Countries with Presidents 2023

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Governmental System





Modified Presidential

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With the exception of monarchies and military regimes, the majority of the world's governments fall into one of three categories: presidential, semi-presidential, or parliamentary systems. In a presidential system of government, a head of state (usually given the title of president) is the head of an executive branch and serves as a check on the power of the legislative branch (such as congress or parliament). The president is frequently also the head of government (the legislative branch) and is always elected by the people, usually via an intermediary such as the electoral college.

That said, the title "president" is not necessarily always used in conjunction with a presidential or semi-presidential system of government. Countries may utilize a presidential or semi-presidential system but call their head of state by another title. Many parliamentary countries call their head of state a president, though the role functions very differently than in a presidential or semi-presidential system. Also, having a president does not in any way indicate that a country's government is fairly elected or incorrupt. Dictators and leaders of one-party states also use the title, such as Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega and Russia's President Vladimir Putin.

Top 10 Biggest Countries with Presidents (by population)*:

Rank Country 2022 population Notes
1 China 1,448,471,400 Socialist government is led by general secretary, who also holds office of president.
2 India 1,406,631,776 President has limited power.
3 United States 334,805,269 President has significant power.
4 Indonesia 279,134,505 President has significant power.
5 Pakistan 229,488,994 President has limited power.
6 Nigeria 216,746,934 President has significant power.
7 Brazil 215,353,593 President has significant power.
8 Bangladesh 167,885,689 President has limited power.
9 Russia 145,805,947 President also functions as supreme ruler of Russia.
10 Mexico 131,562,772 President has significant power.

* For a full list of every country with a president, see the table further down this page.

Presidential systems vs parliamentary systems

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 and was envisioned as an alternative to parliamentary and monarchal governments. Presidential systems are defined by a strong and distinct separation between the executive and legislative branches. Even in governments in which the president is both the head of state (the executive branch) and the head of government (the legislative branch)—which is the usual arrangement—the two branches are separated and equally empowered. This distributes and balances power fairly evenly, decreasing the likelihood that a single person or governmental body could obtain excessive power.

A parliamentary system distributes power differently. In a parliamentary system, the executive branch and its leader, the head of state—who is traditionally given the title of president—are largely ceremonial and wield minimal actual power. Instead, the power lies almost exclusively in the legislative branch and its leader, the head of government, who is typically given the title of prime minister.

Additional important differences between a presidential and parliamentary system are the methods used to select a new head of government, as well as those heads' relation to the legislature. In a presidential system, the president is elected by the people (although usually indirectly), holds office for a fixed term, and cannot be removed by the legislature except in certain extreme circumstances.

Conversely, in the parliamentary system, the prime minister is typically chosen by the legislature and essentially works for that same legislature, which can remove the prime minister relatively easily if so desired. Similarly, rather than selecting a president through multiple rounds of public voting, the legislature typically either selects the president outright or selects the candidates for president, whom the people then choose between.

Presidential systems vs semi-presidential systems

Finally, semi-presidential systems occupy the middle ground between presidential and parliamentary systems. In semi-presidential systems, an elected president serves as head of state and a prime minister serves as the head of the government, but the president (and by extension the executive branch) retains a high level of power. Semi-presidential systems are generally divided into two main types, labeled premier-presidential or president-parliamentary, depending upon whether the prime minister and cabinet are accountable to the legislative branch alone or to both the legislative and executive branches.

For example, France has a semi-presidential system that blends elements of both a parliamentary and a presidential system. The 1958 French constitution established a premiere-presidential system with both a president and a prime minister. The president is elected by the people and then appoints the prime minister and an advisory cabinet, but the French parliament must approve them and the president cannot dismiss them (although parliament can). The president has many powers, such as serving as the commander in chief of the military and appointing government officials, but has little political responsibility. Blame typically falls on the prime minister if policies go wrong.

Presidential and semi-presidential systems are more common in younger, more recently established governments. For example, nearly every country in the Americas uses the presidential system, as do many countries in Africa. However, the older governments of Europe and Asia rarely utilize presidential systems. Rather, countries in those regions tend to utilize parliamentary systems or monarchies.

Presidential systems vs semi-presidential systems vs parliamentary systems

Type of Government Notes
Presidential President is head of state. Executive branch is powerful.
President is usually also head of government (legislative branch).
May have prime minister (rare), but president is still head of both state and govt.
Lead government role (president) is elected directly or indirectly by public.
Semi-presidential President is head of state. Executive branch is powerful.
Prime minister is head of government.
President often appoints PM, but only legislature can approve or remove them.
Lead government role (president) is elected directly or indirectly by public.
Parliamentary Executive branch is largely powerless. Head of state role is largely ceremonial.
Prime minister is head of government. Legislative branch holds most power.
PM may also be head of state and may also be called president (somewhat confusingly).
Lead government role (PM) is chosen by legislature, not by public.

Countries with Presidents 2023

Regime type refers to a country's rating in the Economist Intelligence's Democracy Index 2021, which classifies countries according to the degree of democracy actually present in the country.

Countries with Presidents 2023