In this essay I would like to compare and contrast the Presidential and Parliamentary institutional structures. Also, I would like to consider the Canadian political system and the impact of the constitutional changes of 1982. To begin with it can be said that it is essential to examine the constitutional and legal regulation of the organization of the state. As a fact, it is not just theoretical, abstract category of science as, for example, sovereignty or democracy, but it is the key that helps to understand the importance of a system, which was established by public authorities in the constitution of any state.
In the first part of the essay I would like to compare and contrast the Presidential and Parliamentary institutional structures. It should be noted that Republic – is a form of government under which the supreme power in the state belongs to the elected bodies – the Parliament, President, and they control the government. Common features of a republican form of government are:
- The existence of the individual and the collective head of state;
- Eligibility for a fixed term Head of State and other supreme state bodies;
- Implementation of state power at their behest, and on behalf of the people;
- Legal responsibility to the Head of State in the cases stipulated by law;
- Binding decisions of the supreme state power.
Republic is the most democratic form of government, because it implies that the powers of any branch of government, its higher authority, including the Head of State, ultimately, are based on the mandate of the people, as stated in Making Rules about Rulemaking: A Comparison of Presidential and Parliamentary Systems.
As a fact, there are several basic varieties of Republican rule. In turn, they are divided in by the form of government formation to the Parliamentary, Presidential and mixed. Parliamentary monarchy is characterized by the following main features:
- Government is formed from representatives of a certain party (or parties) that has received the most votes during the parliamentary elections;
- Leader of the party, which has the largest number of parliamentary seats, becomes Head of the State;
- In the legislative, executive and judicial spheres of power the monarch has symbolic role;
- Legislation acts are adopted by Parliament and formally signed by the monarch;
- Government rules under the Constitution, and is responsible to the Parliament, not to the monarch. It can be said that examples of such constitutional monarchy is the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, etc.
In parliamentary monarchy rule of Parliament is expressed in the fact that the government, which is usually appointed by the monarch, must have the confidence of Parliament (Hose of Commons), and the monarch, therefore, is compelled to appoint Prime Minister, the leader of the party that has majority of the seats in the parliament. As a rule, Monarch in this form of government “reigns but does not rule”. The monarch can not act independently, and all acts emanating from him are usually prepared by the Government and fastened by the Prime Minister or the appropriate minister, without which it does not have legal force. Thus, the head of the Government or the minister accept responsibility for the act, because the monarch himself is not responsible (in the UK this is expressed by the principle of “the King can not be wrong”), as described in Democratic Institutions and Regime Survival: Parliamentary and Presidential Democracies Reconsidered.
The main distinguishing feature of a Parliamentary monarchy lies in the political responsibility of government to the Parliament for their activities. If the Parliament expresses non-confidence to the Government or refuses trust to the government, it should resign or be fired by the monarch. However, such power of Parliament is usually offset by the Government’s right to offer the monarch to dissolve parliament and call new elections, so that the conflict between the legislative and executive branches of power will be allowed by the people. If people support the government, as the result of the election – the majority of current government’s supporters in the parliament will be formed. Although, if the people do not agree with the government, than the parliament would be almost the same, and the government should be replaced.
Parliamentary republic is modern form of governance, in which the supreme role in public life belongs to the Parliament. In this case, government is formed by Parliament, among the deputies, who belong to parties that have a majority in Parliament. The government is collectively responsible to Parliament on its activities. As a rule, the government rule until in Parliament there is a majority of government’s supporters. In case when the government loses trust of the most members of Parliament – the government resigns.
Position of head of state in a Parliamentary republic resembles the position of the monarch in a Parliamentary monarchy (functions of the Head of State are purely nominal, the real power in the country has Head of Government – Prime Minister. The Head of State in these republics is elected by Parliament or a specially formed by the parliamentary panel. It should be noted that appointment of the Head of State by Parliament is the main mode of parliamentary control over the executive power. The procedure of election of the Head of State in modern Parliamentary republics varies. In Italy, for example, the president of the Republic is elected by members of both chambers of Parliament at their joint meeting. Presidential election in the Parliamentary republic can be implemented on the basis of universal suffrage, which is typical for Austria, where the President is elected for six years. It can be said that the head of state in Parliamentary republic has the authority to promulgate laws, issue decrees, appoint the Head of government and is the commander in-chief of the armed forces, etc.
The main function of Parliament is a legislative action and control over the executive power. Parliament has important financial powers as it develops and adopts the state budget, determines the prospects of socio-economic development, the main issues of foreign policy, and determines defense policy of the state. Parliamentary form of republican government is a structure of central government agencies, which actually provides the democratic public life, personal freedom, creates fair conditions of human coexistence based on the principle of legal legitimacy.
