Differences and Similarities between Presidential and Parliamentary Systems

Week 4 Discussion: Differences and Similarities between Presidential and Parliamentary Systems


Required Resources
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  • Textbook: Chapter 7, 8
  • Lesson
  • Minimum of 1 scholarly source (in addition to the textbook)

Initial Post Instructions
Discuss the differences  and similarities between the presidential and parliamentary systems,  including the executive and legislative branches. Which system do you  feel serves its citizen better? Why? Use evidence (cite sources) to  support your response from assigned readings or online lessons, and at least one outside scholarly source.

Follow-Up Post Instructions
Respond to at least  two peers or one peer and the instructor. Further the dialogue by  providing more information and clarification. Minimum of 1 scholarly  source which can include your textbook or assigned readings or may be  from your additional scholarly research.

Writing Requirements

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  • Minimum of 3 posts (1 initial & 2 follow-up)
  • Minimum of 2 sources cited (assigned readings/online lessons¬†and¬†an outside scholarly source)
  • APA format for in-text citations and list of references

answer 1:


Hi All,

Both the presidential and  parliamentary are popular types of democratic governments (The Borgen  Project, 2019).  Dissimilarities between the parliamentary system and  the presidential system include: the parliamentary system makes up the  legislative branch of government. The head of government is the Prime  Minister who has no time limit on how long they can stay in office and  is elected by parliament members and can only be removed by the  parliament. Citizens vote for members of the parliament (The Borgen  Project, 2019).  Whereas the presidential system has an executive branch  that only includes the president and is elected by citizens for a max  of 2 terms, The presidential system is autonomous of the legislative  branch, and the president can be impeached at any time (The Borgen  Project, 2019).

In the Parliamentary system, the  legislative branch is either unicameral or bicameral. Many governments  prefer a two-house legislative branch to avoid total power in one body  and ensure the federal government can be held accountable for its  actions (Whitman Cobb, W. N., 2020). The Prime Minister writes laws  together with the legislature. In presidential systems, the legislative  branch writes laws for a president to approve. Though the president may  suggest laws, it is ultimately the legislative branch that will write  them (Whitman Cobb, W. N., 2020).

Is one system better than the other?  Both government systems have strengths in different areas. Despite all  the differences between the parliamentary system and the presidential  system, it is ultimately the citizens who hold the power through the  voting process (The Borgen Project, 2019).


The Borgen Project. 2019. The Parliamentary System Versus the Presidential System.  (Links to an external site.)Retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/parliamentary-system-versus-presidential-system/

Whitman Cobb, W. N. (2020). Political science today (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Sage, CQ Press.

answer 2:


Hello Class and Professor

Discuss the differences and similarities between the  presidential and parliamentary systems, including the executive and  legislative branches. 

The executive branch of the presidential system consists  of one person, the President. The executive branch of the parliamentary  system consists of two people. The Prime Minister and the head of  state. According to Gaddipati (2019), in the presidential system, the  president or head of state, is elected by the citizens. They serve for a  maximum of two term limits. In the parliamentary system, there is a  distinction between head of government and head of state. The head of  government is the Prime Minister. The head of Parliament is the head of  state. The Prime Minister is elected by members of Parliament. Citizens  elect members of Parliament. The Prime Minister has no term limit. Both  systems are democracies.

Chamberlain University College of Nursing (2021) stated  that the legislative branch can be either unicameral or bicameral.  Unicameral contains one legislative house. Bicameral contains two  legislative houses. The U.S presidential system has the upper house, the  Senate and the lower house, the House of Representatives. Members of  the Senate and House of Representatives are elected by the citizens and  are elected every six years for the Senate and every two years for the  house. The British Parliament system has the upper house, the House of  Lords, and the lower house, the House of Commons. The House of Lords  serve a 15-year term. The House of Commons are elected every five years  (Elgie, 2016).

Which system do you feel serves its citizens better? Why? 

I believe the presidential system  serves its citizens better than the parliamentary system. While both  systems are democracies and both systems have individual strengths, I  prefer the citizens voting for each member of congress. I also like the  fact that in the presidential system, the president is independent of  the legislature. I also like the fact that the president is elected  every four years and can only serve consecutively for eight years. An  additional aspect I like is that the president is held to the  Constitution and members of Congress can keep a check on the power of  the president.



