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A parliamentary system of government is one of the two basic forms of representative democracy , the other being a presidential system. The distinguishing characteristic of parliamentary government is that the government of the day is chosen from representatives who have been elected to a parliamentary assembly . That is, the most important elected offices of government—the premier or prime minister and the other ministers who together with the premier form the government—are not elected directly but indirectly through parliamentary elections. Since the emergence of parties with strong party discipline , parliamentary government has meant that governments in Canada usually have control over stable parliamentary majorities (see majority government ). This greatly reduces the ability of parliamentary assemblies to challenge the wishes of the government of the day in parliament.
Parliamentary systems make a distinction between the head of government (the premier or prime minister) who is the chief elected official in the government, and the head of state who represents the formal exercise of executive power (see lieutenant governor ).
The other system of representative democracy is presidential government. In this system, the president who is both head of government and head of state, is elected separately from a representative assembly. Ministers are not usually permitted to be members of the assembly but are appointed by the president. Presidential systems combine the offices of head of government and head of state in the president, but aim to check the power of the government of the day by separating power between the president, a powerful legislature , and an independent judiciary .