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Intra-executive Conflict and Cabinet Instability: Effects of Semi-presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2013

Abstract

Comparing eight post-communist semi-presidential systems (Bulgaria, Croatia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Ukraine and Russia), comprising a total of 65 instances of intra-executive coexistence between 1991 and 2007, this article asks to what extent and in what ways president–cabinet conflicts increase the risk of cabinet instability. Previous studies of intra-executive conflicts in semi-presidential regimes have mainly been occupied with explaining why conflicts occur in the first place, and have neglected the question of how such conflicts are actually related to political outcomes. The present empirical investigation demonstrates that the occurrence of intra-executive conflict in transitional semi-presidential systems is likely to produce high rates of cabinet turnover.

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Copyright © The Author(s) 2010.

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References

1 Cf. Baylis, T., ‘Presidents Versus Prime Ministers: Shaping Executive Authority in Eastern Europe’, World Politics, 48: 3 (1996), pp. 297323 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Elgie, R., ‘The Perils of Semi-Presidentialism: Are They Exaggerated?’, Democratization, 15: 1 (2008), pp. 4966 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 Perhaps most salient in this literature is the longstanding presidentialism vs parliamentarism debate, e.g. Colomer, J. M. and Negretto, G. L., ‘Can Presidentialism Work Like Parliamentarism?’, Government and Opposition, 40: 1 (2005), pp. 6089 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; J. A. Cheibub, Presidentialism, Parliamentarism and Democracy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007; K. von Mettenheim (ed.), Presidential Institutions and Democratic Politics: Comparing Regional and National Contexts, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; S. Mainwaring and M. S. Shugart (eds), Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997; Power, T. and Gasiorowski, M., ‘Institutional Design and Democratic Consolidation in the Third World’, Comparative Political Studies, 30: 2 (1997), pp. 123–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Linz, J. J., ‘The Perils of Presidentialism’, Journal of Democracy, 1: 1 (1990), pp. 5169 Google Scholar; J. J. Linz, ‘Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does it Make a Difference?’, in J. J. Linz and A. Valenzuela (eds), The Failure of Presidential Democracy: The Case of Latin America, Volume 2, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994; Stepan, A. and Skach, C., ‘Constitutional Framework and Democratic Consolidation: Parliamentarianism Versus Presidentialism’, World Politics, 46: 1 (1993), pp. 122 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

3 E.g. Elgie, R., ‘Semi-Presidentialism, Cohabitation, and the Collapse of Electoral Democracies 1990–2008’, Government and Opposition, 45: 1 (2010), pp. 2949 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Schleiter, P. and Morgan-Jones, E., ‘Citizens, Presidents and Assemblies: The Study of Semi-Presidentialism beyond Duverger and Linz’, British Journal of Political Science, 39: 4 (2009), pp. 871–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar; R. Elgie and S. Moestrup (eds), Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2008; R. Elgie and S. Moestrup (eds), Semi-Presidentialism Outside Europe, London, Routledge, 2007; Neto, O. A. and Lobo, M. C., ‘Portugal's Semi-Presidentialism (Re)Considered: An Assessment of the President's Role in the Policy Process, 1976–2006’, European Journal of Political Research, 48 (2009), pp. 234–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar; M. Tavits, Presidents with Prime Ministers: Do Direct Elections Matter?, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008; T. Sedelius, The Tug-of-War Between Presidents and Prime Ministers: Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe, Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag, 2008; Shugart, M. S., ‘Semi-Presidential Systems: Dual Executive and Mixed Authority Patterns’, French Politics, 3: 3 (2005), pp. 323–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar; C. Skach, Borrowing Constitutional Design: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2005. There are a number of older contributions that have highly influenced more recent analyses of semi-presidentialism, e.g. G. Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering: An Inquiry into Structures, Incentives and Outcomes, 2nd edn, London, Macmillan Press, 1997; M. S. Shugart and J. M. Carey, Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992; Duverger, M., ‘A New Political System Model: Semi-Presidential Government’, European Journal of Political Research, 8 (1980), pp. 165–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Cf. Duverger, M., ‘Reflections: The Political System of the European Union’, European Journal of Political Research, 31 (1997), pp. 137–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering.

