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by Miguel Centellas
Department of Political Science 3303 Friedmann Hall Western Michigan University Kalamazoo, MI 49008 firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper analyzes the Bolivian model of executivelegislative relations within the context of formal and informal institutions. Since its transition to democracy, the Bolivian executive has been selected by the legislature, moving the officially presidential system closer to a parliamentary model. Reinforced by the electoral and party systems, the model is significantly different from the “hybrid presidential” model (which has separate heads of state and government) and contains its own internal logic. A better understanding of this institutional arrangement and its consequences for democratic consolidation sheds light not only on the role of institutional design in new democracies, but also calls into question some of the assumptions drawn from the traditional dichotomy between presidential and parliamentary systems.
Prepared for delivery at the 59th Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, 1922 April 2001. I thank Emily Hauptmann and Liesl Haas for their comments and advice.
Introduction The third wave of democracy coincided with renewed interest in studies of political institutions and institutional design. Since then, “constitutional engineering” has become a buzzword that aptly describes much of the literature. This literature focuses primarily on the structure of electoral and party systems and executive legislative relationships. It is clear, of course, that formal institutions matter and have profound consequences for the quality and stability of democracies. What is unclear, however, is how new democracies —democracies with little or no experience with democracy— learn to use their newly engineered political institutions. Even the most perfect constitution needs a citizenry and a political élite willing and able to make democracy work. Even the most perfect constitutional design may falter and fail if it is too complicated for citizens to understand or if competing politicians are not able to play well with others. Countries with little or no democratic experience face great hardships as they struggle to consolidate democracy. They must hold elections under untried electoral systems and with slowly emerging party systems. Not only do such countries face political obstacles; they also face serious socioeconomic problems. They must produce governments that are both democratically competitive and yet strong enough to manage crises swiftly and efficiently. These are daunting tasks, indeed. Still, some form of constitution must be adopted. In some cases, the constitution may be an already existing document that was drafted but never implemented. In other cases, the constitution may be produced from scratch. In either case, the situations are similar. Citizens will have little idea of how the formal rules work. They will not know who to vote for if nascent party systems are highly fragmented or still evolving out of civil society. For their part, political élites will have little practical understanding of democratic politics and may not know how to implement democratic institutions and make them work. If parties have little or no roots in civil society, how do they campaign? If civilians have never governed before, how do they develop policies and (more difficult still) learn to control the bureaucracies? In the end, citizens and political élites in new democracies must learn democracy —and learning requires time. Yet the great need for effective crisis management in poor, underdeveloped countries means that time is a precious commodity. Neither citizens nor political élites may be willing to wait long enough for democracy to work. Subsequently, new democracies need simple political institutions with steep but manageable learning curves that allow their new democratic governments to work quickly to solve daunting problems even as they strive to institutionalize the institutions themselves. For this, the lessons of older democracies and countries
returning to democracy after a hiatus may not apply. The study of formal institutions in modern representative democracy (such as relationships between electoral and party systems) derived from these countries is still instructive; but we must remember that the constitutional designs best suited to new democracies may be different. For constitutional engineers seeking to understand how new democracies achieve consolidation, the lessons of successful new democracies are more instructive. Such examples may serve not only to provide frameworks for constitutional engineering in similar situations, they may also help élites in other new democracies speed up their learning curves from the hard lessons learned elsewhere. And so, we turn to one such example, Bolivia. While many scholars point to Bolivia as a “special case” (Linz 1990b; Linz 1994; Sartori 1994; Jones 1995), it has received very little attention in the academic literature. In part, this paper is an effort to explore the implications of the Bolivian case only hinted at by previous authors. A study of the Bolivian case accomplishes two different, but related goals. First, evidence from Bolivia highlights the importance of simple institutions that balance the need for flexibility and stability. Second, learning from the successes (and failures) of Bolivia’s democratization may provide a model for future democratizers —especially in regions such as Africa or the former Soviet Union, which have both little or no history of democracy and weak political institutions. Much of the institutionalist literature on democracy distinguishes between presidential and parliamentary forms of government (e.g. Linz and Valenzuela 1994; Jones 1995; Mainwaring and Shugart 1997b; von Mettenheim 1997). Although some authors (e.g. Shugart and Carey 1992; Jones 1995) point out that presidential democracies are significantly varied, both critics and defenders of presidentialism have employed the categories “presidentialism” and “parliamentarism” and agree on the two systems’ key distinctions. In presidential systems, the executive is chosen by direct popular election for a fixed term and is independent of legislative confidence; in parliamentary systems, the executive is chosen by the legislature and depends on legislative confidence. Since most new democracies are adopting presidential systems, the focus of most authors has been to improve or “renovate” presidentialism via constitutional engineering (e.g. Shugart and Carey 1992; Nohlen and Fernández 1998; Jones 1995). Lessons from the Bolivian case are instructive here as well. The Bolivian system does not fit easily within any of the typological categories currently used. Although nominally a presidential system, Bolivia’s electoral system uses a single fused ballot that combines legislative and executive elections into a single vote choice for voters. Similarly, although a simple majority can directly vote the president into office, when no simple majority exists the Bolivian executive is selected by the legislature. Multipartism, reinforced by use of proportional representation, has ensured that, since 1982, every Bolivian president has been chosen by the legislature after intense coalition building negotiations. These “parliamentary” features make the Bolivian system a unique hybrid referred to by René Antonio Mayorga (1997) as “parliamentarized
presidentialism.”1 Further, several authors credit Bolivia’s unique political system for democratic stability under very difficult conditions (e.g. Mayorga 1996; Shugart and Carey 1992; Gamarra 1997b, Valenzuela 1993). This study of the Bolivian model emphasizes two important points. First, the use of a fused ballot is the key variable in Bolivia’s political system. This subtle difference distinguishes parliamentarized presidentialism from other “hybrid” or “mixed” systems. Bolivia’s system is thus parliamentarized, unlike 193273 Chile (which also allowed the legislature to elect a president in the absence of a majority). Bolivia’s system is still more presidential than post1996 Israel (in which prime ministers are elected by direct popular election).2 That a subtle difference, such as ballot structure, can have profound consequences for the political system implies that constitutional engineers may achieve substantive system changes with only minor institutional changes. Second, Bolivia’s system functions to a large degree on the basis of informal coalitionbuilding rules. Political élites developed a set of informal rules that have, since 1985, produced stable ruling coalitions. Evidence from the Bolivian case is extremely relevant for new democracies. Bolivia demonstrates that a presidential system can be modified to limit some of the problems typically associated with presidentialism —such as dual legitimacy and rigidity—while avoiding the political instability that might follow a more dramatic switch to “pure” parliamentarism. These considerations make the study of Bolivia’s unique system extremely valuable. The inclusion of parliamentarized presidentialism into our current typology of democratic systems both enriches our understanding of (formal and informal) political institutions and provides constitutional engineers with more options. After nearly twenty years in operation, the Bolivian model may now be mature enough to serve as a model for other new democracies —especially those seeking to modify their presidential constitutions and avoid the “perils” of presidentialism.
