Republic: The Rule of Law
A republic is a form of government ruled by laws. Like democracies, republics get power from the citizens. Today, the terms republic and democracy are basically interchangeable, but historically the two differed. Most modern "democracies" are republics with democratic elements. Many republics are representative democracies (or representative republics) where people or citizens vote for representatives. These representatives make laws for everyone to follow. This is different than direct democracies because citizens do not govern the state themselves but through representatives. There are two main types of representative democracies/republics: (1) Presidential & (2) Parliamentary.
Presidential Democracy: Rule by Representatives of the People
The United States and most countries in Latin America are presidential democracies. Voters in these countries choose a president to lead the government as the head of the executive branch. They also elect lawmakers to represent them in a national legislature. Both the president and the legislators serve fixed terms of office.
This system has some advantages over a parliamentary democracy. Because presidents are directly elected by the people, they may be more responsive to the public than to their party. They may also enjoy more legitimacy and public support than does a prime minister chosen by a parliament. The presidential system also separates executive and legislative powers, which allows each branch to watch over the other to prevent abuses of power. Also, with fixed terms, a presidential system may be more stable than one in which the prime minister can be dismissed at any time.
This system does have several disadvantages when compared with a parliamentary one. First, it is almost impossible to remove presidents from power before their terms end, no matter how unpopular they might be. Also, when presidents are not from the political party that controls the legislature, the result can be gridlock—a situation in which little or no progress is made on pressing issues. Finally, in some countries, presidents have used their power to establish authoritarian regimes.
Parliamentary Democracy: Rule by a Legislative Majority
The United Kingdom, India, and Australia are examples of parliamentary democracies. In a parliamentary democracy, voters elect lawmakers to represent them in the nation's parliament. The party that wins a legislative majority forms a new administration. If no single party wins a majority, several parties join together to form a ruling coalition.
The legislative majority then selects a member of parliament to serve as the nation's prime minister, or chief executive. Usually the person chosen is the leader of the party with the most seats. The prime minister then chooses other members of parliament to head key government ministries, or executive branch departments.
In a parliamentary democracy, there is no clear-cut separation between the executive and legislative branches of government. Members of the legislative majority usually vote with the prime minister on key issues. This may make it easier to get legislation passed than in a presidential system. However, the lack of separation means there is no real check on the prime minister's power. Also, the prime minister may lack the legitimacy and public support of an elected president.
Prime ministers remain in power only so long as they have the support of parliament. Should parliament approve a vote of no confidence, the prime minister must resign. At that point, an election may be held to choose a new legislative majority. Although forcing an unpopular prime minister out of office in this way may seem democratic, it can also make parliamentary governments unstable.