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Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices 2e

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1 Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices 2e
Chapter 6 Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices 2e By Lowell Barrington Legislatures and Executives  1

2 Learning Objectives Identify the main tasks of a legislative branch.
Identify the main tasks of a political executive. Discuss the main features, advantages, and disadvantages of a parliamentary system, a presidential system, and a semi-presidential system. Describe the executive and legislative arrangements in the TIC cases.

3 Parliamentary Systems
Selection of the Chief Executive and Formation of the Government The head of state selects the prime minister of the political system based on the results of parliamentary elections The new prime minister then forms and heads “the government” Separation of Head of Government and Head of State The head of state is normally weaker than the head of government 3

4 Parliamentary Systems
Irregular Intervals Between Elections and Votes of Confidence The Opposition Shadow governments Give voters a sense of what to expect if opposition wins the next election Advantages of Parliamentary Systems Efficiency in passing legislation Clearer accountability for voters Disadvantages of Parliamentary Systems Instability Concentration of power and hasty decisions

5 Think and Discuss Is the lack of fixed terms in parliamentary systems a good thing or a bad thing? Why? 5


7 Presidential Systems Direct Election of the Chief Executive
Electoral college Fixed Terms for the Executive and Legislature Separation of Powers and Checks & Balances Impeachment Fusion of the Head of State and Head of Government The Potential for Divided Government 7

8 Presidential Systems Advantages of Presidential Systems
A check on the “majority rule” aspect of legislatures A national mandate Disadvantages of Presidential Systems The difficulty of removing an unpopular president. The propensity for gridlock Creeping authoritarianism

9 Semipresidential Systems
Combine Basic Characteristics of Parliamentary and Presidential Systems Advantages of Semipresidential Systems Providing cover for the president The ability to remove unpopular prime ministers with the stability of fixed terms Additional checks and balances Disadvantages of Semipresidential Systems Confusion about accountability Confusion and inefficiency in the legislative process 9

10 Legislatures Tasks of Legislatures Legislating
Authorizing Government Spending Constituency Service/Omsbuds Activities Selection, Approval, and Removal of Government Officials Oversight of the Executive 10

11 Other Aspects of Legislatures
Number of Members Length of Terms Unicameral and Bicameral Legislatures The Power of Legislative Committees Standing committees Ad hoc committees 11

12 The Executive Domestic Politics Tasks of Executives
Implementing Policies and Supervising the Bureaucracy Cabinet Coordinating Policy Development and Budgets Foreign Policy Tasks of Executives Leads the state in matters of foreign affairs, engaging in diplomatic efforts, treaty negotiations, and decisions about the use of military force. 12

13 Think and Discuss What is the most important power common to political executives? Why is it so important? 13

14 Topic in Countries The United Kingdom
Considered the model of parliamentary democracy; prime minister is head of government; the monarch is head of state but has little real power House of Commons is center of legislative power; parliamentary supremacy concept; prime minister usually has a sizeable majority in Commons Prime minister is the chief executive and most important political figure

15 Topic in Countries Germany
German parliamentary system disperses central government power and limits executive authority; chancellor is head of government; weak president is head of state Legislature is Bicameral; the make-up of the Bundestag (lower house) determines the chancellor; Bundesrat (the upper house) has a great deal of power Chancellor has the real power; president is seen as generally ceremonial and “above politics”

16 Topic in Countries India
Parliamentary and federal, but strong central government; prime minister is head of government; the president is head of state but has limited powers Legislature is bicameral; Lok Sabha (lower house) is somewhat more important than the Rajya Sabha (upper house), but protests in the Lok Sabha that delay legislation are common Prime minister is the head of the government and exercises mostly formal rather than real powers

17 Topic in Countries Mexico
Prior to liberalization, few real checks on president’s power; today, legislature functions as a significant check on the president The Congress is bicameral (Chamber of Deputies and Senate); most bills must pass both houses President used to dominate the system; today, bargaining and compromise are needed

18 Topic in Countries Brazil
In theory, the president is powerful; in practice, the legislature is so divided that presidents struggle to pass legislation Bicameral legislature; uses its power to oversee the executive and judiciary The president has broad executive powers but also can issue “provisional measures” with the force of law; unlike in Mexico, the president can be reelected

19 In Theory and Practice Brazil and Theories about Presidential Systems
Juan Linz saw parliamentary systems as superior to presidential ones Drew on his experiences observing countries like Brazil Linz saw presidential systems as too rigid “zero-sum” Brazil’s system has been far from perfect But, Brazil tried a parliamentary system in the past without success Corruption remains a problem, but corrupt leaders like former President Collar were removed constitutionally

20 Topic in Countries Nigeria
Presidential system since 1979; presidents must have multi-regional support to be elected Legislature is bicameral (House of Representatives and Senate); president’s party controls both houses so potential to check presidential power goes unrealized Powerful president; electoral rules for the president and rules for the make-up of the cabinet produce a national, rather than regional executive

21 In Theory and Practice Nigeria and Theories about Presidential Systems
Donald Horowitz Criticized Linz’s Portrayal of Presidential Systems Horowitz also argued that parliamentary systems did not work in many African and Asian cases Key is to design a presidential system correctly Nigeria System Has Been Far From Perfect Did design the presidential system to foster unity Ultimately, Nigeria shows that both parliamentary and presidential systems struggle when economic and social structures create instability

22 Think and Discuss The debates over the merits and limitations of
presidential and parliamentary systems are presented in the context of developing countries with relatively new democracies. Some scholars have raised similar questions about countries like the United States. How different would American politics be if the United States had a parliamentary system instead of a presidential one? 22

23 Topic in Countries Russia
From 1993 to 2008, president much more powerful than prime minister; with Putin as prime minister, balance has shifted Bicameral legislature; the Duma (lower house) is the more powerful; controlled by Putin’s party Prime minister position had been unstable, serving at the pleasure of the president; this changed with Putin as P.M.

24 Topic in Countries China
As official government positions took on greater importance after Deng Xiaoping, positions of premier and, especially, president became central to the governing of China Unicameral legislature (National People’s Congress); traditionally, it simply rubber-stamped executive policies; officially selects the president and confirms the premier President formulates foreign policy; premier is seen as having more say over domestic policy; President Hu Jintao seen as China’s paramount leader

25 Topic in Countries Iran
Is presidential because of directly elected president and the lack of a prime minister responsible to the Majles; but, Supreme Leader has the real authority Unicameral legislature (Majles); candidates must be approved by Council of Guardians; many pro-reform candidates prevented from running Dual executive, with the Supreme Leader being much more important than the president

26 In Theory and Practice Iran and the Theory of “Going Public”
Proposed by Sam Kernell Highlight’s the president’s use of media to push certain policies Can It Apply to a Nondemocratic Case Like Iran? Iran’s president more constrained than in a democracy But former President Khatami took his message to the people; it helped him push forward, somewhat, with reforms

27 Think and Discuss Which of the countries examined in the TIC sections have the most interesting relations between the executive and legislative branches? Why? 27

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