Between Constitutional Diffusion and Local Politics: Semi-Presidentialism in Portuguese-Speaking Countries
40 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 30 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
This paper analyzes the systems of government adopted since the start of the 1970s in all but one Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor). Taking Portugal as a reference, we pose the following questions: Is there a lusophone semi-presidential model? How does semi-presidentialism works in those seven countries? We claim there is a lusophone “brand” of semi-presidentialism. To test the validity of our claim we show that the similarities identified within lusophone countries hold up once compared with both European and francophone sub-Saharan semi-presidential regimes. As for the functioning of the lusophone regimes, our data indicates that most of them display a kind of diarchic competition – either because presidential powers, although considerable, do not overwhelm those of the cabinet, or because although the president’s powers are extensive, party fragmentation prevents these from being exercised effectively. The paper also takes issue with Siaroff and Van Cranenburgh’s contention that the concept of semi-presidential regime is useless for the analysis of presidential power. On the evidence provided by lusophone countries, we argue that semi-presidentialism is a useful category. Thus, the analysis of this group of countries also sheds light on important theoretical debates in comparative politics.
Keywords: Semi-presidentialism, Portuguese-speaking countries, Portugal, Presidential Powers
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