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Can Presidentialism Work Like Parliamentarism? 1

  • Josep M. Colomer and Gabriel L. Negretto

Abstract

Inter-institutional cooperation between the congress and the presidency may be the best way to promote good governance in a regime of separation of powers. In order to evaluate the performance of different political institutions, especially the different frameworks associated with ‘presidentialism’ and ‘parliamentarism’, we adopt the criterion that policy outcomes coinciding with the median voter's preference can produce the highest satisfaction or social utility. From this perspective, proportional representation in congress can be very appropriate since it tends to establish a close correspondence between the median party's and the median voter's preferences. Likewise, cooperation – rather than conflict or mutual checks – between the median party in congress and the presidency for both legislative decisions and cabinet formation can favour socially efficient outcomes. A survey of some recent institutional reforms in democratic presidential regimes in Latin America shows that ‘parliamentarization’ of presidentialism is gaining acceptance, although intermediate formulae may be more conflictual than a global, more coherent institutional reform.

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1

We are grateful for comments and suggestions on previous versions to John M. Carey, Barbara Geddes, William Keech, Fabrice Lehoucq, Juan Molinar, G. Bingham Powell and Arturo Valenzuela.

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2 There is a long list of relevant works dealing with these issues. For the United States, see, for instance, Hammond, Thomas H. and Miller, Gary J., ‘The Core of the Constitution’, American Political Science Review, 81 (1987), pp. 1155–74; Riggs, Fred W., ‘The Survival of Presidentialism in America: Para-constitutional Practices’, International Political Science Review, 9: 4 (1988), pp. 247–78; Sundquist, James L., Constitutional Reform and Effective Government, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 1992 ; Cox, Gary and Kernell, Samuel, The Politics of Divided Government. Boulder, CO, Westview, 1991 ; Fiorina, Morris, Divided Government, London and New York, Macmillan, 1992 ; Riker, William H., ‘The Justification of Bicameralism’, International Political Science Review, 13: 1 (1992), pp. 101–16; Cox, Gary and McCubbins, Matthew D., Legislative Leviathan: Party Goverment in the House, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1993 ; Alesina, Alberto and Rosenthal, Howard, Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1995 ; Brady, David and Volden, Craig, Revolving Gridlock, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1998 ; Krehbiel, Keith, Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1998 ; Cameron, Charles M., Veto Bargaining. Presidents and the Politics of Negative Powers, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2000 .

For a comparative perspective, mostly on Latin America, see Juan J. Linz, ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’, Journal of Democracy, 1: 1 (1990), pp. 51–69; Juan J. Linz, ‘The Virtues or Parliamentarism’, Journal of Democracy, 1: 4 (1990), pp. 84–91; Matthew S. Shugart and John M. Carey, Presidents and Assemblies. Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Scott Mainwaring, ‘Presidentialism, Mutipartism, and Democracy: The Difficult Combination’, Comparative Political Studies, 26 (1993), pp. 198–228; Juan J. Linz and Arturo Valenzuela (eds), The Failure of Presidential Democracy, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994; Mark P. Jones, Electoral Laws and the Survival of Presidential Democracies, Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 1995; Scott Mainwaring and Matthew S. Shugart (eds), Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1997; Timothy J. Power and Mark J. Gasiorowski, ‘Institutional Design and Democratic Consolidation in the Third World’, Comparative Political Studies, 30: 2 (1997), pp. 123–55; Dieter Nohlen and Mario Fernández (eds), El presidencialismo renovado, Caracas, Nueva Sociedad, 1998; Josep M. Colomer, Political Institutions: Democracy and Social Choice, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2001; Stephan Haggard and Matthew D. McCubbins (eds), Presidents, Parliaments, and Policy, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001; Jorge Lanzaro (ed.), Tipos de presidencialismo y coaliciones políticas en América Latina. Buenos Aires, CLACSO, 2001.

