Parliamentary System in Comparison with Presidential System with Reference to S. Sudan

By Dr. Jacob K. Lupai

Introduction: This article on parliamentary system in comparison with presidential system with reference to South Sudan sets out to answer the question: is parliamentary or presidential system superior?

There is no claim being made here that the answer to the question is conclusive. It is just an attempt to answer the question that many ask to gain knowledge. However, it is up to the individual to explore widely for a convincing answer to the question. People may need to be flexible because we are in an age of constitutional reform where there is a search for a better system of governance that is service delivery oriented. However, there is no system that is absolutely perfect.

A parliamentary or presidential system may demonstrate varying strengths and weaknesses along different policy areas. It is here that the choice or adoption of either parliamentary or presidential system needs to be carefully considered through informed decision.

Conflict in South Sudan

To begin with, boundaries created by colonial powers in Africa enclosed groups with no traditions of shared systems of settling disputes. For example, in West Africa, the large territory which the British carved out and called Nigeria enclosed three major nations and among the larger groups, the Yoruba in the west were very different from the Muslim Hausa in the north who were also very distinct from the Ibo in the east. Similarly, in Sudan the North and the South were lumped together as one country with less consideration for the distinct difference between the people of the two regions who were seen as Arabs in the North and Black Africans in the South.

The distinct difference between the North and the South created nothing but conflict when they were lumped together unceremoniously. This was confirmed by the results of the Sudanization commission when Northerners were appointed to all the senior positions in the South in the advent of independence of Sudan. This was to the bitter disappointment of Southerners which created widespread discontent in the South. Thereafter, a conflict followed between the North and the South when two bitter wars were fought for the liberation of Southern Sudan. This ended in the independence of South Sudan from Sudan.

On 9 July 2011, South Sudan got its independence but barely two years, on 15 December 2013, had a conflict erupted that appeared more destructive than the conflict between the North and the South. The people of South Sudan who had fought courageously against northern marginalization as people of one destiny, found themselves torn apart by greed for power and control of resources.

It became apparent that as the conflict dragged on, the concept of building a nation of prosperity for each and everyone was completely lost as killing of people along ethnic lines became evident. Miraculously, some people saved their lives by fleeing to the nearest United Nations protection of civilian site (POCs) while others fleeing to become internally displaced persons (IDPs) or to become refugees in the neighbouring countries. The country was left burning with hardly any or very slow attempt to put off the flames of the conflict.

This article is focusing on either it is a federal parliamentary or presidential system that will resolve the conflict in South Sudan. It is important to assert that centralized governments have been criticized as insensitive. In contrast, a federal system has been cited as a compromise resolution of conflict arising from the problem of diversity for more autonomy.

Comparison between parliamentary and presidential system

The question here is whether a parliamentary or presidential system will produce good governance, the rule of law and the consolidation of economic development for prosperity. Good governance is all about providing the badly needed services for a high quality of life. This is in contrast to the perpetuation of poverty in the land of plenty.

It has to be recalled that South Sudan is a land endowed with vast natural resources. If this is the case, why is poverty in South Sudan so prevalent? The answer simply is that there is lack of focus on development to alleviate poverty. The focus seems to be on the conflict that is never ending but instead enriches others. However, the focus should be to address poverty to resolve the conflict. It should be noted that poverty is still one of the root causes of conflict in Africa. It is the same in South Sudan as South Sudan is in the continent of Africa.

In comparing the parliamentary system with the presidential system, reference is made to the British and the American systems. In Britain one difference is that the ceremonial and political roles are separated, so that the Queen is the Head of State while the Prime Minister is the Chief Executive. In America, the roles are combined in one person, the President. This means that the President has many opportunities to appear on social accessions and attract favourable media coverage.

In contrast, the Prime Minister is relieved of certain time-consuming duties such as receiving ambassadors and dignitaries from abroad. There may also be an advantage in separating the ceremonial and efficient roles. However, the Prime Minister and the President have similar responsibilities for the overall direction of the work of executive departments of government.

A key factor in the comparison is that the Prime Minister is a more powerful party leader because he or she leads a disciplined party. In contrast, the President does not. In fact, the President can find difficulty in getting proposals enacted into law. On the contrary, given a reasonable majority, the Prime Minister is likely to get most of his or her programme through. The Prime Minister has far more chances of implementing the proposals he or she wants. For example, the Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, could reform the health service along lines she favoured. In comparison, a few years later the President of the US, Bill Clinton, could not.

Within the British and American political systems, the Prime Minister has the edge over the President, because he or she is the leader of a disciplined party which enables him or her to get things done.


The comparison between parliamentary and presidential systems seems to confirm that a federal parliamentary system is the system to adopt. This is because a majority party of the Prime Minister with a programme to deliver good governance will likely succeed.

In conclusion, a parliamentary system appears convincingly to be the most appropriate system to adopt for prosperity in South Sudan.

Dr. Lupai can be reached via jklupai@googlemail.com

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