Please visit the site for the forthcoming Samuels and Shugart book. There you may download the “final” drafts, chapter by chapter. Comments very much welcome, whether here or at our university e-mail addresses (linked at the site).
A Framework for Analysis
David J. Samuels
Matthew S. Shugart
Forthcoming, Cambridge University Press
The arrangement of the terms in the title summarizes the main conclusions of the book: Presidents above parties; parties above prime ministers.
In other words, where there is a directly elected president, the political parties become “presidentialized,” meaning that the way they organize and behave in elections and governance is shaped by the dynamics of the separation of powers. On the other hand, in parliamentary democracy, prime ministers are clearly subordinate to parties. These different authority lines have several observable implications, and the book is devoted to systematic worldwide empirical testing of those implications.
A majority of the world’s democracies since around the year 2000 have had directly elected presidencies (Figure 1.1, which is also posted at the book’s website), yet our theories of political parties remain largely grounded in either the West European parliamentary experience, or American-centric theories that often implicitly assume away the impact of the presidency. Thus “catching up” theory with the real world is one of the underlying purposes of the book. So is subsuming the US case within the broader comparative politics enterprise.
An important further finding of the book is that when there is both an elected president and a parliamentary-dependent prime minister–a semi-presidential system–the president remains “above all”; in fact, the prime minister becomes subordinate to the president, as long as the presidentialized party has effective control of parliament. In our analysis of semi-presidential systems, we confirm that the premier-presidential subtype (where the PM’s formal accountability is exclusively to the parliamentary majority) results in effective subordination of the cabinet to the parliamentary majority, when the latter is controlled by the president’s opposition. Yet even these “cohabitation” phases remain presidentialized in important respects; they also account for barely over one fifth of all presidential tenure in premier-presidential systems. (They account for only about 2% in the other suybtype, president-parliamentary; we confirm that this latter subtype is almost totally presidentialized.)
The book is oriented theoretically by the neo-Madisonian framework. The empirical scope is worldwide, including every country that has met basic democratic criteria for at least five consecutive years since 1946 (see Table 2.1). We analyze the impact of different executive-legislative structures on the selection and de-selection of presidents and prime ministers, the impact of institutional variation on electoral “fusion of purpose” (constituency overlap), and the propensity for electoral mandates to be violated (by a “policy switch”). Two chapters contain paired case studies: one demonstrates the immediate presidentialization of parties that resulted from the adoption of direct executive elections in France and Israel (and the subsequent reversal when parliamentarism was re-adopted in the latter country); the other demonstrates the impact of presidentialization on the electoral and governing experiences of two long-time opposition parties in presidential systems, the (leftist) Workers Party in Brazil and the (rightist) National Action in Mexico.
The conclusion notes several broader implications, and also calls attention to a trend: while abolition of an existing directly elected executive almost never occurs in democracies (in addition to Israel, the only other case is Moldova), some countries have adopted reforms intended to limit the president’s formal powers over the cabinet. These reforms may indicate dissatisfaction with party presidentialization, though our overarching conclusion would be that continued presidentialization is likely to prevail, even if it can be attenuated somewhat (for instance by moving to premier-presidentialism).