The comparative politics issue or topic is not very new. Comparative politics analyzes and compares politics in foreign countries(McCormick et al.,2016,7-16). It analyzes the similarities and differences of various political systems and how they affect developmental changes and other nations’ dynamics. This article aims to compare the efficacy of Great Britain’s parliamentary system and the United State’s presidential system in achieving democracy. The existing institutional differences between parliamentary and presidential systems are well known. Different nations adopt any of the two systems depending on their goals and preferences concerning governance systems. However, the effects of these two divergent constitutional arrangements on democracy have received scant attention over time. The two governance systems have distinct influences on the quality of governance. There has been an ongoing debate about which of the two systems yields the best governance. However, it is difficult to conclude the best system based on speculations and beliefs that are not backed by sufficient evidence. As a result, the constitutional structure has been a critical research topic for political scientists and analysts in the recent past.
Political experts and researchers have been working to establish the influence that the various constitutional structures have on the governance facets. The executive structure has become an essential question within the comparative politics field in the recent past. Initially, comparisons of the parliamentary and presidential systems were about Britain and the United States. However, these comparisons are now being raised in a global context globally (McManus and Ozkan, 2018). Hence, it is clear that other countries have adopted one of the two political systems in their governance. The big question now is about the system that best supports and upholds democracy. It is important to know that both systems help nations to achieve democracy. However, the level of efficacy in achieving democracy and its degree differs. The best way to understand how the two systems promote democracy is to comprehensively assess the United States presidential system and Britain’s parliamentary system.
Election of Presidents and Prime Ministers
The president is the executive leader in a presidential system, while the prime minister is the leader in the parliamentary system. The president and the prime minister are elected differently in the United States presidential system and Britain’s parliamentary system. Constitutionally, the citizens of a country have a democratic right to elect the president, prime minister, or any other leader that they want to lead them or represent them. In most countries with a presidential system, the citizens vote and elect their preferred presidential candidates directly. Often, each citizen registered as a voter has a democratic right to vote for the candidate of their choice. Each voter has a single vote they cast in the election to vote for their candidate. However, the process of voting for a president is quite different in the United States, although they use the presidential system. In the United States, the citizens elect the president and the deputy president indirectly. The citizens who are registered as voters from all the states vote for members of the electoral college instead of voting for the presidential candidates directly (Braha and Aguiar, 2017). The electoral college members, commonly known as the electors, cast direct votes called electoral votes to elect the president and the deputy president.
On the other hand, Britain appoints their prime minister based on the ability of the individual to command respect in the house of commons. The citizens registered as voters take part in the elections to elect members of parliament. The members of parliament are elected based on their political parties. If the just concluded elections produce a clear majority in the parliament for one party, the party’s leader becomes the prime minister. If the party leader that produced a clear majority is the incumbent prime minister, they just continue in office. Otherwise, the incumbent resigns the next morning after the elections and is replaced by the leader of the party that produced a clear majority.
The citizens in both The United States and Britain have the opportunity to exercise their democratic right of electing their leaders during elections. However, the big question regards the degree of involvement of the citizens in electing the president and the prime minister, respectively. U.S. citizens do not vote for the president directly. Also, British citizens do not vote for the prime minister directly. Therefore, the next crucial question pertains to how the electoral systems involve the citizens in the election of the president and the prime minister. The major democratic consideration during the elections in any nation is to give the citizens the absolute right to elect their preferred candidates. In the U.S., the citizens have the opportunity to vote for their preferred presidential candidate in the popular vote. Although the popular vote does not weigh in determining the presidential winner as compared to the electoral college vote, it allows the voters to vote for their preferred candidate directly. There have been concerns about the democracy of the electoral college in the United States. Most democracies hold their presidential elections through the popular vote. However, as stated earlier, the U.S. depends more on the electoral college to elect the president and the deputy president. Therefore, the president is elected indirectly by a group of 538 electors apportioned by the state instead of being elected directly by the people. The electoral college is one of the leading democratic flaws in the U.S. presidential elections when it is established with less than pure intentions (Gerusoetal., 2022). The decision by the electoral college in the presidential election does not fully represent the will of the people.
According to Edwards (2019), the current formation of the electoral college gives the republican presidential candidate an advantage of about 4% over their democratic counterparts. Therefore, it is evident that the electoral college voting system is sabotaging democracy in the U.S. presidential elections. Despite the questions raised concerning the democracy and transparency of the electoral college, there is a minimal chance that it will be scrapped anytime soon. Such a change would require a constitutional amendment that cannot be conducted in these partisan times. Besides, there were concerns about voter suppression, especially during the 2020 elections. It is hard to find major political parties investing in voter suppression in other advanced democracies. In the 2020 presidential election, some significant parties made a cycle of efforts to make it harder for the citizens to vote, especially for the minority and black populations. Voter suppression further taints democracy in the United States. Therefore, although the presidential system generally promotes democracy during elections compared to the parliamentary system, the system in the U.S. is not democratic as in other countries using the system.
In Britain, the citizens have a democratic right to vote for their leaders, such as the members of parliament. However, they do not vote for the prime minister directly, just as in the United States. The Uk believes in democracy; that is, the people have crucial decisions on how the country is run. People in the past fought for the democracy that the citizens currently enjoy. Any citizen aged over 18 years has the right to vote in the U.K. During the election day, the voters elect their preferred members of parliament. The candidate who garners the most votes automatically becomes the member of parliament of their area. Afterward, the party which has the most elected members of the parliament forms the next government, and its leader becomes the prime minister. Therefore, the general public has a little indirect influence on who will become the prime minister. The system does not allow the public to elect the prime minister directly. Hence, democracy in the election of the prime minister in the U.K. is limited. In conclusion, both Britain’s parliamentary system and the U.S. presidential system give the citizens some degree of democracy in electing the prime minister and president, respectively. However, the U.S. presidential system gives the voters more power and democracy in electing the president through the popular vote than Britain’s parliamentary system.
