The form of government and its types can be determined on the basis of the way of executive power formation, definition of mutual relationship between legislative and executive power, the character of internal structure of executive power, and the approach towards forming the head of state, or the type of powers available to them. In democratic political systems, executive power is formed on the basis of parliamentary elections results.
The right to form a government is given to the relevant political parties that have a coalition potential. Mutual relationship between legislative and executive power is accompanied by the parliament having a right to control the government and a right of government to request a vote of confidence from the parliament. In the political system, the executive power has a particular structure that fundamentally influences its functioning. It is a dualistic and monistic structure of executive power. The dualistic form of executive power is characteristic mainly for a parliamentary form of government, in which, alongside an individual head of state, a government led by a prime minister as another highest executive power authority exists. A monistic executive in its essence merges the head of state and the highest executive body. President is the head of state as well as the only legitimate executor of the powers within the executive. In the submitted paper, we, therefore, address the basic types of government forms which are determined by the application of the system of mutual balancing of powers.
Table of Contents:
2. Models of government
Currently, we encounter various different models of government within the political systems. In case of democratic regimes, the principle is the same; however, pursuing it is determined by the usage of different techniques. Within this context, these are mainly forming of government stemming from parliamentarism, i.e. parliamentary system of government, presidential system of government, rationalized parliamentarism, chancellor system of government, government of the legislature, and, finally, the apparent parliamentarism typical for non-democratic regimes .
Within this context, this is the reason we address the individual forms of government mainly from the point of view of their theoretical definition. In compiling the text of the paper, we use some qualitative methods in social sciences, like e.g., description, elements of comparison and content analysis of relevant documents written by several internationally recognized authors of political theory, comparative politology, and public policy.
2. Models of government
Parliamentary form of government is characterized by the workings of two mutually dynamizing constitutional institutes, which are the parliament and the government. This system and its mutual relationships are supplemented by an independent office of president.
The executive power, based on its inner structure, in this form of government represents a dual exercise of power .
The fundamental principle of the parliamentary form of government is the sovereignty of the legislature. Parliamentary governments therefore do not imply a strict separation of the legislative and executive power . Mutual relationship is complemented by the possible doubling of membership in both the parliament and the government, which is acceptable and even politically common in a parliamentary form of government. Blanka Říchová considers the basis of a parliamentary system, among others, to be a principle of the so-called shared powers, which is conditional upon the following criteria : Governments in the conditions of a parliamentary system are appointed with an agreement of the parliament and their survival depends on the majority of the legislature.
They must have the support of the parliament throughout the whole electoral period. Loss of the support can lead to the fall of the government and an appointment of new cabinet. The second criterion, according to the author, is the right of the head of state, or an executive power representative holding such right, to dissolve the parliament and pave the way for holding a new election. This situation occurs in the times when it is not possible to ensure the proper functioning of the parliament.
The parliamentary form of government is generally characterized by a monarch or a voted president, who is at the head of state and has a certain level of authority within the executive power. Ladislav Orozs and Katarína Šimuničová state four basic forms of appointing the head of state in the classic parliamentary political systems . The head of state – monarch takes up the position on the basis of a hereditary right and remains in the position for life. In case of all the members of royal family dying, the parliament is entitled to appoint a person to carry out the function of a sovereign. Another way is an election of a president by the parliament for a fixed term of office.
The head of state is elected for a limited period of time by a constitutionally stipulated electoral college, in which parliament, or its lower house, plays an important role. As the last way of election, they mention the elected head of state – president for a fixed term of office, voted by the citizens in direct election, similarly to the election of legislature members .
The existing possibilities of election of the head of state also bring some criticism. Election of a president by the parliament is especially inappropriate if the Constituent Assembly has an ambition to prioritize the head of state to have a function of an arbiter, which appears much more attractive for a modern state than a function in the sphere of executive power, where, in practice, the dominating role is played by the government anyway. From this point of view, it is clear that the aforementioned authors regard the method of indirect election of the head of state as an autonomous and independent part within the sphere of executive power as not sufficiently legitimate. Their assertion is not undermined by the fact that an agreement of a qualified majority of the legislature is necessary for the head of state to be elected for the office [5, p. 28].