3 For a discussion of these options, see Sundquist, ‘Needed, A Political Theory’, op. cit.; Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, op. cit.; Mainwaring, ‘Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy’, op. cit.; Jones, Electoral Laws and the Survival of Presidential Democracies, op. cit.; Mainwaring and Shugart, Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America, op. cit.; Figueiredo, Argelina Chebub and Limongi, Fernado, ‘Presidential Power, Legislative Organization and Party Behavior in the Legislature’, Comparative Politics, 32 (2000), pp. 151–70.

4 Huber, John D. and Powell, G. Bingham Jr, ‘Congruence Between Citizens and Policymakers in Two Visions of Liberal Democracy’, World Politics, 46: 3 (1994), pp. 291326 ; Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1999; G. Bingham Powell, Jr, Elections as Instruments of Democracy: Majoritarian and Proportional Visions, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2000; Colomer, Political Institutions, op. cit.

5 Michel L. Balinski and H. Peyton Young, Fair Representation: Meeting the Ideal of One Man, One Vote, Washington, DC, Brookings Institution, 2001; Cox, Gary and Shugart, Matthew S., ‘In the Absence of Vote Pooling: Nomination and Vote Allocation Errors in Colombia’, Electoral Studies, 14: 4 (1995), pp. 441–60.

6 Matthew S. Shugart and Martin P.Wattenberg (eds), Mixed-Member Electoral Systems. The Best of Both Worlds?, New York, Oxford University Press, 2001; Josep M. Colomer (ed.), Handbook of Electoral System Choice, London and New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

7 Shugart, Matthew and Taagepera, Rein, ‘Plurality Versus Majority Election of Presidents. A Proposal for a “Double Complement Rule”’, Comparative Political Studies, 27: 3 (1994), pp. 323–48; Jones, Electoral Laws and the Survival of Presidential Democracies, op. cit.; Mainwaring and Shugart, Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America, op. cit.

8 In order to know whether the winning president has the support of the median voter, only relative positions from the other candidates to the winner are necessary to be identified. In general terms, the winner contains the median voter's support if the other candidates gather less than 50 per cent of votes both on the winner's right and on the winner's left. In the particular case that the winner has obtained an absolute majority of votes, he surely has the median voter's support. Thus, neither cardinal positions nor strictly complete orderings of the different candidates or parties are necessary for this analytical purpose. See Colomer, Political Institutions, op. cit. For political party spatial positions, and distributions of votes and seats, see Huber, John D. and Inglehart, Ronald, ‘Expert Interpretations of Party Space and Party Locations in 42 Societies’, Party Politics, 1: 1 (1995), pp. 73111 ; Scott Mainwaring and Timothy E. Scully (eds), Building Democratic Institutions. Party Systems in Latin America, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1995; Michael Coppedge, A Classification of Latin American Political Parties, The Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, University of Notre Dame, Working paper no 244, 1997; Georgetown University/Political Database of the Americas (www.georgetown.edu/pdba); J. Mark Payne, Daniel G. Zovatto, Fernando Carrillo Flórez and Andrés Allamand Zavala, Democracies in Development. Politics and Reform in Latin America, Washington, DC, Inter-American Development Bank, 2002; Josep M. Colomer and Luis E. Escatel, The Left-Right Dimension in Latin America, Mexico, CIDE, Documento de Trabajo, 2003.

9 Gary Cox, Making Votes Count, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

10 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, op. cit.; Mainwaring, ‘Presidentialism, Multipartism, and Democracy’, op. cit.; Mainwaring and Shugart, Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America, op. cit.

11 Powell, Elections as Instruments of Democracy, op. cit., pp. 240–3.

12 John Carey and Matthew S. Shugart (eds), Executive Decree Authority, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1998; Gary Cox and Scott Morgenstern, ‘Epilogue: Latin America's Reactive Assemblies and Proactive Presidents’, in Scott Morgenstern and Benito Nacif (eds), Legislative Politics in Latin America, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2002; Gary Cox and Matthew D. McCubbins,‘The Institutional Determinants of Economic Policy Outcomes’, in Stephan Haggard and Matthew D. McCubbins (eds), Presidents, Parliaments, and Policy, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 21–63.