Democratic Representation

Professor cartoon image saying: A Republic!

Legislative bodies have existed since the days of Greece and Rome. No  political democracy today functions without a representative assembly.  This assembly is a body of lawmakers elected by citizens to represent  their interests in government for a specified term of office. What  distinguishes one legislative system from another is its composition;  the amount of power it exercises; and, the amount of power it allows the  executive or head of government to possess.

Representative government concentrates tremendous power in the  legislative branches. Legislatures can either be unicameral (one house)  or bicameral (two houses). Bicameral systems feature an upper and lower  house. Depending on the traditions of a given democracy, these houses  either share or hoard power. Additionally, most democracies feature  either a parliamentary or presidential system. In a presidential system,  the government leader is separate from the legislature denoting a  separation of power. Conversely, in a parliamentary system, the  executive and the legislature display a fused system of power.

Since the Cold War, the United States, along with ally Great Britain, ¬†has been a champion for democracy around the world. Most modern ¬†democracies have modeled their systems of government similar to the US ¬†or Great Britain; therefore, we will focus our discussion on these two ¬†nations this week. Both the United States and Great Britain believe in ¬†representing the people’s wishes to create stability in each country. In ¬†representing the people, the bicameral legislative branches of both ¬†countries exercise the most power and their executives serve as head of ¬†government. The way each nation governs their people is different, but ¬†the systems do have some similarities. For example, both nations elect ¬†their lower houses. Let us take a closer look at these two systems.

US and Great Britain Governing Systems













*Refer to Lesson 2



The Upper House

United States Capitol with Senate Chamber Buildings

In bicameral systems, most of the work is customarily done in the ¬†lower house. However, the upper house in the presidential model of the ¬†US, the Senate, wields significant power and has a workload unlike many ¬†other consultative bodies. The US Senate weighs in on legislation coming ¬†from the lower house, the House of Representatives. The Senate may also ¬†draft its own legislation. No legislation goes anywhere unless the ¬†Senate approves it. Furthermore, the Senate has some unique ¬†responsibilities. It ratifies treaties that the executive branch, in ¬†this case the president, negotiates with leaders of other nations. It ¬†approves appointments to executive departments whose heads form the ¬†cabinet. It votes on the President’s appointments to the judicial branch ¬†including the Supreme Court. Additionally, when the President is ¬†accused of offenses that could result in dismissal from office, the ¬†Senate acts as a jury, hearing the case and rendering a verdict.

In the British Parliament, the upper house, known as the House of  Lords, lacks substantial legislative powers compared to the lower body,  the House of Commons. The House of Lords is not even an elected body.  When comparing the House of Lords with the upper house in the U.S.  system, the Senate, you will find there are far more members in the  Senate engaged in the process of representative government.

This is not to say that Senators’ counterparts in the House of Lords ¬†are not important to the legislative process. The well-educated and ¬†legal-minded members of House of Lords can make very useful revisions on ¬†items sent to them from the House of Commons. Additionally, like most ¬†upper bodies in a bicameral system, its membership is smaller than in ¬†the lower chamber which allows it to conduct business more efficiently.

Upper bodies of the legislatures provide an extra measure of  representation. For example, members of the House of Lords are chosen  through a process that includes thorough Appointment Committee vetting  of nominations, approval by the prime minister, and approval by the  monarch. On the other hand, the U.S. Senate, provides equal geographic  representation of the states. Each of the fifty states, regardless of  size, elects two persons to that body.

The Lower House

Big Ben House of Parliament Buiding

Regardless of the system, the presidential or parliamentary model,  the lower house is where the real power resides in most legislative  systems. In the United States, for example, most laws involving taxes  have traditionally originated in the House of Representatives. Lower  house representatives stand for election more often than their  counterparts in the upper house. This shorter election cycle makes these  representatives more in tune with their constituents. In many cases,  whatever is on the minds of the electorate will find a voice in the  lower house. The lower house is where political power is seen in its  most basic form.

