At the apex of Public Organisations is the political executive which takes different forms in different countries depending upon their political system as enshrined in their Constitutions. The political executive is headed by a Chief Executive again known by various names such as King, President, Emir, Imam, etc.
Types of Political Executive
The type of political executive depends upon the political system prevailing in a country. These political systems may be of following types —
- Monarchy as prevailing in Countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia.
- Presidential form of government as prevailing in USA.
- Parliamentary democracy as prevailing in UK, India etc.
- Collegiate (mixed) types as prevailing in Switzerland.
We will now study in brief the political executives as existing under these political systems.
Political Executive in a Monarchy
The political power in a Monarchial political system is concentrated in a single individual known as a King or an Emir or an Imam. He may have a set of advisers known as Ministers or Wazirs or Secretaries, but, he wields the ultimate authority. He appoints the advisers and can change them at his will. He can delegate certain powers to them, but can withdraw such delegation whenever he so wishes. He makes laws, wields the executive powers of the state and is also the fountain-head of justice. It is more or less a single man political executive enjoying unfettered discretion in all matters connected with the affairs of the state. Of course, such an executive is also subject to the pulls and pressures of interest groups, socio-political elites and public opinion. International political and economic pressures also affect their decisions. But, ultimately the king is the final arbiter of the Country’s destiny.
Similar situation prevails in military dictatorships where the military overthrows a civilian government and usurps power. In such a situation there is no hereditary monarch, but the military dictator takes his place. He sometimes assumes a Civilian title like ‘President’ and creates advisory paraphernalia to give some sort of legitimacy to the military regime, but in practice he functions like a monarch.
Political Executive in a Presidential form of Government
Under the Presidential form of Government, administrative organisation is less integrated than in the Parliamentary form. The President (of the USA) is neither a member of legislature nor is he accountable to it. The two are co-equal authorities getting their mandate from people directly. This dichotomy creates friction between the two. The Congress not only has the power to lay down policy, it can also create administrative machinery to carry out that policy. At times it does create independent commissions or boards to execute the policies which it feels the President is not likely to carry out willingly. The administrative structure of the USA is thus not very well-knit. There are only ten departments which are under direct supervision of the President. The rest of the executive business of the Federal Government is carried out by independent Regulatory Commissions, Boards and other agencies. The American President, therefore, does not wield the same authority over the administrative organisation as the Cabinet does in the UK or India. The superiority of Cabinet system being apparent, USA has tried to improve the position of the President so as to make him the general manager of administration. This is supposed to be achieved by the following means:
- Adoption of the Merit System – The spoils system, though politically useful to the Chief Executive, did not give him meritorious, professional people loyal to him. It brought the influence of legislators into the administration thereby reducing the authority of the President over the administrative machinery.
- Budget System – Formerly estimates of every spending unit were to be authorised by the legislature individually and there was no central financial control. Budget and Accounting Act 1921 gave the President controlling power over the spending process. Thus, the power of the Chief Executive has increased over time and enabled the President to control and review the expenditure of all Government demands.
- Reorganisation Programme – The reorganisation Act of 1939 has brought the initiative of bringing administrative reorganisation to the President. It has pulleddown a number of Independent Regulatory Commissions and brought back Government Corporations into administrative hierarchy etc.
These developments have brought the functions and powers of the President nearer to those of the Cabinet in the Parliamentary system.
Political Executive in Parliamentary form of Government
The system is characterised by close collaboration between the legislature and the executive. The Ministers are selected from the majority party of the legislature by the leader of the party who is the Prime Minister. The Cabinet is responsible to Parliament. The Cabinet exercises full administrative authority and provides legislative and fiscal leadership to the legislature. The Ministers, who are in the Cabinet by virtue of their position in the majority party have a perfectly legitimate authority to formulate public policy according to the popular mandate secured in a general election and to execute it through an administrative machinery which it can create and control according to the needs of the policy.
Thus in a Parliamentary democracy, Cabinet has a pre-eminent position, unrivalled by any other organ of the Government. It is known variously by indiscriminately used terms such as “Government” “Executive” and “Administration”. These terms, however, reflect three important functions of the Cabinet as defined by Lord Haldane:
- Final determination of policy to be submitted to the Parliament;
- The Supreme control of the national executive in accordance with the policy prescribed by Parliament;
- The continuous co-ordination and determination of the functions of the various departments of the State.
The Cabinet usually consists of a number of Ministers who hold various portfolios in the Government and are top leaders in the Party. It functions as a team under the dual principle of collective responsibility and party solidarity.
While the Cabinet system has many advantages, it is not free from its weaknesses. The most important problem with the system is that due to its closeness to (actually dependence on) the legislature the Cabinet finds it difficult to insulate the administrative machinery from undue political pressures. The problems are further accentuated in the countries where the same political party continues in Government over a very long period of time. The distinction between the party and the Government then starts getting blurred and there develops a tendency to treat Government’s administrative machinery as subordinate to the party also.
The Collegiate Executive (The Swiss Executive Council)
It is a mixed type of Executive having some features of both the Presidential and Parliamentary systems. Like Parliamentary Executive, it is a collective body of seven Ministers who are members of the legislature and participate in its proceedings, get their mandate from legislature and are accountable to it. But, unlike Cabinet system, there is no Prime Minister. In some respects Swiss Executive resembles the President. For example, it has a fixed tenure and cannot be removed before that. If the legislature does not approve its policies, it does not have to resign, but has to readjust its policies. Like President, the Council cannot dissolve the legislature.
However, Swiss system can cause friction between the legislature and the executive. In practice, no such friction has been reported. It cannot be said that the system will work equally well in other countries.
The Soviet Executive (before break up)
USSR also had a mixed executive although it had more features of a Cabinet type than of Swiss type. It had a Council of Ministers with a Premier. Ministers were chosen by the Supreme Soviet which was the legislature of the country. They were in fact elected by a joint session of the houses. The Ministers were jointly and severally responsible to the legislature. However, in one party system, this responsibility worked out differently. In fact, the most important principle working in Soviet Union was not Cabinet responsibility, but democratic centralism which meant complete command in hands of the party caucus called the politburo headed by the Secretary General of the Party. The Secretary General may or may not have held any office in the Government but his power was supreme. Due to the veil of secrecy in the Soviet Government it was difficult to really find out the exact relationship between different organs of the party and the Government. In fact the Soviet Executive was a type by itself and could not be compared with any particular form of Government. However, one thing was quite clear. So far as the administrative machinery of the Government was concerned, it was characterised by complete unity of command and centralisation of authority.