The parliamentary system of government is that form of government that has a ceremonial head of state otherwise called the President and a Prime Minister who is the chief executive. The Prime Minister is not popularly elected by the electorate but by the parliament or legislature through an indirect election. He is voted just like other representative into the parliament but because his party has a majority in the parliament he is eventually elected as Prime Minister by his colleagues in the parliament.
When the Prime Minister is elected, he in turn appoints his ministers who will head different ministries or departments of government. The Prime Minister and his Ministers form the parliamentary cabinet and all of them can be voted into or out of office by the majority of the member of the legislature.
The prime minister and all his ministers are collectively responsible to the legislature for the failure or success of government policies.
Features of Parliamentary System of Government
1. The Prime Minister and his cabinet members are also members of parliament. That is, there is fusion of legislative and executive functions.
2. The office of the head of state and head of government are separated. The ceremonial head is different from the head of government.
3. The principles of collective responsibility applies to the system. Cabinet members are collectively responsible for their actions in government.
4. The office of the executive head of government is not fixed. It is limited by electoral returns. The government can be dissolved any time a vote of no confidence is passed on it by parliament.
5. Party discipline is high. Political parties are more disciplined especially in parliament as the defeat of the party on any major policy issue can lead to the collapse of the government or the dissolution of the parliament. Loyalty to the party and its policies are very crucial for their effectiveness.
6. Political opposition is legally recognised and entrenched.
Advantages of Parliamentary System of Government
1. The separation of the office of the head of state from that of the head of government makes the process of government more efficient.
2. The close association between the executive and the legislature makes for stability and orderly government.
3. It is more responsive to popular will and opposition.
4. The system makes for greater accountability in government because of collective responsibility and the existence of opposition.
5. Parliamentary system does not give too much power to the chief executive.
6. Bills are easily passed into law without much opposition and delays.
Disadvantages of Parliamentary System of Government
1. The uncertainty of tenure which is associated with the parliamentary. system of government discourages long term policy-making.
2. Intense political opposition which is a feature of this system can lead to the collapse of the government.
3. It is too concerned with party politics instead of national politics.
4. There could be disagreement between the head of state and the head of government.
5. This system does not permit proper separation of powers, and checks and balances which are important in a democratic system of government.
6. The chief executive is not popularly elected by the electorate. Hence some people regard this system as an unpopular government.
7. The cabinet system is not as stable as the presidential system because too much influence is exerted by the legislature on the party and the government.