Types of Democracies
A parliamentary democracy includes an elected assembly or parliament whose members make decisions, pass laws, and supervise spending of public funds. Parliaments also act as a sort of middleman between ordinary citizens and the government. The government is accountable to the parliament which, in turn, implicitly represents the views of the people who elected them.
In a parliamentary democracy, the top officials are known as ministers. The ministers make up an executive body that is called the cabinet. Ministers can also be members of parliament, and so they carry out legislative or law- making functions as well. Both the government and the cabinet functions under the control of the parliament as a whole and remains in power only as long as it has the support of a majority of the members of parliament.
In most countries with parliamentary government, the chief executive is called the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the leader of the largest party in parliament or of a coalition. A coalition is a temporary joining of parties that together have a majority of seats. The prime minister is not elected by voters but is nominated by the majority party and then formally administered the oath of office by the official head of state who may be the king or queen of a monarchy or the president of a republic. In most parliamentary governments, the Prime Minister selects his or her ministers. The United Kingdom is an example of a parliamentary democracy.
In a presidential democracy, the chief executive participates far more directly in the decision-making and can exercise a considerable degree of power. In the parliamentary system, the head of government and the head of state are two different persons. For instance, the Prime Minister is the head of the government and the king is the head of state. Today, the duties of the head of state have often been reduced to purely ceremonial duties, or merely to perform official appointments. In contrast, most presidents carry the responsibility and authority of both head of government and state.
The forms of presidential government vary, but in many countries, including the USA and France, the president is elected separately from, and independent of, the legislative branch. He or she is commonly elected for a fixed term - often four years - while the Prime Minister of a parliamentary government has to resign if the parliament does not support the government's policies and calls for a vote of "no confidence."
In both presidential and parliamentary governments, the judicial branch functions independently. However the powers of the judiciary under the parliamentary and presidential systems differ in degree. For instance, the Supreme Court of the United States may, in some cases, declare an action of the president or congress (legislature) unconstitutional; but no British court can overrule the prime minister or parliament.