Must-Read: Juan Linz’s “The Perils of Presidentialism” is a rather good analysis of Richard Nixon and his situation, but a rather bad analysis of. Juan Linz is Sterling Professor Emeritus of Social and Political Science Dylan Matthews: When you wrote “The Perils of Presidentialism,” the. institutions can be fatal to democratic politics, especially during a transition to democracy, or so Juan Linz () and others (Riggs ; Stepan and Skatch.

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And monarchies, which don’t elect a head of state at all, offer no automatic guarantee against bad governance either.

The person is not only head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but also appoints all Cabinet ministers and jyan even issue laws. The saddest current example of a similar clash between Parliament and a directly elected president is, of course, Venezuela.

The lesson seems to be that nuan elected strong presidencies imply long-term constitutional changes which are pedils unpredictable, and frequently unwelcome. And, far from being the most perfect example of democracy in action, ceremonial presidents who are directly elected are also less able to handle real national crises, in comparison with heads of state who may be indirectly elected, but who can tower over the rest through the sheer force of their exemplary personal conduct.

But unlike the US, where Congress has always been dominated by only two parties, te Brazilian Congress is home to over 30 parties, with none of the US traditions of mediating disputes between Parliament and head of state.

Still, Professor Detlief Nolte and Dr Mariana Llanos, the authors of the study, are right to point out that what happens in Latin America now is “relevant to policymakers and scholars beyond this region”.

France has had a powerful executive presidency since the late s, and has frequently paid the price: At least half of Brazil’s legislators are suspected of corruption. The current Brazilian arrangement is a US-like presidency on steroids. Countries which elect their presidents indirectly through Parliament are not immune to problems: And there are a few examples where an executive and elected head of state slowly accepts that peils has to share more powers with Parliament: We have been experiencing some problems presirentialism subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused.

Candidates for such ceremonial presidencies have little to say prewidentialism their electoral campaigns apart, perhaps, from promising to cut ribbons in a better way than their opponents. In short, Brazil’s first woman president lost office as a result of political manoeuvring, one made worse by a faulty constitutional system.

And in other European countries such as Poland, or the Czech Republic which only recently introduced direct elections for its presidency, frequent clashes between governments and presidents are the staple fare for all politicians, and take more time than debating new legislation.


It was then that Professor Juan Linz, a distinguished Juzn American expert and political science academic at Yale University, wrote his seminal works, warnings against “the perils of presidentialism”.

But the Brazilian episode is of greater significance. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs. jhan

Nobody listened to him then, as one Latin American country after another rushed to create directly elected presidencies. After the party of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was defeated in the legislative elections last December, Mr Maduro simply packed the country’s constitutional court with new judges who proceeded to approve the President’s decision to ignore Parliament altogether.

Nor are those about to judge her morally qualified: One would have thought that a country which has experienced six Constitutions and three military coups in one century would be extra careful about distributing political power, but Brazil’s current Constitution gives the nation’s president huge prerogatives: Interestingly, however, the temptation to view a directly elected head of state as the highest form of democracy has proven irresistible in some European countries as well.

When linx and prime ministers belong to different parties, France presiddntialism often in the awkward position of being represented by two people at various European Union meetings. It acts as a reminder of the perils and limitations of constitutional systems in which both the head of state and the Parliament are directly elected, potentially blurring the distinction between the powers of the two.

Prime ministers are invariably used as scapegoats for French presidents and, as a result, they either plot how to become presidents themselves, or try to discredit the president instead. Ms Rousseff was impeached and suspended from office by the Brazilian Congress. Peruls Greeks should congratulate themselves for having a president who is not directly elected; given the country’s terrible economic conditions, direct elections presidehtialism a Greek head of state would have resulted in the rise of an extremist populist, precisely what is happening in another European country, Austria.

Prof Linz observed that most of the stable regimes in Europe and Britain’s former colonies around the world are parliamentary systems in which the president performs just ceremonial duties and is therefore not elected directly, but chosen indirectly through some parliamentary procedure.

Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles.

Ireland is such a case. A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23,with the headline ‘The perils of ‘presidentialism”.

And that’s a condition which exists in other countries as well, giving preaidentialism to constitutional difficulties which can lie dormant for decades, until they suddenly erupt, paralysing the life of nations. A recent study from the German Institute for Global and Area Studies concludes that the problems of strong “presidentialism” in Latin America are here to stay; “the probability of a blanket change to parliamentary democracy is close to zero”, claims the report.


Ms Rousseff has been found guilty of no crime; her suspension merely allows legislators to evaluate charges against her.

The perils of ‘presidentialism’, Opinion News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Prof Linz cautioned Latin America perilss ignoring this model and going instead for a directly elected powerful presidency, because he believed that this would generate trouble with Parliaments, which will be competing for the same popular legitimacy. She is accused of “manipulating” national accounts, allegedly in order to mask the country’s true economic conditions.

Sadly, however, that’s the exception rather than the rule, for the reality is that in many other Latin American jhan, the clash over “hyper-presidentialism”, between all-powerful presidents and resentful Parliaments, is endemic. The fact that the leader of the world’s seventh-biggest economy could be pushed out of office in presidentialidm way is noteworthy juqn itself.

It is tempting to argue that Brazil is an isolated case; in neighbouring Argentina, an equally vast Latin American country, power was recently transferred from one directly elected president to another smoothly. Most of these constitutional difficulties were actually predicted from the time Latin America emerged from its latest bout of military dictatorship during the s. Two out of the 11 presidents chosen by the German Parliament since World War II had to resign from office because their conduct was called into question.

That’s what happened when Finland joined the European Union and the country’s president accepted that the prime minister would represent it in daily European Union activities.

The perils of ‘presidentialism’

Nevertheless, it is striking that European states in which heads of state have limited powers and are not elected or are elected indirectly have tended to do better in handling national crises. Over the past three decades, no fewer than 17 Latin America presidents were forced out of office before the end of their mandates. The Brazilian crisis is a classic example of what happens when the vanity and incompetence of politicians collides with the reality of a poorly written Constitution.

His was an undiplomatic but understandable admission of frustration, shared by many in Latin America. So they are tempted instead to pledge things over which they have no responsibility, such as promising to “improve the economy”, something which they can’t deliver.