We explain what semi-presidentialism is, how it is classified and its structure. Also, what are its general characteristics and advantages.

semi-presidentialismsemi-presidentialism
Semi-presidentialism is a model of democratic government.

What is semi-presidentialism?

It is known as semi-presidentialism granting the head of state to more than one person. In general, these governments have as heads of state a president and a prime minister together with a cabinet. The latter two are accountable to the legislature, which can vote to remove them from office.

Is about a democratic model of government in which the popular vote can still elect the president of the republic. However, both he and his ministerial train are subject to political evaluation by the legislature or parliament.

It is also known as a mixed system, since it is located in the middle between presidential systems and parliamentary systems. Also it is called the two-headed republicsince its leadership rests with at least two people.

See also: English monarchy

It’s not presidentialism

presidentialismpresidentialism
The power of the president is balanced only by the legislative and judicial powers.

Presidential systems are those that hand over political power to a single figure: the president.

this figure can appoint or dismiss ministersvice presidents and other members of the executive, without internal counterweights.

Therefore, its power is balanced only by the legislative and judicial power.

On the contrary, in the semi-presidential system there is also a prime minister and a cabinet with whom the president must share the executive.

It is not parliamentarism

semi-presidentialismsemi-presidentialism
In parliamentarism, the parliament ended up being more important than the monarch.

In parliamentary systems there is a president stripped of real executive powers. These powers are usually concentrated in the prime minister, thus distinguishing between the head of state and the head of government.

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This type of government is usually found in the republics that come from a parliamentary monarchy. This is because in the previous monarchy, the parliament ended up being more important than the monarch.

In that sense, parliament is more the seat of real power than the presidentunlike the presidential and semi-presidential systems.

Types of semi-presidentialism

There are two forms of semi-presidentialism, depending on its structure:

  • Premier-presidential system. The prime minister and the cabinet are exclusively responsible to the legislature or parliament. The president is elected by popular vote and he appoints the prime minister and the cabinet, who can be removed by parliament through a vote of no confidence.
  • Presidential-parliamentary system. Both the prime minister and the cabinet are chosen by the president (in turn elected by popular vote), but they are doubly accountable to parliament and the president himself, which means a double option to remove them from power.

power structure

The separation of legislative and executive powers is an important issue within the power structure of a semi-presidential system.

The president is obliged to govern together with the majority of the parliament, which usually leads to legislators close to the president or his party being elected prime minister or government minister. Thus, three models of structure are given:

  • Rigid separation due to resignation of parliamentarians. In these cases, a legislator elected to a ministerial position (prime minister or member of the cabinet) must resign from his position in parliament, not being able to recover it until the next legislature. This measure is designed to prevent partidocracy, the predominance of certain political parties in the State, as occurs in parliamentary systems.
  • Rigid separation by substitution of parliamentarians. In these cases, the parliamentarian elected for ministerial positions must be temporarily replaced by another, and may return to the parliamentary position when he has no commitment to the executive branch.
  • Partial separation with parliamentary ministers. In these cases, the coexistence of the legislature and the executive is not prohibited in the event that parliamentarians assume ministerial functions, although in general the members of the cabinet are not usually chosen from among the members of parliament. However, this allows for greater levels of partisan domination of both the executive and the legislature.
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History of semi-presidentialism

Weimar RepublicWeimar Republic
The Weimar Republic had the first two-headed government of modernity.

The first case of a two-headed republic in history took place in the roman republic. Power was controlled by two consuls with equal power and equal veto capacity if one of them made a decision without consulting the other.

Taking this precedent as an example, in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century (1919) a form of political system was attempted that would allow the balance of the powers of parliament and the president. The result was the first modern Semi-Presidential Republic: the Weimar Republic.

Although this republic soon failed and gave ground to the fascist model of Hitlerian Nazism, its model It was replicated in France under the mandate of Charles De Gaulle. Later, his example inspired numerous republics throughout the world.

The appeal of this model lies in the fact that it offers a way to control the excesses of the executive power in the hands of a single president.

Disadvantages of semi-presidentialism

The main disadvantage of this model is the ease with which a divided parliament reaches a state of conflict and stalemate. In these cases, the only solution is to change the executive. Thus, the political functioning of the republic can hinder and lengthen the processes of the executive.

The exception is those cases where the dominant party and the president’s party are the same. Then there is procedural agility which, on the other hand, also represents its drawbacks, since the separation of powers that the system would have to defend becomes weaker in these cases.

Advantages of semi-presidentialism

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Semi-presidentialism offers a middle path that allows for the popular vote.

Compared to presidentialism, the advantages of this type of model are several. First, it becomes a huge counterweight to the executive, which is quite prevented from carrying out maneuvers that give it total power. In this sense, the model defends the democratic balance much more.

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On the other hand, compared to parliamentarism, it offers a mixed and intermediate way that still gives power to the popular vote and to the faith deposited in the presidential election.

Division of faculties

One of the dilemmas of this model lies in the distribution of presidential powers and those that are the responsibility of the Prime Minister. In this sense, they are usually established according to two possibilities:

  • Division by convention. The distribution of powers is sometimes determined by political agreement, that is, by mutual consensus between the President and the Prime Minister, which allows its reformulation in each relevant case.
  • constitutional division. In this case, the distribution of powers is explicitly detailed in the Political Constitution or in State legislation, according to the interests and decisions that have been taken in its construction.

Historical Examples of Semi-Presidentialism

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De Gaulle’s government was semi-presidential.

The first historical example of this system was the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) in Germany. Subsequently, it was also observed in the French Republic under the command of De Gaulle (1959-1969), also called the French Fifth Republic. In this case, semi-presidentialism continues to be the current model.

Countries with a semi-presidential system

Today there are the following countries with a semi-presidential system:

Algeria Armenia
Azerbaijan Burkina Faso
Cape Verde guyana
Democratic Republic of Congo Egypt
France Georgia
Guinea-Bissau Haiti
Madagascar Mali
Mauritania Mongolia
Mozambique Namibia
Niger Palestine
Portugal Romania
Russia Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Sao Tome and Principe Senegal
Syria Sri Lanka
taiwan East Timor
Tunisia Ukraine

References:

  • “Semi-presidentialism” on Wikipedia.
  • “The semi-presidential system” in Gestiópolis.
  • “Parliamentary, presidential and semi-presidential systems”in Notebooks for the Disclosure of Democratic Culture.
  • “Presidentialism and semi-presidentialism: Radio Course” at the Institute of Democratic Studies of Lima.
  • “A New Political System Model: Semi-Presidential Government”in European Journal of Politic Research.

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