Juan Linz and Presidentialism
Eduardo Gamarra uses the term “hybrid presidentialism” to describe Bolivia’s political system (Gamarra 1997a; Gamarra 1997b; Gamarra 1996). Matthew Shugart and John Carey use the term “assemblyindependent” (Shugart and Carey 1992, 26, 7885). The term “parliamentarized presidentialism,” however, more clearly describes the system than does “assemblyindependent” and distinguishes it from other dissimilar “hybrid” systems. Hence, I adopt the term coined by Juan Linz (Linz 1994, 8586 n91) as used by René Antonio Mayorga. Chile’s system was not fully “parliamentarized” since it did held separate elections for the executive and the legislature. The ability of the legislature to elect a president did not eliminate the problem of dual legitimacy and did not offer strong coalitionbuilding incentives. Israel’s parliamentary system is also not fully “presidentialized” despite the separate election of the executive. The Israeli prime minister is still subject to a vote of confidence. Bolivia’s system is substantially different from both of these, as subsequent sections of the paper will illustrate. 5
The recent debate over the merits of presidential democracy was sparked by Juan Linz’s essay “Presidential or Parliamentary Democracy: Does It Make a Difference?” which was circulating in manuscript form as early as 1985. The basis of Linz’s argument was the observation that presidential democracy had a high rate of “failure” or breakdowns of democracy. Along with this came the parallel observation that most longstanding democracies were parliamentary, not presidential (with the notable exception of the United States). Although the argument appears on the surface to be a condemnation of presidentialism tout court in favor of parliamentarism, Linz is careful to point out that he “[does] not argue that any parliamentary system is ipso facto more likely to ensure democratic stability than any presidential system” (1990b, 84). Linz’s argument is based on a dichotomous contrasting of presidentialism and parliamentarism, especially with regards to their correlation with stability and consolidation. This leads him to subsequently develop two idealtype systems that he then evaluates. Several scholars (e.g. Valenzuela 1993; Fabbrini 1995; Stepan and Skach 1993) joined Linz in condemning presidentialism. Other scholars (e.g. Horowitz 1990; Mainwaring and Shugart 1997b; Shugart and Carey 1992) have criticized Linz for oversimplifying the dichotomy between presidentialism and parliamentarism and for exaggerating the dangers of presidentialism while too readily dismissing problems with parliamentarism. Some of Linz’s critics point out that differences among presidential systems are significant and that other variables —especially electoral systems— have dramatic consequences for the way presidential democracies operate (e.g. Jones 1995; Nohlen and Fernández 1998). Essentially, Linz argues that the historically poor performance of presidentialism as a regime type —the observation that most longstanding democracies are not presidential— is based on the central characteristics of presidentialism itself. He defines a presidential system as one in which “an executive with considerable constitutional powers … is elected by the people for a fixed term and is independent of parliamentary votes of confidence” (1990a, 52). Elsewhere, Linz characterizes presidentialism by its two most prominent features: (a) “dual legitimacy” and (b) “[temporal] rigidity” (1994, 6). Presidentialism is marked by dual legitimacy because both the executive and the legislature are elected independently, giving each a claim to direct democratic legitimacy. Presidentialism is also marked by rigidity because terms of office are set for a specific length of time, during which the executive cannot dissolve the legislature and the legislature cannot easily remove the executive. Linz argues that these two distinguishing characteristics of presidentialism are weaknesses by themselves and lead to other structural problems that make democratic stability and consolidation more difficult. Although democratic stability and democratic consolidation are not synonymous, it is clear that stability —the durability of democratic norms such as elections, among other things— is a necessary condition for consolidation. First, the direct election of the executive and the separate election of the legislature gives each a competing claim to legitimacy. Since each is popularly elected, “no democratic principle can decide who represents the will of the people” (Linz 1994,
7). Linz further argues that the singleperson nature of the presidential office makes presidents more likely to see themselves as representing the nationatlarge, while viewing the legislature as representing “special” or “parochial” interests. Presidents are more willing to challenge legislatures and use decree powers using their popular “mandate” as political leverage. Thus, presidentialism is based on executivelegislative conflict, which is very dangerous for new democracies. This conflict “systematically contributes to impasses and democratic breakdowns” (Stepan and Skach 1993, 19). A crucial danger is that, in countries that desperately need effective governments, the military may decide to act as “poder moderador” (Linz 1994, 7). Another danger, however, is that presidents rely on their decree powers to brush aside legislative opposition, producing what Guillermo O’Donnell (1994) termed “delegative democracy.” In contrast, parliamentarism has only one source of legitimacy since “the only legitimate institution is parliament … [and] the government’s authority is completely dependent upon parliamentary confidence” (Linz 1990a, 52). Second, the fixed terms of office of both the executive and the legislature, coupled with their mutual independence from each other, introduces the problem of temporal rigidity. This “breaks the political process into discontinuous, rigidly demarcated periods, leaving no room for the continuous readjustments that events may demand” (Linz 1990a, 54). Linz further argues that this lack of flexibility is especially problematic during periods of transition to democracy and consolidation (1994, 9). Presidentialism is “rigid” because it does not allow for early elections when new governments are needed or demanded. What is more, most presidential systems have proscriptions again presidential reelection. Governments that are popular and effective cannot constitutionally extend their mandates; voters are forced to choose new leadership. In contrast, parliamentary regimes can more easily replace ineffective governments without producing a political crisis and they can extend the mandates of effective governments. Third, Linz