The actual selection of candidates for the head of state can be considered a weakness of the parliamentary election. This selection is usually in the hands of relevant political parties, which causes the election and the election campaign within the legislative body to become, to a great extent, a political game, in the pursuit of the political parties to enforce the most acceptable candidate to the presidential office .
This political game becomes more pronounced as the media join it, whether in the positive or negative way . Achieving a compromise of relevant political powers is vitally important for electing a candidate to the office of president.
In the parliamentary form of government, the head of state is usually not responsible for exercising their authority. The responsibility for the actions of the head of state is assumed by the government through an institute of countersignature of a prime minister or a competent government member.
Therefore, the head of state does not have especially strong competences, but plays an important role in disputes between the parliament and the government, entering these disputes as an arbiter, while being able to do so only under clearly defined conditions. The legislative power is put in the hands of the legislative body, which, concurrently, fulfils the control function that it exercises over the executive power.
Hereby, it can be stated that “responsibility of the government for the parliament has become a principle typical for a constitutional arrangement of relationships between the legislative and executive powers in democratic countries (monarchies and republics) in Europe” . President as a head of state does not answer for administration of their office to either the government, or the parliament. This fact expresses their functional independence.
On the contrary, the government answers for the performance of their duties to the parliament, as it is appointed on the basis of the results of the parliamentary election. The defence mechanism of the government towards the parliament in the parliamentary form of government is the ability to request, at any time, a vote of confidence from the legislature. This mutual relationship, expressed by the institute of the vote of confidence, or no confidence, enforces political identity within the parliament majority .
Parliamentary form of government is a typical example for the majority of the European countries. These countries were inspired by the British model of government, whose elements, either in an altered or unaltered form, are present in the countries with parliamentary form of government. Parliamentary system of government is, however, often being associated with a dominance of the executive.
This fact is mostly visible in the political system of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where a strict party affiliation together with a disproportionate (one round, majority) voting system commonly allows the government to control the parliament through a cohesive and reliable majority in the House of Commons .
This matter, however, should not be taken tragically, as, in the conditions of the British political system, bipartism and a strict party obedience improve stability of the political system.
Presidential form of government as s type of political system was established by the Constitution of the United States of America in 1787. It was a result of the reluctance of the founders of the American Constitution to incorporate monarchic elements, familiar from the classic British parliamentary form of government, into the system of government. It resulted in the fact that, for the first time in the modern history, a representative of the people had become a leader of the executive power and the executive power as a whole had been separated from under the control of the legislature .
The main defining criterion typical for the presidential system is, according to several authors, the method of electing the president. Presidential system is often connected to the direct voting, or voting corresponding to the logic of the direct vote [4, p. 69]. The criterion of direct election alone cannot be considered the only and generally applicable criterion.
In the continent of Europe, there are several countries, like e.g.: Austria, Iceland, Slovakia…, in which the head of state is elected through a direct popular vote, but despite this, they appear to be parliamentary systems in all respects [3, p. 94]. The direct election of the president in this case underlines the legitimacy of the head of state to carry out the most significant political function in the state. Although it cannot be regarded as the basic defining criterion, the direct election of the president has its non-negligible place in the presidential form of government.
Presidential system of government is distinguished by a political division between the legislative and the executive [11, p. 356]. This division in American political system represents dualism in the exercise of power, which manifests itself by a strict separation of the executive from the legislative and the level of mutual autonomy . Their separation is confirmed by the fact that both the legislative and the executive are elected separately according to the logic of a direct vote and have a number of competences, independent of the other power [10, p. 50]. Two independent institutes of the state power thus exist alongside each other, both having their source of legitimacy derived from the voters. Alongside the parliament, the president becomes a representative of the people, which enhances independence of their office.
