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  • Cited by 7
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
January 2019
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Book description

A central concern about the robustness of democratic rule in new democracies is the concentration of power in the executive branch and the potential this creates for abuse. This concern is felt particularly with regard to the concentration of legislative power. Checking Presidential Power explains the levels of reliance on executive decrees in a comparative perspective. Building on the idea of institutional commitment, which affects the enforcement of decision-making rules, Palanza describes the degree to which countries rely on executive decree authority as more reliance may lead to unbalanced presidential systems and will ultimately affect democratic quality. Breaking new ground by both theorizing and empirically analyzing decree authority from a comparative perspective, this book examines policy making in separation of powers systems. It explains the choice between decrees and statutes, and why legislators are sometimes profoundly engaged in the legislative process and yet other times entirely withdrawn from it.


Winner, 2019 Choice Outstanding Academic Title


‘Palanza brings formidable tools to bear in this book - sophisticated theory, extensive data, deep knowledge of her cases, and clear writing. She tests her ideas with extensive studies of policy making in Brazil and Argentina, as well as with rigorous analysis drawing data from across Latin America. She shows us what factors push presidents toward unilateral policymaking and what institutional conditions foster legislative influence. This book is a real achievement.'

John M. Carey - John Wentworth Professor in the Social Sciences, Dartmouth College

‘Palanza's Checking Presidential Power is a long overdue corrective to the often uncritical assumption that presidents are all-powerful and that legislatures (and courts) are mere bystanders in Latin America's separation-of-powers systems. By refusing to consider presidents and their decrees in isolation, Palanza's book gives us a much more holistic account, both theoretically and empirically, of how policy gets made in separation-of-powers systems.'

Brian F. Crisp - Washington University, St Louis

‘This is a great book. It is the first to provide a comprehensive and positive theory of the choice between policy-making by decree versus statute. Unlike previous work, it places the decision about the relative incidence of executive decrees in a broad strategic context, which includes not only the president but also legislators, the courts and interest groups. Palanza offers detailed empirical analysis of decree usage in several countries, as well as, to my knowledge, the first cross-national analysis of law-making by decree in presidential systems. This book will be required for anyone interested in executive politics, institutional analysis, presidentialism, democratization, Latin American and many other areas.'

José Antonio Cheibub - Mary Thomas Marshall Professor in Liberal Arts, Texas A & M University

'In her groundbreaking book, Palanza (Pontificia Universidad de Chile) examines policy making in separation of powers systems by explaining the levels of reliance on executive decrees that may lead to unbalanced presidential systems and ultimately low democratic quality. The author accurately defends the long-held belief that policy enacted by decree is less stable than policy enacted by the widely supported congressional statutes.'

K. M. Zaarour Source: Choice

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