argues that the divided nature of power in presidential systems and the lack of reelection make both accountability and identifiability more difficult. Identifiability, the ability for voters to predict what cabinets will look like, is limited since presidents are free to select their cabinets, making it difficult for voters to make a priori calculations about government teams. Accountability suffers because “there is no way to hold accountable a president who cannot be presented for reelection” (Linz 1994, 12). Accountability also suffers because presidentialism encourages executives and legislatures to play the “blame game” (Linz 1990b, 89). Presidents are also not accountable to their own parties or the legislature, since there is no vote of confidence (Linz 1994, 1314). In contrast, parliamentary systems provide greater degrees of identifiability since voters can often recognize potential government “teams.” Accountability is reinforced both by making executives subject to a vote of confidence and greater cooperation between executives and legislatures —they rise or fall together. Fourth, presidentialism has majoritarian and “winnertakeall” tendencies. By its very nature, the office of the president is a oneperson office, which “raises the stakes in
presidential election … and inevitably increases the tensions and the polarization” (Linz 1994, 19). Subsequently, the oneperson office of chief executive reduces presidential politics to a “zerosum game” and encourages winners to exaggerate their mandates. This majoritarian tendency produces a lessthandemocratic “style” of politics marked by few cooperative strategies and authoritarian presidents. In contrast, parliamentary systems rely on collegial cabinets and encourage more “consociational” democracies (Lijphart 1999; Linz 1994). Fifth, presidentialism is marked by an increase personalization of politics and the increased probability that political “outsiders” will win office. In delegative democracy, presidential elections tend to become highly personalized affairs divorced from party programs or identities. This is especially problematic for new democracies, where party identities and policy platforms are still not fully formed, making voters more susceptible to populistic appeals. The logic of the oneperson office of president also encourages candidates to campaign independently of political parties and to present themselves as “above politics.” Presidents come to power with very little support from their own party or without a political party to speak of. Presidents who win election on the basis of their own individual charisma are less willing to deal with political “insiders” and more prone to see themselves as messianic, national saviors. The consequence is delegative democracy. In contrast, parliamentarism is less personalized and relies on strong party discipline and identity. Linz’s argument consists of two distinct parts: (a) the negative evaluation of presidentialism as a regime type and (b) the positive evaluation —and subsequent recommendation— of parliamentarism as likely to lead to democratic consolidation in new democracies. Both arguments have been criticized. Most of the criticism has been against Linz’s condemnation of presidentialism (e.g. Horowitz 1990; Jones 1995; Mainwaring and Shugart 1997a). Although often accepting many of Linz’s criticisms of presidentialism, several scholars criticized Linz’s argument that presidentialism is necessarily inimical to democratic consolidation. They point out that presidential systems are quite varied, that different combinations of formal and informal rules radically alter the prospects for democratic consolidation, and that presidentialism (qua idealtype) should not be blamed for democratic failures. In short, the bulk of the criticism is simply that Linz relies on an idealtype of presidentialism and does not adequately differentiate between different types of presidential systems. Critics also point out to weaknesses in parliamentarism that make the system problematic for new democracies. Such scholars do not promote parliamentarism, but rather other institutional solutions, such as changing electoral laws, to “renovate” presidentialism (e.g. Jones 1995; Nohlen and Fernández 1998). Finally, even some scholars who agree with Linz’s condemnation of presidentialism are hesitant to recommend that new democracies adopt parliamentarism (e.g. Sartori 1997; Sartori 1994; Lijphart 1999).
The Perils of Presidentialism?
Although many of the defenses of presidentialism have been halfhearted, some scholars have pointed to advantages presidential democracy has over parliamentarism (e.g. Mainwaring and Shugart 1997a; von Mettenheim 1997). Most, however, accept many of Linz’s criticisms of presidentialism and recognize that idealtype or “pure” presidentialism should be blunted by other measures. Still, some scholars have focused on the methodological weakness of Linz’s argument against presidentialism (e.g. Horowitz 1990; Nohlen 1998b). Other scholars have called attention to other important variables —mostly electoral laws and the executive’s legislative powers— that influence presidentialism’s democratic character and performance (e.g. Jones 1995; Nohlen and Fernández 1998; Shugart and Carey 1992; Cox and Morgenstern 2001). Some of the sharpest criticisms of Linz’s argument are methodological. Donald Horowitz (1990) and Scott Mainwaring and Matthew Shugart (1997a) point out that much of the antipresidential literature is prone to selection bias. Presidentialism has been most common in regions with little history of democracy, poorly institutionalized political party systems, and low levels of socioeconomic development. In contrast, parliamentarism has been most common in Europe, with its longer experience with and slow evolution towards democracy, more institutionalized party systems, and (perhaps most importantly) higher levels of socioeconomic development. In short, the breakdown of democracies in developing countries could be accounted for by any of several variables other than presidentialism. The presidential systems that broke down shared too many other features in common. Horowitz also points out that the history of parliamentarism has also been spotted in Europe. Both the Weimar and the prewar Italian parliamentary democracies collapsed. Democracy in both countries was restored only after their fascist governments were defeated and the Western Allies imposed new democratic constitutions. They also criticize Linz for failing to account for the failures of parliamentarism before the Second World War (in Europe) and after (in the developing world). Dieter Nohlen (1998b) raises a parallel methodological criticism. He points out that Linz’s argument