lijphart

Lijphart’s discussion of presidential democratic systemsis somewhat lacking.

Presidential systems are democratic systems in which thehead of state also serves as head of government and leads the executive.Lijphart’s divide between majoritarian and consensus democracies seems too simple,making the treatment of presidential systems awkward (Bormann, 2010, 3). He hasargued that presidential systems are theoretically strongly related to hisconception of majoritarian democracies even though they seemingly stress theseparation of powers between the legislative and executive (Lijphart, 2008,141).

While Lijphart has stated that majoritarian democracies usually have asystem of presidentialism, he fails to acknowledge that this is not the case inevery country. For example, the United Kingdom has a majoritarian democracy,yet it is a parliamentary system. Presidentialism is key in many countries andthus, it is strange that Lijphart does not describe it in further detail (cf.Shugart & Carey 1992, 15; Fuchs 2000, 41; Lijphart 1999, 116-142). He attemptsto justify his omission by arguing that ‘the real question for adifferentiation between consensus and majoritarian systems is how influentialthe executive is vis-à-vis the legislature’ (Bormann,2010, 3). In presidentialsystems, cooperation in the form of a coalition provides little incentives asthe presidential office cannot be shared.

The essence of presidentialism is aparadox and many contemporaries have confirmed this in their research. Many newdemocracies select presidentialism because they believe it to be a strong formof executive government, yet the data compiled by Stepan and Skach showed thatbetween 1973 and 1987, ‘presidential democracies enjoyed legislative majoritiesless than half of the time (Stepan & Skach, 1993, 13). Lijphart believesthat presidential democracies are quite stable. However, based on a study ofAsian countries carried out by researchers, the newly democratic countrieswhich adopted presidential systems, faced crisis and instability (Chang,Dressel & Fukuyama, 2005, 103). New leaders that appear to be virtualoutsiders can appear and this can further instability. In his research, Cheibub(2007,40) found that ‘presidential systems are much more likely to followmilitary rule and more prone to democratic breakdown than parliamentary systemsdue to the persisting military influence.’ Conversely, it can be argued that incountries with struggling democracies, a new person to take control can be whatit needs to ensure it remains stable and functioning.

A military presence maynot be necessary. Lijphart fails to account for alternate arguments andexceptions to a presidential regime. The lack of detail included indicateshints of biases towards the parliamentary system.

 

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