What Are the Characteristics of a Presidential Government?

characteristics-presidential-government Credit: LBJ Foundation/CC-BY 2.0

The main distinguishing characteristic of the presidential form of government is that the head of government is also the head of state, leading an executive branch but not a legislative one. There are a number of countries around the world that are presidential republics with a full presidential system. The United States is one, as are Mexico and Brazil.

Although the presidential systems in use around the world work differently, they all share some common characteristics.

  • Presidential governments have executive and legislative branches that are independent of each other. In the United States for example, there is no guarantee that the President's party will also control the legislative.
  • The system uses different checks and balances so each branch of government can sometimes intervene in the powers of the other. For example, the elected president can veto legislative acts. Conversely, a supermajority in the legislative branch can override the veto.
  • The president has a fixed term and elections are held at regular intervals.

Advantages of the presidential system
Since a presidential government has two independent structures, each one can monitor and check the other, preventing abuses of power. Moreover, since the elected executive is in office for a fixed period of time, the country can enjoy periods of stability. Lastly, since the president is usually elected directly, there is popular support for the office's strong powers.