Here’s how much power the President has (or not) in the governance of the state. 

The President is seen as the most powerful and influential figure of any state; however, the President is also a citizen who has to abide by the constitution. So how much power does the President has in the governance of the state? More than you do, anyway. Here’s the catch: as powerful as you think the President is, or should be, there are limitations on what exactly he can do. Simply put it, he’s not as powerful as he seems to be.

Hello Mr President

If you’d ever want to be the President of your country someday, we wish you all the best. However, if you think being the President will make you the most powerful man or woman, then spoiler, you’ll not be. Whatever. Before we explain how powerful the President is, or isn’t, let’s take a quick crash course of who the President even is.

Image: The White House

The President is officially the head of the Executive branch — both the head of state and head of government — whom all executive powers of the state are vested; and also acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws set forth by the Legislative branch, and also appoints judges and justices to the Judicial branch as well, together with all other heads of departments and agencies, including the Cabinet, ambassadors, high commissioners, and all ministerial positions.

According to several constitutional qualifications for the Presidency, there are a few conditions that will qualify you to be one. These conditions may vary from country to country but are quite similar. First, you must be a natural-born citizen in the country you wish to be President of, must be of a legal age (at least 35 years), and having lived in the country for a certain number of years, too. So if you were born outside the United States, for instance, you cannot be the President as stated in Article II of their constitution.

Whence Cometh Thy Powers?

Let’s assume you qualify, and having won the Election in a landslide victory. Congratulations! What are you really capable of in the governance of the state? You have a lot of power, though. There are several Executive powers at your disposal at any point in your tenure as the President; such as powers related to legislation, appointments, orders, clemency, foreign policy, state of emergency, and quite a number of privileges of just being the President.

Here’s what you can do as President:

Power of legislation: This is the President’s power to sign a bill presented by the Legislative branch into law, or to veto it and return the bill for amendment.

Power of appointment: This is the President’s power to delegate, nominate, and appoint people as top government officials to positions ranging from agencies, departments, ministries, and members of the diplomatic corps.

Executive orders: These are the President’s powers to issue directives made by the Executive branch which does not require approval by the Legislative branch, to act upon national affairs and priorities of the government.

Executive clemency: This is the President’s power to extend pardon and clemencies for crimes — an official forgiveness for a conviction against the state.

Foreign affairs: These are the President’s powers to officially represent the state in foreign relations, conduct diplomacy, negotiate and sign treaties with foreign countries.

Emergency powers: These aren’t the President’s powers to declare a state of national emergency, however, that seems to be what it implies. According to the constitution, these are, so the Executive branch can act faster, per se, than the Legislative branch were to hold a session before declaring a state of emergency.

Executive privileges: These are the President’s powers to withhold information from the general public, or even the two other branches, in connection to issues of national security.

(There are powers that the President is entitled that aren’t outlined in the constitution).

This Is What You Can’t Do

Image: Jim Bourg / Reuters / Getty Images Plus

As the President, you are also limited to exactly what you can’t do in office. The Separation of Powers is devised to prevent the three branches of the government not to wrongly abuse power. This provides a system of shared power known as “checks and balances.” For instance, both the Legislative and Judicial branch has some inherent over the President’s decisions. The Legislative branch approves all Presidential nominations, and grant approval to the President after appointing heads to agencies and departments, and approve Judicial officials.

The Legislative branch can override a Presidential veto if a majority of the house approves the bill as law, or even if the President refuses to sign the bill. The Legislative branch can impeach the President, if the President abuses power of an Executive order to act not in the interest of the state. This is to ensure that the President isn’t a tyrant in power. This is actually what happened to US ex-President Donald Trump, when the US Congress impeached him (twice) for abusing the power as the President of the United States (presidents Nixon and Clinton have also been impeach before). Anyone missing Trump? We do.

Last but not least, as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, the President can order troops all in the defense of the state in times of national security, but the exact limit of this privilege without Legislative approval is still open to debate. The President from time to time addresses the Legislative branch on the State of the Nation (held each year, except inaugural years), and may recommend measures that might be of national interest. So, if you ever become the President, you could exempt yourself from paying taxes, but spoiler, you can’t do that.

What else do you think the President isn’t capable of?

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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Wed, Jun 02, 2021.


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