The main feature of the Parliamentary republic as a Parliamentary monarchy is the political responsibility of government to Parliament. As there, the responsibility of this pure solidarity: the distrust of one member of the government, especially its Head, entails the resignation of the government. Instead of retiring the government may demand from the President to dissolve Parliament and call new elections.
According to Bad for Democracy: How the Presidency Undermines the Power of the People, Presidential republic is one of the varieties of modern forms of governance, which along with parliamentary system connects to the hands of the President the authority of President and Head of government. The most characteristic features of a Presidential republic:
- Nationwide method of electing the President and the formation of the government;
- Government’s responsibility is to the President and not to Parliament;
- Wider powers of the President than in the Parliamentary republic.
It can be said that in the Presidential republic the population of the Republic elects not only the supreme legislative organ of state power, but also the president, who is the chief executive. President in such republics have greater autonomy and independence in his actions, rather than in Parliamentary republic. However, in states with Presidential republic exists objectively high probability of establishing an authoritarian regime as a dictatorship, which means dissolution or restricting the powers of collective representative bodies of state authority, suspension of political parties, restrictions on political and personal rights and freedoms of citizens. To avoid this, there is a complex system of relationships between the branches, which are based on the principle of so-called checks and balances.
It can be said that there is no government, as a collegial body, and ministers usually are individually subjected to the President. The main feature of this form is the lack of accountability of executive power to Parliament for the current policy. Parliament can not dismiss government officials, if they have not violated the law. For their performance, they do not need a political trust of Parliament. Therefore, in the Presidential republics, it is often observed a situation that the President belongs to one party, but a majority in Parliament belongs to another. Nevertheless, they are forced to cooperate, because no branch of power can constitutionally eliminate another (offset by Parliament officials of the executive and judicial power through the so-called impeachment can take place only if those persons are committed in serious offenses), as described in Making Rules about Rulemaking: A Comparison of Presidential and Parliamentary Systems.
It should be noted that in Presidential republic checks and balances appear, in particular, in delaying veto, which is imposed by the President on the laws adopted by Parliament. However, veto can be overcome by a qualified majority of deputies of both chambers of Parliament. The upper house of Parliament may prevent appointment of officials by the President, and, in addition to ratify signed international treaties by the President. As a rule, the judiciary branch of power supervises the constitutionality of the Parliament and the President, thereby ensuring compliance with the rule of law both the legislative and executive branches.
Thus, taking into account mentioned above, I would like to identify the following distinctive features of these forms of government. Parliamentary form of government exists in two versions: a Parliamentary monarchy and a Parliamentary republic. In Parliamentary monarchy:
- The Government is formed from representatives of a certain party (or parties), which received the majority of votes during Parliamentary elections;
- Leader of the party that has the majority of Parliamentary seats, becomes Head of state;
- Legislative, executive and judicial spheres of power of the monarch have symbolic character;
- Laws are adopted by Parliament and formally signed by the monarch;
- The government, according to the Constitution, is responsible to the parliament, not to the monarch.
In parliamentary republic:
- The Head of state is elected by parliament or a specially formed parliamentary panel;
- The Head of state in Parliamentary republic has the authority to promulgate laws, issue decrees, appoint the head of government and is commander in-chief of the armed forces, etc.;
- Head of Government (Prime Minister) is appointed by the President;
- The main function of Parliament is a legislative action and control over the executive branch, also control of the main issues of foreign and defense policy.
The presidential form of government has only one kind – Presidential republic. In Presidential republic:
- Nationwide method of electing the President and the formation of the government;
- Government’s responsibility is to the President and not to Parliament;
- Wider powers of the President in comparison with the Parliamentary republic.
In the second part of the essay I would like to identify Canadian governance system. It should be noted that Canada – is the state of the British Commonwealth, and the formal Head of Canada is the Queen Elizabeth II. As a fact, official representative of the Queen in Canada is a Governor-General, which is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. In Canada legislative power is vested in Parliament. As a fact, Canadian Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Commons. Senators are not elected, but appointed by the Governor-General. In this case, the powers of the Senate are quite limited, for example, constitutional amendments can be accepted, even by passing the Senate (if still within 180 days constitutional amendments will not approve, it shall enter into force automatically), as stated in Building the Canadian Mosaic: A Survey of Historical Developments, 1920-1982.
