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  • 3/18/2012

The So-Called Principle of Separation of Powers in a Democratic System


Modern democracies claim that one of the constitutional principles that saves the freedom and equality of the citizens against the imposing power of the government is the principle of separation of powers, which is a mechanism for preventing the rule of majority from turning into a dictatorship and for preventing the government from misusing power.

Critics of democracy claim that in practice, the principle of separation of powers has made two problems for the Western democracy. The first problem is that to divide three powers from each other completely is not possible, and in regimes that have tried to completely separate the three powers from each other, many problems have occurred that have sometimes led the regime towards lack of efficiency.

More than that, a balance between the three powers is not possible to establish; and one of two powers, executive or legislative, is always more powerful than the other one. That is the reason that there are different types of Western democracy in different countries. They call the regime a parliamentary or a presidential one depending on the branch (legislative or executive) that has more power. Each of these types has its own defects. For example, the lack of government stability in the parliamentary regimes like the third republic of France, caused problems for the country. That is why in the fifth republic of France they tried to free the executive branch from subjection to the legislative branch; as a result, the power of the executive branch was increased to the extent that it even interfered in the affairs of the legislative branch. The prerogative to dissolve the parliament and to call for referendums are also some of the factors which decrease the power of the legislative branch against the executive branch.

Another point is that, with the presence of political parties and the issue of majority, how it is possible to consider the three powers that are all in the hands of the ruling party, as separate from each other? For example, in England which is famous for having a parliamentary system, practically the principle of separation of powers did not exist for a while. Only in recent years due to the relative empowerment of the small parties from one side, and increase in party oppositions from the other side, the Parliament could act even against the ruling party.

Translated by: Sadroddin Musawi

Oter links:

Contradiction between Liberty and Equality

Ambiguity in the Nature and Principles of Democracy


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