5 Cf. Fabbrini, S., ‘Presidents, Parliaments, and Good Government’, Journal of Democracy, 6: 3 (1995), pp. 128–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Lijphart, A., ‘Constitutional Design for Divided Societies’, Journal of Democracy, 15: 2 (2004), pp. 96109 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; J. J. Linz, ‘Introduction: Some Thoughts on Presidentialism in Post-Communist Europe’, in R. Taras (ed.), Postcommunist Presidents, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

6 Protsyk, O., ‘Politics of Intra-executive Conflict in Semi-presidential Regimes in Eastern Europe’, East European Politics and Society, 18: 2 (2005), pp. 120 Google Scholar; Protsyk, O., ‘Intra-executive Competition Between President and Prime Minister: Patterns of Institutional Conflict and Cooperation in Semi-Presidential Regimes’, Political Studies, 56: 2 (2006), pp. 219–41CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

7 Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies.

8 Duverger, European Journal of Political Research, p. 166; Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering, p. 131; Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies, pp. 23–4; Shugart, ‘Semi-presidential Systems: Dual Executive and Mixed Authority Patterns’, pp. 324–35.

9 In 2000–1, the Croatian constitution was revised from a president-parliamentary to a premier-presidential type of system. Since then, the government is responsible to the parliament only, and not, as the case was under the 1990 constitution, to both the president and the parliament.

10 The Moldovan parliament amended the 1994 constitution in 2000, envisioning a shift away from premier-presidentialism to parliamentarism by changing from direct to indirect presidential elections. Thus, since then, the president is elected by the parliament.

11 In the aftermath of the Orange Revolution in 2004, agreements were reached to reduce the president's power and to subordinate the government to the parliament, which de facto entailed a change from a president-parliamentary to a premier-presidential system.

12 Cf. Ekman, J., ‘Political Participation and Regime Stability: A Framework for Analyzing Hybrid Regimes’, International Political Science Review, 30: 1 (2009), pp. 731 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Cf. Shugart and Carey, Presidents and Assemblies.

14 Cf. ibid.

15 For quite extensive reviews of this literature see Grofman, B. and Van Roozendaal, P., ‘Review Article: Modelling Cabinet Durability and Termination’, British Journal of Political Science, 27 (1997), pp. 419–51CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Laver, M., ‘Government Termination’, Annual Review of Political Science, 6 (2003), pp. 2340 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 Shugart, French Politics, p. 345.

17 Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering, pp. 153–4.

18 See Elgie, R., ‘Cohabitation: Divided Government French-Style’, in Elgie, R. (ed.), Divided Government in Comparative Perspective, Oxford, Oxford University Press Google Scholar.

19 Cf. Samuels, D. J. and Shugart, M. S., Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers: How the Separation of Powers Affects Party Organization and Behavior, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 The expert survey consisted of two main parts, conducted in two steps: (i) a questionnaire including 29 questions covering a broad set of issues concerning executive–legislative relations, presidential powers and party system factors; and (ii) a number of interviews and/or e-mail questions in which the specific issue of intra-executive and executive–legislative conflicts were the main topic. While the questionnaire was designed rather broadly and inductively, the follow-up interviews were more focused and delimited in scope. The questionnaire was sent to 8–15 experts in each of the countries and contained questions with both pre-defined and open-ended answers. The interviews were undertaken in a semi-structured manner under which questions relating to intra-executive and executive–legislative relations were asked.

Tracking the appropriate kind of ‘experts’ to be included in the survey was not an entirely straightforward task. We started from a list of social scientists with expertise in political and constitutional issues in the countries under examination, and then added a number of potential respondents by screening the literature and by employing a snowball strategy, asking the first round of respondents to suggest other potential experts. An overall response rate of about 50 per cent was reached. All in all, 50 different experts finally took part in the survey (36 academic scholars and 12 high officials, e.g. judges and constitutional court officials). The number of experts for each country was: Bulgaria 8, Croatia 3, Lithuania 12, Moldova 3, Poland 16, Romania 2, Russia 4, and Ukraine 2. Among the researchers, the majority are senior scholars of political science, constitutional law or sociology. Most of them are living and working in the country of which they have been contacted as experts.

21 East European Constitutional Review, ‘Constitution Watch’, 6: 2; 6: 3; 6: 4; 7: 4; 8: 3; 9:1/2; 11: 3; 12: 2 (1997–2003), www.law.nyu.edu/eecr.

22 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Newsline, country reports, (2000–8), www.rferl.org.