rests on the use of “counterfactuals” that hypothesize what “might have” happened and lead to a “methodologically weak argument, departing from the belief that parliamentarism would have led to something different, [and] faults presidentialism for what happened” (1998b, 88). Nohlen also points out that Linz does not adequately deal with anomalous cases —such as Venezuela, Colombia, or Costa Rica— in which presidential democracy survived the turbulent 1960s and 1970s. Nohlen instead offers the hypothesis that the success of parliamentarism in Europe after the Second World War —and of presidential democracy in Venezuela, Colombia, and Costa Rica— was a result of “political learning.” The collapse of democracy and the rise of fascism in interwar Europe taught political élites and voters important lessons about the dangers of parliamentary politics. Subsequently, both élites and voters (but especially élites) overcame the shortcomings of their political system by adopting consociational strategies. Similarly, Nohlen looks at the recent history of Latin America
and the widespread survival of presidential democracy with optimism and suggests that presidential democracies are also able to provide venues for “political learning.” Other scholars argue that Linz unfairly misrepresented presidentialism by focusing on the American “prototype.” Gary Cox and Scott Morgenstern (2001) argue that Linz’s argument suffers from the use of idealtypes and does not distinguish between the variety of subtypes of presidentialism currently in practice. Differences between presidential systems are significant and make discussion of any “idealtype” of presidentialism problematic since claims developed from one type are not generalizeable to the category as a whole. Matthew Shugart and John Carey (1992) call for the development of more careful typologies of presidential systems. They demonstrate that most presidential systems bear little resemblance to the American version from which Linz bases much of his criticism. Working from these more differentiated typologies, subsequent works such as those by Mark Jones (1995), Mainwaring and Shugart (1997b), and Carey and Shugart (1998) demonstrate that some forms of presidentialism may be less problematic than others. Most scholars, however, agree with the main thrust of Linz’s criticisms of presidentialism —especially the issues of dual legitimacy and rigidity. Those who criticize Linz, however, argue that the problems produced by dual legitimacy and rigidity are not necessary consquences. Rather, they depend on other factors such as electoral systems, party systems, and the mix of legislative and executive powers. The problems of dual legitimacy and rigidity are most acute when governments are headed by presidents without legislative majorities or nearmajorities. Under such circumstances, democracy suffers from lack of effective governance. The outcomes may be diverse. Some states may “muddle through,” as Ecuador has done for the last two decades (Isaacs 1996; Barczak 1997). Other states, however, may develop more authoritarian tendencies, or “democradura,” such as Peru under Alberto Fujimori. Still, the probabilities of divided government and ineffective governance can be blunted through institutional reforms. Jones (1995) demonstrates that electoral systems have a significant effect on producing executives with legislative majorities or nearmajorities. Rather than radical reforms to “parliamentarize” Latin American democracies, Jones recommends electoral systems designed to encourage moderated multipartism. Such measures include plurality elections for the president (rather than secondround runoff formulas), mediumsized multimember districts with proportional representation, and concurrent legislative and presidential elections. Similarly, Shugart and Mainwaring argue that “the nature of the party system, in particular the number of parties, makes a fundamental difference in how presidential systems function” (1997, 394). The success of presidential democracy depends in great part on the degree of party system fragmentation and party discipline, just as parliamentary democracies rely on stable and disciplined party systems. Shugart and Carey (1992) also argue that electoral systems are a crucial factor in determining the success or failure of presidential democracies. Like Dieter Nohlen (1998a), these scholars argue for smallerscale
institutional changes that would “renovate” presidentialism by adopting electoral systems that help reduce polarized multipartism and produce legislative majorities. Finally, several scholars have taken Linz to task for his claim that the “style” of politics is significantly different (i.e. less “democratic”) in presidentialism than in parliamentarism. Grace Ivana Deheza (1998) takes up Linz’s charge that presidentialism encourages winnertakeall strategies. She points to evidence that South American presidential democracies have significant consociational tendencies; in a study of nine South American presidential systems, 56 percent of governments were coalition governments (1998, 156). Deheza also discovered that coalition parties are awarded significant shares of ministerial and cabinet posts in comparison to the president’s party. She concludes that the ability of presidential systems to build stable and effective coalitions depends more on “the institutional combinations, the party systems, the relationships established by the parties forming the government” and that “the formation of accords and coalition governments in multiparty systems reduce the conflicts that can emerge among the parties, generating cooperative forms of government” (1998, 169). Other scholars have pointed out that presidentialism does not necessarily suffer from “winnertakeall” politics, as Linz contends. One of the criticisms of presidentialism is that its divided government often leads to governments that rule by executive decree rather than through the legislature. There is evidence, on the contrary, that presidential systems are no more prone to use executive decrees than are parliamentary systems (e.g. Carey and Shugart 1998b; Shugart and Carey 1992; Cox and Morgenstern 2001). Carey and Shugart (1998a) argue that decree powers should be more carefully disaggregated and considered among their different dimensions — especially differentiating between reactive and proactive decree powers. Carey and Shugart (1998a) point out that presidential systems vary significantly on the different types of decree and other “legislative” powers available to executives. Interestingly, Della Sala and Krepel (1998) point out that in Italy —one of the signature parliamentary systems— executives routinely use decree powers to enact legislation.
