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Review Article: Citizens, Presidents and Assemblies: The Study of Semi-Presidentialism beyond Duverger and Linz

  • Petra Schleiter and Edward Morgan-Jones
Abstract

Semi-presidential regimes have attracted increasing attention from scholars and constitutional reformers over the last quarter century. Yet, despite this popularity, there is no consensus on how to understand this constitutional format. Since Duverger defined semi-presidentialism as a ‘new political system model’, and Linz argued that the constitutional format shares many of the ‘perils of presidentialism’, subsequent research has questioned the conceptual status of semi-presidentialism as a distinct regime type, and whether it has any distinct effects on politics. In this article we review the progress of recent work on semi-presidentialism and suggest that the conceptual tools to clarify some of the major debates in the field are now available in the form of principal–agent theoretical work on democratic constitutions.

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1 Maurice Duverger, ‘A New Political System Model: Semi-Presidential Government’, European Journal of Political Research, 8 (1980), 165–87; Robert Elgie, ‘The Politics of Semi-Presidentialism’, in Robert Elgie, ed., Semi-Presidentialism in Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 1–21.

2 José Antonio Cheibub, Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 43.

3 Matthew Soberg Shugart, ‘Comparative Executive–Legislative Relations’, in R. A. Rhodes, Sarah Binder and Bert Rockman, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 344–65; Robert Elgie, ‘What Is Semi-Presidentialism and Where Is It Found?’ in Robert Elgie and Sophia Moestrup, eds, Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe (New York: Routledge, 2007), pp. 1–13, at p. 9.

4 Matthew Soberg Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems: Dual Executive and Mixed Authority Patterns’, French Politics, 3 (2005), 323–51, p. 344.

5 Duverger, ‘A New Political System Model’.

6 Juan Linz, ‘Presidential Versus Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?’ in Juan Linz and Arturo Valenzuela, eds, The Failure of Presidential Democracy (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994), pp. 3–87; Juan Linz, ‘Introduction’, in Ray Taras, ed., Postcommunist Presidents (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 1–14.

7 Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1999), pp. 121–3; Alan Siaroff, ‘Comparative Presidencies: The Inadequacy of the Presidential, Semi-Presidential and Parliamentary Distinction’, European Journal of Political Research, 42 (2003), 287–312.

8 Matthew Soberg Shugart and John M. Carey, Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992); José Antonio Cheibub, ‘Mixed Systems and Democratic Performance: Do Popularly Elected Presidents in Parliamentary Systems Matter?’ (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, 2006).

9 Kent Eaton, ‘Parliamentarism Versus Presidentialism in the Policy Arena’, Comparative Politics, 32 (2000), 355–73; George Tsebelis, Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002).

10 Tsebelis, Veto Players, p. 67.

11 There is also an increasing interest in semi-presidential constitutions among legal scholars. Examples include Miroslaw Wyrzykowski and Agnieszka Cielen, ‘Presidential Elements in Government, Poland – Semi-Presidentialism or “Rationalised Parliamentarism”?’ European Constitutional Law Review, 2 (2006), 253–67; Vlad Constantinesco and Stephanie Pierre-Caps, ‘Presidential Elements of Government in France: The Quest for Political Responsibility of the President in the Fifth Republic’, European Constitutional Law Review, 2 (2006), 341–57; Ana Martins, ‘Presidential Elements in Government. The Portuguese Semi-Presidential System’, European Constitutional Law Review, 2 (2006), 81–100; Antero Jyränki, ‘Presidential Elements in Government. Finland, Foreign Affairs as the Last Stronghold of the President’, European Constitutional Law Review, 3 (2007), 285–306.

12 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies; Arthur Lupia, ‘Delegation and Its Perils’, in Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller and Torbjörn Bergman, eds, Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 33–54; Kaare Strøm, ‘Parliamentary Democracy and Delegation’, in Strøm, Müller and Bergman, eds, Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies, pp. 55–106; Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’; Shugart, ‘Comparative Executive–Legislative Relations’.

13 Terry M. Moe, ‘The New Economics of Organization’, American Journal of Political Science, 28 (1984), 739–77; Lupia, ‘Delegation and Its Perils’; Strøm, ‘Parliamentary Democracy and Delegation’.

