A presidential system is a system of government where an executive branch is led by a president who serves as both head of state and head of government. In such a system, this branch exists separately from the legislature, to which it is not responsible and which it cannot, in normal circumstances, dismiss.
The title president has been carried over from a time when such person actually presided over (sat in front of) the government body, as with the US President of the Continental Congress, before the executive function was split into a separate branch of government. After this split, the President was no longer needed to sit in front of the legislative body, although the executive title remained in legacy.
Although not exclusive to republics, and applied in the case of semi-constitutional monarchies where a monarch exercises power (both as head of state and chief of the executive branch of government) alongside a legislature, the term is often associated with republican systems in the Americas. Presidential systems are numerous and diverse, but the following are generally true of most such governments:
- The executive branch does not propose bills. However, they may have the power to veto acts of the legislature and, in turn, a supermajority of legislators may act to override the veto. This practice is generally derived from the British tradition of royal assent in which an act of parliament cannot come into effect without the assent of the monarch.
- In the case of presidential republics, the president has a fixed term of office. Elections are held at scheduled times and cannot be triggered by a vote of confidence or other such parliamentary procedures. Although in some countries, there is an exception to this rule, which provides for the removal of a president who is found to have broken a law.
- The executive branch is unipersonal. Members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the head of state and must carry out the policies of the executive and legislative branches. However, presidential systems frequently require legislative approval of executive nominations to the cabinet as well as various governmental posts such as judges. A presidential leader generally has power to direct members of the cabinet, military or any officer or employee of the executive branch, but generally has no power to dismiss or give orders to judges.
- The power to pardon or commute sentences of convicted criminals is often in the hands of the head of state.
Countries that feature a presidential system of government are not the exclusive users of the title of President or the republican form of government. For example, a dictator, who may or may not have been popularly or legitimately elected may be and often is called a president. Likewise, many parliamentary democracies are republics and have presidents, but this position is largely ceremonial; notable examples include Germany, India, Ireland, Israel and Portugal (see Parliamentary republic).
Read more about Presidential System: Characteristics of Presidents, Subnational Governments, Advantages of Presidential Systems, Criticism, Differences From A Cabinet System, Republics With A Presidential System of Government
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