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About the Parliamentary System

A Parliamentary System is a system of government in which the ministers of
the Executive Branch get their legitimacy from a Legislature and are
accountable to that body, such that the Executive and Legislative branches
are intertwined.

List of Pros of Parliamentary Democracy
1. It minimizes political polarization.
For many years now, unprecedented levels of political polarization can be observed in people
from either party. The problem with political polarization is that people tend to base their
opinions or stance on issues or policies on their political affiliation. Yet a government can only
be truly functional if everyone on both ends of the spectrum agrees to work together for the
betterment of the nation. With a Parliamentary Democracy, all parties are forced to work
harmoniously together and for the majority group to be constantly challenged, not trying to
please specific groups to gain support.
2. It allows for a quick and easy passage of legislation.
A parliamentary system can make the passage of legislation faster through the support of a
legislative body. This is because the executive is elected into office according to the party’s
manifesto. As a result, the will of the people has more power than any political system.
3. It will require a coalition in order to pass legislations.
Partisanship has to be abandoned while a coalition of parties must be brought together before
legislation can be passed. This means that no single party is capable of passing legislation
without the support of a large majority. This can result in ensuring no special interests or
minority groups will be favored over the other. The UK is a good example of why a
Parliamentary Government is beneficial to a nation.
4. It is more beneficial to nations with a racially, ethnically or ideologically diverse
Unlike in a presidential form of government, power is divided and even evenly spread, making
Parliamentary Democracy more suitable to ethnically, racially or ideologically diverse countries.

In this type of democracy, a prime minister does not have as much influence or power as a
president, allowing the people to elect a party and not a single person to make crucial decisions.
5. It is easy to create parties.
Any group or organization can form a party or coalition that reflects a shared personal view, and
then have it represented in the government. In the US, it can be difficult to gain any traction.
Subsections of the two major political parties, like the Tea Party of the Republican Party, find it
challenging to be represented. In fact, no third party has made any significant impact on a
Presidential election since 1992.

List of Cons of Parliamentary Democracy
1. It doesn’t offer as much representation on a direct level.
Unlike a presidential democracy or other forms of government, individual regions don’t receive
the same amount of representation in this form of democracy. This is because coalitions are
formed, making difficult for politicians to be held responsible for their personal conduct.
2. It allows legislations to be passed without minority approval.
The coalition that gets true majority has the power to do what they wish, pass any legislation
without consulting or asking for the approval of the minority. This is what happened in the
United Kingdom recently. With the conservative part gaining complete majority in parliament,
the opposition does not have the power to create more balanced legislation. The majority can
even ignore them if it suits them.
3. It allows the legislature to vote for the head of state or prime minister and not the
In a Parliamentary Democracy, an electorate is not required to vote for the head of state or prime
minister. This is why this form of government is highly criticized by many. Aside from that, even
before the legislature could pick the head of the government, there is already a degree of
certainty as to who will win because of the party’s campaigns.

4. It is often unstable.
When governance is often challenged by demanding minority, unstable coalitions and the like,
this form of government could become unstable. Although many proponents contend that
political culture, highly polarized votes and proportional representation all cause instability in a
government, the practice of flexible election scheduling in a parliamentary and a ruling party
delaying elections could also destabilize the government.
No government is perfect. In fact, the advantages and disadvantages of parliamentary democracy
is the same as other systems. However, any form of government can be a problem if the
supposed democratic system fails or refuses to work for the people. When that happens, it would
be worth reconsidering the circumstances.

Advantages of a parliamentary system
One of the commonly attributed advantages to parliamentary systems is that it’s faster and easier to pass
This is because the executive branch is dependent upon the direct or indirect support of the legislative
branch and often includes members of the legislature. Thus, this would amount to the executive (as the
majority party or coalition of parties in the legislature) possessing more votes in order to pass legislation.
An executive in any system (be it parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential) is chiefly voted into
office on the basis of his or her party’s platform/manifesto. It could be said then that the will of the people
is more easily instituted within a parliamentary system.
In addition to quicken legislative action, Parliamentarianism has attractive features for nations that are
ethnically, racially, or ideologically divided. In a uni-personal presidential system, all executive power is
concentrated in the president.
In a parliamentary system, with a collegial executive, power is more divided. It can also be argued that
power is more evenly spread out in the power structure of parliamentarianism. The prime minister seldom
tends to have as high importance as a ruling president, and there tends to be a higher focus on voting for a
party and its political ideas than voting for an actual person.
Parliamentarianism has been praised for producing serious debates, for allowing the change in power
without an election, and for allowing elections at any time
There is also a body of scholarship, associated with Juan Linz, Fred Riggs, Bruce Ackerman, and Robert
Dahl that claims that parliamentarianism is less prone to authoritarian collapse. They pointed out that
since World War II, two-thirds of Third World countries establishing parliamentary governments
successfully made the transition to democracy. By contrast, no Third World presidential system
successfully made the transition to democracy without experiencing coups and other constitutional

Criticisms of parliamentarianism
One main criticism and benefits of many parliamentary systems is that the head of government is in
almost all cases not directly elected.
In a parliamentary system the prime minister is elected by the legislature, often under the strong influence
of the party leadership. Thus, a party’s candidate for the head of government is usually known before the
election, possibly making the election as much about the person as the party behind him or her.

