Laver and Shepsle note that the constitutional separation between the executive and the legislature is 'quintessentially American' (1991 : 250). The statement is true in the broadest sense—political regimes throughout much of the Americas follow the US model of presidentialism. Indeed, the two cases of presidentialism outside the US included in this volume come from Latin America. Drawing from the US experience, one can reasonably ask whether, and to what degree, presidential regimes elsewhere exhibit characteristics of divided government. As this chapter shows, divided government, like presidentialism, is not unique to the United States.
It is the task of this chapter to discuss divided government in Ecuador. I will argue that divided government is virtually the norm in Ecuador and has been since the demise of the last military regime in 1979. Divided government can appear in different forms, but typically involves the lack of any majority in the single house of the legislature. I point to historical experience and political institutions, particularly electoral rules, as the main causes of divided government in Ecuador. As for managing divided government, I suggest that 'muddling through' more appropriately describes executive-legislative relations. The president does have a few tools, however, which allow him to 'go it alone'. These include the ability to issue decrees of urgency as well as convoke public referendums when matters become tied up in the legislature. The legislature, for its part, may express its displeasure with the executive by submitting cabinet members or the president himself to intense scrutiny that may lead to impeachment. Finally, the president may take an ad hoc approach to coalition-building, depending on the legislation at hand.