13 It should be noted, however, that urgency decrees might make a return to the status quo ante impossible because they enact policies with immediate force of law. On the rules that determine the reversionary outcome in the absence of approval of presidential proposals, see Negretto, Gabriel, ‘Government Capacities and Policy-Making by Decree in Latin America: The Cases of Brazil and Argentina’, Comparative Political Studies, 37: 5 (2004), pp. 531–62.

14 Gabriel Negretto, ‘Minority Presidents and Types of Government in Latin America’, paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association Meeting, Dallas, 26–9 March 2003.

15 Kaare Strom, Minority Government and Majority Rule, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1990; Michael Laver and Norman Schofield, Multiparty Government, Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 1990.

16 Krehbiel, Keith, ‘Institutional and Partisan Sources of Gridlock: A Theory of Divided and Unified Government’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 8 (1996), pp. 740 ; Krehbiel, Pivotal Politics, op. cit.

17 Negretto, ‘Government Capacities and Policy-Making’, op. cit.

18 On the formation of multiparty presidential cabinets in Latin America, see Octavio Amorim Neto, ‘Of Presidents, Parties and Ministers: Cabinet Formation and Legislative Decision-Making Under Separation of Powers’, unpublished PhD dissertation, San Diego, University of California, 1998; Grace Ivana Deheza, ‘Gobiernos de coalición en el sistema presidencial: America del Sur’, in Dieter Nohlen and Mario Fernández (eds), El presidencialismo renovado: Institucionalismo y cambio político en America Latina, Caracas, Nueva Sociedad, 1998, pp. 151–69.

19 On the origins and significance of impeachment, see Charles L. Black, Impeachment: A Handbook, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1974; Walter Ehrlich, Presidential Impeachment: An American Dilemma, St Charles, MO, Forum, 1974; Colin G. C. Tite, Impeachment and Parliamentary Judicature in Early Stuart England, London, Athlone, 1974; Peter C. Hoffer and N. E. H. Hull, Impeachment in America, 1635–1805, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1984.

20 On institutional choices in recent processes of democratization, see Adam Przeworski, Democracy and the Market, Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1991; Elster, Jon, ‘Constitutionalism in Eastern Europe: An Introduction’, University of Chicago Law Review, 58: 2 (1991), pp. 447–82; Elster, Jon, ‘Constitution-Making in Eastern Europe. Rebuilding the Boat in the Open Sea’, Public Administration, 71: 2 (1993), pp. 169217 ; Lijphart, Arend, ‘Democratization and Constitutional Choices in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland 1989–91’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 4: 2 (1992), pp. 207–23; Colomer, Josep M., Strategic Transitions: Game Theory and Democratization, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000 ; Colomer, Josep M., ‘Disequilibrium Institutions and Pluralist Democracy’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 13: 3 (2001), pp. 235–48; Geddes, Barbara, ‘Initiation of New Democratic Institutions in Eastern Europe and Latin America’, in Arend Lijphart and Carlos H. Waisman (eds), Institutional Design in New Democracies, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1996, pp. 1541 ; Negretto, Gabriel, ‘Constitution-Making and Institutional Design: The Transformation of Presidentialism in Argentina’, European Journal of Sociology/Archives Éuropéenes de Sociologie, 40: 2 (1999), pp. 193231 ; Alexander, Gerard, ‘Institutions, Path Dependence, and Democratic Consolidation’, Journal of Theoretical Politics, 13: 3 (2001), pp. 249–71.

1 We are grateful for comments and suggestions on previous versions to John M. Carey, Barbara Geddes, William Keech, Fabrice Lehoucq, Juan Molinar, G. Bingham Powell and Arturo Valenzuela.

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