What are some of the similarities and differences between a parliamentary and presidential democracy?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There are similarities and differences between a parliamentary democracy and a presidential democracy. One similarity is that in both forms of government, the people elect their representatives. This gives the people significant power since they are able to decide who will represent them.

There are differences between the two forms of democracy. The United States has a presidential democracy, while the United Kingdom has a parliamentary democracy. In a presidential democracy, separation of powers is important. There are specific jobs that each branch of government has. This means that executive power doesn’t exist in the legislative branch. Also, the President is elected separately from the members of the legislative branch. In a parliamentary democracy, there is no election for the chief executive. The majority party in the legislative branch will choose that person. This makes it easier to pass laws because there is no threat of a presidential veto in a parliamentary democracy. Because presidential democracies generally have a system of checks and balances, this may limit what each branch of government can do.

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The major similarity between a presidential democracy and a parliamentary democracy is that both of these types of governments are democracies.  This is a fundamental similarity that is, perhaps, more important than any differences.  Both of these forms of democracy allow people to vote for their leaders.  This makes them superior to other forms of government that do not allow their people to enjoy popular sovereignty.

However, there are important differences between the two forms of democracy.  First, a parliamentary democracy is less likely to encounter gridlock than a presidential democracy is.  In a parliamentary system, there cannot be a situation in which the chief executive is from one party while the legislature is (in whole or in part) controlled by a different party.  This makes the parliamentary system more efficient.  Second, a presidential system allows for separation of powers where a parliamentary system does not.  In a presidential system, there is a clear distinction between the legislative and the executive branches of government. 

Thus, these two types of government are similar in the most important way.  However, a parliamentary system is more likely to be efficient while a presidential system allows for separation of powers and, thereby, greater protection of people’s rights.

For more information about these two types of government, check out this video:

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