The fact that the president is not dependent on the legislature enables them to exercise their political power more freely; and, in the United States, this is a precondition for a stabile working of the political system. In the relationship between the legislative and the executive, the rule that none of the constitutional actors can simultaneously be a member of the executive and the legislative applies. Because the president is at the same time the head of state and the only representative of the executive power, from the executive internal structure point of view, this is a monistic exercise of political power .
It is, however, necessary to note that, besides the president, there is a government whose members are appointed and removed by the president. This government, however, cannot be viewed from the European perception, because, in this case, it is an advisory body of the president. Its conclusions have a character of recommendations, which the president can follow. The presidential system is, similarly to the parliamentary form of government, further accompanied by the existence of fixed terms of office of the legislative and the executive [11, p. 357]. These ensure a smooth transition from one electoral period to the next one.
The typical feature of the presidential form of government in the USA is the system of checks and balances, which represents a mutual balancing of individual branches of power.
Within the system of mutual balancing of power, the president has a number of competences, which are granted to them by the Constitution. This power is, however, limited by the Congress. In practice, this is manifested by the president needing parliament’s assent to exercise their powers, and, on the other hand, bills passed by the parliament must be approved by the president.
An interesting fact of the presidential form of government is that the president and their executive are unrecallable during their whole mandate, except recalling the president in the process of impeachment. (Impeachment: Trial against the president of the USA in attempting to remove them from the Office on the basis of an indictment for treason.
In such case, the US Constitution grants the House of Representatives the role of prosecutor based on the agreement of an absolute majority of its members. The Senate, in this case presided by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is the judge. The process of Impeachment has occurred twice in the USA. The first one involved Andrew Johnson in 1868; one senator’s vote missing to his removal. The second process involved Bill Clinton, who was charged with perjury during the investigation of his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Also, in this case, the required two-thirds majority of senators’ votes was not achieved. The president R. Nixon was also very close to the process of impeachment due to the Watergate scandal in 1976.
However, he had resigned and thus avoided criminal proceedings against him). It is caused by the fact that the American Congress does not have an authority to control the executive in a form that we recognize from the environment of the classic parliamentary form of government. The US Constitution does not enable the president to dissolve the Congress and also does not enable the Congress to express the lack of confidence in the president or a member of their government due to disagreement with their policy . The inability to recall the president and their government can cause some inconvenience in relation to the Congress. In fact, there is no possibility to get rid of an unpopular president and their government.
Similarly, to the parliamentary form of government, the type of a party system and an actual discipline of political parties play an important role. If the president faces a disagreeing majority in the parliament, it weakens the efficiency of the political system. Hereby, weak discipline of political parties acts as a balancing factor. The president is able to gain support for their policy even from the from the parliament members who are not their party colleagues. If the party discipline together with a multi-party system were similar to the European parties, the president would not be able to look for support for their policy among the opposition politicians. In an extreme case, based on the opposing positions of both governmental entities, a systematic malfunctioning of the political system could occur.
In some modern political systems, we encounter cases that cannot be unambiguously typologically matched to the aforementioned types of forms of government. A mixed form of government combines certain attributes of the parliamentary form of government and certain attributes of the presidential form. This is the case mainly in situations, in which bipolarity in the inner structure of the executive power occurs. This bipolarity is caused by a potential conflict between the president and the parliamentary majority [10, p. 56] that is, in the classic form of parliamentary majority, headed by the prime minister.
It can be stated that in individual mixed systems, heads of states (in Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) the prime minister – chancellor) are added further competences to the classic ones, which significantly strengthens their position in participating on the political contest.
There are two types of such competences: (1) Competences balancing other actors of the state power (e.g., appointing and dismissing government, dissolving parliament, a right of a relative veto etc.); (2) Competences following from a representation of the state unit (constitutional responsibility for forming the state policy, competences of a representative character etc.).
Peter Kresák includes semi-presidential system and rationalized parliamentarism of the FRG [12, p. 142], in literature often described as a chancellor system, in the mixed forms of government. (The author tends towards the name chancellor system. The term rationalized parliamentarism is used by Vladimír Klokočka (1996), who simultaneously rejects the classification of mixed form of government.)
