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4/30/2015 Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America Maxwell A. Cameron Political Science 332.

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Presentation on theme: "4/30/2015 Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America Maxwell A. Cameron Political Science 332."— Presentation transcript:

1 4/30/2015 Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America Maxwell A. Cameron Political Science 332

2 The Fujimori Autogolpe Fujimori elected in a runoff in 1990 Minority president, facing major problems Closes congress, suspends constitution, rules by decree Justification: congressional obstruction, corruption Result: re-election under a new constitution in 1995

3 4/30/2015 Presidential Systems Less Stable A major finding of recent comparative research is that presidential systems are less stable than parliamentary ones. We do not, however, have an entirely convincing explanation why. Does presidentialism cause instability, or are presidential systems merely adopted by unstable countries (eg. Latin America)?

4 4/30/2015 Presidentialism Defined Presidentialism: a political system based on (a) the separate election of the executive and (b) the legislature for fixed terms.

5 Parliamentarism defined Parliamentarism: A political system in which (a) the legislative majority chooses the executive and which, in turn, must have the confidence of the legislature; and (b) terms are not fixed, and the executive can typically dissolve the legislature and call elections.

6 4/30/2015 Problems of Presidentialism I 1Presidents rarely have a majority in congress, and hence need to form coalitions to govern. Since members of congress have little incentive to cooperate, executive-legislative tensions can lead to “deadlock.” 2Lame duck presidents can result—presidents who serve out their terms without fulfilling their mandates. 3Alternatively, weak presidents are occasionally removed before the end of term.

7 Problems of Presidentialism II Winner captures entire executive branch and administration. Losers get nothing, can become disloyal Concentration of power in hands of president. Does not need to share power in cabinet Zero-sum game

8 Problems of Presidentialism III Fixed length of term creates “rigidly demarcated periods” No constitutional means of removing executive

9 An additional issue Some presidential systems impose term limits and successful presidents often chafe at these constraints. Result: breakdown of democratic regimes

10 4/30/2015 In Defence of Presidentialism Coalitions are possible. Deadlock is relatively rare, not always related to breakdown. Not all presidents become lame ducks. Impeachment provides a constitutional mechanism for removing the executive. Term limits may be a major source of instability, but they are not an intrinsic feature of presidentialism. Term lengths can be reduced. Separation of powers and checks and balances protect liberty

11 4/30/2015 Alternative Explanations Perhaps presidentialism is not to blame for instability? Latin American countries may be more unstable than most, and happen to be presidential. Hence the causal link is spurious (can be explained by some other factor). Possible alternative explanations: –Multipartism (Downsian logic) –Weakness of parties –Ethnic conflict –Ideology –Rule of law

12 4/30/2015 Rule of Law Coalitions can be made by illicit means: pork barrel politics or corruption Legislative opposition can be bypassed through abuse of decree authority Impeachment can be abused Lame ducks are often a lightening rod for opposition, which may use unconstitutional means (eg. civil society coups). Proscription on re-election a key source of conflict, related to need to restrain powers of the presidency (prevent maximatos)

13 4/30/2015 RATES OF POLITICAL STABILITY IN PARLIAMENTARY AND PRESIDENTIAL DEMOCRACIES, DIVIDED BY RULE OF LAW Type of Constitution during Democracy Parliamentary Presidential Number of democracies 5459 Number of democracies with above average4418 levels of political stability Rates of political stability 81%31% Rule of Law High LowHighLow (N=40)(N=14)(N=17)(N=42) Political stability 95%43% 82%10%

14 4/30/2015 Paradoxes of Presidentialism Despite its problems, presidentialism remains the most popular system in Latin America –Direct election is popular (eg. Brazil, “directas-ya”) Presidentialism chosen in order to create effective leaders, but it creates weaker (delegative) systems: “The stronger the president, the weaker the presidential system” (Valenzuela) Example of Allende’s Chile

15 An Aside: Semi-presidentialism Semi-presidentialism combines direct election with cabinet government President elected by voters Cabinet leader chosen by legislature Power shared

16 Does Presidentialism uphold the Separation of Powers better than Parliamentarism? Parliamentary supremacy - the idea that the abuses of power is prevented by encompassing the executive within the rule- making body Checks and balances - the notion of ambition pitted against ambition serves to arrest abuses of power


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