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Presidentialism, Semipresidentialism, Parliamentarism and Democracy – Reconsidered?, ECPR General Conference, 4-7 Settembre 2019

Endorsed by the ECPR Standing Group on Presidential Politics


While the question about the most democratic political regime has been deeply investigated, it keeps its crucial relevance both from a theoretical and an empirical perspective.

It is often assumed that citizens prefer presidents who can inspire and lead, be forceful and have strong principles. People admire presidents who are able to transform societies and profoundly influence generations. However, history has also taught us presidents do not always hold up to these great expectations and sometimes disappoint by becoming a darker version of themselves and severely threatening democracy. This contrast gives academics a multitude of material for research.
Presidential leaders, their success, their failures, their charisma, their interaction with the supporting party and with partisan parties, their actual power, and their legacy represent core elements of political science research. Political systems are designed to counterbalance an extreme concentration of power. The challenges facing the other powers of government can be a fine standard to measure levels of democratic legitimacy and efficiency. Those challenges offer a particularly clear channel for the comparative study of different forms of government (Cheibub 2006).

Political Science and law literature are full of remarkable studies with profound influence on our understanding of presidents. And still, there is much more to be understood and to be learned. To achieve such a goal, this section will bring together a diverse group of scholars working on areas we think are of utmost importance to understand some of the current political developments regarding presidentialism, parliamentarism and the decline of democracy in very different parts of this world. We are particularly, but not exclusively, seeking panels that will address questions of legitimacy and co-optation and can be subsumed under the following topics: presidents and governability, constitutionalization of executive-legislative relations, accountability and impeachment as well as presidents in non-democratic regimes. Within these thematic areas we invite comparative or single-case studies with a creative conceptual approach and sophisticated empirical strategies. The section is open with regard to different theoretical and methodological approaches, as well as geographical coverage privileging a comparative approach either by regional area or intra regimes (O’Donnell and Schmitter 1986).

Furthermore, since Linz’s seminal study the «failure» of democracy in presidential regimes has been deeply investigated, and scholars have measured what happened in other regime types too (e.g., Elgie, Moestrup and Wu 2011). The rise of new democracies in Africa, and the failure of some of them, as well as the intriguing and contradictory development of some political systems in Latin America, which has been for decades a quite stable and performant area, indicates the need of more detailed investigations. In particular, we think that there is the need of analyzing the impact of political factors such as the party systems, the political parties’ features, the leadership influence, the presidential power, together with the institutional framework (Power, Cheesman, Chaisty 2018; Passarelli 2015; 2018; Samuels and Shugart 2010). Therefore, the section also aims to get panel proposals on the relationship between regime types, individual constitutional features and democracy. Moreover, intra-regime type comparisons, and panels focusing on different geopolitical areas are also welcome.

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