Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Measuring Presidential Dominance over Cabinets in Presidential Systems: Constitutional Design and Power Sharing *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Measuring Presidential Dominance over Cabinets in Presidential Systems: Constitutional Design and Power Sharing *

Article excerpt

The debate on constitutional designs and decision-making processes of presidential systems re-emerged in modern political science due to the third wave of democracy (HUNTINGTON, 1993). According to Carey (2005), the third wave of democracy exposed certain important trends, such as the establishment of democratic regimes in countries with no previous democratic experience, re-establishment of democracy in countries that had experienced periods of authoritarian regimes, and the expansion of independent states after the collapse of Soviet and European communism. An important consequence of these has been the attention given to the constitutional rules regulating the competition and the exercise of political authority in a democracy.

Traditionally, presidential systems have been characterized as a noncollegial decision-making process, led by and personified in the figure of the president (LIJPHART, 1992; SARTORI, 1997). By considering recent empirical comparative studies (AMORIM NETO, 2006; PAYNE, 2007), we argue against the assumption that the president's power to remove ministers will lead to a verticalized or non-collegial decision-making process, and argue that this assumption underrates the variations that may exist within the degrees of presidential dominance over the cabinets. By building a new index that provides a greater understanding of the degree of presidential dominance over their cabinets in the decision-making process, our results reveal a significant variation in executive power exerted by presidents over their cabinets. Moreover, our analysis of the variation of presidential dominance over cabinets in 18 Latin American constitutions allows us to classify the decision-making processes of the executive branch as decentralized to the benefit of ministers' powers, shared between ministers and the president, or centralized in the figure of the president.

If the institutional theory is correct that it is possible to predict political phenomena by considering the effects of rules on the behavior of individuals, it is reasonable to expect that different cabinets' rules can lead to different decisionmaking processes in presidential governments. The costs of a presidential decision to remove ministers, for example, may vary depending on other institutional factors such as rules that empower ministers. It may also vary according to other political factors, such as whether a minister's party is the pivotal actor in maintaining the coalition in the legislature (FORTUNATO and STEVENSON, 2013). Furthermore, the distribution of resources for policy-making in the cabinet is directly related to the degree of influence the parties can exert on the composition of the executive agenda (ARAÚJO, 2016). Thus, the variation of how powerful the president is, vis-à-vis the cabinet, is of fundamental importance to enhancing our understanding of presidents' powers over their cabinets.

In the next section we briefly review the literature on presidential systems; in the third section we explore the puzzle that guides this study, and we present our argument; in the fourth section we develop our index and present the data and method used in our analysis; in the fifth section we present and discuss our preliminary findings, and; in the concluding section we present our final comments.

Literature Review

According to Elgie (2005), it is possible to identify at least three stages of the debate on presidential systems in the comparative politics literature. In the first stage, the classical Linzian argument prevails, in which Linz (1978) argues that parliamentary systems are superior to presidential systems, due to parliamentary systems offering greater political stability and decision-making capacity. Linz (1990, 1994) argues that the independent election of the president and the legislators in a presidential system would lead to recurring conflicts between these actors, and would lead the presidents to claiming a greater democratic legitimacy for themselves, as the nation's representative. …

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