The lower house of the parliament in Great Britain is called the  House of Commons. It selects the prime minister or head of government  from its own body as well as the cabinet. The House of Commons maintains  significant control over the executive and may even dismiss him or her  via a vote of no confidence. In the parliamentary model, it is not  uncommon for the largest party or the party in power to control not only  the lower house, but also the executive branch. Once parliamentary  elections are held, its members will select the next executive and  department heads from within its own ranks. This process can be good  news to voters weary of political gridlock. Political gridlock occurs  when nothing gets done and the various parties blame each other for the  inaction. With the executive and the legislature all hailing from the  same party, it would seem anything the executive wants to do will find  favor in the lower house. However, the system presents a problem for the  executive, who must make sure not to anger supporters in the lower  house, because parliament can remove the executive through a vote of no  confidence. Consequently, the executive and legislative members in a  parliamentary system tend to work closely together to ensure they agree.


Election/Selection Process

US Presidential System

Great Britain Parliamentary System

Election of Lower House



Selection of Upper House



Selection of Head of Government

Electoral College


Selection of Head of State

Electoral College

Birth Right

The Executive Branch

Executives in the presidential model are elected separate from the  legislature. The President is bound by statute to observe specific  election dates and is restrained by the Constitution from doing anything  that might exceed specified powers. Presidential powers are held in  check by the other two branches of government, the legislature and the  judiciary.

If anyone were to suggest that a job description for the U.S.  president might include prior national legislative experience, you would  not find many qualified applicants in the ranks of recent presidents.  In fact, before President Obama, only one American president in recent  U.S. history spent any time in the U.S. Congress РGeorge H. W. Bush  (president 1989-1993). On the other hand, it would be impossible for  someone in the United Kingdom to rise to the post of prime minister  without legislative experience. In fact, in the British parliamentary  model, the executive is selected from within the legislative branch,  along with the cabinet that will help him or her guide the government.

Prime ministers can still serve as part of the legislative branch and ¬†represent a local constituency, something presidents cannot do. Prime ¬†ministers can also call for early national elections to be held to try ¬†to strengthen their parties’ positions. The U.S. President cannot. ¬†Former British Prime Minister, Theresa May, called for such an election ¬†in 2017, hoping to strengthen her party’s position. She nearly lost the ¬†party their position instead.

The executive in the presidential model is elected. In the U.S.; this  election takes place indirectly in the Electoral College, not the  legislature, or by direct citizen vote. The Electoral College is a  mechanism used to elect the US President every four years. The electors  are chosen according to rules set by each state individually and  codified by their own state law. When we vote for a candidate as a  citizen, we are actually voting for an elector to vote for the  president. These electors vote for the President based on laws of their  state which can vary between states. Every state has a number of  electoral votes equal to its number of congressional representatives,  plus three for the District of Columbia. A candidate must receive the  majority of votes in the Electoral College to win the election.

Executive Roles in the US Presidential System v. Great Britain Parliamentary System




Prime Minister




Additionally, the US President can veto legislation and can go to ¬†voters directly to seek their support for issues. For example, the ¬†President uses the State of the Union address to highlight the ¬†Administration’s agenda for the coming year and push for support of its ¬†causes amongst the public. The President uses platforms such as speeches ¬†and press conferences to push the agenda on a regular basis. Gaining ¬†the support of the public makes it difficult for a legislature to refuse ¬†a presidential request. On the other hand, the British Prime Minister ¬†is a working member of the Parliament. However, the Prime Minister is ¬†also the leader of the government and sets its agenda within parliament ¬†unlike the US President who works in a different branch.

As for dismissal of a president, in the United States, this process  is very difficult and resembles a trial in the legislature. A president  can only be removed for serious illegal actions. The executive is  afforded every opportunity to defend their actions as legal in this  process and remains in office unless found guilty. The process of  bringing charges against a public official is known as impeachment and  it is the job of the US House of Representatives. Former President Bill  Clinton was impeached by the US House of Representatives, but not found  guilty by the US Senate. The British Prime Minister can be removed from  office with a vote of no confidence in parliament. A vote is simply  called for by a member of parliament putting forth a motion of no  confidence in government and holding a vote upon it.

Influences on Representative Government in the US

The United  States Constitution guarantees the right of the people to petition the  government for redress of any grievances. In other words, citizens have  the right to protest or ask for help from their government without fear  of government retribution. For example, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of  2010 required employers to provide birth control as part of their  health care insurance; some religious employers petitioned the  government for exclusion from this piece of the Act which they felt  interfered with their First Amendment religious rights. This guarantee  of the right to petition the government is a fundamental right in the US  representative-constitutional democracy. An essential part of this  process is voting for our representatives who will enact public policy  to deal with our grievances. Although the voter is at the center of this  process, getting public policies passed to deal with complicated issues  in the complex system can be difficult in a diverse nation. There are a  variety of actors that play a role in developing public policy that are  not discussed in the Constitution such as political parties and  interest groups.

