What should be the best option for constituting

Part 1

                                By Fesseha Nair

 The interim constitution that will be framed by the ENCDC- political group must in its provisions of the interim constitution be careful on constituting the government.


The author of this article has in his previous series of articles wrote on

  1. 1.    The structure of the state in Eritrea
  2. 2.    The Roadmap from dictatorship to Democracy


The Eritrean National Commission for Democratic Change( ENCDC)has as its agenda to frame a transitional/ interim government in case if the dictatorship falls in sudden. Constituting an executive government is one of the main issues of the interim constitution to be discussed at this coming congress in order to be aware which is the best option one should have to acquire the knowledge of the important options that are practised in today’s democracies.

There are three options in constituting an executive government.

  1. 1.    Parliamentary system
  2. 2.    Presidential system
  3. 3.    Semi-presidential system


This article will analyse the major competing arguments in favour of and against of each option.

Parliamentary systems are characterized by the legislature being the principal arena for both lawmaking and ( majority decisions) for the executive power. Presidential systems are characterized by the separation of the executive and legislative branches with executive authority residing outside the legislature, with the president and his/her cabinet. The simplest definition of the differences between the two approaches can thus be summed up by the degree of relative independence of the executive, with pure presidentialism being characterized by executive independence and pure parliamentarism by the mutual dependence and intertwining of a state’s legislative and executive capacities.

For the Eritrean case with its deep rooted conflicts, however, the main distinction between parliamentarism and presidentialism must focus on the distinction between, on the one hand, the range of parties and opinions that can be represented in the executive under parliamentary system, in contrast to the unavoidably singular nature of authority represented by the office of the president. Although this comparison is often over-drawn, presidential executives can and often do have a range of political and ethnic identities represented in the cabinet, while parliamentary systems are often dominated by a single party alone- it remains central tot he debate concerning the relative merits of presidentialism, parliamentarism and semi-presidentialism.

The Eritrean debate over the merits of these three options is not so much  an issue of which is best but rather of the most appropriate choice for the Eritrean Diversity. Considering the Eritrean political, economic and cultural identity, it is essential that the coming congress to examine in detail these three options.

  1. 1.    Parliamentary system


During the second wave of democracies following the second world war most of the world’s countries have adopted the parliamentary system as the best choice for divided societies. Much of the scholarly debates were in favour of parliamentary government than presidentialism.

The majority of the world’s established democracies use parliamentary systems, while some countries in Latin America and Asia have used presidentialism and later fall to dictatorship. Many observers also argue that parliamentarism itself has consolidated democracy in their own countries. Under this rationale, parliamentary government has been identified as having a number of moderating and inclusion promoting features that have assisted nascent democracies

Merits of parliamentarism


The efficiency of a parliament as a combination of democratic governance will be greatly influenced by the composition of that parliament in terms of the number of political parties represented depending on the method of election used and reflecting inclusivity, particularly in relation to ethnic and religious groupings in the society.

In this system, there is an ability to facilitate the inclusion of all groups within the legislature and the executive. Cabinets in the parliamentary systems are usually drawn from members of the elected legislatures.

Parliamentary government enables the inclusion of all political elements in the executive, including minorities in the executive. Cabinet comprising a coalition of several different are a typical feature of many well established parliamentary democracies. This means that participation in government is not the preserve of one group alone, but can be shared amongst many, or all, significant groups.

In societies like that of Eritrea divided by significant ethnic and religious cleavages the principle of inclusion is vital. This is why a number of democratic transitions in recent years( e.g. South Africa) have features “ grand coalition” or “ unity” governments where all political parties were represented in cabinet and take part in the executive decision making.

In parliamentary system, there is flexibility and capacity to adapt to changing circumstances  parliamentary coalitions can be made and unmade to suit changing circumstances, and because governments in many parliamentary systems can change on the floor of the legislature without  calling an election. For Example, a discredited government can be dismissed from the office by the parliament or enable elections to be called at any time than be subjected tot he fixed terms which is common with presidentialism.

In parliamentary system, there is check and balance mechanism by making the executive dependent at least in theory upon the confidence of the legislature, parliamentary systems are said to foster greater accountability on the part of the government of towards the people’s representatives. Proponents argue that policy making process is more transparent but opponents argue that if the parliament is confined by party discipline it can also be a rubber stamp of the executive.

In the parliamentary system, there is stability and continuity   of the many states that became independent in the three decades following the end of the second World War , all the countries which claim to have maintained a continuously democratic record to the late 1980 were parliamentary systems. The statistics shown about these countries that adopted parliamentary systems were stable and survived while those countries adopted presidentialsim suffered some form of democratic breakdown or dictatorship.

The advantages of parliamentary system of government is inclusivity, flexibility, transparency and stability.

Demerits of parliamentary systems


The inclusivity that was typified in grand coalitions sometimes can easily turn to deadlocks among political parties due to disagreement on some issues. This deadlock can later undermine the very unity that they were intended to stimulate.

There are also critics that parliamentary systems are inherently less accountable than presidential ones. Responsibility of decision making is taken by collective cabinet rather than a single figure, this is problematic when diverse coalitions form the executive and decision making become difficult.

There is also an inclination towards weak or fragmented government this can happen when the shifting of coalitions of parties be in party disciplines in such circumstances the governments are weak and unstable leading to a lack of continuity.

The success or failure of the parliamentary system depends on that the legislative check on the government must not be in a slim majority where almost all takes by the winner but an ameliorating device must be found so that all be winners.

The disadvantages of parliamentary system of government are inclusivity can sometimes be missed by deadlocks, accountability can be less because of some problems in decision making and the propensity towards weak government can happen by the shifting of the coalitions.

Continues……………….with Presidentialism its Merits and Demerits

Short URL: https://english.farajat.net/?p=1919

Posted by on Dec 11 2010 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

Leave a Reply

Photo Gallery

Log in |2011 farajat.net