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Presidential system

A presidential system is a system of government that features a president as the nation's head of state and active chief executive authority. The term is usually used in contrast to a parliamentary system.

Differences with a parliamentary system

A number of key theoretical differences exist between a presidential and a parliamentary system:

The reality

In reality, elements of both systems overlap. Though a president in a presidential system does not have to choose a government answerable to the legislature, it may have the right to scrutinise his or her appointments to high governmental office, with the right on occasion to block an appointment. In the United States, many appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. By contrast, though answerable to parliament, a parliamentary system's cabinet may be able to make use of the parliamentary 'whip' (an obligation on party members in parliament to vote with their party) to control and dominate parliament, reducing its ability to control the government.

Presidential governments also make no distinction between the positions of Head of state and Head of government, both of which are held by the president. While many parliamentary governments have a symbolic president or monarch whose constitutional prerogatives may generally be exercised by the Prime Minister, presidents in presidential systems are always active participants in the political process, and never symbolic figureheads, though the extent of their relative power or powerlessness may be influenced by the political makeup of the legislature, and whether their supporters or opponents are dominant therein. In some presidential systems such as South Korea or the Republic of China (on Taiwan), there is an office of the prime minister or premier, but unlike semi-presidential or parliamentary systems, the premier is responsible to the president rather than to the legislature.

In the late nineteenth century, it was speculated that the United States Speaker of the House of Representatives would evolve into a quasi-prime minister, with the US system evolving into a form of parliamentarianism. However this did not happen. More recently, it has been suggested that the office of White House Chief of Staff, the President's chief aide, has become a de facto United States prime minister of sorts, with his dominance or weakness in the US governmental system depending on whether there is a "hands off" or "hands on" president. (Ronald Reagan was the former, Bill Clinton the latter). Reagan's Chiefs of Staff in many ways ran the day to day affairs of government, with the President standing back from intervention.

Countries with Presidential systems include the United States, Mexico, and most nations in South America.

see also: republic, congress, congressional system, semi-presidential system