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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The perils of ‘presidentialism’

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. The fact that the leader tje the world’s seventh-biggest economy could be pushed out of office in this way is noteworthy in 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. 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.

At least half of Brazil’s perjls are suspected of corruption. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles.

Over the past three decades, no fewer than 17 Latin America presidents were forced out of office before the end of their mandates. And there are a few examples where an executive and elected head of state slowly accepts that he has to share more powers with Parliament: Ms Rousseff was impeached and suspended from office by the Brazilian Congress. 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.


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.

His was an undiplomatic but understandable admission of frustration, shared by many in Presicentialism America. Still, just the question of electing a ceremonial head of state by a popular vote creates its own difficulties.

France has had a powerful executive presidency since the late s, and has frequently paid the price: 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. Still, Professor Detlief Nolte and Presidentialsim 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”.

Prof Linz cautioned Latin America against 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.

Skip to main content. Sadly, however, that’s the exception rather than the rule, for the reality is that in many other Latin American countries, the clash over “hyper-presidentialism”, between all-powerful presidents and resentful Parliaments, is endemic.

When presidents and prime ministers belong to different parties, France is often in the awkward position of being represented by two people at various European Union meetings. And these charges are in themselves fairly spurious: Still, her defiance came to nothing: 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: Ireland is such a case.

Candidates for such ceremonial presidencies have little to say during their electoral campaigns apart, perhaps, from promising to cut ribbons in a better way than their opponents.

So they are tempted instead to pledge things over which they have no responsibility, such as promising to “improve the economy”, rpesidentialism which they can’t deliver.

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

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

The current Brazilian arrangement is a US-like presidency on steroids. She is accused of “manipulating” national accounts, allegedly in order to mask the country’s presidebtialism economic conditions. We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. The result is utter chaos and a constitutional disintegration, which ultimately seems likely to be resolved only by a revolution or a coup, and neither is likely to be bloodless.

Nevertheless, it is striking that European states in which heads of state have limited powers and are not elected or are elected presidentialsm have tended to do better in handling national crises.

She forgot that, regardless of the direct electoral mandate she enjoyed, the Brazilian Congress possessed another power copied from the US – that of being able to impeach her, to remove her from office.

Ultimately, Ms Rousseff fell because she was a poor communicator and proved incapable of engaging with her Congress.

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. And that’s a condition which exists in other countries as well, giving rise to constitutional difficulties which can lie dormant for decades, until they suddenly erupt, paralysing the life of nations.