Are the Parliaments Less Important than the Governments in the Modern Democracies?

In modern democracies, shared decision making occurs between the legislature and the executive. In general, practically every country's constitution allows for the establishment of this type of relationship. In practice, precedent and habit can cover the gaps, resulting in the development of a political system that allows the government to function on a daily basis (Burgin 2012 p.270). Based on the fact that these situations are different in every country, the democracies do often vary widely and therefore depend on how the political powers are shared and the comparative effects that each branch of the government has on the formulation of different policies (Seaward 2013 p.81). The government is composed of those leaders who are elected by the electorates or appointed to run the country over a given period of time, depending on the constitution of a given country.

On the other hand, the parliament is in place to represent the interest of the electorates and make sure that they are taken into account by the government (Sheehy and Sevetson 2001 p.452). The government has got no power of making new laws and creating new policies such as taxation policies without the agreement of the parliament. In the United Kingdom, just like in the United States of America, there is a close relationship between the parliament and the government even though they are made up of very distinct structures (Ferris 2014 p.520). The governments of both countries are constitutionally mandated with the role of deciding on how the respective countries are run while the parliaments have the mandate of ensuring that the decisions made by the government are open and transparent, fair and non-discriminatory, and workable and efficient (van Coppenolle 2017 p.449). These forms of relationship between the two, the parliament and the government, make both of them play an important role in the promotion of the modern democracy and service delivery to the electorates. I therefore disagree with the statement which indicated that the parliaments are less important than the governments in the modern democracies.

In the United Kingdom, the parliament is composed of the Queen, House of Lords (approximately 750 unelected members) and the House of Commons (646 elected Members of Parliament). On the other hand, the Government consists of approximately 100 members of the political party which has the majority number of seats in the House of Commons (Ferris 2014 p.517). The Government has the role of proposing the policies which should be used in the running of the country while the Parliament has the role of ensuring that the policies which are proposed by the Government are not discriminatory and are aimed at serving the interest of the citizens of the United Kingdom. The Congress of the United States of America forms the legislative branch of the country (Seaward 2013 p.88). It is a bicameral system which is composed of House of Representatives (consisting of 435 members who represent each congressional district) and the Senate (composed of 100 members that are two senators from each of the 50 states of the United States of America).

On the other hand, the government of the United States of America is headed by the President, who also acts as the head of state in a diplomatic relation and as the commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (Sheehy and Sevetson 2001 p.449). As the head of the government, the president has got the duty of ensuring maximum implementation of the laws and policies which are debated, amended and written by the Congress. The modern democracy still is in need of the close relationship between the Parliament and the Government since their interaction has been seen as a mechanism which promotes service delivery to the electorates and well as the creation of democracy in the society (Ferris 2014 p.519). For the legislators to able to actively play their role of representing the other citizens, oversight, and legislation, there is the need of the occurrence of a certain degree of cooperation between them and the Government. In this situation, each side has the role in taking part in the capacity bargaining and compromise for the purpose of enjoying the benefits of these policies (Van Aelst and Louwerse 2013 p.485).

In nearly all democracies, leaders of the executive (the heads of the government), for example the President in the case of the United States of America and the Prime Minister in the case of the United Kingdom, do often command much of the political power, control over the financial resources, possession of staffs dedicated to the developing policies and law implementations, bulk legislation production, and management of the Government contracts and administration of the federal policies (Ferris 2014 p.521). Despite the fact that the government dominates most of the activities which take place in a given country, the relative balance of power between the Parliament and the Government can be altered (Van Aelst and Louwerse 2013 p.486). In a situation whereby there is the development of a new legislative system that will be able to play central roles in the governance of the respective countries, it will be very much necessary for the legislators themselves come up with a strong legislative institution (van Coppenolle 2017 p.450).

