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Lecture 7

POL 101W Lecture 7: Chapter 7- Parliamentary Systems

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Political Science
POL 101W
Sanjay Jeram

Chapter 7: Parliamentary Systems Outline 1. What are the origins and basic contours of parliamentary and presidential systems? 2. What are the main characteristics of executive-legislative relations in each system? 3. Is the executive becoming more powerful in both systems? 4. What are the pros and cons of both systems? The Development of the Parliamentary System  Parliamentary System: A system of governing in which there is a close interrelationship between the political executive (prime minister and cabinet) and parliament (the legislative or law-making body)  Parliament and legislature mean the same thing  Executive: Composed of members of the House of Commons which is the elected parliamentary body and must maintain the support of the House of Commons o Executive have many powers like controlling the agenda, make decisions without consultation, abilities to form committees but the concept of responsible government means that the parliament can holds to account those with power  Development of the parliamentary system is associated with the political history of the United Kingdom o Magna Carta established a council of barons separate from the king and his advisors to approve taxes o Rule of law established o Knights and local leaders representing the commons were invited to what became parliament, which separated into the house of lords and house of commons o Bills for taxation had to originate in the commons then be supplied to the executive o Bill of Rights were passed in 1689 which resulted in governing in accordance with the statutes, laws and customs of Parliament  Responsible Government: A governing system in which the political executive is accountable to parliament for its actions and must retain the support of the elected members of parliament to remain in office o Therefore, parliament became the supreme law making body but also could make or unmake governments  Voters could hold governments accountable by supporting or defeating the governing party in an election  Cohesive parties made the House of Commons an adversarial bod where governing party defended its actions and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition held the government accountable  Westminister System or British Parliamentary System: A governing system that developed in Britain, featuring single party majority rule, executive dominance of Parliament, and an adversarial relationship between the governing party and the opposition o Majoritarian system where the governing party, having a majority of seats in parliament, is able to ensure that its legislative program will be adopted and implemented o But the governing parties majority in the house of commons does not usually reflect the votes of the majority of the electorate because of the effects of the single member plurality electoral system o Efficient and stable government o Due to its simplicity, voters can easily choose to elect or defeat the governing party o Heavily concentrates power in the hands of the prime minister and cabinet, making parliament as a whole of limited significance in a majority government situation o This results in many different views and interests being ignored  In many other countries, consensus based, power sharing parliamentary systems are adopted o Result of adopting proportional representation electoral systems that lead to coalition governments with a greater balance in power between the executive and Parliament  Parliamentary systems of many former British colonies, including Canada, Australia, India and Caribbean countries are modelled on the Westminister system  Developed in Britain and common in western Europe and the commonwealth o Reason why a parliamentary system developed was not to balance o Emerged as a balance o The executive was an accidental process where someone was needed to be a spokesperson o Relationship developed as organically between former relationship between previous parliament and government of the crown (look at excerpt in text)  Is the executive responsible to the legislature  No = Presidential  Yes = Parliamentary (PA) or Semi-Presidential (SP) Executive – Legislative Relations in Parliamentary Systems (I)  Basic feature of parliamentary systems is the close interrelationship of Parliament the political executive o Parliament: The Legislative Body o Political Executive: Prime minister and Cabinet  Members of the political executive are themselves members of parliament, usually from the House of Commons  Authority of the political executive is based on its ability to maintain the support of the majority of elected members of Parliament  If support is withdrawn, executive is expected to resign and will result in an election  Parliament has to approve new laws but the political executive is the one that proposes almost all of the laws that are passed by Parliament  Political executive also presents the government’s spending and taxing plans for parliament’s approval  Political executive is responsible for overseeing the implementation and administration of the laws passed by Parliament and for making day-to-day governing decisions  While the political executive is the governing body, it is expected to be responsible to parliament for its actions  Ability for the political executive to maintain the support of the elected House of Commons is based on control of its party’s members  If a party elects a majority of the members of the house, the prime minister and cabinet will be the leading members of the governing party and are almost certain to maintain the support of the house and have most of their legislative initiatives passed by the majority in the House  If legislative support is withdrawn, expectation that the executive will resign  Vote of non-confidence  Constructive vote of confidence o Triggers a new government  If majority can’t hold the vote then they lose power  Two things can happen 1. Election 2. New government can form if there’s formal or informal coalition between groups or power in parliament  Legislature approves laws  Executive proposes laws and is responsible for implementation  Majority Government: The government formed when the prime minister’s party has a majority of the members of the House of Commons, thus, a single party forms the government o Prime minister and cabinet dominate the House of Commons o Don’t need anymore support o Win simply with the amount of votes they have  Minority Government: A single party governs, but that party does not have a majority of the members in the House of Commons o A minority government needs to gain the support of one or more other parties to pass legislation and to stay in office o Like the majority government, the prime minister chooses the cabinet from among his or her party’s members of Parliament o Support is negotiated on an issue by issue basis or be a part of a general formal or informal agreement between the governing party and another party o Most likely to trigger a vote