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Parliamentary vs Presidential System: Which is Better for Somalia?

Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Friday June 2, 2023


Somalia's political system is a parliamentary representative, where the president is the head of state, and the prime minister (PM) is the head of government. The Parliament is bicameral, and its members are selected through a clan-based 4.5 formula.  The Parliament (lower and upper house) is made up of 329, and subsequently, they undertake the responsibility of electing a president who will hold the office for a period of 4 years.

In order to form a government, the president selects a PM who is then required to gain approval from the parliament along with his cabinet.  The PM proposes legislation and implements policies. However, the president has veto power over the PM’s decisions. The president can veto legislation but has no power to dismiss the PM and the government. The PM can be removed from office by a vote of no confidence supported by the majority of the members of the House of the People (lower house). If the vote of no confidence is successful, the PM and the entire cabinet must resign.

Parliamentary vs Presidential system

newainsidaThe system of governance prevalent in a country plays a vital role in shaping its political and social landscape. The parliamentary and presidential systems have become the center of public attention and controversy. While both systems have their own unique features, they have significant differences in their functioning and structure.

In this article, we will delve into the contrasts that exist between the parliamentary and presidential systems of government. We will also discuss their respective pros and cons.

The parliamentary and presidential systems of governance are forms of democratic government that are prevalent worldwide. The parliamentary system is based on the principle of collective responsibility, where the executive authority is vested in the hands of the parliament. The parliamentary system is prevalent in countries like the United Kingdom, India, and Australia.

The presidential system, on the other hand, is based on the principle of popular sovereignty, where the executive authority is vested in the hands of the president. The presidential system is prevalent in countries like the United States, Russia, and Brazil.

Parliamentary and Presidential Forms of Governments

1.     Structure and Composition of Government

The parliamentary system consists of two branches: the legislative and executive branches. The legislative branch comprises elected representatives who form the parliament and the executive branch comprises the PM and the cabinet members. In contrast, the presidential system has three distinct branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The executive branch comprises the president and the cabinet, the legislative branch comprises the elected representatives, and the judicial branch comprises the courts.

2.     Power

In the parliamentary system, the focus of power lies with the parliament, which makes it easy to pass legislation, as the ruling party is usually in power. The PM is accountable to the parliament and can be removed from office if a vote of no confidence is passed. In contrast, the presidential system places the focus of power on the president, making it difficult to pass legislation as the president’s agenda often clashes with the majority party in the legislative branch. The president is often accused of excessive exercise of authority, becoming unaccountable to the legislature.

3.     Election Process

In a parliamentary system, the citizens elect the legislature members, and the majority party's leader is appointed as the PM. The PM selects the cabinet, and the executive branch is formed.  In contrast, in a presidential system, the citizens elect both the president and the members of the legislature independently. This often leads to a situation where the president and the legislative branch are controlled by different political parties, making it difficult to pass legislation.

Characteristics of Parliamentary Systems:

One of the defining characteristics of parliamentary systems is the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government. In this system, the head of government (PM or chancellor) is selected from the ruling party or coalition in the legislative body. This allows for significant overlap between the executive and legislative branches, as the head of government is responsible for both leading the government and answering the Parliament.

Another characteristic of parliamentary systems is their reliance on parties to gain and maintain power in government. In contrast to presidential systems, where the president is elected separately from the legislative body, parliamentary systems rely on party politics to form and maintain governments. This can lead to more frequent changes in government, as a loss of confidence or stability within the ruling party or coalition can lead to a vote of no confidence and the formation of a new government. On the contrary, the potential of a coalition government to succeed depends on the willingness of parties to work together and compromise on certain issues. If successful, it can lead to a more inclusive and stable government, which can benefit the country as a whole.

Characteristics of Presidential Systems

Presidential systems are characterized by a separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. The president, who is the head of the executive branch, is responsible for executing laws, appointing officials, and directing foreign policy. The legislative branch is responsible for making and passing laws, while the judicial branch is responsible for interpreting and enforcing laws. This separation of powers is intended to ensure that no one branch of government becomes too powerful and that the interests of all citizens are protected.

One of the main advantages of presidential systems is that they provide strong and stable leadership. Because the president is elected by the people, he or she has the mandate to lead the country and to implement policies that reflect the will of the people. Additionally, because the president is not dependent on the support of the legislature to remain in power, he or she is free to make unpopular decisions if necessary. Another advantage of presidential systems is that they encourage political stability and continuity of government. Because the president has a set term in office, there is less ambiguity involved in comparison to other government structures, like a parliamentary system. This stability can be important for businesses and investors, who need a predictable environment in which to operate.

To transition to a presidential system, the constitution would need to be amended to redefine the powers of the president and the parliament. In addition to a constitutional amendment, it would require political will and consensus among the stakeholders. It would also require a clear plan for the election of the president and his running mate (the VP), as well as the establishment of new systems of checks and balances to prevent abuse of powers.

If Somalia were to adopt a 2-party system in the future, voters will likely elect parties based on their ideologies, political platforms, the quality of the candidates, and the effectiveness of party campaigns. Other factors such as personal relationships, clan affiliations, and regional/district interests can also play a role in determining how voters cast their ballots.

Somalia’s potential adoption of a 2-party system will have the capacity to revolutionize the political landscape of the nation, bringing with it much-needed stability, transparency, and a reduction in political frictions based on clan affiliations. It can also promote compromise and cooperation between the parties, as they are forced to work together to achieve their goals.

 In general, both parliamentary and presidential systems offer their own merits and demerits, and it is up to each nation to determine which one is best for their democracy.

Ultimately, the choice between a parliamentary or presidential system must be based on careful consideration of all relevant factors including history, culture, and political landscape. The present scenario presents evidence that the federal parliament of Somalia is incapable of providing the necessary democratic process owing to its lack of autonomy. It is also important to note that a presidential system can also be prone to abuses of power and can result in a lack of accountability if there are no robust checks and balances in place.  The success of any system of government depends on the ability of its institutions to function effectively and to hold those in power accountable to the people. A political ethos of a banana republic, marked by corruption, oppressive behavior, and a dearth of democratic values is incompatible with any form of governance.

Dr. Ali Said Faqi
[email protected]


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