What Is a Presidential Republic?

Theodore Roosevelt speaking at the Capitol

All countries have some sort of government or ruler that decides how the people of that country should behave and how laws should be carried out. Sometimes it is a democratic system, and sometimes there is a dictator.

One such system of government is a Presidential Republic.

So, what exactly is a Presidential Republic?

It is a political system where there is a government with a government leader. There is also the separation of powers and usually a president.

The Presidential System

A presidential system can be defined as a democratic and republican form of government in which the executive and legislative branches are separated. President is the title given to the person who serves as the head of state and the executive branch of the government.

A presidential system differs from a parliamentary system, in which the government head is chosen by an elected legislature (a parliament).

The executive branch of government in presidential nations is elected directly by the people, and as a result, the legislature has little or no power to remove it. However, in rare instances, such removal may be achieved by impeachment.

Advantages of a Presidential Republic

Decision-making Speed and Decisiveness

The presidential form of governance encourages decisive acts, such as Harry Truman when he decided to deploy nuclear bombs against two Japanese targets to put World War II to a close.

Image of an atomic bomb
Harry Truman took a decisive step towards ending WWII when authorizing atomic bombs to be dropped on two Japanese cities.

Presidential systems, it is claimed, can react to new circumstances more quickly than parliamentary systems. A prime minister must maintain the legislature’s backing when taking action, but a president is generally less limited.

The president is free to contact his ministers or individuals. Alternatively, he may decline to seek their advice while making decisions. The ministers or any other officials are merely counsel to the president, and the president is not obligated to follow the advice of ministers.

This rapidity in decision-making improves the government’s reaction to challenges, particularly when any delay in action might be hazardous.

A Single National Constituency

The president is elected by popular vote, making the whole nation a single constituency for him. The party has no oppressive power over him beyond providing him advice at party gatherings.

Candidates are chosen directly by public vote in the majority of presidential elections. However, the President and Vice President of the US are not directly selected by voters. Instead, they are selected by “electors” via a procedure known as the Electoral College.

The president bears exclusive responsibility for his acts and inaction, not his political party or appointments. This is a constant pressure on him to perform since he cannot transfer responsibility to anybody else.

Checks and Balances and Power Separation

The separation of powers strengthens each arm of government’s ability to perform its functions effectively. Still, checks and balances ensure that a president who is authoritarian by nature can be subject to constitutional checks. The integration of the two devices will undoubtedly increase the government’s overall performance and capabilities for providing excellent service delivery.

Fixed Office Tenure

The fixed-term in office that a president enjoys with the presidential system contributes to the administration’s stability and continued policies.

Photo of Westminster
Parliamentary systems tend to experience intense periods of instability.

Furthermore, instead of the instability that defines a parliamentary style of government, a stable government enables medium to long-term thinking to be accomplished through consensus.

In a parliamentary system, The prime minister may call a new general election at any moment if a vote of no confidence in the ruling party is passed against it. According to the framework of the United States, the fixed tenure is four years.

Insulation From Party Politics

The president is frequently portrayed as being above the fray of party politics. As a result, in contrast to a prime minister in a parliamentary system who is entangled in party politics, he has the opportunity to consider each topic on its own merits rather than primarily, and often unwisely, according to party demands.

This has frequently been the case in the US when the major political parties can rise above their usual party divisions and take a bipartisan approach to national concerns, as is customary in the country.

Numerous former presidents and members of Congress, such as those who served during the Vietnam War, later the war in the Persian Gulf, and the September 11th terrorist attack, were viewed objectively rather than through the prism of their political party connections.

Disadvantages of a Presidential Republic

Dictatorship Prone

The presidential system has been inclined towards dictatorship and abuse of power, which endangers democracy. This is due to the enormous power centered in the White House. It places excessive emphasis on personality and capacity, and when that individual is questioned, the office and even the system are called into question.

President Nixon meeting Chairman Mao
The centralized nature of the presidential system means abuse of power can have far-reaching consequences.

For example, it took a long time for the United States presidency to recover from the shock of the Watergate Scandal, which resulted from one momentary, but a serious act of indiscretion by President Nixon.

The inclination of the president to be a tyrant can also be attributed to the lengthy process that must be followed before a sitting president is successfully impeached. 

Friction Between Government Bodies

The separation of powers can result in delays in government programs, particularly when the executive and legislative relations are poorly managed. This problem is exacerbated in less mature democracies in the developing world when different political parties control the executive and legislature.

A watertight separation of powers frequently impedes the smooth operation of government, particularly when an attempt by one organ to moderate the activities of the other via the mechanism of checks and balances is resisted.

Lack of flexibility in Tenure of Office

A common criticism leveled against the presidential system is the rigidity and inflexibility in the face of change. For example, during the Second World War in the US, all the elections scheduled within the calendar went ahead because the system did not allow for any flexibility in delay.

As a result, no elections were postponed. The high ratings of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who won elections twice throughout World War II, were the only thing that ensured the order of the system and the continuance of the United States’ war program.

However, during the same years, Britain’s government, which was held together by a war coalition, could extend the length of its term easily. Such flexibility is unheard of in the American presidential system, and it could only be imagined with the passage of a constitutional amendment before implementation.

Extremely Expensive to Run

Another issue of the presidential system is that it is incredibly costly to operate. The parliamentary style of government is thought to be superior in cost-effectiveness because elected members of parliament appoint the prime minister and the ministers who comprise the nation’s cabinet.

This arrangement is more cost-effective than the presidential system, which requires elected members of the legislature to quit before being appointed as ministers. The system also made large public funds available to the president, such as the security vote and the contingency fund, which are not subject to legislative oversight or public audit.

This presidential spending freedom opens the door to a lack of financial discipline or possibly corruption in all its forms.

Absence of Party Discipline

The traditional parliamentary style of government, where party discipline is extremely strong, and the cabinet and the parliament are merged into one entity that is far more integrated. This is not the case with the presidential model. Because of the fluidity of the political parties under the presidential system structure, the relationship between the executive and the legislative may be more prone to conflicts and less easy to control, which may make it more difficult to conduct government business.

The Process of Lobbying Can Promote Corruption

Lobbying, when done correctly, has become an accepted method for pressuring organizations to influence public policy. It is nonetheless susceptible to abuse or misuse by a chief executive who is determined to have his way no matter the cost.

Summary

According to the presidential republic system, legislative, executive, and judiciary authorities are separated, and powers are shared between these three pillars for the state to function properly.

The United States is the premier example of the presidential system. It serves as a model for several other democracies, including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and the Philippines, which have adopted the presidential form of government. These democracies have delegated significant authority to their president, an independent chief executive.

Internal and exterior issues and foreign policy are all under the president’s purview in this type of governance. Unlike the legislature, the president is directly held to account by the people he serves.

On the other hand, there is no direct option for voters to remove their president from office. Similar to what has happened in the United States in recent years, an unpopular president, executive officials, and court members might be removed from office through the legal processes of impeachment and conviction.

According to many political thinkers, the merit of the presidential republic administration is found in its stability.

The commitment to the sharing of power among the legislative, executive, and judiciary, their checks and balances, their deliberation, and compromises of different laws in the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches ultimately contribute to achieving the goals of limited government and individual rights. This is particularly applicable to the rights of minorities in the country and is the key to maintaining the balance.

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