Limitations on the Powers of the Executive in a Presidential Government

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Limitations on the Powers of the Executive in a Presidential Government

Limitations on the Powers of the Executive in a Presidential Government

The presidential system of government is based on separation of power where the Executive is separated from the Legislature. It can also be regarded as a system where executive powers are invested in one person called the president and in which the Executive arm of government is separated from the Legislature but equal to it.

The President is both the Head of State and Government. The president is directly elected by the electorate on a fixed term of office, probably, 4 years or 5 years and can be re-elected for a second term.

Example of counties practicing presidentialism system of government are: United States of America, Nigeria, Ghana etc.

Checks on the Powers of the Executive in a Presidential System of Government

The various forms of check on the executive are:

1. Legislative Forms

  • Annual budget: The National Assembly must approve the annual budget proposed by the Executive.
  • Passage of Bills: If the ruling party is not constituting a majority in the parliament, the passage of the president’s bill will be difficult.
  • Power of impeachment: The president can be impeached or removed from office by the parliament, if found guilty of violating the provisions of the constitution.
  • Ratification of treaties: All treaties the president entered into with other countries must be ratified by the parliament.
  • Approval of major appointments: The parliament has the power to approve or reject names submitted to it by the president for political appointments such as ministers, ambassadors, political advisers etc.
  • Declaration of war and state of emergency: This organ also has to approve of this before actions are taken.
  • Veto powers: There is legislative check on the veto powers of the president.

2. Judicial Form 

  • Power of Judicial review: The power of the supreme court to declare unconstitutional or illegal some of the actions or activities of the president is a check on his powers.
  • The use of Habeas corpus act: This act is against unlawful and indiscriminate arrest and detention of citizens by the law enforcement agents. Any person detained unlawfully, therefore, can sue the police and claim damages. The courts can enforce this.

3. Constitutional Forms

  • Term of office: The president’s stay in office is fixed. In Nigeria’s third Republic, for example, he stays for four years as stipulated by the constitution.
  • The executive must act: The president must act within the limits and provisions of the constitution.

4. Public opinion (internal and external) 

  • Mass media: The opinions of the people about the government are expressed through the mass media. Such opinions could be negative or positive. Any responsible government must act according to the opinions of the people. Also, as members of international aganisations, the executive must be ready to abide by the opinions expressed as well as rules governing these bodies etc. These are checks on the executive.
  • Pressure Groups: The ability of pressure groups to influence government’s decisions politically, economically, socially etc is a check on the powers of the executive.

5. International Form

  • International treaties or agreement: Most of these treaties entered into with other countries are a check on the executive, for example, treaty on militaty co-operation with another country. He must always honour the agreement.
  • Sanctions: Imposition ofsanction on a counuy by the United Nations Organisation (UNO) is a check on the executive. Sanctions could take the form of economic, military, sports, etc.
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