This can be achieved by asserting themselves in the regular law-making and oversight functions, or by precise structural changes through the constitutional amendment, legislation or better still by the rules of procedures (Van Aelst and Louwerse 2013 p.475). Even though the United Kingdom is observed to be composed of more members than those in the case of the United States, the two parliaments are observed to be having three common functions which are a representation, oversight, and lawmaking (van Coppenolle 2017 p.453). The Parliaments have the role of representing the diversity of the individual groups in the society, acting as the supreme lawmaking institution in the country; they make the laws which are used in governing the nation and they are also mandated to oversee the performance and spending of the government (Donald 2014 p.178). In this case, it is justifiable to take into considerations that strengthening of the Parliament will improve the workability of the Government since it will increase its roles of oversight, representation, and lawmaking (Porter 2004 p.74).

The parliamentary power to hold the government to account depends on various factors which vary from one country to the other. To determine this, it will be important to first look at the various categories of the parliament based on the extent of the power they exercise over the government, more so the executive (Ferris 2014 p.516). Some of the structural compositions of the Parliamentary system include; the rubber stamp legislatures, arena legislature, transformative legislatures and emerging legislatures. Based on the political system of the United Kingdom, the arena legislatures is considered as the form of the parliamentary structural system while in the case of the United States of America, the rubber stamp legislatures and transformative legislatures are the most applicable categories (Donald 2014 p.155).

The Arena Legislatures

Compared to the rubber stamp legislatures, the arena legislatures is considered to be more powerful. This because they are considered to be places of real discussions, debate, and speech. In this type of parliamentary system, most of the policy initiates do often come from outside the legislature, most often from the executive and the political parties (Kullaa 2016 p.77). The arena legislatures offer room which ensures that the differences in the society are expressed and the actions and plans of the government are evaluated from various perspectives. Nevertheless, such actions have been considered not to initiate or melodramatically reshape the policy proposals (Ferris 2014 p.518). In the modern democracies, there have been debates on whether the arena legislatures could be still effective if there is no sufficient influence from the executive wing of the government. In the modern democracy, the British House of Commons is considered as the best example of the arena legislature.

Figure 1 the Arena Legislature Model

The Rubber Stamp Legislatures

The rubber stamp legislatures have been found to be the simplest of all types of legislatures. This is based on the fact that they are only able to endorse the decisions which are made somewhere else in the political system, in most cases by the political parties or the executive wing of the government. These legislatures are often associated with the communist or totalitarian nations, in which many of the parliamentary decisions are made party leaders, hence only leaving the legislatures with no option but to endorse their decisions. In this type of parliamentary system, the effectiveness of the parliament has been questioned since it has been determined that the parliament does not come up with any new policies and laws apart from those which are put forward by the executive wing of the government (van Coppenolle 2017 p.468). One of the considerable example in this form of parliamentary system is the United States of America Electoral College whose delegates only vote according to the dictates of those who sent them and not based on their personal opinions (Kullaa 2016 p.67).

Figure 2 the Rubber Stamp Legislature Model

The Transformative Legislatures

The transformative legislatures are considered as the least common type of legislative system across the globe. Transformative legislatures do not only represent the diverse interests of the society but also have the ability to shape the government budget and policies (Seaward 2013 p.93). To actively demonstrate their effectiveness, the transformative legislatures have been considered to be capable of changing the policies and the proposed budgets by the respective government and thereafter initiating their own policies (Toye 2014 p.276). Based on the fact that the transformative legislative is the most effective, it would be justifiable to note that it is the most expensive parliamentary system (van Coppenolle 2017 p.457). They have the most complex internal structures such as the strongest committee systems, great needs for the information, and they heavily depend on the highly trained professionals. A good example of the transformative legislature in the Congress of the United States of America.

Figure 3 the Transformative Legislature Model

Following the expansion of the modern democracy in many parts of the world, many parliaments are now expanding their powers in order to make themselves more powerful and effective. They make this possible by expanding their formal powers, an adequate building of their internal capacities, organizing to modernize and reaching beyond their limits for the necessary help (Seaward 2013 p.95). If the parliaments do not play their cards well following the emergence of the modern democracy, their roles in the government will be rendered unnecessary. Even though the Parliament is part and parcel of the Government, there are very many scholars who have been arguing that the Government can still function in the absence of the parliament (Toye 2014 p.277). This can only take place if the executive wing of the government does not need to the monitored and their functions and performances being counterchecked every time.