The Virtues of Parliamentarism? The second half of Linz’s argument, that parliamentarism is a system better suited for democratic consolidation, has also not gone uncriticized. As Giovanni Sartori (1994) points out, even if presidentialism is not wellsuited for new democracies, it does not necessarily follow that parliamentarism must be better suited. Like Sartori, Horowitz (1990) points out that Linz’s argument rests on the counterfactual argument that parliamentary systems would have performed better where presidentialism failed. Horowitz and Mainwaring and Shugart (1997a) point out, however, that a look at the historical evidence of all democratic systems —not just the successful ones— reveals that parliamentary systems failed just as often as presidential systems. This is especially
the case in underdeveloped countries with little previous experience with democracy. Horowitz also points out that only twentyfive years ago scholars advanced the argument “that the inherited Westminster style of parliamentary democracy was responsible for much of the authoritarianism then emerging in Englishspeaking Africa” (1990, 74). The criticisms that Horowitz raises still fundamentally agree with Linz’s primary reasons to criticize presidentialism. Like nearly all participants in the institutionalist debate, Horowitz agrees that democratic stability is desirable. Simply standing the test of time is not a sufficient condition for democratic consolidation, but it is a necessary condition. Without a repeated pattern of elections and the other “formalities” of democracy, it is impossible to establish any deeper sense of democracy. Horowitz also agree that it “is right to worry about winnertakeall outcomes and their exclusionary consequences” (Horowitz 1990, 79). Extreme winnertakeall majoritarianism and zero sum politics only hinder democratic consolidation. Critics point out that parliamentarism itself is highly majoritarian; for example, Mainwaring and Shugart (1997a) point out that parliamentary systems have a tendency towards powerful executives who head legislative majorities. In such cases, “a disciplined majority party leaves the executive virtually unconstrained between elections. Here, more than in any presidential system, the winner takes all” (Mainwaring and Shugart 1997a, 453). The “advantages” of presidentialism that Mainwaring and Shugart (1997a) and von Mettenheim (1997) point out offset the weaknesses of parliamentarism. Mainwaring and Shugart argue that presidentialism offers voters a greater variety of choices since they can vote for both the executive and the legislature. Contrary to Linz, Mainwaring and Shugart also argue that presidentialism offers voters a greater degree of identifiability and accountability, since it is much more difficult for voters in parliamentary systems to hold parties accountable when they are members of grand coalitions —let alone to predict what kind of coalitions are possible. Such a problem would be more acute in new democracies. Finally, they argue that legislative independence in presidentialism makes the system more stable and effective than parliamentarism, since legislators “can act on legislation without worrying about immediate consequences for the survival of the government, issues can be considered on their merits rather than as matters of ‘confidence’” (Mainwaring and Shugart 1997a, 462). Von Mettenheim also points to several advantages presidentialism has over parliamentarism. For one, the separation of powers doctrine “provide[s] both moral grounds and institutional settings for reconciling plebiscitarian, populist, and nationalist appeals” since separately elected executives and legislators must balance different political demands. More fundamentally, von Mettenheim argues that the “separation of powers theory” is still relevant today and should be more carefully included in analysis of institutional design. Arend Lijphart is critical of majoritarian tendencies in both parliamentary and presidential systems. Lijphart is especially critical of the “Westminster” style of parliamentarism because it too is clearly majoritarian —perhaps even more majoritarian
than most presidential systems. He, of course, prefers to distinguish between consociational and majoritarian democracies (e.g. Lijphart 1984). Linz, of course, does not consider Westminster parliamentary systems as the “norm,” and expects uses continental parliamentarism as his idealtype. Consociational systems are based on grand coalitions that include all or nearly all relevant political groups and actors. These coalitions are based upon informal agreements between political élites, rather than on formal institutional rules. These informal rules, however, were often adopted only after decades of conflictual and unstable politics; they were not created over night. Because these systems are based on informal, rather than formal institutions, consociationalism is also possible in presidential democracies. Lijphart has often pointed to Colombia and Venezuela as examples of Latin American presidential systems that adopted consociational rules. Subsequently, although Lijphart (1994b) joins Linz in condemning presidentialism for being prone to majoritarianism, he argues that not all presidential systems are necessarily majoritarian nor that all parliamentary systems escape the same vice. It is important to briefly note that consociationalism also suffers from its own weaknesses. As a regime type, consociationalism is prone to rigidity if coalitions are fixed too concretely and allow governments to remain in the same hands over time. Similarly, the fixed, grand coalitions of consociationalism can damage the legitimacy of democracy both if new groups are excluded and if elections become essentially meaningless. If voters know that changes (even large ones) in election results do not alter governments, they may become cynical and lose faith in the practice of democracy. Even if this is not important in established democracies (but the example of Austria suggests that it is), the practice of meaningful elections is crucial in new democracies. In countries with histories of manipulated or façade elections (or with no history of elections at all), consociational practices many not be clearly distinguishable from the authoritarian past. Citizens in new democracies need to learn to value democratic elections as a means for political (and policy) change. Finally, in newly established democracies, the relevant groups and actors may not yet be established. A premature consociational pact could also lock in some group(s) dominant in the early stages of democratization as the price for electoral democracy.3 Thus, consociationalism could actually serve a conservative function in new democracies and may unnecessarily prolong the influence of hardliners or authoritarian élites. Lijphart’s proposal in favor of consociationalism comes close to making institutions essentially meaningless; it is also much more élite driven. If successful democratic consolidation rests on élite consensus, and if consensus is possible in any
For example, both Colombia’s “National Front” and Venezuela’s “Punto Fijo” bipartisan power sharing accords essentially locked in the two dominant parties in each country at the expense of later groups. The development of the guerrilla war in Colombia and Venezuela’s recent political instability has been blamed on these consociational strategies that guaranteed that no other social groups or political parties could challenge the status quo. See Gaviria (1998), Hartlyn and Dugas (1999), Hoskin and Murillo (1999), Levine and Crisp (1999), McCoy (1999). 13
institutional framework (from parliamentarism to presidentialism), then the debate over which system to adopt is no longer critical. Lijphart still sees formal institutional design as playing a significant role in democratic consolidation, however (e.g. Lijphart and Waisman 1996). Incentives must be sought that encourage coalition building. Lijphart’s 1994 article in the Linz and Valenzuela volume, The Failure of Presidential Democracy, argues that parliamentarism is —on the whole— more amenable to consociational democracy than is presidentialism. Perhaps the best argument for rejecting parliamentarism for new democracies comes from Sartori (1997, Ch. 6). Despite joining Linz in criticizing presidentialism, Sartori (1994) rejects parliamentarism as a solution for new democracies. Instead, he recommends a mixed system similar to that of the French Fifth Republic. Sartori’s criticism of parliamentarism rests mainly on the system’s dependence on “parliamentary fit” parties. These types of party systems are lacking in Latin America. Parliamentary fit parties are strongly institutionalized and disciplined political parties that are able to “hold together in supporting the government (generally a coalition) that is their appointee” (Sartori 1997, 102). Without parliamentary fit parties, a switch to parliamentarism could easily lead to unstable and shortlived governments. Such a situation is clearly dangerous for new democracies, where citizens and élites alike may not easily distinguish between a government and a regime crisis, as Horowitz (1990) demonstrates. More to the point, in an underdeveloped country with no history of democracy there may not be a difference between these two distinct forms of crisis. Sartori’s argument that Latin America (and other new democracies) lack parliamentary fit parties is crucial. As S. M. Lipset (2000) points out, political parties are “indispensible” for democracy. Democracies need strong disciplined parties for various reasons. Disciplined parties with clear ideologies and policy platforms make electoral politics more identifiable and accountable. Voters can more clearly predict government teams and policies when parties are disciplined and adopt predictable policies. Disciplined parties also allow for depersonalization of politics since parties develop long term strategies and seek to develop future party leaders. Conversely, legislators from disciplined parties have greater incentives to work with executives since their future electoral success depends on collective efforts to successfully implement policy. Without disciplined parties, voters cannot easily hold governments accountable in future elections.
