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’, Opinion News & Top Stories – The Straits Times

Candidates for such ceremonial presidencies have little to say during their electoral campaigns limz, perhaps, from promising to cut ribbons in a better way than their opponents. King Felipe VI is the only man with the legitimacy to keep Spain on a steady course, as the country staggered on without a government over the past six months, and now faces fresh elections. 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.

Ms Rousseff has been found guilty of no crime; her suspension merely allows legislators to evaluate charges against her. It was then that Professor Juan Linz, a distinguished Latin American tye and political science academic at Yale University, wrote his seminal works, warnings against “the perils of presidentialism”.

The person is not only head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but also appoints all Cabinet ministers and can even issue laws.

Most of these constitutional difficulties were actually predicted from the time Latin America emerged from its latest bout of military dictatorship presidenyialism the s. 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.

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


Skip to main content. Ms Rousseff was impeached and suspended from office by the Brazilian Congress. 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. We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused.

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.

The perils of ‘presidentialism’

Nevertheless, it is striking that European states in which heads of state have limited powers and are not presdentialism 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.

jyan She is accused of “manipulating” national accounts, allegedly in order to mask the country’s true economic conditions. 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 presisentialism Parliament altogether.

But the Brazilian episode is of greater significance. The fact that the leader of the world’s seventh-biggest economy could be pushed out of office in this way is noteworthy in itself. 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.

The Brazilian crisis is a classic example of what happens when the vanity and incompetence of politicians collides with the reality of presidentiaism poorly written Constitution. 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.

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 presidentiailsm.

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.


But the late Prof Linz’s warnings juqn prophetic.

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. 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. Nor are those about to judge her morally qualified: 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: And Greeks should congratulate themselves for having a president who is not directly elected; given the country’s terrible economic conditions, direct elections for a Greek head of state would have resulted in the rise of an extremist populist, precisely what is happening in another European country, Austria.

In short, Brazil’s first woman president lost office as a result of political manoeuvring, one made worse by a faulty constitutional system.

Still, just the question of electing a ceremonial head of state by a popular vote creates its own difficulties. Ultimately, Ms Rousseff fell because she was a poor communicator and proved incapable of engaging with her Congress. France has had a powerful executive presidency since the late s, and has frequently paid the price: Two out of the 11 preesidentialism chosen by the German Parliament since World Presidentialiwm II had to resign from office because their conduct was called into question.

Still, her defiance came to nothing: The current Brazilian arrangement is a US-like presidency on steroids.

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.

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”.