Merits Of The Parliamentary System
Harmony Between Legislature and Executive
The greatest advantage of the parliamentary system is that it ensures harmonious relationships and cooperation between the legislative and executive organs of the government. The executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work. As a result, there is less scope for disputes and conflicts between the two organs.
By its very nature, the parliamentary system establishes a responsible government. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission. The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussions, adjournment motion, no confidence motion, etc.
Under this system, the executive authority is vested in a group of individuals (council of ministers) and not in a single person. This dispersal of authority checks the dictatorial tendencies of the executive. Moreover, the executive is responsible to the Parliament and can be removed by a no-confidence motion.
Ready Alternative Government
In case the ruling party loses its majority, the Head of the State can invite the opposition party to form the government. This means an alternative government can be formed without fresh elections. Hence, Dr. Jennings says, ‘the leader of the opposition is the alternative prime minister’.
In a parliamentary system, the executive consists of a group of individuals (i.e., ministers who are representatives of the people). Hence, it is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government. The prime minister while selecting his ministers can take this factor into consideration.
Demerits Of The Parliamentary System
The parliamentary system does not provide a stable government. There is no guarantee that a government can survive its tenure. The ministers depend on the mercy of the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office.
A no-confidence motion or political defection or evils of the multiparty coalition can make the government unstable. The Government headed by Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh, Chandra Sekhar, Deva Gowda, and IK Gujral are some such examples.
No Continuity of Policies
The parliamentary system is not conducive to the formulation and implementation of long-term policies. This is due to the uncertainty of the tenure of the government. A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government. For example, the Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai in 1977 reversed a large number of policies of the previous Congress Government. The same was repeated by the Congress government after it came back to power in 1980.
The dictatorship of the Cabinet
When the ruling party enjoys an absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers. H J Laski says that the parliamentary system gives the executive an opportunity for tyranny. Ramsay Muir, the former British Prime Minister, also complained about the ‘dictatorship of the cabinet. This phenomenon was witnessed during the era of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Against Separation of Power
In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable. The cabinet acts as the leader of the legislature as well as the executive. As Bagehot points out, ‘The cabinet is a hyphen that joins the buckle that binds the executive and legislative departments together.’ Hence, the whole system of government goes against the letter and spirit of the theory of separation of powers. In fact, there is a fusion of powers.
Government by Amateurs
The parliamentary system is not conducive to administrative efficiency as the ministers are not experts in their fields. The Prime Minister has a limited choice in the selection of ministers; his choice is restricted to the members of Parliament alone and does not extend to external talent. Moreover, the ministers devote most of their time to parliamentary work, cabinet meetings, and party activities.
Now, let us compare the parliamentary and presidential systems in terms of their features, merits, and demerits.