Hybrid Systems and the French Model Because presidentialism and parliamentarism are both open to criticism, some scholars have recommended “hybrid” or “mixed” systems instead. Sartori (1994) begins his criticism of Linz by emphasizing that parliamentarism and presidentialism do not exhaust the universe of types of democratic systems. Pointing to cases such as Bolivia and France, Sartori points out the possibility of constitutional designs that are “neither
presidential nor parliamentary.” Still, Sartori obviously has the French system in mind since he only discusses Bolivia’s system in passing. Since the French system is markedly different than Bolivia’s system of parliamentarized presidentialism, it should be briefly discussed. The French system of can be described as a twinengine model. Also known as “premierpresidentialism” (Shugart and Carey 1992), this system is both presidential and parliamentary marked by a dual executive. The head of government is the premier or prime minister, selected by the parliament. The head of state is the president, chosen by direct popular election. In theory, the two “engines” of premierpresidentialism are able to switch on and off as needed to provide the stability of presidentialism while maintaining the greater flexibility of parliamentarism. Critics of this system (e.g. Shugart and Carey 1992; Suleiman 1994), however, point out that it is prone to many of the same shortcomings that plague pure presidential systems. The separate election of the head of state means that the system also suffers from a problem of dual legitimacy. Similarly, because the president is elected for a fixed term, the system is no more immune to rigidity than pure a presidential system. In new democracies, especially, these problems can become accentuated. More importantly still, premierpresidentialism is a more complicated system than either presidentialism or parliamentarism. Citizens in countries with little experience with democracy man not be able to understand clearly a political system with two separate engines, each of which can take over the direction of government and each of which has separate bases of legitimacy. Similarly, in countries with weak party systems, the struggles between the president and prime minister could just as likely lead to delegative democracy as could presidential systems. Finally, not only the different claims to legitimacy, but the different claims to power of each engine can prove destabilizing. Under such conditions, the role of the military as poder moderador is more likely. Ezra Suleiman (1994) points out that the stability of France’s political system was due to factors outside its constitutional structure. Premierpresidentialism has been adopted by many East European countries, such as Russia, to less than promising results. Russia’s political system has been dominated by its president, both under Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin. Sartori himself recognizes that if the Russian system is a premierpresidential system, “it is an ill conceivedone” (1997, 139 n. 9). The Russian experience —along with that of other East European premierpresidential systems— suggests that new democracies are ill suited for this type of system. If premierpresidentialism in new democracies operates like a presidential system, with strong executives who use decree powers to overcome parliamentary opposition, then proposing premierpresidentialism as a solution to the “perils” of presidentialism seems unpromising. Part of the problem may lie in the nature of premierpresidentialism itself. Suleiman (1994) actually considers the French system a “presidential” system and argues that the “success” of premierpresidentialism had less to do with the system itself than with other factors. He argues that the “dual executive system does not
function in a predetermined way” and can lead to either “cohabitation” (when president and prime minister get along), moderated conflict, or even “competing legitimacies” (Suleiman 1994, 139). The separate, independent democratic legitimacy each executive has can lead to divisive political struggles if the president and the prime minister represent different political parties or coalitions. Even in the French system, the division of powers between both branches of government are rather unclear. In the hands of strongwilled executives (such as a Yeltsin), the power to disband the cabinet and rule by decree would be a strong temptation. Under such conditions, premier presidentialism is just as prone to delegative democracy (and for the same reasons) as presidential systems in which strong executives lack legislative majorities. In sharp contrast to Sartori’s optimism, Suleiman warns that “the 1958 French constitution is a delicate instrument that should be emulated with extreme caution” (1994, 160). I agree with the argument that mixed systems may serve new democracies better than “pure” systems. But I also hold that a key element necessary for successful democratic consolidation is simplicity. The virtues of simplicity include transparency and ease of operation. Voters can quickly “learn” how to govern themselves via their representatives if they can clearly see how their votes translate into governments and policies. The French system, for all its advantages, is a complicated system and may prove unwieldy if adopted by new democracies. If hybrid systems offer the best possibility to balance the needs for stability and flexibility, we should look to the case of Bolivia, which offer another model of a mixed political system. The study of Bolivia’s system of parliamentarized presidentialism does more than merely help us fill in the gaps in our typology of political systems and regime types. The Bolivian model is instructive because it led to democratic consolidation in a leastlikely scenario. Parliamentarized presidentialism balances the need for stability and flexibility without the bulkiness of two engines that must somehow cohabitate.
The Bolivian Model
Since 1982 Bolivia’s political élite refined the system of parliamentarized presidentialism. This system is as substantially different from premierpresidentialism as it is from pure presidentialism or parliamentarism. The system is defined by a combination of formal institutions and informal rules whose three key features are: (a) fusedballot list proportional representation, (b) legislative election of the executive, and (c) informal consociational rules that produce majority legislative coalitions. The first two features are formal institutional frameworks, although only the legislative election of the executive is clearly stipulated in the constitution (Article 90). This system is clearly not fully “presidential” due to the fused ballot and election of the executive by the legislature. Neither is the system fully “parliamentary,” since the legislature cannot call for a vote of confidence. Once elected, the president acts very much like a president —although one who governs through a multiparty coalition.
