Describe the differences in the establishment of public policy in a Presidential system as opposed to a Parliamentary System.


            Public policy is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “the basic policy or set of policies forming the foundation of public laws, especially such policy not yet formally enunciated.”  This means that the governing body of a nation sets forth general policies that may be used to infer its position on most issues, realized or not.  Generally, public policy of an administration must be amenable to the majority of citizens responsible for its continued existence.  If citizens disagree with representative’s policies, they will not likely choose to reelect them, opting for a better representative. 

            This survival of popular policy is accomplished directly through a presidential system and indirectly through a parliamentary system.  In a presidential system, each party decides upon a leading candidate for the presidency through primary elections.  This candidate will generally represent the most extreme views of the party in all cases.   For example, the winner of the Democratic primary will often be the most “left-wing” while the winner of the Republican primary will often be the most “right-wing.”  Then, in order to gain support of the masses, each candidate scrambles to get back to middle ground, while still maintaining the integrity of their policy.  This may be accomplished by turning the focus of issues without changing personal standpoints.  With the right public policy, a candidate can get a majority of votes from all parties thus winning the presidential elections.  After election of the president, public policy is constantly monitored by state-elected representatives (House of Representatives, Senate), who see to the needs of each individual state.  Representatives are elected to two-year terms while state senators are elected to six-year terms.

            In a parliamentary system, public policy and interest is maintained indirectly through a system of ministers and parliamentary bodies.  Ministers make up the most important group of officials and constitute the Cabinet, the executive body that controls the Parliament (legislative).  The voters of the districts they represent vote top officials into parliament, therefore whichever party has the greatest voter support eventually controls the Cabinet.  However, Cabinet remains under control of parliament, because it retains power only as long as it has the support of the majority of the members in parliament. 

The prime minister is the leader of the largest party in parliament or of a coalition (a temporary union of parties to gain a majority of seats).  The head of state, usually a monarch, like the King or Queen, appoints the prime minister.  He or she usually then appoints members of his own political party to become ministers, the most important of whom form the Cabinet.  The Cabinet may be resigned if parliament defeats a program the prime minister considers essential and a new election is held.  Also, an election must be held if the parliament votes “no confidence” in the prime minister.  However, Cabinet still retains most of the lawmaking control and power as the executive branch of government.

            Clearly, public policy of the prime minister and the cabinet must be consistent with the largest political party.  If they stray too far, the bulk of voters in their party may change allegiances and a new party may become the majority, leading to a new prime minister, and consequently, a new Cabinet.

            It is my opinion that the presidential system is more effective in looking after the public policies of voting citizens.  By directly electing a president apart from the congress, there is less room for personal influence by politicians or people who already hold a public office.  In a parliamentary system, the dominating body of government is determined by only a few people.  Even though the prime minister is usually drawn from the biggest political party, citizens do not have any direct say in who that might be.  Maintaining of public policy in government officials is therefore reactive instead of proactive.  People do not know beforehand whether the prime minister will support their views, only afterward.