Political Parties and Interest Groups

Cartoon professor image holding a pointer and asking, ‚ÄúLike the NRA?‚ÄĚ

Whether you follow politics or not, there is little doubt that you ¬†have heard of interest groups or political parties. They are a fixture ¬†in our everyday lives. The idea of representing the people requires that ¬†the government listen to the people. However, a country as large as ¬†ours contains many voices demanding to be heard. Some voices can easily ¬†be lost in the crowd. Interest groups and political parties form to aid ¬†people attempting to be heard over the cries of the many because as more ¬†and more people come together, their demands become stronger and ¬†louder. As the old adage states “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” So, ¬†let’s take a moment to understand these key components of the political ¬†process!

Interest groups and political parties have some similarities. They  both attempt to sway public policy. Where they differ from one another  is to whom they answer when all is said and done. An interest group  responds only to itself and its members. It lobbies politicians and may  even run ads to support particular candidates, but in the end, it is  outside of government. An interest group is not responsible to the  public. It represents only the specific goals of its particular  interests.

In contrast, a political party is comprised of representatives who  ultimately answer to the public. Their goal is to win elections, not  just promote their interests. In doing so, they must have a much broader  platform of interests or goals. It is kind of like the difference  between working for the private sector versus the public sector. Your  job may have the same responsibilities, but in the private sector you  represent the interests of your company and in the public sector you  represent the interests of the citizens.

The Impact of Electoral Systems

As we discussed last week, there are different types of electoral  systems. These systems influence party structure. Single-member  districts largely support a two-party system because of the power they  must obtain to be elected by a majority while proportional systems allow  for a multiparty structure because more parties can be represented in  the system.

In a plurality system where the winner takes all, the platforms of ¬†smaller parties must band together to become viable contenders in the ¬†race to receive the majority of votes. This banding promotes the ¬†emergence of two strong parties as a means of obtaining enough votes to ¬†win the election. However, in a system where a portion of the vote goes ¬†to the percentage of votes received, two-distinct parties are not ¬†essential to being represented. Smaller parties can retain their ¬†distinctive agendas during the election process. However, it is ¬†important to note the need for coalitions in this structure also. While ¬†the smaller parties can achieve representation in government, a majority ¬†must still be obtained in order to pass legislation. Therefore, the ¬†smaller parties form coalition agreements to support the platform of the ¬†member parties. Coalitions require the complete support of party ¬†members because the loss of one representative’s vote can mean the clear ¬†majority is lost. Although elected officials may try to support certain ¬†policies, their efforts may be thwarted by the lack of support within a ¬†coalition or even their own party. Compromises are needed to run an ¬†effective government. Each of these two systems require compromise at ¬†one stage or another.


Democracy is an old idea that continues to evolve. Even though a  democracy might look different from country to country, the bottom line  is the people are being represented. Regardless of whether a government  operates under a parliamentary or presidential model, the legislative  and executive branches are two key government components. Additionally,  electoral systems play a key role in these democracies ensuring the  election of government officials.

Both interest groups and political parties attempt to influence the ¬†acts of government in these representative democracies, but they do so ¬†from two different perspectives. The first is from the outside (interest ¬†groups), and the second is from the inside (political parties). The ¬†political party’s job is to win elections and the way to win is to get ¬†eligible citizens to the polls to vote. In the US’s representative ¬†government, the people vote on representatives to the executive and ¬†legislative branches while in Great Britain citizens vote for members of ¬†the House of Commons. Voting is not done in a vacuum. There are a ¬†variety of actors dedicated to getting people to the polls, swaying ¬†public opinion, and assisting with passing laws. A candidate must be ¬†voted into the office before any public policy can be implemented to ¬†address the people’s issues so political parties work diligently to get ¬†people to the polls to vote for their person. Interest groups, also, ¬†work with their members to get people to the polls to vote. If the ¬†candidate wins, then the interest group works with the candidate to pass ¬†favorable legislation for the cause.

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