Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

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Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:35 am

Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

Constitutionally, India’s Govt. currently is a parliamentary democracy. At the national level, there is Central Govt. which is headed by Prime Minister (P.M.) who may or may not be elected by people as a MP (Member of Parliament or Lok Sabha). In each state in India, the state Govt. is headed by Chief Minister (C.M.) who may or may not be elected by people as a MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly or Vidhan Sabha). India also has a President who is the official head of state but in reality he is just a figurehead and all his powers rest in and are exercised by the prime minister and his Govt. The president of India is “chosen” currently by MPs and MLAs etc. in a close / restricted election in which public does not cast votes. In addition, the President appoints a Governor in each state under whom the state Govt. led by chief minister governs.

The current parliamentary format for Govt. in India, nationally and in the states, is overburdening. It requires enormous amounts of money to pay for salaries, security, staff, residences, travels and pensions etc. to the president, prime minister, governors, chief ministers and others. These expenses might be considerably reduced (almost halved) by eliminating some of the positions and combining their roles (duties). For example, the separate positions of P.M. and President in the Center under parliamentary system should be combined and replaced by a publicly elected president under the presidential system. Similarly, the separate positions of C.M. and Governor in each state under the parliamentary system should be combined and replaced by a publicly elected Governor in each state under the presidential system. This will lead to huge savings of public money which could be better spent on development projects.

Note that the selection of Govt. leaders (president and governors) by voters in open elections under the presidential system will strengthen the democratic process and lead to greater accountability, transparency and efficiency in Govt. Moreover, even after getting the new elected positions of national president and state governors and after eliminating the previous positions of prime minister and state chief ministers, the present Lok Sabha (national parliament) and Vidhan Sabha (state legislature in each state) will continue to exist and function legislatively as before with their publicly elected members.

Unfortunately, people currently seem to have little say in the choice of their leaders. Under the parliamentary system it is not necessary for the prime minister (P.M.) or chief minister (C.M.) to face voters in elections and get elected to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha as a MP or a MLA, before or after being appointed to the post of P.M. or C.M. Moreover, even when P.M. or C.M. faces voters currently in elections and gets elected to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha (as a MP or a MLA), his mandate or share of votes from voters is usually less than 50%, because most of the electoral races (constituencies) these days involve more than two candidates trying for the same seat. In addition, his choice as a publicly elected MP or MLA is limited only to one constituency and not all the constituencies (numbering in hundreds) in the nation or state. Thus the prime minister or chief minister currently (under the parliamentary system) either has no direct public support (when he is not a member of Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha) or he is supported by voters only marginally in a small area in the nation or state (when he is able to win a seat to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha, as a MP or MLA, in a single constituency with usually less than 50% votes in his favor, with two or more candidates running against him).

Conversely, the president or governor under the presidential system will be chosen directly by voters in the entire nation or state. Moreover, he ultimately (in the final round of voting involving only two candidates -- after all the minor candidates have been eliminated in first one or two preliminary rounds of voting, such as in French presidential elections) will have at least 50% votes cast in his favor, nationally or state-wise, thus giving him a strong public mandate and voter confidence. This naturally makes the President or Governor under the presidential system more independent and confident in his role as Govt. leader, chosen directly by people.

The current parliamentary system also seems to put extra legislative and financial burden on Indian public in the form of Rajya Sabha (in the Center) and Vidhan Parishad (at the state level). It allows the candidates not running in the elections to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha and thus not winning seats as MP or MLA, or even the candidates running in the elections to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha but not able to win seats as MP or MLA, to be still able to become prime minister or chief minister by just acquiring the membership to Rajya Sabha (the unelected Upper House of Parliament) or Vidhan Parishad (the unelected State Legislative Council). Since the members of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad (unlike the members of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha) are either nominated by the President or elected by MLAs in a close and restricted election, there is little in terms of public electability and accountability regarding them. This seems to make the choice of Govt. leader (P.M. or C.M.) from Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Parishad rather weak, considering that the Govt. leader in a democracy should be chosen by people in open elections.

By picking leaders (P.M. or C.M.) from Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad also gives undue importance to these unelected Houses. it creates opportunities for political favors, deal making and kickbacks to MLAs etc. during the appointment and “election” of members of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad, especially if the person trying for a seat in Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Parishad also aspires to become P.M. or C.M. or just ordinary Govt. minister. Conversely, by having the Govt. leaders (president and governors) elected directly by people under the presidential system, the possibility of private deals, political favors and kickbacks during the selection / election of members of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishad will be reduced.

Moreover, under the presidential system, it seems possible to get rid of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads (stacked currently with members who are not elected by public) altogether and that will lead to huge savings of public money which is spent currently in cash strapped India on salaries, allowances, pensions, housing, travel and security etc. for members and staff of Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads. Note, even without Rajya Sabha and Vidhan Parishads under the presidential system, there still will be Lok Sabha in the Center and Vidhan Sabha in each state (both with publicly elected members) to take care of parliamentary and legislative business. In addition, if the president and governors need to select members (ministers etc.) for their Govt., they will be able to pick them easily and quickly from the elected members of Lok Sabha (parliament) or Vidhan Sabha (state legislature).

