The perils of semi-presidentialism. Are they exaggerated?
Elgie, Robert (2008) The perils of semi-presidentialism. Are they exaggerated? Democratization, 15 (1). pp. 49-66. ISSN 1351-0347
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There is a standard academic consensus that semi-presidentialism is perilous for new democracies. In particular, this is because semi-presidential countries run the risk of experiencing difficult periods of ‘cohabitation’ between a president and a prime minister who are opposed to each other, and because they may also experience periods of divided minority government that encourage the president to rule by decree and subvert the rule of law. This article examines the evidence to support these two arguments. We find very few cases of cohabitation in young democracies and only one case where cohabitation has directly led to democratic collapse. By contrast, we find more cases of divided minority government and more cases where it has been associated with democratic failure. However, we also find that young democracies have survived divided minority government. We conclude that, to date, there is insufficient evidence to support the long-standing and highly intuitive argument that cohabitation is dangerous for new democracies. There is more evidence to support the much newer argument about the dangers of divided minority government. Even so, more work is needed in this area before we can conclude that semi-presidentialism is inherently perilous.
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