Presidential vs. Parlimentary
Nov 5, 2017
This is an explanation of the two main systems of democratic government, presidential, and parliamentary. Around the world, there are many variations of these two types, but we're going to focus on the United States and the United Kingdom because they exist on the opposite ends of the democratic spectrum, and they've been the most influential to other countries around the world. Every four years, the American people elect a president, but it's not a direct election where the winner of the overall nationwide vote wins The White House. The U.S. is the only country to have an Electoral College system, where each state has a number of electors based on the size of its relative population. Every state except Maine and Nebraska awards all of their electors to the candidate that receives the most votes in that state, with an overall 270 electoral votes needed to win. This more complicated system exists to give the states a little more control over the process. The constitution limits the president to just two, four year terms in office. In the UK, the people directly elect a representative from their geographic constituency, of which there are a total of 650 throughout England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. These representatives make up the House of Commons in parliament. The leader of whichever party wins the most seats in this general election, which occurs every 5 years, becomes the prime minister, who has no term limits. The prime minister then forms a government. The members of parliament from parties not in power are called the opposition. Once inaugurated, the president appoints 15 cabinet officers to run the various departments of the executive branch of government. Nominees have to be confirmed by the Senate. However, the prime minister's appointments for the 21 different cabinet positions need no confirmation. Although they must be currently serving in either the House of Commons or the House of lords. In the American presidential system, the power to create laws is split between the president and the lower the house and upper the Senate chambers of Congress. In America both houses of Congress must pass a version of a bill. But for a past bill to become a law, the president must sign it. If the president refuses, this is called a veto, the Congress can try and override the veto with a two thirds majority vote in each chamber. The Congress is the second branch of the federal government. The third is the Supreme Court, a 9 member body whose members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate and serve life terms. The Supreme Court is the court of last appeal and decides if state and federal laws are legal under the constitution. The legislative body is a bit more complicated in the UK's parliament, although it also has an upper and lower chamber. Both the lower elected House of Commons and the upper House of lords make and shape the laws, but the House of lords isn't elected, and is made up of officials appointed by the Queen, bishops from the Church of England, and hereditary peers, many of whom inherit their positions. Lords play a wise man's role as an unelected check on decisions made by the House of Commons. Bills are presented by the prime minister's government, debated and changed by both houses in the parliament who must then both agree on a bill for it to become law. A Supreme Court with less power than the American version was created in 2009. In addition to being the head of government, the American president is also the head of state, and is the official representative of the country to the rest of the world, although this role often falls to the president's Secretary of State. The president is the commander in chief of the military of the United States, although only the Congress can formally declare war. The president lives at The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue in the heart of the District of Columbia. In the UK system, the monarch is the official head of state. Legally, the monarch still has many powers, like giving final approval on all laws, but in the reality of modern times the prime minister in the cabinet run the country. The prime minister is also the commander in chief in all but name. The monarch still meets weekly with the prime minister and has the constitutional right to quote warn, encourage, and to be consulted. The ability of the monarch to influence the decisions of the prime minister varies depending on the relationship between the two leaders. It's worth noting here that the current queen of England, Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 63 years and is 89 years old. Her son, Charles, Prince of Wales, is her heir apparent. The monarch resides in Buckingham Palace in London while the prime minister lives at 10 Downing Street. Once a year, the president delivers a State of the Union address to the joint Congress and the nation in which they lay out their governing priorities. Since the members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, the president faces a referendum on their performance halfway through each term. If their party loses seats in a midterm election, their ability to enact their agenda for the rest of the term is weakened. Every week, the prime minister answers questions from other members of parliament, while simultaneously debating the leader of the opposition. This is a televised way for the people's representatives to directly challenge the prime minister on a whole host of issues. Besides resignation, the only way a president can be removed from office is impeachment, which is done by the House of Representatives. This is like a prosecutor bringing official charges against a defendant. If a vote to confirm the charges passes the house, the president is impeached. The Senate will then try the impeachment, but in order to convict a two thirds vote must be achieved by the senators. If this happens, which it never has in American history, the president is removed from office. In the UK, if the House of Commons passes a no confidence vote in the prime minister, or if the prime minister's party loses a vote on a budget, they are seen as politically weakened and will call a general election. So that's the basic differences between the American presidential and UK's parliamentary system. The president is the chief executive, while the prime minister, who is also a member of parliament, officially shares some power with the monarch. The UK's legislature because of the House of lords and the longer time between elections in the lower house is less responsive to the changing whims of the people, and it is slightly easier to force a prime minister out of office than a president. You can see from this map just how many countries have been influenced by the American and British forms of government. Thanks for watching. Like this video to help it spread. You can watch our explanation of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict by clicking the link on the screen or check out our visualization of the top ten countries where immigrants come to in the world. Until next time for the daily conversation, I'm Bryce plank. This video is edited by Brendan plank.