Why we need a semi-presidential form of government - IdmcrackfreedownloadInfo

Why we need a semi-presidential form of government

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  • Why we need a semi-presidential form of government

    By EDUARDO ARARAL, JR.

    October 26, 2017

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    Part 1
    THE ruling PDP Laban recently submitted a draft constitution to the House of Representatives. One of the proposals is to shift from the current presidential to a semi-presidential form of government. What is the basis of this proposal? How does it compare with a pure presidential and pure parliamentary system? Table 1 provides a comparison in terms of their main features, strengths, weaknesses/risks, examples and the main reasons why countries choose a particular system over another. I discuss these in detail in the sections that follow.

    All things considered, I would argue that in the short and medium term (15 to 20 years), a semi-presidential form of government is most appropriate for our shift to a federal system. I arrived at this conclusion considering the strengths, risks and weaknesses of each system, our own political culture and experience, the history of other countries and most important of all, considering the challenges of a transition to a federal system. In the long term, when we have stronger political parties and much broader middle class, we can shift to a full-fledged parliamentary system.

    The main advantage of a semi-presidential form of government is that it brings together the strengths of both the presidential and parliamentary systems – decisiveness, stability, efficiency, accountability and familiarity, and cancels out their risks and weaknesses.

    Presidential system
    A presidential system, such as what we have now, has three main features. First, the government (executive) is elected directly by voters. In a parliamentary system, government is selected by and is accountable to the parliament. Second, the president has a fixed term of office. Third, the president is removed from office via impeachment or recall.



    About 33 percent of the current 115 democratic governments worldwide are presidential systems, mostly found in the Americas, while 48 percent are parliamentary systems. Large and very diverse countries tend to have presidential or semi-presidential systems (US, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia). The constitution of most presidential or semi-presidential systems were usually written by strongmen (De Gaulle, Yeltsin, Nazarbayev, Suharto, Marcos, Erdogan) or were drawn up by military rulers (Latin America, Taiwan, South Korea). In all cases, the demand for a strong president has come about during periods of important transitions (birth of a new republic) or during times of crises (communist insurgencies in Latin America). In fact, majority of presidential systems are in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Chile, etc.).

    There are several advantages of a presidential compared to a parliamentary system – decisiveness, stability, checks and balances and familiarity to Filipinos. It is decisive because the president is directly elected by the people, the ultimate source of authority, and because the president has a fixed term of office that gives him latitude for decision-making. Likewise, it is stable because the president is elected with a fixed term of office and directly elected by the people. Providing for the removal of the president only through impeachment and recall—costly exercises—also lends stability to the office. Policy stability is also assured because of the president’s fixed term of office.

    Decisiveness is necessary to deal with national security, natural disasters, the war on drugs, powerful countries and global competition. A strong president is also necessary to deal with powerful vested interests—the oligarchy—in politics, business and media. Historically, there were 28 countries that shifted from a parliamentary system to a presidential system on grounds of national security and due to the gridlock, indecisiveness and initial instability associated with a parliamentary system. In France’s Fourth Republic (1946-1959), there were 20 governments in 10 years. Overall, the stability and decisiveness of presidential systems make it appealing compared to parliamentary systems.

    Disadvantages
    On the other hand, a presidential system has its disadvantages. First, once in power, it is difficult and costly to hold a president to account. We have tried multiple impeachments, coups d’etat and people power revolts to hold a president to account. There are certainly much better and less costly mechanisms of accountability than what we have gone through. For example, in a parliamentary system, the vote of confidence and question time are far more cost-effective mechanisms of accountability.

    Second, the Philippine president is one of the most powerful presidents in the world – with vast powers of executive orders, appointments, budget, veto powers and supervision of local governments. These powers were derived from the 1935 Constitution, which was a copycat of the US system. These vast powers generate strong incentives for oligarchies to compete with each other for the right to control and allocate these powers. What we have is a system of spoils and a rent-seeking political culture. We need a system of checks and balances to control the vast powers of the presidency and prevent their abuse.

    Third, an all-too-powerful president with little restraint can easily undermine our still fragile democratic institutions. It has taken us decades to build our system of checks and balances – the constitutional bodies, Congress, judiciary, police, military, the media, and the civil service. They remain fragile and can easily be destroyed by abusive politicians with long-term adverse effects. We need to build a system of checks and balances to prevent a president from destroying democratic institutions.

    Fourth, and similarly, a disproportionately powerful president can undermine the shift to federalism. Federalism will involve the transfer of powers of the national government and even some of the powers of the presidency to the regions. A sitting president has little incentive to devolve power. Our 25-year experience in decentralization has shown that we have been moving towards more centralization of powers. The experience of other countries also show that presidential systems tend to centralize powers.

    Fifth, a centralized decision-making structure dependent upon the President is no longer appropriate today in a world that has become very demanding on the president’s time and abilities. Just consider the many problems that the president has to deal with on a daily basis – terrorism, drugs, criminality, natural disasters, US-China relations, peace process, not to mention the economy and the many official functions the president has to attend to. Inevitably, this will slow down the decision-making process and wear down any president. There is clearly a need for collective leadership—a president, prime minister, cabinet and regional governors—so that the burdens of governance are shared.

    The author is vice dean and associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and the UP Law Center Project on Federalism.

    (To be continued tomorrow)

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    Advantages and disadvantages of Presidential and Parliamenta

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    Katie Lea

    on 12 September 2014

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    Transcript of Advantages and disadvantages of Presidential and Parliamenta

    Advantages and disadvantages of Presidential and Parliamentary systems of Government
    Presidential system advantages:

    National Head of State
    Clear demarcation between Executive and Legislative branch
    Allowing for more effective set of checks-and-balances to be placed on both branches.
    cont on.. Presidential system Advantages

    Executive branch have clear power to hierarchy
    President is free to make major policy decisions without public support.
    Presidential system of Government disadvantages:

    May fall to authoritarianism.
    Runs risks of vesting all the authority
    Could lead President to tyranny .
    cont on Presidential system Disadvantages:

    Separation of Powers indicates limited level of accountability.
    Could end up making both Executive and Legislature branch blame each other.
    Advantages of Parliamentary systems:

    Faster and easier to pass legislation
    Attractive features for nations that are ethnically,racially, or ideologically divided.
    Power is evenly spread out in the power structure.
    Prime Minister has higher focus on voting for a party and its political ideas.
    Less prone to authorization collapse.
    Disadvantages of Parliamentary systems:

    In most cases the head of the Government is not directly elected.
    Can place too much power in the Executive entity.
    System may be bicameral.
    Can sometimes be unstable.
    cont on disadvantages of Parliamentary system:
    No independent body to oppose and veto legislation passed by the parliament.
    Lack of inherent Separation of Powers.
    Proportional representation:
    an electoral system in which parties gain seats in proportion of the number of votes cast for them.

    coalitions:
    an alliance for combined action,especially a temporary alliance of political parties forming a Government of states.

    multiparty in comparing the frameworks:
    the goal of this field is to create methods that enable parties to jointly compute a function over their inputs.
    Which system do I prefer?

    I prefer the United States systems of government,because the people who live in a place were it is Presidential, have more say so in who they elect and what goes on.

    Full transcript

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