I was looking at the CIA World Factbook and I came across the government type of a parliamentary republic. This is obviously not the same thing as a constitutional republic. I was wondering about the differences between the two forms of government. Specifically, I was wondering if parliamentary republics have constitutions and if constitutional republics can have a parliament.

  • 5
    Every country has a constitution. Are you asking about constitutions which are codified in a single document? Nov 10 '19 at 8:07
  • It isn't at all obvious that a parliamentary republic is not the same thing as a constitutional republic. Frequently the categories overlap. The more common distinction is between a constitutional monarchy (with a king) and a constitutional republic (without a king, but sometimes with a President and sometimes not).
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 5 '20 at 23:02

A single counterexample is enough to prove a negative.

Germany is a parliamentary republic (people elect the parliament which then elects the chancellor as head of government) and it has a constitution.

(Some people cling to the fiction that the German constitution be not a constitution because it is not called ‘constitution’ but Basic Law (Grundgesetz), but if you apply the duck test, it is a constitution.)

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    If you want an example where it is called "constitution", look a bit further south: Italy is a parliamentary republic with a constitution called "constitution".
    – Federico
    Nov 11 '19 at 12:35
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    @Federico I chose to answer based on what I know for sure before doing research into things I’m not 100 % sure about ;)
    – Jan
    Nov 11 '19 at 12:38

The opposite of a parliamentary republic is a presidential republic.

  • In a parliamentary system, the people elect a legislature and the legislature elects a government.
  • In a presidential system, the people elect a government and a legislature.

Both may or may not have a written constitution. The United Kingdom is widely accepted as a democracy, yet they have no written constitution and people cling to the fiction that the Crown-in-Parliament is anything other than the parliament telling the Queen what to do.

The term constitutional republic is used for both parliamentary and presidential republics when the civil rights, separation of powers, rule of law, etc. are laid down in a constitution.

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    Israel is another example of a parliamentary democracy with no constitution. Nov 10 '19 at 7:21
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    The UK does have a written constitution, or at least, quite a lot of the constitution is written down (for example, the bit that says the Prime Minister cannot arbitrarily prorogue Parliament without a good reason was written down in September this year.) Nov 13 '19 at 15:44
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    @MartinBonnersupportsMonica: I'd have to disagree, but rather that is because I disagree on what a "constitution" is. I'd call that a rule, passed by the Parliament to govern itself(the US Houses of Congress both govern themselves individually in the same manner). My understanding is that there is only one restriction on Parliament, namely that Parliament cannot bind future Parliaments. So that rule could be overturned by Parliament with a simple majority vote. A constitution is above the government; A constitutional provision is one that a government cannot change (by themselves).
    – sharur
    Dec 4 '19 at 19:47
  • It would be more correct to distinguish between systems in which there is an "entrenched" constitution with authority superior to ordinary legislation, and one without such a document. The "in writing" part, itself, doesn't really capture the correct distinction.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 5 '20 at 23:04

"Constitutional Republic" and "Parliamentary Republic" aren't mutually exclusive. A state can be both or neither.

Any republic where the system of government is described by a written constitution is a constitutional republic.

When the constitution says that the executive branch is legitimized by an elected parliament, then it is both a constitutional republic and a parliamentary republic.

When the constitution says that the head of the executive branch is legitimized by a separate election (like in the United States), then the country is both a constitutional republic and a presidential republic.

There are also a few states which do not have an official constitution. But if the state follows the principles of a democratic republic, then it is a democratic republic without being a constitutional republic. Like Isreal, for example.

There are also states with constitutions which are not republics at all. For example, North-Korea, an absolute dictatorship, has a constitution.

  • A dictatorship and a republic are also not mutually exclusive. May 27 '20 at 13:48

Yes, some parliamentary republics do have constitutions. As Philipp mentioned, a constitutional republic and a parliamentary republic are not mutually exclusive; one republic can be both. Iran describes itself as an Islamic republic and it also has a constitution. In fact, the opposite of a republic is a monarchy and even monarchies can have constitutions such as the UK, which is listed in the CIA fact book as a constitutional monarchy (not a republic as o.m. implies).

Not to pick on o.m. but he is also incorrect in stating that in a presidential system the people elect a legislature AND a government (executive branch). Using the U.S. as an example... The people elect a legislature and the legislature elects a president. When the people vote for the president, they are actually voting for the presidential candidate that they would like their representative to vote for, although the representative is not obligated to do so. He probably will if he wants to be re-elected, unless of course he is corrupted.

This is why we have the EC, a body of surrogate voters, one per representative, selected from the population to vote in the representative's place. This is an meant to be anti-corruption system but even then electoral voters can also dissent, though it happens rarely.

If the people elected the president we would not have an EC, we would only have a popular vote and Hillary would be president right now.

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    The EC is separate from the legislature and is only the same in that they have the exact same numbers of members Oct 5 '20 at 23:47
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    Yes, the whole point of the EC is that it IS separate from legislation, otherwise how would it serve its purpose as an anti-corruption system? And the reason why they have the same numbers is because the electoral voters are in effect, surrogate voters... one per representative.
    – wintermute
    Oct 6 '20 at 14:56
  • Plus two for each state regardless of population size Oct 22 '20 at 12:27

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