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Shugart and Carey: Presidents and Assemblies

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Shugart and Carey. 1992. Presidents and Assemblies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In Brief

Examines the relationship between presidents and assemblies. Central themes: (1) There are many institutional features that matter besides a mere choice of how to form executive power (e.g. presidential vs. parliamentary)--especially in presidential regimes. (2) In addition, in presidential regimes with formally separate executive and legislative powers, the methods and timing of elections (to assembly and presidency) interact in important ways. (page 7)

Chapter-by-Chapter Notes

Ch. 1. PRESIDENTIAL/PARLIAMENTARY "DICHOTOMY": Parliamentary systems must choose btw efficiency and representativeness. Presidential systems can have both (an efficient presidential election and representative parliament), but having both introduces tensions; how these tensions are resolved depends on other constitutional institutions.

Ch. 2: TYPOLOGY. Compares pure presidentialism, premier-presidentialism, and hybrid regimes. A typology with five ideal types along two dimensions: degree of separation of powers and president's (vs. assembly's) authority over the cabinet.

Ch. 3: CRITICISMS OF PURE PRESIDENTIALISM. Addresses criticisms of pure presidentialism, not b/c they think it is necessarily the best form, but b/c nobody has fully responded to criticisms. They find that presidentialism is not more prone to failure than parliamentarianism.

Ch. 5: COMPROMISE? This chapter gets (indirectly) at whether presidential systems must by nature be majoritarian, or whether there are institutions that can be used to create incentives for negotiation within presidential systems. I didn't read this chapter--see handout and class notes.

Ch. 7: LEGISLATIVE POWERS OF EXECUTIVE. Examines two themes relevant to presidents' legislative powers: "the extent of constitutional (entrenched) presidential power" and "the extent of legislative power delegated to the president by congress." Concludes that, even if a congress is passive, that doesn't mean it has abdicated its duty: it often means that congress has delegated legislative power in certain areas, but has retained the authority to retract that delegation.

Ch. 8: CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS. Assesses the president's constitutional (not delegated) power along two dimensions: power over legislation, and nonlegislative powers. Concludes that hybrid regimes are more prone to failure than either pure presidential or premier-presidential systems.

Ch. 9: ELECTIONS. Examines how the method of electing the president and assembly, and the relative timing of these elections, affect the regional or national focus of assembly candidacies.

Ch. 11: REPRESENTATION, REGIONALISM. Considers how the relationship btw votes and seats can differ in parliamentary than in presidential systems (although many studies ignore this) for two reasons: since presidential systems have separate elections, there are two separate agents of the electorate; and these elections can be held at different times. Concludes that presidentialism plus a PR assembly isn't a great combination: presidentialism plus first-past-the-post assembly is better.

Ch. 13: CONCLUSIONS. Parliamentarism may in fact be good for divided socieites, as many have claimed, but presidentialism, when "properly crafted," can also have "conflict dampening advantages." Two conditions must hold: (1) the assembly is elected by PR, and it has (in pure presidentialism) superior legislative powers relative to the president or (in premier-presidentialism) the ability to censure/replace the cabinet; and (2) the method of electing the president ensures a broad preelection coalition, and the president has "carefully circumscribed authorities," such as (in pure presidentialism) a veto that can be overriden only with a supermajority or (in premier-presidentialism) "conditional power to dissolve the assembly and call new elections."

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Shugart, Matthew (author)Carey, John (author)Comparative PoliticsInstitutionsPresidentialismMajoritarianismPresidency (US)VetoCabinetsElectionsRegime TypeConsociationalism

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