Another major criticism of the parliamentary system lies precisely in its purported advantage: that there is
no truly independent body to oppose and veto legislation passed by the parliament, and therefore no
substantial check on legislative power (see tyranny of the majority). Conversely, because of the lack of
inherent separation of powers, some believe that a parliamentary system can place too much power in the
executive entity, leading to the feeling that the legislature or judiciary have little scope to administer
checks or balances on the executive. However, parliamentary systems may be bicameral, with an upper
house designed to check the power of the lower (from which the executive comes).
Although it is possible to have a powerful prime minister, as Britain has, or even a dominant party system,
as Japan has, parliamentary systems are also sometimes unstable. Critics point to Israel, Italy, Canada, the
French Fourth Republic, and Weimar Germany as examples of parliamentary systems where unstable
coalitions, demanding minority parties, votes of no confidence, and threats of such votes, make or have
made effective governance impossible. Defenders of parliamentarianism say that parliamentary instability
is the result of proportional representation, political culture, and highly polarized electorates.
Although parliamentarianism has been praised for allowing an election to take place at any time, the lack
of a definite election calendar can be abused.
In some systems, such as the British, a ruling party can schedule elections when it feels that it is likely to
do well, and so avoid elections at times of unpopularity. Thus, by wise timing of elections, in a
parliamentary system a party can extend its rule for longer than is feasible in a functioning presidential
system. This problem can be alleviated somewhat by setting fixed dates for parliamentary elections, as is
the case in several of Australia’s state parliaments. In other systems, such as the Dutch and the Belgian,
the ruling party or coalition has some flexibility in determining the election date. Conversely, flexibility in
the timing of parliamentary elections avoids having periods of legislative gridlock that can occur in a
fixed period presidential system.
It has been argued that elections at set intervals are a means of insulating the government from the
transient passions of the people, and thereby giving reason the advantage over passion in the
accountability of the government to the people
Critics of parliamentary systems point out that people with significant popular support in the community
are prevented from becoming prime minister if they cannot get elected to parliament since there is no
option to “run for prime minister” like one can run for president under a presidential system.

Additionally, prime ministers may lose their positions solely because they lose their seats in parliament,
even though they may still be popular nationally. Supporters of parliamentarianism can respond by saying
that as members of parliament, prime ministers are elected firstly to represent their electoral constituents
and if they lose their support then consequently they are no longer entitled to be prime minister. In
parliamentary systems, the role of the statesman who represents the country as a whole goes to the
separate position of head of state, which is generally non-executive and non-partisan. Promising
politicians in parliamentary systems likewise are normally preselected for safe seats – ones that are
unlikely to be lost at the next election – which allows them to focus instead on their political career.
List of Cons of Parliamentary Democracy
1. Indirect Election of the Head of Government
Parliamentary democracy is highly criticized since the head of government or prime minister is not
directly voted for by the electorate but by the legislature. There is a degree of certainty as to who wins the
prime minister position since it is already known who the party campaigns for as head of the government.
2. Parliamentary Systems Can be Unstable
Parliamentary systems are often unstable as in the case of Israel, Canada, and Weimar Germany where
effective governance is constantly challenged by issues such as demanding minority parties, votes of no
confidence and unstable coalitions. Some people argue that proportional representation, political culture
and highly polarized voters are some of the leading causes of instability. Flexible scheduling of elections
under parliamentary democracy is prone to abuse, and a ruling party may delay elections to overcome risk
of unpopularity.
3. Voice of the Minority is Often Ignored
Ruling or bigger parties are prone to ignore the concerns of the smaller parties mainly because this does
not offer substantial incentives. In this case, the dominant party may pass legislation without considering
the smaller parties. In addition, the less direct representation and great degree of separation make it harder
for politicians to act for the greater good with the lack of accountability.
It is futile to categorize parliamentary democracy as bad or good, advantageous or disadvantageous. It has
its own share of positives and negatives, as briefly pointed out here, and it is just a matter of taking
responsibility as a citizen when it comes to electing a party and as a politician when it comes to using the
power vested during elections.