Similarly, if the president or governor wants to pick a person for his Govt. (as a minister etc.) from the outside (not belonging to Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha), he (president or governor, having more than 50% mandate from voters nationally or in the state under the presidential system) will be able to do so on his own, without requiring the candidate of his choice (for the post of minister etc.) to be first nominated (by president) or “elected” (by MLAs) to Rajya Sabha or Vidhan Parishad. The presidential system will thus simplify the things and make the democracy less expensive financially and more efficient legislatively, by getting rid of Rajya Sabha (in the Center) and Vidhan Parishad (in each state), in addition to combining the roles of prime minister and president (in the Center) and chief minister and governor (in each state).

Note the presidential system provides greater opportunity for a stable Govt. because president or governor is elected directly by people in open elections, nationally or state-wise. Only at the end of his term as president or governor, he may decide to rerun in new elections thus giving the voters opportunity to either reelect him for the job or replace him with someone else. There is no reason for a president or governor under the presidential system to look for support (vote of confidence) from members of parliament (Lok Sabha) or state legislature (Vidhan Sabha) to hang on to his job as Govt. leader. Conversely, the prime minister or chief minister in parliamentary democracy not only is indebted to others for appointing him as Govt. leader initially, but he also relies on others (members of Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha) constantly for their support (vote of confidence) in parliament or state legislature to hold on to the job as Govt. leader. This makes the position of a prime minister or chief minister in parliamentary system not as stable as that of a president or governor under the presidential system.

In addition, the prime minister or chief minister in parliamentary system feels compelled to make unnecessary deals and promises favoring his backers in Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha so that he continues to be supported by at least 50% MPs or MLAs. This certainly is not good for the independence and effectiveness of prime minister or chief minister as Govt. leader, especially if there is a minority or coalition situation and the Govt. has to rely heavily for support on several political parties in parliament or state legislature where no single political party holds 50% (or more) seats. In addition, the minority Govt. is always in danger of losing support (vote of confidence) in parliament or state legislature and falling, thus making the new and unexpected elections for Lok Sabha or Vidhan Sabha necessary. This leads to the stringent “Coalition Dharma”, requiring the minority Govt. to be constantly mindful of its precarious situation and not displease and offend its backers in parliament or state legislature no matter what the cost to public or democracy. Needless to say, this emboldens the supporters of Govt. in parliament or state legislature (especially in the case of a minority Govt.) to seek many unreasonable favors and benefits (including those based on caste and religion) for themselves and their vote banks, and the Govt. often has no choice but to relent.

The practice of regularly appointing candidates to the posts of P.M. or C.M. and having them continue in those roles through ongoing support in parliament or state legislatures under the parliamentary system also gives rise to a class of privileged people in the form of political dynasties. They seem to maintain hold on political power either directly by becoming P.M. or C.M. or indirectly by controlling the choice of P.M. or C.M. That is not good for the democracy and people because it hinders the development of new and independent leaders. Moreover, it reduces the chances for ordinary members of parliament or state legislature (whether on the side of Govt. or in Opposition) to act independently and judiciously. It also gives rise to the possibility of more stagnation and corruption in Govt. and society.

Conversely, there is less chance of these things happening (including the political dynasties taking hold) under the presidential system, because the Govt. leader (president or governor under the presidential system) is chosen directly by voters in open elections. He does not owe his appointment as president or governor to anyone except the voters. Moreover, he does not require the support of members of parliament or state legislature to stay in power. Thus, unlike in the parliamentary system, the Govt. led by a President or Governor under the presidential system is more stable, which eliminates the need for frequent and untimely elections for president and governors under the presidential system. That translates to huge savings of public money under the presidential system, by avoiding frequent and untimely elections for President and Governors.

by: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma

(April 30, 2012 … http://lamberdar.hubpages.com/hub/democracy_in_India)

Seva Lamberdar

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Re: Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

Post by rawemotions on Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:08 pm

This will be a big change and is not doable in the near term. But what is doable and needs urgent reforms are these

a) Election of Judges of Supreme Court is now adhoc and needs confirmation hearings like US and/or a panel to choose (including opposition figures)

b) Election of head of CBI,IB.RAW and CAG likewise needs confirmation hearings OR a panel to choose (including opposition figures)

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Re: Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Sat Dec 29, 2012 10:13 am

rawemotions wrote:This will be a big change and is not doable in the near term. But what is doable and needs urgent reforms are these

a) Election of Judges of Supreme Court is now adhoc and needs confirmation hearings like US and/or a panel to choose (including opposition figures)

b) Election of head of CBI,IB.RAW and CAG likewise needs confirmation hearings OR a panel to choose (including opposition figures)



That's right. Judiciary and other agencies / depts. definitely need immediate improvements (http://such.forumotion.com/t9197-legislative-process-sometimes)

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Re: Will the presidential system enhance political accountability, cost less and be more effective?

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