Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism
The presidential-parliamentary distinction is foundational to comparative politics and at the center of a large theoretical and empirical literature. However, an examination of constitutional texts suggests a fair degree of heterogeneity within these categories with respect to important institutional attributes. These observations lead us to suspect that the classic presidential-parliamentary distinction, as well as the semi-presidential category, is not a systemic one. This paper investigates whether the defining attributes that separate presidential and parliamentary constitutions predict other attributes that are stereotypically associated with these institutional models. The results lead us to be highly skeptical of the “systemic” nature of the classification. Indeed, the results imply that if one wanted to predict the powers of the executive and legislature, one would be better off knowing where and when the constitution was written than in knowing whether it was presidential or parliamentary.