First, the backbone of parliamentarized presidentialism is the electoral system. The combination of list proportional representation with a fused ballot is the key institutional constraint defining Bolivia’s political system. It is commonly understood that proportional PR electoral systems are associated with —and tend to reinforce— multiparty systems (Duverger 1954; Lijphart 1994a). For this reason, critics of presidentialism point out the dangers of combining independent elections for the executive with proportional representation elections for the legislature since they tend to produce executives without legislative majorities. The Bolivian case is an exception, however, because of its fused ballot. The highly simple structure of the Bolivian ballot fuses the election of the executive and legislature into one singular vote choice, resembling ballots in “pure” parliamentary systems. When voting, Bolivian citizens receive a simple “multicolor, multisign” ballot that has the name of each presidential candidate along with the names, signs, and colors of their party. Voters are then given a pencil and simply asked to mark the box for their presidential candidate. Seats in the lower and upper chambers of the legislature are then given out in proportion to vote shares. If a candidate wins a majority of the vote, he or she is automatically chosen as president. Second, if no presidential candidate wins by direct popular vote, the newly elected legislature meets to elect the president as stipulated in Article 90 of the constitution. Before 1994, the Congress chose from among the three candidates who won the most votes; after 1994, Congress now chooses from among the top two. This provision, of course, was originally meant to apply only if no candidate wins a clear, absolute majority. The realities of Bolivia’s multiparty system, however, have meant that this provision has been used to select every president since 1982 (a total of five). There is no indication that any presidential candidate will win an absolute majority in future elections.4 Third, during the congressional election stage, informal coalition rules play a pivotal role. The electoral system constrains voters and politicians by reinforcing a competitive multiparty system. Article 90 provides a selection rule if no candidate wins by direct election. But this provision does not stipulate how the legislature should select a president. After all, the legislature could merely elect a compromise candidate, producing a president with no legislative majority. Since 1985, however, Bolivia’s political parties have adopted coalitionbuilding strategies used to select presidents. In exchange for votes for their presidential candidate, parties receive cabinet positions and concessions to adopt specific policy platforms, along with a general share in the government agenda and state patronage. These coalitions are also loosely “consociational” in the sense that member parties use the cabinet —or even paraconstitutional bodies5— from which to set policy jointly, often after intense intra coalition negotiations. These coalitions, however, are also not consociational in the
The largest vote share for any candidate (38.7%) was won by Siles Zuazo’s UDP in 1980. Since then, vote shares have been spread between the largest parties. In 1997, Bánzer Suárez’s ADN was the frontrunner with only 22.3%. 17
sense that Lijphart would use; they are not so inclusive that they eliminate the important role of a democratic opposition or eliminate competition from the political system. Finally, it seems clear that voters understand the informal rules used by political élites to form coalition governments —although this would require further empirical evidence. Over time, two clearly marked “poles” have formed marked by the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR, National Revolutionary Movement) on the one hand and a firm alliance between Acción Democrática y Nacionalista (ADN, Democratic National Action) and Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR, Movement of the Revolutionary Left). Other parties have emerged to play “king maker” roles, although some have consistently aligned themselves to the major parties. Although the 1994 constitutional reforms introduced important changes to the political system, there is no indication that they significantly affected parliamentarized presidentialism. Since 1994, Congress is now restricted to selecting the president from among the top two (rather than three) candidates. The practice of building coalitions has gone largely unaffected and may instead have helped streamline the process. The changes to the electoral system, introducing a Germanstyle multimember proportional system, also do not seem to have affected the dynamics of parliamentarized presidentialism. Although multimember proportional systems allow for direct, first pastthepost election of representatives for half of the lower house in singlemember districts, the system is still a proportional representation system since the other half of the seats in the lower house are apportioned to reflect total votes. Scholars recognize that this electoral system is fundamentally a type of proportional representation (Lijphart 1999; Jones 1995a). A final change was the extension of the electoral cycle to five years from four. As with the other changes, there is no indication that it significantly altered the dynamic of parliamentarized presidentialism. Because the Bolivian model uses a fused ballot from which both the legislative and the executive offices are filled, the system is not prone to problems of dual legitimacy. Just as in pure parliamentary systems, parliamentarized presidentialism produces an executive whose basis of legitimacy is intimately connected to that of the parliament. The system retains presidential aspects, however, since the types of powers each branch of government hold are substantively separated. The president does not have the constitutional power to dismiss the legislature; the legislature, for its part, does not have the ability to call a vote of confidence. Subsequently, the set term limits for both branches of government —which are concurrent— give the system a degree of stability that might not have been possible if Bolivia had adopted a pure parliamentary system. The system has also positively affected Bolivian political life and contributed to
For example, the 198993 MIRADN “Acuerdo Patriotico” (AP) coalition government was governed primarily through the Comité del Acuerdo Patriotico (Committee of the Patriotic Accord). Jaime Paz Zamora (head of MIR) was president of the republic; Hugo Bánzer Suárez (head of ADN) was chairman of the committee and was often referred to as the “copresident.” 18
democratic consolidation. Since 1982 and the adoption of parliamentarized presidentialism, the highly fragmented party system gave way to a more moderate multipartism. At the same time, other stipulations of the electoral law have combined to encourage and help enforce party discipline and the institutionalization of the current party system. Bolivia’s electoral law stipulates that legislative seats belong to party members, not to individuals. This helped parties enforce discipline over their members, since renegade legislators could be legally removed from their seats by their parties simply by being dismissed from the party. Such provisions, reinforcing the system of parliamentarized presidentialism, have helped consolidate not only Bolivia’s democracy, but also its party system as well. Bolivia’s political parties are now more disciplined and “parliamentary fit” than they were before 1982. A consideration of the historical evidence supports the argument that Bolivia’s unique institutional design contributed to democratic consolidation.