14 Duverger, ‘A New Political System Model’, p. 166.

15 Elgie, ‘The Politics of Semi-Presidentialism’.

16 Siaroff, ‘Comparative Presidencies’, p. 307.

17 Strøm, ‘Parliamentary Democracy and Delegation’; Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’; David Samuels and Matthew S. Shugart, ‘Presidents, Prime Ministers, and Parties: A Neo-Madisonian Theory of Party Organization and Behavior’ (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, 2006).

18 Moe, ‘The New Economics of Organization’; Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies; Lupia, ‘Delegation and Its Perils’; Strøm, ‘Parliamentary Democracy and Delegation’; Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’; Shugart, ‘Comparative Executive–Legislative Relations’.

19 Kaare Strøm, ‘Parliamentary Government and Legislative Organization’, in Herbert Döring, ed., Parliaments and Majority Rule in Western Europe (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 1995), pp. 51–82, at p. 74.

20 For a more detailed discussion of this point, see Petra Schleiter and Edward Morgan-Jones, ‘Party Control over European Cabinets?’, European Journal of Political Research, 48 (2009), 665–693.

21 Elgie, ‘The Politics of Semi-Presidentialism’, at p. 13.

22 This conceptualization of semi-presidentialism explicitly does not use Duverger’s criterion of considerable presidential powers to categorize regimes as semi-presidential, because of its inherent subjectivity. For a detailed discussion of this point, see Elgie, ‘What Is Semi-Presidentialism and Where Is It Found?’ at pp. 2–6.

23 Joel Hellman, ‘Constitutions and Economic Reform in Postcommunist Transitions’, East European Constitutional Review, 5 (1996), 46–56; Timothy Frye, ‘A Politics of Institutional Choice, Post-Communist Presidencies’, Comparative Political Studies, 30 (1997), 523–52; Lee Kendall Metcalf, ‘Measuring Presidential Power’, Comparative Political Studies, 33 (2000), 660–85, p. 657; Siaroff, ‘Comparative Presidencies’.

24 Siaroff, ‘Comparative Presidencies’.

25 Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’, pp. 336–7.

26 Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’, pp. 336–7; George Tsebelis and Tatiana P. Rizova, ‘Presidential Conditional Agenda Setting in the Former Communist Countries’, Comparative Political Studies, 40 (2007), 1155–82.

27 John D. Huber, ‘Restrictive Legislative Procedures in France and the United States’, American Political Science Review, 86 (1992), 675–87; John D. Huber, Rationalizing Parliament: Legislative Institutions and Party Politics in France (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

28 Petra Schleiter and Edward Morgan-Jones, ‘Russia: The Benefits and Perils of Presidential Leadership’, in Robert Elgie and Sophia Moestrup, eds, Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008), pp. 159–179.

29 Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy, pp. 121–2; François Frisson-Roche, ‘Semi-Presidentialism in a Post-Communist Context’, in Elgie and Moestrup, eds, Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe, pp. 56–77, at pp. 67–73.

30 Duverger, ‘A New Political System Model’, p. 167.

31 Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’; Octavio Amorim Neto and Kaare Strøm, ‘Breaking the Parliamentary Chain of Delegation: Presidents and Non-Partisan Cabinet Members in European Democracies’, British Journal of Political Science, 36 (2006), 619–43; Schleiter and Morgan-Jones, ‘Party Control over European Cabinets?’

32 Gianfranco Pasquino, ‘Semi-Presidentialism: A Political Model at Work’, European Journal of Political Research, 31 (1997), 128–37; Giovanni Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering: An Inquiry into Structures, Incentives and Outcomes (Basingstoke, Hants.: Macmillan, 1997).

33 Oleh Protsyk, ‘Troubled Semi-Presidentialism: Stability of the Constitutional System and Cabinet in Ukraine’, Europe-Asia Studies, 55 (2003), 1077–95.

34 Jaakko Nousiainen, ‘From Semi-Presidentialism to Parliamentary Government: Political and Constitutional Developments in Finland’, Scandinavian Political Studies, 24 (2001), 95–109, p. 101.

35 Jean Blondel and Svetzosar A. Andreev, ‘Bulgaria’, in Jean Blondel and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel, eds, Cabinets in Eastern Europe (Basingstoke, Hants.: Palgrave, 2001), pp. 131–41, at p. 137.

36 Jan Herman Reestman, ‘Presidential Elements in Government’, European Constitutional Law Review, 2 (2006), 54–9, p. 58.

37 Elgie, ‘What Is Semi-Presidentialism and Where Is It Found?’ at pp. 10–11.

38 Linz, ‘Presidential Versus Parliamentary Democracy’, at p. 55.

39 Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 278–9.