It can be said that the Supreme executive power belongs to the Queen. The executive power is vested in Her Majesty’s Government – the Privy Council, whose members are appointed by the Governor-General to form a ministerial Cabinet – part of the Royal Government, which is controlled by the Prime Minister. Cabinet members have ministerial positions and are the only members of the Privy Council, which officially authorized to act on behalf of the Governor-General.
Typically, the post of Prime Minister is appointed by leader of the party, which has received a majority of seats in the House of Commons during general elections. The number of members of both houses is not permanent; it is reviewed after each population census. As a fact, currently, the Senate consists of 105 members, the House of Commons – from 308 members. It should be noted that members of the Senate are appointed by the Queen or Governor-General and always according to the advice of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister chooses the members of the Cabinet and submits them for approval by the Governor-General. Cabinet members usually belong to the party of Prime Minister.
To be more precise, Canada has long been conducted heated debates about the appropriateness of the “monarchical” attributes and symbols of government that the country inherited from colonial times. Many Canadians believe that all of these remnants of past prejudice the national dignity of Canadians and reduce their sense of independence, as well as very costly to the state budget. As a result, there is the Republican party of Canada, which requires the transformation of Canada into a full republic with its own Head of state – the President, as described in What’s the Matter With Canada? How the world’s nicest country turned mean.
Further, I would like to consider the impact of the constitutional changes of 1982 in Canada. It should be noted that in 1982 in Canada was adopted by Act of the constitution (Basic Law of the State is a set of acts on the constitution of different years since 1867), in accordance with which the country first gained its full sovereignty in the constitutional area, and the Basic Law was significantly amended and supplemented. However, this event had two major consequences, and to this day continues to a large extent determine the nature and severity of all current constitutional and national legal acts in the country.
First major consequence refers to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, introduced in the constitution and pre-Act of the Constitution in 1982. With all the positive aspects of the inclusion of the Charter of the Fundamental Law of the country initiated the revitalization of voluntary activities in a variety of formal and informal social organizations and associations to bypass the main political country’s institutions and provinces, as well as the dissemination of the atmosphere of individualism, fragmentation at the expense of collective action, the trend towards unification of forces in the psychology of the whole society.
Secondly major consequence of the adoption of the Constitution Act of 1982 was accompanied by a refusal of the French-speaking province of Quebec, the unmet conditions of the agreement, from the signing of the federal-provincial document. As a result, the complete absence of any constitutional norms governing in such situation, Quebec until now actually believes itself to be free (although on their own) from any obligation in the constitutional process in the country that has negative impact on the entire atmosphere within the Canadian federal state and its constitutional design. The presence of these factors, reinforcing the situation of tension and instability, created extremely unfavorable political background in the country, which is characterized by the permanent worsening of the constitutional situation after 1982 and objectively erosion of the federal system of government that is very specific all the socio-political evolution of Canada over the last decade, as described in Twenty-Five Years Later: The Impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, modern Canada clearly demonstrates that no matter how country is developed economically, and is highly democratic in the political and legal field, but it does not help and does not guarantee Canada avoiding serious crises in its own development. Such fundamental issues such as public and legal evolution of the national question, the system and the practice of federal system do not have political boundaries or economic threshold of prosperity. They arise and manifest themselves in a very acute form in the most stable, democratic countries. And concrete solutions to the issue or set of problems each country had to find individually according to their own traditions and the achieved level of development. However, crucial to the optimal combination of borrowing into account international experience and peculiarities of the country, which now depend on skill of political figures, standing at the helm, and the maturity of the entire society.
Taking into consideration all mentioned above, it should be noted that Canada is a federative country with Parliamentary monarchy. Also, constitutional changes of 1982 in Canada had two major consequences. Firstly, the country initiated the revitalization of voluntary activities in a variety of formal and informal social organizations and associations to bypass the main political country’s institutions and provinces. Secondly, Quebec refused to unmet conditions of the agreement, and did not sign federal-provincial document.
To sum it up, I would like to say that it is not always easy to determine which state – monarchy or republican you are dealing with. Sometimes you can see the elements of the Republic (Head of State is elected for a term), and the monarchy (he must be a monarch). Undoubtedly, the government has a huge impact on the relationship between authorities. But historically, initially there is a form of government, then this form of government is a constitution that primarily expresses exactly our interests, and the constitution is a fixed characteristic form of government with all its consequences. In this regard, it is once again reminds that any classification to some extent is arbitrary, and today, when analyzing a particular form of government of the state, we are primarily interested not in what a republic or a monarchy is, but rather what kind of republic or monarchy is established, as well as the features that distinguish the form of government of this State from another (similar) species.