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The 'Burmese Way' to a 'Disciplined Flourishing Democracy'
by Rohingya Human Rights
2009-10-28 07:24:47
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Many people assume that the Constitution approved in Burma in 2008 adopted a standard presidential system. But the type of presidential system used in the Constitution is unique to Burma and differs from other presidential systems used around the world.

According to the Constitution, there will be one president and two vice presidents, all of whom will be elected by three groups that make up the Electoral College. The president is not directly elected by popular vote as in many presidential systems.

There are, generally, three governmental systems in the world: the parliamentary system, the presidential system and the semi-presidential system, or hybrid system. The form of cabinet and system for separation of powers among executive and legislative bodies varies among countries.

In a parliamentary system, the executive body is created in the parliament. If a party wins a majority in the parliament, it is allowed to form a government. If no party wins a majority, the various parties must bargain to form a government. So long as a government can maintain the confidence of the majority in the parliament, it may rule.

In this system, the head of state does not have broad executive powers.. According to the 1947 Burmese Constitution, the president was the head of state but only a ceremonial figurehead, whereas the prime minister as the head of government and had full executive powers. In some instances, the president may have limited executive powers.

Countries that use the parliamentary system include the United Kingdom (UK), many countries in Europe, as well as many former British colonies in Africa. Israel, Japan and former British colonies in Asia, such as Malaysia and India, also use this system.

In the presidential system, executive and legislative powers are separate. Presidents serve as the head of government and are directly elected by popular votes. Presidents usually choose the members of a cabinet (or ministers) at their pleasure and cabinet members do not necessarily need to be members of parliament. Normally, the parliament cannot dismiss the president by a vote of no confidence. The president assumes the role of head of state as well.
Countries which use the presidential system include the United States and some countries in Latin America. The Philippines, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea and Sri Lanka also use this system.

There is also a hybrid system called the “semi-presidential system” or “presidential- parliamentary system.” If the constitution favors the powers of the president, it is termed a “semi-presidential system.” If the legislative branch is given more power, it is called a “semi-parliamentary system.” In that system, both the president and a prime minister share executive powers. In most cases, presidents appoint the prime minister although prime ministers may or may not be a member of the president's political party.

The French government uses a semi-presidential system. In France, the president nominates the prime minister and selects the members of the cabinet. The president usually takes care of foreign affairs, leaving the power to run the country’s internal affairs to the prime minister. Other countries that use this model are former French colonies in West Africa such as Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Mali and Senegal and some eastern European countries such as Poland and Bulgaria.

In most presidential or semi-presidential systems, the president is directly elected by popular vote, but in some countries, the legislature elects the president and the prime minister.

In South Africa, the National Assembly elects the president who becomes both head of state and head of government. The parliament of South Africa consists of the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Four hundred seats are elected by a popular vote for the National Assembly and 90 seats, 10 from each province, are elected to the National Council of Provinces.

The leader of the political party or coalition of parties that wins a majority of seats in the National Assembly becomes president. The president and the members of government who are also members of parliament are responsible to the parliament.

The system adopted in the 2008 Constitution of Burma is not a genuine presidential system as it does not match the characteristics of the presidential system like that of the United States or the semi-presidential system like that of France.

According to the 2008 Constitution, the president will be elected by three groups that make up the Presidential Electoral College.



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