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Presidential, parliamentary and semi-presidential definitions. Are they satisfactory distinctions?

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James Clark

on 21 November 2012

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Transcript of Presidential, parliamentary and semi-presidential definitions. Are they satisfactory distinctions?

Presidential executives General characteristics:
- Direct election of the president
- Makes appointments
- Fixed terms of office for the president and the assembly - neither can bring down the other
- No overlap in personnel
- Can combine both Head of State and Head of Government - USA

"the concentration of all total executive power in the person of the state president, who is not politically responsible to the parliament" (Brunner) Overview Liberal democracies have executives constrained by constitutional frameworks. Governments are elected and remain subject to a set of rules and faces regular elections.

What are the classifications? Are there any issues?
- Presidential
- Parliamentary: Prime Ministerial dominance?
- Semi-Presidential: who dominates? What powers do they have?

- Are they satisfactory? Is the classification of executives into presidential, parliamentary and semi-presidential satisfactory? Parliamentary executives "If the paradox of presidentialism is executive weakness amid the appearance of strength, the puzzle of parliamentary government is to explain why effective government can still emerge from this mutual vulnerability of assembly and executive."

In Britain:
- Governing parties emerge from from the assembly and can be dismissed by a vote of no confidence
- BUT the executive can dissolve parliament and call fresh elections
- Collegial - government is formed of a cabinet
- The PM: "First among equals" and Head of Government Semi-presidential executives Duverger:
"A political regime is considered semi-presidential if the constitution which established it combines three elements: 1, the president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage; 2, he possesses quite considerable powers; 3, he has opposite him, however, a prime minister and ministers who possess executive and governmental power and can stay in office only if the parliament does not show opposition to them." Conclusion: are they satisfactory? Presidential VS Parliamentary systems
- Most are content to leave these definitions as they are
- Conceptually easy to define these two terms
- Having a Presidential system implies a central figure with a guaranteed set of powers
- A parliamentary system implies a government that is dependent upon the confidence of the legislature
- Though there is some evidence of more "presidential" PM's - Tony Blair Sources Hague, R., and Harrop, M., (2010) Comparative Government and Politics: An Introduction. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Chapter 15.

Elgie, R. (1997) Political Leadership in Liberal Democracies. Basingstoke: Macmillan. Ch. 1.

Siaroff, A. (2003) “Comparative Presidencies: The Inadequacy of the Presidential, Semi-Presidential and Parliamentary Distinction”, European Journal of Political Research, 42(3), 287-312

Roper, S. D., “Are all Semipresidential Regimes the Same? A Comparison of Premier-Presidential Regimes”, Comparative Politics 34(3), 253-272 - Head of State? Head of Government?
- Obama is both ceremonial Head of State and Head of Government, BUT
- Joachim Gauck (German President) is only head of state and undertakes a mostly ceremonial role However, this was developed in the context of studying the French Fifth Republic
Most semi-presidential systems combine:
- A largely ceremonial president with an oversight role
- A Prime Minister responsible for day to day governance More precisely? Classifying two subtypes on the distribution of power between the two branches of the executive, the Prime Minister and the President (Roper): Conclusion: are they satisfactory? Semi-presidential executives
- Viewed through the prism of presidential powers, there is no such thing as semi-presidential systems (Siaroff)
- Either the President dominates or he does not
- Russia, French Fifth Republic,

- Other terms have been offered in place (Siaroff):
- "Parliamentary systems with presidential dominance"
- "Parliamentary systems with a presidential corrective"
- "Parliamentary systems with figurehead presidents"
- "Parliamentary systems with figurehead monarchs" - Britain

While conceptually satisfactory, in reality semi-presidential systems generally tend to be dominated by one branch of the executive
Debate over the extent of presidential power in semi-presidential systems Premier Presidential regimes
- The PM exerts greater power President-parliamentary regimes
- President wields greater authority Demonstrates characteristics of Duverger's semi presidential regime
Most popular type of semi-presidentialism found in Europe Veto powers
Decree powers
Power to propose referenda - de Gaulle
Russian Presidency - dismissed cabinet ministers and PM's without consulting Duma
Ukranian Presidency - unilaterally dismissed cabinet ministers
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