23 Nations in Transit, Freedom House (2002–07), www.freedomhouse.org.

24 E.g. S. Berglund, J. Ekman and F. H. Aarebrot (eds), The Handbook of Political Change in Eastern Europe, 2nd edn, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2004; J. Blondel and F. Müller-Rommel (eds), Cabinets in Eastern Europe, London, Palgrave, 2001; R. Elgie (ed.), Semi-Presidentialism in Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999; Elgie and Moestrup, Semi-Presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe; R. Taras (ed.), Postcommunist Presidents, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997; J. Zielonka (ed.), Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe: Volume 1, Institutional Engineering, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001.

25 Protsyk, ‘Politics of Intra-Executive Conflict in Semi-Presidential Regimes in Eastern Europe’; Protsyk, ‘Intra-Executive Competition between President and Prime Minister’.

26 For a more extensive description of this conflict, see Sedelius, The Tug-of-War between Presidents and Prime Ministers, pp. 136–8.

27 E.g. K. Jasiewicz, ‘Poland: Walesa's Legacy to the Presidency’, in R. Taras (ed.), Postcommunist Presidents, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 152–4; A. Krok-Paszkowska, ‘Poland’, in Elgie, Semi-Presidentialism in Europe, pp. 182–5.

28 Cf. RFE/RL Newsline, various reports on Moldova, 1994–96. For reports on the escalating conflict, see RFE/RL Newsline, March–July 1996, www.rferl.org; cf. W. Crowther and Y. Josanu ‘Moldova’, in Berglund et al. The Handbook of Political Change in Eastern Europe, pp. 557–63.

29 Cf. Grofman and van Roozendaal, ‘Review Article: Modelling Cabinet Durability and Termination’.

30 Cf. Strøm, K., Minority Government and Majority Rule, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990 Google Scholar; Blondel, J., World Leaders: Heads of Governments in the Postwar Period, London, Sage, 1980 Google Scholar.

31 King, G., Alt, J. E., Burns, N. E. and Laver, M., ‘A Unified Model of Cabinet Dissolution in Parliamentary Democracies’, American Journal of Political Science, 34 (1990), pp. 846–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 E.g. King et al., ‘A Unified Model of Cabinet Dissolution in Parliamentary Democracies’; Strøm, Minority Government and Majority Rule.

33 King et al., ‘A Unified Model of Cabinet Dissolution in Parliamentary Democracies’; Sanders, D. and Valentine, H. The Stability and Survival of Governments in Western Democracies’, Acta Politica, 3 (1977), pp. 346–77Google Scholar.

34 Yet another factor of relevance to premier-presidentialism is cohabitation, i.e. where the president's party is not represented in the cabinet and where the prime minister and president are from different parties. It is logical to expect that the president under such periods has less to lose by criticizing the government, with possible pre-term resignation of government as a consequence. Among our cases we identified cohabitation in only eight relevant instances (in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Poland) and from this very small sample we found no support for the assumption that cohabitation would increase cabinet instability (in four instances the government endured its full term, and in the remaining four instances it stepped down earlier).

35 As measured by the Laakso and Taagepera effective number of parties index, Laakso, M. and Taagepeera, R., ‘Effective Number of Parties: A Measure with Application to West Europe’, Comparative Political Studies, 12: 1 (1979), pp. 312 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 R. Sakwa, Russian Politics and Society, 3rd edn, New York, Routledge, 2002, p. 118.

37 E.g. A. Wilson, ‘Ukraine’, in Elgie, Semi-Presidentialism in Europe, p. 265.

38 Cf. data from the New Europe Barometer, 1991–2005 and New Russia Barometer, 1992–2008, Centre for the Study of Public Policy (CSPP), University of Strathclyde (reports are available at: www.abdn.ac.uk).

39 K. Duvold and M. Jurkynas, ‘Lithuania’, in Berglund et al., The Handbook of Political Change in Eastern Europe; East European Constitutional Review, ‘Constitution Watch’.

40 Cf. V. I. Ganev, ‘Bulgaria’, in Elgie, Semi-Presidentialism in Europe.

41 Baylis, T. A., ‘Embattled Executives: Prime Ministerial Weakness in East Central Europe’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 40 (2007), pp. 81106 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

42 E.g. Lijphart, A., Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 1999 Google Scholar; Dogan, M., ‘Irremovable Leaders and Ministerial Instability in European Democracies’, in Dogan, M. (ed.), Pathways to Power: Selecting Rulers in Pluralist Democracies, Boulder, CO, Westview Press, 1989 Google Scholar.

43 J. J. Linz and A. Stepan, Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996; D. L. Horowitz, ‘Constitutional Design: Proposals Versus Processes’, in A. Reynolds (ed.), The Architecture of Democracy: Constitutional Design, Conflict Management, and Democracy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

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