasted as inflexible to cope-up with the dynamic societal changes.

Parliamentary form of Government: An overview


In this form of government, the leader of a party with the greatest parliament representation becomes the Prime Minister of the country. That is why; it is called a cabinet form of government, wherein the executive branch of government derives its power from the parliament i.e. the legislature. The parliament as being consists of members directly elected by the people, it is answerable to the citizens of the country. Unlike presidentialism, the parliamentary system is guided by the fusion of powers between the executive and the legislature. Here, the prime minister qua chief executive is the Member of Parliament and chooses his cabinet minister (members of the parliament, from the ruling party). Thus, the executive branch of a parliamentary government divides between the President (head of the state) and prime minister (head of the government), wherein the former is the nominal executive and the latter will be the real executive. The party, which lost in the federal election, will sever in opposition to the majority.

In this system, the prime minister can be removed from his office through a proposal of no confidence, either initiated by the opposite party (parliamentary voting) or by his own party members (intraparty voting).


1. There is no solid separation of power between the executive and the legislature since the executive constitutes an integral part of the legislature.

2. In this form of the government, one person will be the head of the state i.e. the President vested with ceremonial power, and the government will be headed by another i.e. the Prime Minister is given the real power.

3. The executive is accountable to the legislature. And, will ever happen to lose its power, when legislature loses its confidence in executive.

4. In the parliamentary system of government, the prime minister is the person, who holds the power to choose the cabinet ministers. Besides, being members of the parliament is the prerequisite condition to hold the position of the minister.

5. Reiteratively, the tenure of the executive is not fixed and removable by the legislature.

6. There can be bicameral or unicameral systems. In a bicameral system, the lower house consists of directly elected members, and the upper house contains indirectly elected members.


1. Since the executive and legislature are intertwined, the harmonious relationship between those two branches of government will contribute to the lesser scope of dispute and conflict in the sphere of work.

2. The parliamentary system reinforces the notion of responsible government as the council of ministers are accountable to parliaments for every single act includes both the commission or omission deeds.

3. This system has not vested an absolute executive power on a single person; hence it will obviate the tendency of despotism.

4. Under the parliamentary system, it is possible to provide representation to all the culturally diverse communities of the country. And thereby, such wider representation will aid the government to enact enhanced policies and laws.

5. Reiteratively, dispersal of authority in parliamentarism prevents the emergence of autocracy by enabling parliament to control the minister through a no-confidence motion, discussions, and adjournment motion, and question hours.


1. In a parliamentary system, there is no guarantee that the elected government will remain in power throughout the tenure. Thereupon it does not provide a stable government.

2. As obscurities are there in the survival/ tenure of the government, the continuity of enacted governmental policies is hardly conducive for long-term implications.

3. Since the ruling party enjoys the majority in the parliament, there is a possibility for another kind of despotism.

4. There prevails the party affinity and reduces the availability of experts to head the departments.

Key Difference Between Parliamentary And Presidential Form Of Government

Presidential from Parliamentary form
Single executive Dual executive
The executive is not accountable to the legislature and free from legislation’s influence on the administration and policymaking The executive is responsible to the legislature
President is the head of the state and government as well. The Prime Minister is the de facto head of the state, whereas the President is the de jure head of the country.
Separation of powers (Executive and legislature are two distinct governmental organs) Fusion of powers (there will be a close relationship between the legislature and the executive)
Stable government is the resultant of Fixed tenure (powers of the President are absolute and can never be dissolved before the expiry of the term) Unstable government is the resultant of Non-fixed tenure (dissolution of Prime Minister’s power)
Executive despotism Parliamentary (legislature) despotism
President is the real executive and powerful official Parliament is the supreme power
The secretaries are the person, who bears no relation with the legislature. And only possess the executive membership. Ministers are members of both the executive and the legislature.  And driven by the principle of collective responsibility.


The aforementioned are the underlying differences between the presidential and parliamentary forms of government. Since every country worldwide has its own constitution, which prescribes suitable principles and guidelines to furnish the harmony between different ethnic groups of the land.  Basically, it covers the political aspects of the country according to which the governmental institutions will perform. As far as India is concerned, it follows the parliamentary form of government so as to provide equal opportunity to people who belong to different communities by giving representation to all religious, sectional, and interests of the people to promote national spirit.


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Snegapriya V S

A third-year student of law at Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT School of Law), budding first-generation lawyer cum legal researcher with multiple publications in various web journals and portals on different subject matters of law in issue. Being a zealous-natured person with thoughts enrooted in epistemophilia has boosted my passion for research writings by interpreting diversified legal facets. As a perceptive observer and reader, I pay greater attention to the overlooked legal fields where divergent challenges might arise, that include cyber law, environmental law, consumer law, and several constitutional provisions. Besides, I prioritize construing legal problems with social psychology. My dream and vision are to catch myself as a skilled legal adroit.