Semi-presidential system as we know it in the present has been developed in France by adopting the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. This constitution has brought a significant
departure from the classic parliamentary form of government. Implementation of its content has strengthened a position and power of the president in relation to government and parliament . The Constituent Assembly attempted to create a government form that would build on the best features of both the classic parliamentary and presidential form of government. Currently, the semi-presidential system is at the crossroads of these two forms of government and draws on both of these systems.
In the political theory, we encounter several different opinions on the semi-presidential system. Maurice Duverger defines this type of political system as a separate unit functioning alongside the existing parliamentary and presidential systems . According to his interpretation, the semi-presidential system is a process of alternating between the parliamentary and presidential phase. Based on his interpretation it can be stated that the French system is presidential when the president is in agreement with the parliamentary majority. On the contrary, when they are not in agreement, the system appears as parliamentary.
An Italian author Giovani Sartori belongs to the group of authors who disagree with classifying the semi-presidential system as a separate category of forms of government. Based on comparing the parliamentary and presidential system, he has come to a conclusion that it is a form representing an oscillation between the parliamentary and presidential form of government, and thus considers the semi-presidential system a mixed form of government [3, p. 133].
Therefore, he defines the semi-presidential form of government on the basis of the following factors: (1) Head of state is voted directly or indirectly by a popular vote for a fixed term of office. (The author means the method of voting that does not contradict the logic of the direct vote. In this case, the popular vote decides the electors ad hoc, who then freely choose, and thus elect the president.) The direct vote and the time limit of the term of office are taken from the presidential form of government.
(2) The president participates on the exercise of power together with the prime minister, which constitutes a dual separation of powers characteristic for the classic parliamentary form of government.
(3) The next factor defining this form of government, according to the author, is the fact that the president is not accountable to the parliament for the performance of his duties. His position in this relationship is enhanced by the right to dissolve the parliament.
(4) The fact that the president is not authorized to exercise their power alone or directly results in the government having to voice president’s will. Compared to the presidential form of government, the position of the president in the executive is, therefore, considerably limited.
(5) The last factor stated by the author is the independence of the government and its head from the institute of president, manifesting itself by the prime minister and government being dependent on the confidence of the legislature. Peter Horváth  further adds a phenomenon of cohabitation to the characteristics of the semi-presidential system. (Cohabitation represents a coexistence of the president and the prime minister if both represent opposite poles of political spectrum. In the political system of France, it occurred during years 1986-1988, 1993-1995, and 1997.
Nowadays it could be said that cohabitation is a common phenomenon, although, logically, it should not be repeated, because the constitutional change from 2000 has reduced the presidential mandate from seven-year long term of Office to a period of five years.) In this context, the president’s dominance in the political system is stronger in the period of majority support from the legislature.
Because the government is dependent on the parliament in the semi-presidential system, the president is capable of controlling the government thanks to the parliamentary majority. It can be stated that a positive communication between the president and the majority party in the legislature is vital for the proper functioning of the semi- presidential system. However, this system works even better when the president and the government headed by the prime minister are acting towards the parliament together.
Rationalized parliamentarism is a form of government that has evolved in the Federal Republic of Germany after the adoption of the Constitution of the FRG in 1949. The essence of this form of government is the implementation of a so-called chancellor principle that, ultimately, represents a unique position of the head of the government – chancellor in the political system. This fact is confirmed by the Article 65 of the Basic Law that allows the chancellor to determine the basic policy guidelines, which he is constitutionally fully responsible for. Individual ministers have the possibility of managing their sectors independently, but they still must follow the political line set by the chancellor. This is expressed by a sector principle. Rationalized parliamentarism is, besides the aforementioned principles, also characterized by the collegiate principle that defines the government in its actions as a coherent whole . The essence of the rationalized parliamentarism, expressed through the aforementioned principles, lies in attempting to find balance between the parliament and government without disturbing the sovereignty of the parliament in any fundamental way .
Government of the legislature is characterized by an especially strong position of the legislature in the political system. Hereby, parliament represents the one and only bearer of sovereignty in the state. The position of the executive power in the political system is extraordinarily weak, which is also shown by the position of the head of state. The president has a function of a state representative and their powers have a character of formal acts.
