Checks and Balances: Presidential System of Government
In our previous article on the application of the principle of separation of powers under the presidential system of government, we was clearly stated that; though in theory some form of separation of powers did exist but, in practice, the facts seemed to betray this position.
Indeed, it is a fiction to talk of separation of powers in a presidential system as the three branches of government interact with one another in diverse ways in order to ensure the smooth operation of government.
Such instances of cooperation or balancing acts are ironically examples of checks and balances.
Examples Of Checks and Balances Under Presidential Government
Some of the most glaring examples of checks and balances under the presidential system of government include the following:
1. Although the president and his minister are not members of the legislature, yet the law making body checks the activities of the executive in a number of ways:
- Approval of presidential nominees for top political positions
- Checking corruption in government by refusing to approve appropriations;
- Impeachment or removal of the President, governor and their deputies;
- Carrying out oversight functions and
- Checking government expenditure.
2. The executive can check the power of the legislature in the following ways:
- The President can check unwise legislation by refusing to assent to the bill passed by the legislature though this veto can be overturned by two-thirds majority of the two houses.
- The executive sometimes takes part in law making. For instance, it initiates most bills considered by the legislature and it also makes delegated legislation. All these are meant to ensure that the legislature does not become too powerful in law-making. The legislature, however, has the power to scrutinize closely how the regulations made by the executive are administered and it can revoke the enabling law under which delegated legislation is made.
3. The judiciary, though largely independent of the other branches of government, is still subject to some control from both the executive and the legislature. The activities of the judiciary are checked in various ways including the following.
- The Chief Justice and other senior judges are appointed by the President subject to confirmation by the Senate. They are also removed in the same way.
- The legislature establishes courts and produces the rule of procedure. By so doing, the legislature exercises control over the judiciary.
4. The judiciary, and in particular, the Supreme Court, is a powerful check on the activities of the legislature and executive. Through the process of judicial review, the Supreme Court can declare as unconstitutional any law made by the legislature, or any act of the executive that is not consistent with provisions of the constitution.