When the Presidential election of India rolls around, The people aren’t involved in the electoral process but it is the MPs and MLA’s of the State and National Assemblies who elect the President. So my questions stand thusly:-

  1. Why is this so?
  2. What happens to Indian democracy if people elect Presidents the way they do to Prime Ministers?
  3. What is the relevance of a President elected by the people in a democracy like India?
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    What happens to Indian democracy if people elect Presidents the way they do to Prime Ministers? Many countries don't elect prime ministers -- they give the highest power to the elected bodies (parliament) and a cabinet (including the Prime Minister) is subject to that. – Abigail Apr 1 at 12:34
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    I don't know much about the Indian politics, is the president very powerful? Because in Germany, the president isn't elected by the people but by the parliament. But he has few powers (we experienced a bad effect when the president was powerful * cough *) and has mostly a representional role. – miep Apr 1 at 12:50
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    @miep - I've always found that strange. Germany experienced a bad effect when a chancellor was powerful too. And now it's the chancellor who's the real power in the German government, and they don't have term limits. – Obie 2.0 Apr 1 at 16:26
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    @Obie2.0, the German President has a few emergency powers while the Chancellor has powers in her role as the chairperson of the cabinet. For instance, the Secretary of Defense is comnander in chief in peacetime. – o.m. Apr 1 at 17:02
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    @miep Nitpicking, but it’s not exactly the parliament but a body twice as large as the parliament including the same number of representatives from the state parliaments as there are MdB’s in the Bundestag. – Jan Apr 6 at 18:02

Two forms of democracy are common worldwide:

  • A parliamentary democracy where citizens elect a parliament and the parliament elects the executive (presidents, prime ministers, etc.).
  • A presidential democracy where citizens separately elect a parliament and the leader of the executive.

There are good reasons from history and political theory to prefer one or the other. It weakens the separation of powers to have the executive elected by the legislative. On the other hand, the budget authority of the legislative controls key actions of the executive, so it would be inconsistent to have an executive of a different political orientation execute it.

But as long as India has a prime minister who is the head of government, it would be inconsistent to have a directly elected president who is head of state. If the ceremonial representative of the state has a popular mandate and the governing representative of the state does not, that undercuts the ability of the prime minister to govern.

So if the president was directly elected, one would have to do away with the prime minister position and adopt a system like the US or France (where the prime minister is appointed by the president).

  • Re the last paragraph: France might not be the best example, given that it does have a Prime Minister. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 2 at 6:58
  • @SteveMelnikoff, I clarified that the French prime minister is not elected. – o.m. Apr 2 at 7:07
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    I'm afraid that there are counter-examples to this argument. For example, the President of Ireland is directly elected, but has a similar role to the President of India, and a similar relationship to the government. The Prime Minister of Ireland is appointed by the President on the nomination of parliament, as in your answer. – Steve Melnikoff Apr 2 at 8:27

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