In presidential countries, the executive is elected and is not responsible to the legislature, which cannot in normal circumstances dismiss it. Such dismissal is possible, however, in uncommon cases, often through impeachment.
Countries that feature a presidential or semi-presidential system of government are not the exclusive users of the title of president. Heads of state of parliamentary republics, largely ceremonial in most cases, are called presidents. Dictators or leaders of one-party states, popularly elected or not, are also often called presidents.
Presidentialism is the dominant form of government in the continental Americas, with 19 of its 23 sovereign states being presidential republics. It is also prevalent in Central and southern West Africa and in Central Asia.
In a full-fledged presidential system, a politician is chosen directly by the public or indirectly by the winning party to be the head of government. Except for Belarus and Kazakhstan, this head of government is also the head of state, and is therefore called president. The post of prime minister (also called premier) may also exist in a presidential system, but unlike in semi-presidential or parliamentary systems, the prime minister answers to the president and not to the legislature.
The following characteristics apply generally for the numerous presidential governments across the world:
The executive can veto legislative acts and, in turn, a supermajority of lawmakers may override the veto. The veto is generally derived from the British tradition of royal assent in which an act of parliament can only be enacted with the assent of the monarch.
The president has a fixed term of office. Elections are held at regular times and cannot be triggered by a vote of confidence or other parliamentary procedures, although in some countries there is an exception which provides for the removal of a president who is found to have broken a law.
The executive branch is unipersonal. Members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the president and must carry out the policies of the executive and legislative branches. Cabinet ministers or executive departmental chiefs are not members of the legislature. However, presidential systems often need legislative approval of executive nominations to the cabinet, judiciary, and various lower governmental posts. A president generally can direct members of the cabinet, military, or any officer or employee of the executive branch, but cannot direct or dismiss judges.
The president can often pardon or commute sentences of convicted criminals.