LECTURE on January 29, 2013: Presidentialism and Parliamentarism
There are two different institutional arrangements... they organize powers in distinctive ways and
powers are concentrated or dispersed in each system; decisions are made differently. They are not
necessarily superior or inferior
Best known Parliamentary system is the British Westminster System. Most of Europe except France has
the parliamentary system. French and former colonies have presidential systems. US is the most
influential example of presidential system of government. Neither is particularly dominant, but it is
interesting that countries that adopt the system the colonizing power had previously. So, it is not
unitary system of government.
Voters elect the members of party. The winning party chooses the party leader who is the prime
minister. The head of party becomes the prime minister. Voters do not directly vote for the prime
minister. The crown or governor general ask the party that wins to form the government. The
government is executive branch that have cabinet minster and prime minister.
Possible Election Outcomes
-majority government: wins the absolute seats in the parliament. Ex. Canada has around 300 seats and
wins more than 151 seats.
-minority government: if winning party is not majority but plurality, it has two options: form minority
government (form government without the majority seats; they are fairly weak; difficult to pass the
legislature); 2) no confidence vote (force new elections by opposition parties to bring down the
government) But opposition parties call the no confidence vote if they guarantee that they could win in
the new election. If opposition parties lose, the party would be a lot weaker than before and lose
-coalition government: nobody won the majority, they can form coalition government with smaller
parties in order to be majority government. It is stronger in sense that they are majority government,
but it has to enter in the major discussion regarding policies. If parties share similar ideologies, there are
greater possibility to form coalition government, where the country has two large parties and smaller
parties. There is the danger of coalition would fall apart. It will call for another election when they break
apart and leave the coalition.
-there is no sets schedules for elections in parliamentary system. Different parties call elections at
different times... they constantly strategize when the timing is good for election. You can have elections at anytime. Ex. Italian governments have elections all the time. After WW2, they had more than 50
-why parliamentary calls the unitary system of government??
There is only one source of power. PM is the one member of parliament who happens to be the leader
of party. PM has no independent source of power and mandate. He remains in the power as long as he
has the confidence in power. How do we know then? Every legislative proposal made government go to
vote on the floor of house. As long as the proposals keep on passed, he has the confidence and can
remain in the power. They're 'responsible government', which means that they have the support of
majority members in govt.
Legislation in Parliament
Cabinet members initiate legislative proposals --> they set the agenda. These are discussed and
negotiated in the parliament. They are willing to amend with opposition parties in order to get passed.
The ruling party has the enormous power bc they have a power to set agenda. Although, opposition
parties can discuss and criticize the agenda, but they have no rights to determine what they can talk
about. All members are allowed to introduce 'private member bills', but seldom passed. If they are
passed, private member bills cannot require to spend money...
Members vote the party lines. Party discipline is very strong. Individual members are accountable to
party leaders.. they have to do what the party leaders tell them to do. If members fail to vote for party
lines, they are removed from the seats, or not allowed to win the election. The party owns the seats, not
Sometimes they hold 'free votes' on particular issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. But there is
no free votes on spending bills and domestic issues.
Largest opposition party is the official opposition. They have the previlages during the debate; they are
legally criticize the majority party without the fear. They are the most important marker in democracy.
They are appointed by PM and allowed to serve until 75 years of age. When one party is in power for
many years, they can appoint Senators who are on their side, which make the party stronger. More than
half of senators by Harper alone in Canada. This system is hold over by the house of lords in UK... this is
very anti-democratic method. In Canada, the issue of Senate reform has raised consistently since 1984.
But this is an example that shows that institutions are sticky. The party in power has never been
interested to reform the Senate system.
Senate has the power to defeat government bills, and veto powers. If senate refuses to pass the bill, the
party resubmit the bill... it's not a big of de