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Features of the Presidential System of Government
Presidential system of government is a system of government where there is a separation of functions between the executive organ and legislative organ of government. In this system, all the three arms of government are independent of one another. Every arm of government performs its official constitutional functions or statutory responsibilities without any interference by the other organ(s).
Meanwhile the chief executive officer of the state is the President at federal level of government and in other levels, we have Governor and Chairman for state and local governments respectively.
The characteristics of the presidential system of government include the following.
- The president is both the ceremonial and executive head of state. That is, the president combines the offices of Head of State and Head of Government at the same time. In this regard, the President performs a number of functions. In particular, he enforces all laws, serves as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, appoints important political office holders and grants pardon and mercy to offenders.
- In a presidential system of government, the president is elected by the electorate either directly or indirectly. He may be elected directly by the people in a general election or through an electoral college. Nigeria is a typical example of the former while the United States of America is a good example of countries where the President is elected by an electoral college.
- The principle of separation of powers is the norm in a presidential system of government. In particular, the executive is separated from the legislature and, at least in theory, the two arms of government are independent of each other. It does not mean that the three branches of government do not interact with one another. The emphasis seems to be on checks and balances than on separation of powers.
- The president can be removed by the legislature through the process of impeachment for gross misconduct and high crime, otherwise he completes his tenure.
- The president has a fixed tenure. He is elected for four years in the United States, and since 1951, his tenure has been limited to two terms. In some countries, the president could be elected for four years and can only be elected for a maximum of two terms (8 years). Both short and long tenures have their merits and demerits. A long tenure is conducive to continuity in government policies, enables the president to acquire experience and ensures the independence of the executive. On the other hand, a long tenure may lead to dictatorship.
- The constitution is supreme and any legislation or act of the executive which is inconsistent with provision of the constitution may be declared unconstitutional by the judiciary.
- The president is not a member of the legislature and he cannot therefore create, appoints or dissolve it.
- The president may appoint his ministers from within or outside the legislature and the ministers are individually accountable to him. He can also dismiss the ministers at will.
- The president may appoint presidential advisers to assist him. The president may accept or reject their advice. He may also seek advice from any other person or institution but he is not bound to accept anybody’s advice.
- The president is supposed to be non-partisan and above party politics although he was elected on the platform of a particular political party. He is metaphorically the ‘father of the nation’.
- The president indirectly makes laws through delegated legislation, state of the nation address,and reports submitted to the legislature.
- Officially, there is no opposition party. What exists are minority parties.
- There is a Supreme Court, the highest court in the land which interprets the constitution.
- Like the president, the governor is the chief executive of the state. In the United States, the most effective presidents are former governors.