Are Legislatures Always Weaker Than Executives? Author’s Details: Institutional Affiliation: Are Legislatures Always Weaker Than Executives? Introduction The relationship between the executive authority and parliament is full of intrigues and turns through history, yet the balance of power fully remains a tightly knit affair in the hands of the former…
Fundamentally, the legislative arm of the government has had two inherent contradictory roles: sustaining the executive and holding them to account between electoral cycles. Even though the legislative role of sustaining the executive is not in doubt, parliamentary oversight seems to be a poorly coordinated task that often lets the executive off the hook. Noteworthy, the nexus between sustaining the government and the task of challenging it and holding it to task opens a Pandora box full of fallacious fantasies – a fallacious inequity that, no doubt, tilts the balance of power towards the executive. Despite the wide adoption of democratic principles of governance across nations, an understanding that has significantly strengthened accountability and transparency mechanisms with regard to promotion of evidence-informed policy processes, legislatures remain comparatively weaker in relation to the executive in terms of raw power necessary to effect immediate leadership challenges. The Executive and Parliament: A Historical Perspective The impact of constitutional structures with regards to their political behavior and performance is central in the study of comparative governments. In particular, understanding the balance power between the executive and the legislature in either the parliamentary or presidential systems has been an area of focus in political research (Mustapic, 2002). Structured governmental control stems much from the historical politics of the mid- and late nineteenth century. Designed at a time when the role of government was limited in scope, the convention of superiority of the executive power over the legislature indeed antedates the modern presidential and parliamentary systems of governments. From inception to the present day politics, there is no pretense that executive autonomy bears much capacity and capability to remedy or compensate for social ills on its own without parliaments’ approval. In his submission on the subject, Bagehot, a British economist and journalist, referred to the convention of executive authority as the ‘buckle’ and the lynch-pin in the Whitehall-Westminster model (Flinders, 2002). Though modest in both size and ambition at the time, it was reasonable for a competent minister to have a personal control over small departmental portfolios in the mid-Victorian state. Strikingly similar, governmental administration in the first quarter of the nineteenth century fell under ministerial responsibility. But even then as is it to date, the powers vested in a ministerial mandate were highly doubtful in terms of usage. Supporting the foregoing, Cobbett (1823) wrote: “Ankle-pinching socks are like ministerial powers; a thing to talk about but for no use; a thing to laugh over; and a mere mockery at those whom real power is vested”. Constitutions the world over are molded around the concept of responsible executive authority for strong and stable leadership. Nothing services this claim better than a two-branch debate that culminated in the creation of the United States Constitution – a model constitutional debate that has since served as a roadmap to numerous constitutions around the world. While the federalists such as Alexander Hamilton rooted for ‘ ...
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