Parliamentary System Of Government: Explanation, Features & Prerequisites6 min read

by Politic360 Publishers
What is Parliamentarianism

Definition & Explanation 

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “the system in which the cabinet controls the real state powers, the cabinet is taken from the parliament, and cabinet members are individually or collectively responsible before the parliament.” 

This system has been taken from the United Kingdom because the U.K. Constitution is the mother constitution of parliamentarianism. 

It is also called the ministerial or Cabinet System. Cabinet or parliamentary form of government is that in which:  

  • Legislature and executive are closely related and share powers with each other.
  • The parliament forms the Cabinet, and Parliament is the superior organ. 
  • There are two executives, i.e. the elected President or King and the Prime Minister.
  • The President represents the State, and the Prime Minister represents the government. 
  • The Cabinet is responsible before the legislature.

FEATURES: 

Attributes or main characteristics of parliamentary form government are as under: 

Formation of Cabinet: 

When the general election is over, and the prime minister is elected, the prime minister nominates his council of ministers or Cabinet. 

This responsibility of the prime minister is of exceptional significance. 

The list of ministers is presented before the head of State for his approval. They are commonly taken from the party’s ring leadership. 

Well-experienced, alert and learned members are given preference because of the sensitive nature of the parliamentary system. 

Team Work Spirit: 

In the parliamentary system, all ministers work in a team spirit. They must agree on an issue in a cabinet meeting, and because of different opinions, the minister concerned must resign or be expelled from the Cabinet. 

All differences must be kept secret. The cabinet members are in one boat, and they either swim together or sink together. 

Supremacy of Premier: 

In the Ministerial or parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is very important and has too many powers. 

In the legislature, he is the leader of the house while in the executive branch. He is the leader of the council of ministers. 

The Prime Minister is to appoint, remove, allot portfolios and supervise the activities of his ministers.

He acts as a bridge between the Cabinet and the President. On his resignation, the council of ministers must resign. 

The Prime Minister is like a shining moon in the galaxy of stars.

Coordination of Powers: 

This system’s basic principle is that two organs, legislature and executive, share their powers. 

In this system, both the organs (legislature and executive) depend on each other. In different constitutional ways, they interfere in each other’s affairs. 

For example, the ministers present Maximum bills in the legislature; they can participate in legislation, address the legislature, call its meetings, and even dissolve the lower house. 

On the contrary, parliament can question the activities of the cabinet members, present various motions and remove the Cabinet through no confidence. 

Both government organs have vigorous checks on each Other. 

Political Collective-Responsibility: 

Another significant attribute of parliamentary democracy is that the Cabinet is collectively responsible before the legislature. 

Activities of the Cabinet can be questioned and checked by the legislature through various constitutional means. 

Ministers remain in office as long as they enjoy confidence in the legislature. In case of no confidence in a single minister, the whole Cabinet must resign. 

All ministers must support a bill presented by a minister because its defeat means no confidence in the whole Cabinet. 

Cabinet members (ministers) are responsible before people through their elected representatives. 

People can present their grievances through their representatives, and ministers are accountable before people. 

Term: 

The constitution fixes the term of the Cabinet but not in a strict sense. A minister may be removed or changed at any time. 

Parliament can be dissolved during national emergencies. If parliament is dissolved, the government no longer remains in office. 

Parliament can remove the government through a no-confidence movement against any particular minister, prime minister, or the whole Cabinet. 

Therefore, the life of the parliamentary government is uncertain. 

Two Executives: 

There are two types of executives in this system, i.e. titular executive and real executive. 

The titular executive is head of the State, for example, the President of India, Pakistan and Queen Of England. 

This type of executive is merely a symbolic or constitutional head of State. 

Second is a real executive who exercises real powers of the State and is head of government, for example, the Prime Minister of India, Pakistan and the UK. 

Prerequisites Or Essential Conditions Of Parliamentary System 

The parliamentary form of government is the most popular class of State globally.  To make this system acceptable and efficiently workable, there are certain prerequisites and elementary conditions, which are: 

Party System: 

Parties are the instruments through which the game of parliamentarianism is played. 

The prime minister must have majority support in this system’s lower popularly elected house. To secure a majority in a large house is impossible without political parties. 

Any political party or group that won the general elections can easily provide the required majority. 

In a non-party house, it is very difficult for a person to get the confidence of the majority members. 

In a non-party house, every member has their own personal and territorial interests, and they have no common idea, program or charter. 

There are various thoughts and interests, and such a legislature is often a heterogeneous mixture of concepts and motives. To collect such scattered varieties of thinking is a difficult task. 