of non confidence  Coalition Government: A government in which two or more political parties jointly govern, sharing the Cabinet positions o Negotiations among the coalition partners to determine which Cabinet positions each party will receive and the policies the government will pursue o Coalitions among parties in some cases will be formed before the elections such that the winning coalition will form the government o In other cases, negotiations among parties seeking to form a coalition government occur after results of an election are known o Shifts in the parties joining or leaving the coalition may also occur without an election being held o Coalition governments often involve parties that are close to each other in ideological terms o Less known but still a minority situation o Not common in Canada parties realize in running in the election that they don’t stand a chance on getting a majority so they show that they have more in common with a party and make an agreement pre-election o Happens in the UK and in European countries much more frequently o Coalitions tend to have stability and parties go together with an agreement, it is unlikely for agreements to be broken ; harder to break a formal agreement The Head of State  Parliamentary systems also differ from presidential systems in having different individuals as head of state and head of government  Largely ceremonial  Head of State: In a parliamentary system, the head of state in important but largely ceremonial position, but has the responsibility to ensure that a legitimate government is in place o Expected to be above politics and not usually involved in making governing decisions  Heads of state in PA systems chosen via: o Lineage  Common wealth still use the monarchy of Britain as their head of state o Election  Some countries have elections for their state  Decision to give more legitimacy to the head of state in certain countries  Head of state will not be tarnished by government incompetence or scandal because the head of state is not involved in politics and governing  This provides legitimacy needed for the head of state to act to ensure that a legitimate government is in place or to dismiss a government that is acting unconstitutionally  In some countries with parliamentary systems, the head of state is a president with a limited term of office and may be elected directly by the country’s citizens or selected by a vote of members of the national Parliament with regional representatives  In other countries with parliamentary systems, a hereditary monarch is the head of state The Canadian Governor General  Canadian governments act in the name of the Crown  Duties and responsibilities of the monarch have been delegated to the governor general and to lieutenant governors o Governor General: The person who carries out the duties and responsibilities of the monarch at the national level in Canada o Lieutenant-Governor: The person who carries out the duties and responsibilities of the monarch at the provincial level in Canada  Governor general and lieutenant governors are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Canadian prime minister normally for five years  Governor general must ensure that a government (prime minister and cabinet) is in place at all times  Governor general is expected to choose the leader of the party that has the support of the House of Commons  Must also approve all legislation, a variety of appointments, and various executive decisions, such as the ratification of treaties and a declaration of war  Still always acts on the advice of either or both the prime minister and cabinet  Governor general is not entirely powerless  Prerogative Powers or Reserve Powers: Powers of the monarch that have not been taken away by Parliament where the governor general in exceptional circumstances can use personal discretion in deciding how to act o Powers include appointment and dismissal of the prime minister o Power also include dissolution of Parliament or prorogation of Parliament  Dissolution: The termination of Parliament followed by the holding of an election for the House of Commons  Prorogation: Suspension of Parliament and its committees by the governor general at the request of the prime minister  Ends a session of parliament such that the work of committees is ended and bills that have one been passed have to be reintroduced unless parliament in the next session agrees otherwise The Prime Minister and Cabinet  In Canada and commonwealth countries, the positions and powers of the prime minister and cabinet are not specified in the formal constitution, but instead are established by convention  Prime minister acts as the head of government o Head of Government: The person who heads the executive side of government and is usually responsible for choosing the Cabinet and is able to maintain the confidence of the House of Commons either by itself or with support of other political parties  In Canada, the prime minister is the head of the Canadian government, while the heads of provincial governments are known as premiers  Prime minister is almost always a member of the House of Commons representing a particular electoral district and not directly elected by voters in the country as a whole  Usually, not always, prime minister’s party elected the most representatives to the house of commons  After an election, prime minister will resign if his party did not win the most seats  Governor general then choose the party leader that is most likely to have this support of a majority of members in the House of Commons  If a prime minister thinks his party can gain sufficient support from other parties, the prime minister and cabinet can remain in office until defeated in the House of Commons  Prime minister is usually the leader of one of the largest parties  Prime minister is responsible for recommending the appointment of the members of the cabinet as well as determining what Cabinet positions they will hold o Cabinet: The members of the political executive  The cabinet in a parliamentary system is led by the prime minister, with many or most cabinet ministers having the responsibility of heading a government department  The parliamentary system is often described as a system of executive dominance o Executive Dominance: A parliamentary system that places considerable power in the hands of the prime minister and Cabinet through their ability to control the House of Commons, particularly in a majority of government situations  Why does the ability to choose the cabinet enhance the PM’s power? o They can choose experts in particular policy areas o They can use cabinet posts as rewards for loaCorrect Answer  It’s the Pm more than cabinet that dictates agenda  Because of power selection, cabinet is used as a reward for loyalty  Not too many cabinet ministers even though its supposed to be a collective organization or the cabinet challenging the PM  A lot of power to control their cabinet ministers o They can easily blame missteps on cabinet ministers The Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canada  The prime mi
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