Policy Formulation in Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

Policy Formulation in Presidential and Parliamentary Systems


Institutional Affiliation:

Governments are tasked with making policies that govern the operations of any country and to ensure that the citizen’s interests are represented and taken care of. A policy can be defined as a set of rules and principles that define the goals of a particular organization or government, and outline how such goals will be achieved. The government of any country has different arms of government, which are the executive, legislature, and judiciary. The executive and judiciary are the central bodies in charge of making government policies in collaboration with other entities such as non-governmental and international organizations. Some of the most important policy areas in government are economic affairs, criminal justice, healthcare, education, environment, social welfare, culture and society, and foreign affairs and national security (Birkland 2015). Depending on whether a government system is presidential or parliamentary-based, there are different factors that determine policy formulation.

A presidential system of government is a democratic type of rule where the head off state is directly elected, and their powers are spate from those of the legislature. The elected president is the head of state and is in charge of the executive. The executive and legislative arms of government are independent of each other in this case, and the legislature has limited powers over the president. Except in rare instances where the president breaks the law, he or she usually leads the executive independent of the legislature, and the legislature cannot dismiss the president. Some of the significant characteristics of a government in the presidential system are that the executive can veto legislative acts, presidential terms are fixed, the president has the authority to pardon criminals, and the executive arm is unipersonal. Unipersonal decribes a situation where the president appoints individuals to the cabinet who serve at his or her pleasure, although some senior government appointments require legislative approvals. This system of government is common in the Americas, Central Asia, and Central and South Africa.

In the parliamentary system of government, the position of president or head of state is mostly ceremonial. In this case, the executive obtains its authority from the legislature and is answerable to it. The head of state and the head of government are usually different, with the head of government a member of the parliament. Parliamentary democracies may be of two types; the first is a constitutional monarchy characterized by a monarch as the head of state, and the head of government is from one of the houses of parliament. The second type is a parliamentary republic where the head of state happens to be a ceremonial president while the leader of government is also a part of the legislature (Hicken & Stoll 2017). Given the distinct differences between the two systems of government, the methods of policy formulation also share differences but also some similarities.

In the presidential system of government, the president is directly elected by the voters. This means that the executive does not depend on the legislature, but each can carry out its own tasks. There can be some difficulty when it comes to passing laws and policies for this reason. The legislature is usually tasked with proposing the majority of polices in different areas in government (Birkland 2015). When the executive and legislature are composed of different parties with opposing ideas, it can be quite difficult to pass a new policy. The legislature votes on proposed bills, which then have to go to the president for final assent. The president has veto powers which can be total or partial, which means that he or she can refuse to sign a bill into law and send it back to the legislature for amendment. Such a situation can result in a stalemate, making the presidential system a challenging one for policy-making. The presidential system concentrates power on the president, and this can make it difficult for the legislature to pass laws. An advantage of the presidential system over the parliamentary system is that a president can declare a bill as urgent and force the legislature to vote on it within a short time. In addition to this, the president also has special privileges and powers that allows them to pass policies on special areas, known as executive powers that do not require the approval of the legislature.

Parliamentary systems pass their policies in a different way. Similar to the presidential system, members of the legislature first propose policies and bills. The parliamentary system can be unicameral or bicameral, which means there are either one or two houses of parliament, respectively. The president is only a ceremonial figure separate from the head of state to is usually a member of the legislature. Because the head of state is a member of the parliament, it is much easier to pass a bill or law. The parliamentary system allows the legislature to debate on relevant policy issues and then vote on them (Hicken & Stoll 2017). In this case, it is much easier to pass a policy or law because it only requires a majority vote, and it becomes law. The executive depends on the legislature therefore, what the legislature decides is passed.

In conclusion, the presidential and parliamentary systems have several similarities and differences. The main similarity is that in both cases, policies and laws are proposed by members of the legislature and then deliberated upon. The divergence comes after this where, after voting, the presidential system requires the president’s signature for the bill to be signed into law. The present can either assent or dissent based on their political views and other considerations. The parliamentary system, on the other hand, is different because once the bill gets a majority vote, it becomes law with no president who can dissent.


Birkland, T. A. (2015). An introduction to the policy process: Theories, concepts, and models of public policy making. Routledge.Hicken, A., & Stoll, H. (2017). Legislative policy-making authority, party system size, and party system nationalization. Electoral Studies, 47, 113-124.