40 Cindy Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 14.

41 Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs, p. 124; Cindy Skach, ‘The “Newest” Separation of Powers: Semipresidentialism’, International Journal of Constitutional Law, 5 (2007), 93–121.

42 Pasquino, ‘Semi-Presidentialism’; Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering.

43 Pasquino, ‘Semi-Presidentialism’, pp. 136–7.

44 Frisson-Roche, ‘Semi-Presidentialism in a Post-Communist Context’, at p. 75.

45 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, pp. 68–71.

46 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, p. 118.

47 Sophia Moestrup, ‘Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies: Help or Hindrance?’ in Elgie and Moestrup, eds, Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe, pp. 30–55, at p. 41.

48 Petra Schleiter, ‘Mixed Constitutions and Political Instability: Russia 1991–1993’, Democratization, 10 (2003), 1–26, pp. 7–9.

49 Schleiter, ‘Mixed Constitutions and Political Instability’, p. 23.

50 Shugart, ‘Semi-Presidential Systems’, p. 340.

51 Cheibub, ‘Mixed Systems and Democratic Performance’; Moestrup, ‘Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies’; Robert Elgie, ‘The Perils of Semi-Presidentialism: Are They Exaggerated?’ Democratization, 15 (2008), 49–66.

52 Cheibub, ‘Mixed Systems and Democratic Performance’.

53 Moestrup, ‘Semi-Presidentialism in Young Democracies’, at p. 40.

54 Elgie, ‘The Perils of Semi-Presidentialism’, p. 63.

55 Elgie, ‘The Perils of Semi-Presidentialism’, p. 64.

56 David J. Samuels and Matthew Soberg Shugart, ‘Presidentialism, Elections and Representation’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 15 (2003), 33–60, p. 33.

57 Stephen Whitefield, ‘Mind the Representation Gap’, Comparative Political Studies, 39 (2006), 733–58, pp. 733–4.

58 Linz, ‘Presidential Versus Parliamentary Democracy’, at pp. 8, 14, 19–20; Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, pp. 278–9; Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs, p. 14.

59 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, pp. 274–5.

60 John D. Huber and G. Bingham Powell, ‘Congruence between Citizens and Policymakers in Two Visions of Liberal Democracy’, World Politics, 46 (1994), 291–326; James Stimson, ‘Party Government and Responsiveness’, in Adam Przeworski, Susan C. Stokes and Bernard Manin, eds, Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 197–221; Whitefield, ‘Mind the Representation Gap’.

61 Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller and Torbjörn Bergman, ‘Challenges to Parliamentary Democracy’, in Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller and Torbjörn Bergman, eds, Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 707–50, at p. 714.

62 Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller, Torbjörn Bergman and Benjamin Nyblade, ‘Dimensions of Citizen Control’, in Strøm, Müller and Bergman, eds, Delegation and Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies, pp. 651–706, at p. 677.

63 Whitefield, ‘Mind the Representation Gap’, p. 753.

64 Bernard Manin, Susan C. Stokes and Adam Przeworski, ‘Elections and Representation’, in Adam Przeworski, Susan C. Stokes and Bernard Manin, eds, Democracy, Accountability, and Representation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), pp. 29–54.

65 Samuels and Shugart, ‘Presidentialism, Elections and Representation’, p. 39.

66 Samuels and Shugart, ‘Presidentialism, Elections and Representation’, p. 41.

67 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, p. 44.

68 Timothy Hellwig and David J. Samuels, ‘Electoral Accountability and the Variety of Democratic Regimes’, British Journal of Political Science, 38 (2008), 65–90, p. 68.

69 Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation, p. 279.

70 Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs, p. 125.

71 Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs, p. 126.

72 Michael S. Lewis-Beck, ‘Who’s the Chef? Economic Voting under a Dual Executive’, European Journal of Political Research, 31 (1997), 315–25.

73 Michael Lewis-Beck and Richard Nadeau, ‘French Electoral Institutions and the Economic Vote’, Electoral Studies, 19 (2000), 171–82, p. 176.

74 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘French Electoral Institutions and the Economic Vote’, p. 181.

75 Hellwig and Samuels, ‘Electoral Accountability and the Variety of Democratic Regimes’, p. 78.

76 Maurice Duverger, ‘The Political System of the European Union’, European Journal of Political Research, 31 (1997), 137–46, p. 137; Pasquino, ‘Semi-Presidentialism’, p. 136; Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering.