The Power and Leadership Styles of the U.S. President and Britain Prime Minister
In almost every democracy globally, the government is divided into executive, legislature, and judicial branches (Newton and Van Deth, 2016, 13-33). Each of the three branches of government performs separate roles independently. A single individual heads the executive branch in most countries to avoid conflicts of interests, provide clarity in governance, and make rapid decisions during crises. In parliamentary democracies such as Britain, the executive is headed by the prime minister, while the president heads the executive branch in presidential democracies such as the United States. The basic function of the two executive leaders is quite similar, but their particular responsibilities and method of election differ. The basis of democracy is the leader agreeing to share power and accepting other people’s opinions and recommendations. Leaders who want to make all the decisions and have full government control are regarded as dictators.
Democracy has not existed since time immemorial. In fact, none of the fifty-five states in existence in 1900 qualified as a democratic state based on current freedom house standards (Newton and Van Deth, 2016, 13-33). Even the most democratic countries such as the USA and Britain denied women and blacks some fundamental rights, such as voting and decision-making in the government. In Britain, the appointed prime minister becomes the head of government who holds executive power, while the Queen or the monarch is the head of state. The Queen does not engage in politics directly and only performs ceremonial functions. However, the Queen is at liberty to give advice to the prime minister. Therefore, although the prime minister is the most powerful or influential person in Britain, the monarch plays an essential role in the country’s leadership. The Uk operates under a constitutional monarchy in which the functions and power of the monarch and other government officials are defined and limited by various laws. In contrast to the United States and other nations globally, the U.K. does not have a constitution acting as a single act, but rather it is composed of numerous laws and unwritten conventions.
In the parliamentary system in Britain, there is no true detachment of powers between the executive and the legislature (Stoker, 2016). The prime minister, who is the head of the executive branch, is responsible for the legislative branch. Together with the prime minister, the cabinet must have support from a majority of the parliament to continue holding office. The parliament has the power to recall the prime minister and the cabinet at any time through the majority vote using a vote of no confidence process. Therefore, the prime minister in the U.K. is not entirely immune. The prime minister has the right to exercise their powers, but within provisions of the law, failure to which the parliament has the power to impeach them through a popular vote. The U.K. is a democratic country, and therefore, it cannot give absolute powers to lead the government. The law has given the parliament the power to recall the prime minister and the cabinet to promote democracy in the country. The prime minister is usually present in all parliament sessions to promote and defend government policies. The law has given the parliament a democratic right to question the prime minister about government policies and other decisions to ensure they are within the confines of the law and that these policies serve public interests. The opposition members of the parliament question the cabinet and the prime minister every week during the prime minister’s questions, where the prime minister is expected to defend government actions. The law requires the opposition members of parliament to lead the prime minister question to prevent biases that might arise if the ruling party members conducted the questioning considering that they would be questioning their party leader. The prime minister, the cabinet, and other executive branch members have a minimal relationship with the judiciary because the judiciary is constituted as an independent body (Gordon, 2017). All judges in the U.K. are appointed by independent commissions which are not influenced by the executive branch. An independent judiciary ensures democracy in the rule of law. Countries that allow the executive or other government to interfere with the judiciary usually impede democracy in their countries. The decisions or operations of the judiciary should not be interfered with in democratic nations that value democracy and equality. In fact, the U.K. parliamentary systems have one of the most independent judiciary, better than the United States. Although British courts have no power of judicial review, they have the power to declare any government decisions or regulations unlawful (Finer et al., 1995.
On the other hand, the U.S. president, who is the head of the executive in the U.S., is vested with vast power and authority. In fact, the U.S. president is arguably the most powerful elected official globally, in contrast with the U.K. parliamentary system, where the prime minister has limited power. According to Yasa (2021), very few stable democracies have adopted presidential systems globally. The parliamentary systems often offer more democracy to a country compared to presidential systems. For instance, taking the case of the U.S., where the presided has vast power, what if the elected president decides to misuse their power and become a dictator? How will the country ensure that democracy is upheld? First, the president and the assemblies are two powerful elected and independent bodies. If, for instance, the parliament favors policies that are distinct from those of the presidents, conflicts would erupt. Besides, there would be conflicts between the president and the parliament if the majority of the members of parliament belonging to the opposition party. Such conflicts will not do any good to the democracy of the country. There exists no democratic principle in place to address and resolve conflicts between the legislature and the executive concerning which of the two independent government branches represents the will of the citizens considering the president and the members of parliament are equally elected by the people (Ball and Peters, 2004, 168-184). Second, the fixed time that an elected president holds office poses rigidity that is less favorable to democracy, while the flexibility of the parliamentary system promotes democracy because the government is not elected on a fixed term but rather the existence of government in office depends on the confidence of the assembly. Besides, it is very difficult to remove a sitting president from office regardless of their level of incompetence. Hence, the presidential system does not promote democracy entirely, considering how hard it is to remove a sitting president from office even if they are unwanted by the majority of the parliament and citizens. Conversely, it is constitutionally impossible to extend the presidential term of popular presidents. Therefore, a president will have to leave office on the expiration of their term no matter how much the citizens want the president to continue serving them.
Most countries globally have an organized and functional government in the 21st century. The parliamentary and presidential government systems are the most common and widely adopted systems globally. Countries choose the system to use based on the features, merits, and demerits of the systems. It is impossible to accurately conclude which of the two systems best promotes democracy, equality, and integrity. Both systems have their merits and weaknesses concerning achieving democracy. The main difference between the two systems is how power is shared among the three arms of government and their interrelation.
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