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Constitutions and Democratic Performance in Semi-Presidential Democracies


In 1946 there were three democracies in the world with constitutions that, on the one hand, required the government to obtain the support of a legislative majority in order to come to and remain in power and, on the other hand, established a popularly elected president. In 2002, this number had grown to 25. Constitutions with this feature are often considered to be problematic, and, given the number of new democracies that have adopted them, have received considerable attention from political scientists. The primary concern has to do with the potential for conflict between the assembly supported government and the popularly elected president, which may lead to unstable governments, policy paralysis, and the eventual undermining of the democratic regime. Concern has also been raised regarding the negative role a popularly elected president may have on party development and the ‘chain of delegation’ that in a pure parliamentary democracy runs from voters to government through political parties. In this paper, we examine the effect the combination of assembly confidence with a popularly elected president has on government instability, accountability, legislative effectiveness, and democratic survival. We also examine the impact on these outcomes of different combinations of presidential powers. We find that the introduction of a popularly elected president in parliamentary constitutions is of little significant impact and that the preoccupation with the specific powers of the president is mostly overblown.

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Japanese Journal of Political Science
  • ISSN: 1468-1099
  • EISSN: 1474-0060
  • URL: /core/journals/japanese-journal-of-political-science
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