A presidential system is a form of government, in which the head of government or chief executive is elected directly by the people. This head of government or chief executive is the president. In this system, there are three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. All three branches are constitutionally independent of each other.
The presidential system has its origins in the United States Constitution of 1787, which created the office of the president as the head of state. Its inventors created it as an alternative to the parliamentary form of government. A directly elected president was its most significant difference; however, the president does not hold supreme power as a prime minister or parliament does. Many hold power in the presidential system so that no person or body can have supreme power.
A presidential system has some key characteristics that differentiate it from a parliamentary system. For example, in a presidential system, the president is popularly elected and holds office for a fixed term. The legislature may only remove the president by impeachment. Conversely, in the parliamentary system, the executive is named by the legislature, which also can remove the executive from his or her position without an impeachment process. Additionally, the executive of a presidential system encompasses the dual roles of head of state and head of government. In a parliamentary system, the head of state and the head of government are two separate roles of two different people.
Variations in Presidential Systems
Wide variations exist within presidential forms of government around the world. Presidential systems can be found in different forms in both democratic and nondemocratic nations.
In non-democratic countries, political parties account for the adaptation of a presidential system. The party becomes a façade for a leader, his or her staff, and the bureaucracy. These countries, which include post-WWII communist regimes and those found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, are presidential in form because they have a single leader. Unlike in presidential systems, however, the president in nondemocratic presidential nations has acquired legitimacy through the party instead of through a popular election.
France has a presidential system with elements of a parliamentary system. The 1958 French constitution established both a president and a prime minister. The president is elected by the people and the president appoints the prime minister. The president has many powers, such as serving as the commander in chief of the military and appointing government officials, but has no political responsibility. Blame typically falls on the prime minister is policies go wrong. France is considered to be a semi-presidential system.
Countries with Presidents
The following countries have presidential systems:
- Central African Republic
- Costa Rica
- Côte d’Ivoire
- Dominican Republic
- El Salvador
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sierra Leone
- South Korea
- South Sudan
- United States
The following countries have semi-presidential systems:
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Congo, the Democratic Republic of the
- Congo, Republic of the
- East Timor
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sri Lanka