Political parties have leaders, shared ideology, charter and homogeneity, and they easily nominate one of their leaders as the Prime Minister. 

In this. system, legislation is commonly done through a simple majority and obtaining a majority in a heterogeneous house is not easy.  Legislation is possible only if there is a party system. 

These parties support the bills sponsored by the government and give a vote of confidence to the Prime minister. 

In multi-party states, coalition governments are formed, which are nothing but a mixture of divergent charters and interests. 

Small groups try to use facilities more than their representation. The major partner is not in a position to practicalize its charter.

Coalitions are ever unstable, and political chaos becomes the destiny of such states. 

Parliamentary forms of governments in Pakistan before 1997 remained unstable because of the coalitions. 

The parliamentary system was stable in India when Congress alone ruled, but coalitions failed there. 

In the parliamentary system, there is a share of powers between the legislature and the executive. 

To some extent, they must be welded with each other; that is impossible without political parties. 

So, for the success of the parliamentary system, like Britain, a two-party system is more suitable, and this is possible through repeated elections. 

These facts reveal that a sound parliamentary system can be maintained if an effective and impressive party system is active and organized. 

An effective party system is the spirit of the parliamentary form of government. 

Sound Political Culture: 

It is clear from the system’s name that the parliament dominates it. 

Parliament is often composed of the elected representatives of the people. 

These representatives must be educated, patriotic, experienced and have a national and international political outlook. 

Creative cultured electorates are required to elect such representatives. 

Political culture is that part of the culture that positively or negatively influences politics. 

If there is tolerance, acceptance, abolition of victimization and violence in politics, it is a positive and sound political culture. 

Cultural values must be rational and not sentimental, and their pivotal point must be national interests. 

Once a state’s political culture is put on the right track, it will positively influence the other institutions, and consequently, the stability of parliamentarianism is achieved. 

Political Consciousness: 

Every system is to depend upon people. The parliamentary form of government has a close dependency on citizens. 

Its sustainability requires positive democratic values, tolerance, acceptance, respect for others’ opinions, and particularly eagle eyes to critically evaluate the arena of politics. 

Politically dormant society cannot survive, and its survival is highly in need of active and conscious individuals. 

If people are politically aware, they cannot be deceived by seasonal, opportunist, professional, selfish, corrupt, and self-seeking politicians. 

They will critically evaluate the game played by the leaders and parties. 

Increasing literacy rate may produce political consciousness and creative political culture, but the education system must be according to the national needs, moral values and peoples’ orientations. 

Independence of Media and Press: 

Electronic and press media are the backbone of a political system. 

The relationship between the rulers and the ruled depends on the role of media and the press. 

It is to play a two-way role. It ventilates people’s grievances and problems to the government, exposing its activities to people. 

The standardized life of the parliamentary form of government profoundly depends on the close and active relationship of the government and the people. 

Members of the parliament, Cabinet, leaders of the political parties, bureaucracy and other policymakers are kept informed about the people’s reaction.

On the other hand, people are kept aware of the government’s policies, activities, and programs for critical evaluation. 

If the media is free, it will play its due role. Further, the media impressively provides a sound political culture, political awareness and political education. 

So, freedom of the electronic and press media is essential for the success of the parliamentary form of government. 

Spirit of Teamwork: 

The basic principle of the parliamentary setup is the ‘Coordination of Powers’. 

In this system, both legislature and executive are to share powers, and there is a collective responsibility of the ministers. 

The cabinet members are to work under the banner of a common charter and electoral promises made with the people. So, it is one of the essential attributes of this system to work in a team spirit. 

According to a political thinker, “The ministers swim in the same boat in a parliamentary system. They can swim to gather or sink to gather.” 

Parties and leaders must be ready to work in a team. To make the system stable and prosperous.

Constitutionalism: 

The constitution is an agreement between the rulers and the ruled. 

Every government can be run effectively only if the system is run according to the fundamental laws of the land.

Various political crimes like lota-cracy, bargaining, floor crossing and horsetrading are seen in the parliamentary setup of the developing countries. 

Extra-constitutional means are adopted to stabilize the government, which further produces complications and sub-crimes in a society. 

Therefore, a firm constitutional ground must be provided to build the parliamentary system efficiently. 

Miscellaneous: 

It is seen that in this system, the ruling party is to facilitate its members through unfair means. 

Political bribery, favoritism, victimization and corruption are the common evils of this system on the government side. 

It pollutes political culture and democratic values. Therefore abolition of these evils is a must for the smooth operation of the parliamentary system. 

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