PSCI 110 Chapter Notes -Mikhail Gorbachev, Presidential System, Curbed

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Published on 18 Apr 2013
School
University of Waterloo
Department
Political Science
Course
PSCI 110
Professor
PSCI 110 Glossary of Terms
Chapter 5 Democratic Regimes
Key Concepts
- Democracy is political power exercised either directly or indirectly through participation,
competition and liberty
- There are various and competing explanations for why democracy has emerged in some cases
and not in others
- Executive, legislative and judicial institutions can vary dramatically across democracies in their
construction and degree of power
- Democracies can be classified as parliamentary, presidential, or semi-presidential systems
- Electoral systems can be classified as plurality, majority, or proportional systems, or a combo
Liberal Democracy a political system that promotes participation, competition, and liberty; rooted in
ideology of liberalism with emphasis on individual rights and freedoms
Republicanism emphasizes the separation of powers within a state and the representation of the
public through elected officials (instead of the unaccountable powers of a monarchy or direct
participation)
Magna Carta document that curbed the rights of the king and laid the foundation for an early form of
legislature, a key element of republicanism; asserted that all freemen should enjoy due process before
the law (no one is above the law)
Direct Democracy public participates directly in governance and policy making; historically found in
small communities such as ancient Athens
Indirect Democracy public participates indirectly through its elected representatives; the prevalent
form of democracy in the modern age
Modernization Theory SUGGESTS that as societies become better educated and more economically
sophisticated they need and desire greater control over the state to achieve and defend their own
interests (not always true!), potential to destabilize institutions and lead to violence
- Middle class is essential for democratization; overall poverty can be hazardous to democracy
when people have little, they have little to fight for
Civil Society organized life outside of the state, “art of association”. Can serve as a vehicle for
democratization by allowing people to articulate, promote, and defend what is important to them.
Congregation of likeminded people may also pressure elites for change.
Political Culture argument that there are differences in societal institutions (norms and values) that
shape landscape of political activity
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- Changing domestic and international conditions may mean that what leads to democracy now
may be unrelated to how it comes about in the future
Executive branch that carries out the laws and policies of a state; two distinct roles:
- Head of State a role that symbolizes and represents the people, both nationally and
internationally, embodies goals of regime
- Head of Government deals with everyday task of running state, such as formulating and
executing domestic policy, alongside a cabinet of ministers who are charged with a specific
policy areas
- These roles can be either combined or separated in varying degrees
Legislature body in which national politics is considered and debated, charged with making/passing
legislation
- Bicameral/Unicameral Systems legislatures with two/one house(s)
- Bicameral system remained because (1) an upper chamber was retained as a check over the
lower house, often reflecting a fear that a popularly elected lower house would make rash
decisions, so they can amend or veto legislation originating in the lower house(2) federalism:
federal states typically rely on an upper house to represent local interests (balance of upper and
lower house varies with the country)
Judicial all states rely on laws to prescribe behavior and lay out rules of the political game; at core lies
a constitution which maintains rule of law the sovereignty of law over the people and elected officials
Constitutional Court ensures that legislation is compatible with the constitution, accompanied by
judicial review as constitutions define more rights, there is a greater need for judiciaries to rule on them
- Concrete Review courts can consider the constitutionality of legislation when this question
has been triggered by a specific court case
- Abstract Review constitutional court may rule on legislation without a specific court case
Models of Democracy
Parliamentary Systems comprise of two basic elements:
- Prime Ministers and their Cabinets come out of the legislature
- Legislature is also the instrument that elects and removes the prime minister from office
- In contrast, monarchs and presidents are little more than ceremonial
- Public does not directly elect the country’s leader, the parties do
Vote of No Confidence parliament typically retains the right to dismiss a prime minister at any time
simply by taking a vote of confidence; in this vote, the absence of majority support for prime minister
will bring down the government
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Presidential System president is directly elected by people for a fixed term and has control over
cabinet and legislative system, cannot be easily removed. They are “technically” voted by the nation as a
whole, and serves as an important national symbol and overseer of policy
- Bigger separation of powers between legislative and executive branch, more likely to lead to
checks and balances in government; president and legislative majority can be from different
parties
- Presidentialism can weaken political parties, since their leaders are concerned with winning a
single national and directly elected office
Semipresidential Systems power is divided between a head of state and head of government , prime
minister and directly elected president both exercise power; how the power is divided depends on the
country
- This system tends to reflect the old distinction between “reign” and “rule” that existed under
monarchies
- Presidents will usually set forth policy but expect the prime minister to translate those policy
ideas into legislation and ensure that it passes
- Independence of constitutional courts is often limited by the fact that they are appointed by
president; usually found in countries where communism has collapsed
Benefits and Draw back to Democratic Systems
Benefits
Parliamentary System prime minister has confidence that they can get legislation passed; prime
minister can be removed fairly easily
Presidential president is directly elected and can draw on a national mandate to create/enact
legislation
Semipresidential directly elected president and indirectly elected prime minister share power and
responsibilities, creating both a public mandate (presidency) and an indirectly elected office that may be
supported by a coalition of parties
Drawbacks
Parliamentary System public does not directly select prime minister and may feel that it has less
control over the executive and passing of legislation
Presidential president and legislature may be controlled by different parties, leading to divided
government. Office does not allow for power sharing, and president may not be easily removed from
office except through elections
Semipresidential conflict between prime minister and president over powers and responsibilities
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Document Summary

Democracy is political power exercised either directly or indirectly through participation, competition and liberty. There are various and competing explanations for why democracy has emerged in some cases and not in others. Executive, legislative and judicial institutions can vary dramatically across democracies in their construction and degree of power. Democracies can be classified as parliamentary, presidential, or semi-presidential systems. Electoral systems can be classified as plurality, majority, or proportional systems, or a combo. Liberal democracy a political system that promotes participation, competition, and liberty; rooted in ideology of liberalism with emphasis on individual rights and freedoms. Republicanism emphasizes the separation of powers within a state and the representation of the public through elected officials (instead of the unaccountable powers of a monarchy or direct participation) Direct democracy public participates directly in governance and policy making; historically found in small communities such as ancient athens.

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