77 Linz, ‘Presidential Versus Parliamentary Democracy’, at p. 58; Linz and Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation; Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs.

78 Linz, ‘Introduction’, at p. 11.

79 Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs, p. 124.

80 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, pp. 122–3.

81 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, p. 121.

82 Oleh Protsyk, ‘Prime Ministers’ Identity in Semi-Presidential Regimes: Constitutional Norms and Cabinet Formation Outcomes’, European Journal of Political Research, 44 (2005), 721–8.

83 Amorim Neto and Strøm, ‘Breaking the Parliamentary Chain of Delegation’.

84 Schleiter and Morgan-Jones, ‘Party Control over European Cabinets?’

85 Amorim Neto and Strøm, ‘Breaking the Parliamentary Chain of Delegation’, p. 643.

86 Cheibub, ‘Mixed Systems and Democratic Performance’, p. 7.

87 Cheibub, Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy, p. 80.

88 Gary King, James E. Alt, Nancy Elizabeth Burns and Michael Laver, ‘A Unified Model of Cabinet Dissolution in Parliamentary Democracies’, American Journal of Political Science, 34 (1990), 846–71, p. 847.

89 King, Alt, Burns and Laver, ‘A Unified Model of Cabinet Dissolution in Parliamentary Democracies’; Paul V. Warwick, Government Survival in Parliamentary Democracies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

90 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies.

91 Steven D. Roper, ‘Are All Semipresidential Regimes the Same? A Comparison of Premier-Presidential Regimes’, Comparative Politics, 34 (2002), 253–72.

92 Kaare Strøm and Stephen M. Swindle, ‘Strategic Parliamentary Dissolution’, American Political Science Review, 96 (2002), 575–91.

93 Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini, The Economic Effects of Constitutions (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005), p. 6.

94 Pasquino, ‘Semi-Presidentialism’; Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering.

95 Linz, ‘Introduction’, p. 4; Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Designs; Skach, ‘The “Newest” Separation of Powers’, pp. 96–7.

96 Tsebelis, Veto Players.

97 Matthew Soberg Shugart, ‘Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and the Provision of Collective Goods in Less-Developed Countries’, Constitutional Political Economy, 10 (1999), 53–88.

98 Oleh Protsyk, ‘Politics of Intraexecutive Conflict in Semipresidential Regimes in Eastern Europe’, East European Politics and Societies, 19 (2005), 135–60; Thomas Sedelius (doctoral dissertation, ‘The Tug-of-War between Presidents and Prime Ministers, Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe’ (Statsventenskapliga Institutionen, Orebro: Orebro University, 2006), pp. 127–78.

99 Cheibub, ‘Mixed Systems and Democratic Performance’.

100 Huber, ‘Restrictive Legislative Procedures in France and the United States’.

101 Huber, ‘Restrictive Legislative Procedures in France and the United States’, p. 680.

102 Paul Chaisty and Petra Schleiter, ‘Productive but Not Valued: The Russian State Duma, 1994–2001’, Europe-Asia Studies, 54 (2002), 701–724; Oleh Protsyk, ‘Cabinet Decision-Making in Ukraine: The Dual Executive and the Diffusion of Policy-Making Authority’, in Allan Rosenbaum and Juraj Nemec, eds, Democratic Governance in Central and East European Countries: Challenges and Responses for the 21st Century (Bratislava: NISPAcee, 2006); Schleiter and Morgan-Jones, ‘Russia: The Benefits and Perils of Presidential Leadership’.

103 Protsyk, ‘Cabinet Decision-Making in Ukraine’, at p. 19.

104 Shugart, ‘Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and the Provision of Collective Goods in Less-Developed Countries’.

105 Oleh Protsyk, ‘Ruling with Decrees: Presidential Decree Making in Russia and Ukraine’, Europe-Asia Studies, 56 (2004), 637–60.

106 Schleiter and Morgan-Jones, ‘Russia: The Benefits and Perils of Presidential Leadership’.

107 Andrei Shleifer and Daniel Treisman, Without a Map: Political Tactics and Economic Reform in Russia (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000).

* Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford; also St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and Keble College, Oxford, respectively (email: ). The authors thank the Editor, Albert Weale, and the anonymous referees for their very helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

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British Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 0007-1234
  • EISSN: 1469-2112
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