Domination of the parliament over the executive power is accompanied mainly by the authority to elect and remove both the government and president. The government in this form of government is regarded as a committee of the parliament and is fully dependent on it .
The position of the executive, in contrast to the parliamentary form of government, is disadvantaged by the inability of the president to dissolve the parliament during a parliamentary crisis . In this form of government, the president simultaneously acts as a head of the government. His position is further weakened by acting as ‘primus inter pares’, i.e., as ‘first among equals’ within the executive power. This model is, to an extent, applied in Switzerland, where its shortcomings are compensated by the forms of direct democracy [19, p. 88].
Dominance of the legislature brings risks that stand on the periphery of democracy. The problem of this form of government is its dependency on the political structure of the parliament, which can cause unlimited power of the strongest political party. These risks are associated mainly with countries where bipartism is typical. In countries with a multi-party system, this threat is much smaller due to the tendency of relevant political parties to form coalition governments.
Apparent parliamentarism is a form of government typical for the political system of one political party – monopartism. Generally, this form of government maintains the democratic institutes of power (parliament, government, president); however, their activity is in all respects restricted by the political party leaders’ interference. A characteristic feature accompanying all undemocratic regimes is an absence of free, competitive elections. Thereby, a single party that has created a monopoly for power dominates the political system.
Parliament loses the kind of authority that is granted to it in democratic systems. In these conditions, it becomes an executor of the governing political party’s will without any possibility of autonomous decision-making. The absence of classic functions of the parliament is connected to the non-existence of opposition, a possible alternative for next election period. Another attribute of the apparent parliamentarism is a lack of guarantee and respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms by the state and its representatives. This type of forms of government was typical mainly for the European countries which had belonged to the Soviet Union sphere of influence before 1989, including the V4 countries and the German Democratic Republic. Institute of head of state in these countries was rare. An institute of a collective head of state was typical for these countries, the socialist Czechoslovakia and Romania being an exception.
Based on the abovementioned text we can state that there are three basic models of government dominating in democratic political systems – parliamentary form of government, presidential form of government, and a less frequent semi-presidential form of government.
Besides these, we can find political systems that, due to specific attributes, do not fit the basic models of government – rationalized parliamentarism, government of the legislature, apparent parliamentarism.
The parliamentary form of government is based mainly on the elected legislature, which retains control over the executive power to a significant extent. On the contrary, the presidential form of government seeks a strict separation of legislative and executive powers, because both have a mandate derived from a sufficiently strong source of legitimacy of power.
Semi-presidential form of government stands somewhere in between the parliamentary form of government and the presidential form of government, while, in some cases, it is quite problematic to unequivocally categorize it, as it is simultaneously inclined towards both previous types.
Generally, it could be stated that several models of government exist in the world. Each of these models undoubtedly has its specifics, which could be considered the determinants of functioning of the political systems and, within them, also the decision-making processes. The parliamentary form of government can be considered the most widespread type in both the world and Europe.
Other forms of government, especially the chancellor type of government, are based on the classic parliamentarism, but provide space for further evolution of its elements, e.g., the existence of a so-called constructive vote of no confidence for the incumbent government.
On the other side there is the presidential form of government, typical for the USA. It significantly differs from the conventions typical for continental Europe countries. The apparent parliamentarism is an embodiment of negative perception of a government form, associated mostly with undemocratic regimes. Despite its minimal representation in today’s Europe, it undeniably has its place in theoretical concepts.
This paper was created within the project KEGA – Dynamika premien verejnej správy v Slovenskej republike. Project registration number is 001UCM-4/2019.
Contributo selezionato da Filodiritto tra quelli pubblicati nei Proceedings “6th ACADEMOS Conference 2019 – Political and Economic Unrest in the Contemporary Era”
Contribution selected by Filodiritto among those published in the Proceedings “6th ACADEMOS Conference 2019 – Political and Economic Unrest in the Contemporary Era”
To buy the Proceedings click here.