Forms of government: (semi)presidential and parliamentary system

There are three different forms of government: the parliamentary system, the presidential system, and the semi-presidential system. The existence of a parliamentary or presidential system is important for representation purposes. The forms of government differ in the manner in which the various state bodies are appointed and the accountability of the various state bodies. The Netherlands has a parliamentary system. In contrast, France has a semi-presidential system.

What forms of government can be distinguished?

  • Different types of government
  • What is the significance of a particular form of government for the population?
  • Presidential system
  • Parliamentary system
  • Parliamentary system in the Netherlands
  • Semi-presidential system
  • Semi-presidential system in France
  • Dualistic versus monistic system


Different types of government

There are three different forms of government:

  • parliamentary system
  • presidential system
  • semi-presidential system


What is the significance of a particular form of government for the population?

The structure of the parliamentary or presidential system is important with regard to representation. There are a number of differences between these two systems of government. These differences lie in the method of appointment and accountability. In a presidential system, both the prime minister and parliament are directly elected by the population. The president has a great deal of democratic legitimacy . This is different in a parliamentary system, where only the parliament is directly elected by the population and the president is usually the leader of the largest government party.

Presidential system

A presidential system of government is characterized by an elected president. The president is not accountable to parliament, as is the case in parliamentary systems. Only when the president is suspected of official misconduct can the president be sent home by parliament. The president is separate from parliament, because the president has full executive power and does not share in the legislative power. In a presidential system, the separation of powers is carried further than in a parliamentary system. Linked to representation is accountability. Because the ministers in a presidential system are appointed by the directly elected president, the ministers are also accountable to the president. In a presidential system, people who exercise executive power, like parliament, are directly elected by the people and therefore cannot be forced to resign by parliament.

Parliamentary system

In a parliamentary system, ministers are accountable to parliament, because parliament is the most democratically legitimized body. The Prime Minister is also accountable to Parliament for his actions. The essence of a parliamentary system is the rule of confidence: a cabinet or a minister must resign when it no longer has the confidence of the majority of parliament.

Parliamentary system in the Netherlands

We have a parliamentary system in the Netherlands. This means that the government is largely dependent on cooperation with parliament. The existence of a parliamentary system says something about the relationship between government and parliament. Characteristic is that parliament can influence government policy, for example by submitting a motion of no confidence and the right of inquiry. The government consists of the King and the ministers and the parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The government cannot function without the support of parliament; this is also called the trust rule. In addition, a minister as an individual is politically accountable to parliament; this is called ministerial responsibility. Ministerial responsibility is laid down in Article 42(2) of the Constitution and is part of the parliamentary system.

Semi-presidential system

Semi-presidential systems contain elements of both the presidential system and the parliamentary system. Executive power is divided between two bodies: the president, the first body, and the prime minister and ministers, the second body. The prime minister and ministers have a relationship of trust with the parliament elected by the people. In contrast, the president does not have this relationship of trust; the president himself also has a direct electoral mandate and the prime minister does not.

Semi-presidential system in France

France exhibits characteristics of both a parliamentary and a presidential system; it is a semi-presidential system. The parliamentary feature of this system is that the French Prime Minister can be forced to resign by the Assemblée Nationale. The President of France is the head of state of France and exercises political power.

Dualistic versus monistic system

In the Netherlands, ministers and state secretaries are not allowed to be members of parliament at the same time, except after elections during the formation of a new cabinet. The idea behind this is that parliament has an independent position in relation to the cabinet. This independence is intended to promote parliament’s control over the cabinet and to prevent cabinet members from not being independent and controlling themselves. This is why the Netherlands has a dualistic system . Moreover, every presidential system is strongly dualistic. There are also countries with a monistic system, where cabinet members are also members of parliament. The United Kingdom, for example, has a monistic system.

read more

  • Meaning of the rule of confidence & the motion of no confidence
  • Ministerial responsibility: meaning & scope
  • Democracy: its different forms and views

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