The relation between executive and legislature is one of the most important issues in the constitutional structure.
Though Montesquieu and Blackstone maintained that, three organs of government should be kept separate, but such strict separation is neither desirable nor practicable.
Because the government is an organic unity, therefore executive and legislature must work in collaboration and corporation.
One of the key variables in explaining the relationship between executive and legislature is the distinction between parliamentary and presidential systems.
1) Parliamentary system:
In a parliamentary system, the executive is drawn from the party or coalition of parties that hold a majority of seats in (one house) of the Legislature.
A prime minister leads the executive and appoints members of the cabinet. Therefore executive is a collective body in the parliamentary system.
When we discuss the relationship between executive and legislature under this system, we see a relation of control between them that can be enumerated as follows –
a) The legislature controls the executive:
1st, in a parliamentary system of government, legislature controls the executive through a vote of no confidence, interpolation (asking questions), and adjournment motion.
The life of the executive depends upon the will of the Legislature. The moment a cabinet or executive loses the confidence of the majority in the legislature, it is liable to throw out of the office.
b) Executive control over legislature:
Just as the legislature, the executive also control the legislature in many ways
- The chief executive head in all parliamentary government has the power to summon or prorogue both houses of the legislature. He may dissolve the lower house and can order for a fresh election.
- A bill passed by the legislature cannot become an act unless it has been assented by the chief executive head.
- He may issue an ordinance.
- The executive head may address the legislature at any time and the session of the Legislature opens with his speech.
- The executive exercises the power of delegated legislation. The legislature makes law in general board terms and delegates or transfers the power to the executive to fill the details. Their power has become so enormous that the chief justice Haldane describes it as new despotism.
- The executive controls the finance by preparing the budget and presenting it to the parliament. No money bill can be introduced in the Parliament without the previous consent of the executive.
So from the above discussion, it has become clear that the executive and legislative share a relation of control under the parliamentary government system.
Now let’s discuss their relationship under the presidential system of government.
The presidential system provides for direct elections of the executive leader, who become the head of the state and the government. In the presidential system, the executive is a single person.
The presidential system is characterized by a strict separation of power between the executive and the legislature. However even under this strict separation, legislative and executive share some relations.
For example, the Senate of the USA shares with the president its power of making appointments and treaties. The US President is not only the chief executive but also the chief legislator. The executive formulates, initiates, and explains the legislative and financial policy and urges the parliament to accept it.
Trends that have weakened the relationship between the executive and legislature:
1) Civil service reforms:
It is argued by many Scholars that the Civil Service reforms in many countries since the 1980s have weakened the relationship between the legislature and the executive.
After these reforms, new Institutions at the intergovernmental or Supra National level such as World Trade Organization, G8, and EU have created new arenas, within which the executive can operate relatively independently from the Legislative inspection.
2) Media influence:
Media influences have also led to the weakening of Executive – legislative relation. The media makes sure that the legislature no longer plays a role in educating public opinion.
It looks to executive leaders for their sound bite and photo opportunities, eschewing the complexity of the Legislative process.
3) Plebiscitary democracy:
It has further weakened their relation. On the one hand, it has diminished the claim of Legislature to represent public opinion and on the other hand, the executive now can go directly to the people through a range of techniques such as a referendum, opinion polls, etc.
Thus the legislature has been struggling to maintain its importance and relevance in the face of social economic and political change.
However, one thing is very important that both legislature and executive is vital for the government to sustain. Therefore we should not consider executive and legislative relations as a zero-sum. They are the two-wheel of the “cart of the state”, that must move in harmony and cooperation to keep going.