Checking Executive Power: Presidential Impeachment in Comparative Perspective

Checking Executive Power: Presidential Impeachment in Comparative Perspective

Checking Executive Power: Presidential Impeachment in Comparative Perspective

Checking Executive Power: Presidential Impeachment in Comparative Perspective

Synopsis

Baumgartner, Kada, and their contributors examine the extraordinary process of presidential impeachment and add to a virtual vacuum in political science literature on presidential impeachment, especially in countries other than the United States. The contributors examine presidential impeachment attempts in such varied settings as the United States, Russia, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, the Philippines, and Madagascar.

Excerpt

Jody C. Baumgartner

Presidential impeachment is the equivalent of a political earthquake. It convulses, disrupts, and in many cases, polarizes the body politic as few political events can. The rancorous debate among scholars, public intellectuals, and political commentators during the Clinton impeachment illustrates this perfectly. Impeachment proceedings have the power to disrupt and destroy political careers, and that destruction is often not limited to the president. The fall of U.S. House of Representative Speakers Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston in late 1998 during the impeachment proceedings of U.S. President William Clinton are evidence of this fact. Presidential impeachment is, in short, an extraordinary political event.

Presidential impeachment proceedings are historically rare, but the 1990s saw a wave of them that began with the impeachment and subsequent removal of Brazilian President Collor in 1992, and continued throughout the decade. In all, a total of seven presidents, from every corner of the globe, faced a serious impeachment challenge during this period. This book examines and compares these impeachment efforts.

Should we view the recent wave (if it can be called such) of impeachments with alarm? Does it indicate democratic instability, as some might think? Or, as others maintain, is it a positive sign, since as the result of impeachment proceedings (successful or otherwise), future presidents will better understand that they can and will be held accountable? Is impeachment, as still others suggest, a healthier alternative than removal of a president by military coup or assassination?

Presidential impeachment is a subject that remains shrouded in misunderstanding. What exactly does impeachment mean? For example, before Clinton's impeachment in 1998, many U.S. citizens understood

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