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Mainwaring and Shugart: Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America

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Mainwaring and Shugart. 1997. Presidentialism and Democracy in Latin America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

In Brief

Place in Literature

Generally, a reiteration of the arguments in Shugart and Carey (1992), with responses to objections made by Linz (1994) and Stepan and Skach (1994) in "The Failure of Presidential Democracy."

Main Argument

(1) Constitutional/legislative provisions regarding the president, elections, and party laws determine (2) the president's formal powers and the nature of party system, influencing (3) the president's ability to implement his agenda (his "strength"). In this process, the timing of assembly elections relative to executive elections strongly affects the number of political parties and their internal discipline.

Two key themes:

  1. Presidentialism has important institutional variations, so it should not be compared dichotomously against parliamentarism. It is not a homogenous regime type. The most important variations among presidential regimes are (a) how closely they approximate "pure" presidentialism, (b) the president's legislative powers, (c) party system fragmentation, and (d) party discipline.
  2. These institutional variations have consequences for how well presidents can implement their agenda and how well the regime functions.
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