Different political science scholars have come to realize that the legislatures are the most successful group of people when it comes to strengthening themselves as an institution following the coming together of their leaders, members and other people from different divides to cooperate and build the legislature (Toye 2014 p.290). Through their ability to unite themselves, it is, therefore, justifiable to note that they, therefore, have a strong ability to unite the people from different sectors in the society under one government and hence increase the level of service delivery to the electorates. In the situation of the United Kingdom, the poor performance of the government can influence its own supports to desert it. This will, therefore, lead to the conducting of a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, in which if the government loses a general election will be conducted.

In many situations, as witnessed in 1979 when the Labor Party lost in a general election after the House of Commons conducted vote of no confidence against it, many of the governments subjected to such situations do not often find it easy to win an election when it is redone. Even though the modern democracy has provided for several avenues where the citizens could express their dissatisfactions with the government service delivery, the existence of the parliament still play an important role in ensuring that the checks and balances in the government are effectively addressed (Seaward 2013 p.87). The parliament can, therefore, be referred to as the supreme authority which has got the ability to bring down a government.


The parliament is a very important organ of the government which instead of eliminated, should be strengthened further in order to ensure that the executive wing of the government is kept on track (Toye 2014 p.270). Even though the modern democracy has provided for alternative ways which the electorates can use in expressing their views, the parliament is still considered as the most appropriate organ through which the people can channel their opinions, concerns, and views in relation to the levels of service delivery by the federal government (van Coppenolle 2017 p.459). the parliament might be composed of a different number of representatives depending on the country, for example, the composition of the Congress in the United States of American is much different with the composition of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, but their functions a very much the same. Some of the major functions of the parliament include the representation, oversight, and lawmaking.

Apart from these functions, the parliament can employ the use of various methods to limit the power and functionality of the government (Toye 2014 p.287). Some of these include voting against the proposed law, questioning the competency of the government, challenging the government in debates, creating restrictions to the funds which the government needs for its expenditures and continuously examining the work of the government in the various committees (van Coppenolle 2017 p.469). To ensure that the parliamentary systems in both the United States of America and the United Kingdom remain strong and effective as expected by the political laws, it will be important for them to reconsider the various factors which they can employ to strengthen themselves.


Burgin, E. (2012). Congress, Health Care Reform, and Reconciliation. Congress & the Presidency, 39(3), pp.270-296.

Donald, J. (2014). A Study on environmental regulation of the relationship between central government and local governments. Local Government Law Journal, 14(1), pp.155-178.

Ferris, W. (2014). The Whips of the Liberal Unionist Party in the House of Commons. Parliamentary History, 33(3), pp.516-523.

Kullaa, R. (2016). The European Parliament and the UK Parliament: A Relationship in Foreign Policy. Parliamentary History, 35(1), pp.67-79.

Porter, R. (2004). The President, Congress, and Trade Policy. Congress & the Presidency, 15(2), pp.65-84.

Seaward, P. (2013). Divisions, Tellers and Management in the 17th-Century House of Commons. Parliamentary History, 32(1), pp.79-102.

Sheehy, H. and Sevetson, A. (2001). “Taking the parliament to local communities”. Journal of Government Information, 28(4), pp.449-455.

Toye, R. (2014). The Rhetorical Culture of the House of Commons after 1918. History, 99(335), pp.270-298.

Van Aelst, P. and Louwerse, T. (2013). Parliament without Government: The Belgian Parliament and the Government Formation Processes of 2007–2011. West European Politics, 37(3), pp.475-496.

Van Coppenolle, B. (2017). Political Dynasties in the UK House of Commons: The Null Effect of Narrow Electoral Selection. Legislative Studies Quarterly, 42(3), pp.449-475.

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