Parliamentarized Presidentialism in Practice The difficulty of the transition process demonstrates the importance of political learning. While the formal institutional structure of parliamentarized presidentialism remained the same, it took Bolivia’s political élites from 1978 until at least 1985 to fully understand the importance of informal coalitions rules. One could argue, of course, that Bolivia’s political élites could have, in time, learned to use any system. One could also argue that some other political system might have functioned better from the beginning. Such criticisms are as difficult to deflect as they are to test. I argue, however, that parliamentarized presidentialism has served Bolivia better, in the long run, than any of the three other systems. Both pure presidentialism and premierpresidentialism would have produced problems of dual legitimacy, while the uncertainties of the transition era would have led to unstable parliamentarism. In the end, parliamentarized presidentialism —once it went into effect— allowed Bolivia to consolidated democracy under extremely hostile conditions. To understand this, we must turn to the historical evidence. Bolivia made its democratic debut in 1982. Although several civilian governments ruled throughout its history, none of these would qualify as democracies using Robert Dahl’s criteria for polyarchy (Dahl 1971; Centellas 1999). The constitution this first democratic government inherited had been written in 1967 during the military government of René Barrientos, though it had never been implemented. The transition to democracy began as early as 1978, when thendictator Hugo Bánzer Suárez stepped down in favor of elections. Although elections were held in 1978, 1979, and 1980, no presidential candidate won a majority; this set off a period of extreme political crisis that lasted until the last military junta was replaced in 1982. The unwillingness of politicians to select a president after the 1979 and 1980 elections —largely due to Bolivia’s political élite failure to use the 1967 constitution’s provision for congressional
election of the president— proved costly. Military hardliners used the political confusion as excuse to launch coups (often with the help of congressional factions) against the fragile interim civilian governments. Much of the learning process involved politician’s recognizing and exploiting the implications of Article 90 of the constitution, which calls for the legislature to elect the president if no candidate wins a simple majority. Since Bolivia’s democratic history began with a highly fragmented multiparty system and a fusedballot list proportional representation electoral system, no presidential candidate was able to (or has yet) won an absolute majority of votes. It was not until 1982, however, that congressional election of the executive was formally instituted. The 1979 and 1980 elections failed to produce a majority, even though the Unidad Democrática y Popular (UDP, Democratic and Popular Union) won a plurality each time. When civilian government was finally restored in 1982, Congress chose to elect the plurality winner. The UDP, however, was a loose preelectoral coalition and did not bargain with other parties. Subsequently, while Siles Zuazo faced a divided opposition, he lacked a legislative majority with which to effectively govern. As the economic crisis of the early 1980s spiraled out of control, the UDP alliance began to unravel. Finally, in 1985, Siles Zuazo —faced with no legislative support and unable to govern effectively— called for early elections. The 1985 general election was a turning point in Bolivia’s political history (Gamarra 1997a). Not only did it mark the first peaceful transition of power by ballot, it marked the beginning of presidentialized parliamentarism. Bánzer Suárez’ Acción Democrática y Nacionalista (ADN, Democratic and Nationalist Action) won a plurality of votes (32.8 percent) in the popular ballot but was unable to gain a majority of the seats in the National Congress. Most political actors were uneasy about allowing the former dictator to hold presidential power so soon after the return to democracy. The potential stalemate was ended peacefully when Congress implemented Article 90 and chose the secondrunner, Paz Estenssoro as president. Knowing that no other parties would support the ADN candidate, the Movimiento Nacionalista Revolucionario (MNR, Nationalist Revolutionary Movement) campaigned to gain the support of the other parties in the legislature for its candidate, Paz Estenssoro. Shortly after his election, however, Paz Estenssoro made a political pact with the ADN. This pact, known as “Pacto por la Democracia” (“Pact for Democracy”) ensured the new president a legislative majority. In exchange, Paz Estensorro’s government adopted many of the economic policies favored by the ADN. This coalition lasted the four years of Paz Estenssoro’s government and ensured the implementation of the government’s orthodox economic program. Although the 198285 Siles Zuazo government was a “coalition government” of sorts, the MNRADN government was the first true coalition government. The UDP was a loose electoral alliance of leftofcenter parties and lacked any sort of party discipline. As the economic crisis deepened, Siles Zuazo’s coalition disintegrated in the legislature, leaving him without the ability to govern. In contrast, both Paz Estenssoro and Bánzer Suárez were able to discipline their parties and
maintain the uneasy MNRADN alliance. The next political regime was installed in 1989 after the candidate of the Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria (MIR, Movement of the Revolutionary Left), Jaime Paz Zamora, was chosen over frontrunner Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (MNR) and second runnerup Bánzer Suárez (ADN). Bánzer Suárez threw his party’s support behind the third runnerup to prevent MNR from taking the presidency for a second consecutive term. In exchange, ADN was granted several cabinet and ministerial posts. The two parties signed the “Acuerdo Patriotico” (AP, Patriotic Accord) which outlined their cogovernment The primary reason why ADN supported the MIR candidacy, was the unwillingness of MNR to concede the election to ADN without contest. Under the Pacto por la Democracia agreement, ADN expected to receive MNR’s endorsement for Bánzer Suárez as president. Instead, MNR campaigned behind Paz Estenssoro’s successor, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. At first, the MIRADN alliance seemed strange. The ADN was a rightofcenter party, while MIR was the Bolivia’s last important leftofcenter party. Conventional wisdom would have suggested another alliance between ADN and the centrist MNR, or between MNR and MIR. But the MIRADN alliance soon developed into what now seems to be perpetual alliance between the two parties. Since 1989 ADN and MIR have consistently joined together as either opposition or government. At the end of their first cogovernment, the two parties formed a new single party (AP) for the 1993 general elections. Results of the 1993 electoral configuration were dismal, suggesting that partisans in both parties preferred to retain their own independent identities. Nevertheless, both parties continue to work closely together. Although both parties differ on the lefttoright spectrum, they agree on the new key issues of centralization and nationalization of the economy. While the MNR has, since 1985, embraced more neoliberal and “pluralist” or decentralization policies, ADN and MIR have jointly continued to embrace the more traditional direction of Bolivian domestic and foreign policy. The 1993 general elections returned the MNR to the presidency when Sánchez de Lozada won the support of two new parties: the Unidad Cívica Solidaridad (UCS, Solidarity Civic Union) and the Movimiento Bolivia Libre (MBL, Free Bolivia Movement). The following year, in September, UCS abandoned the government after disagreements concerning the populist party’s role in administration. Seven UCS members did, however, break ranks and remained in the government coalition, still giving Sánchez de Lozada a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. In June 1995 Max Fernández, UCS founder and party chief, brought his party formally back into the government. The 199397 MNRled government was the first indication of a new balance of power in Bolivian politics. Campaigning against Bánzer Suárez, the ADNMIR candidate, the MNR formed a formal coalition with the indigenous Movimiento Revolucionario Tupaj Katari de Liberación (MRTKL, Tupaj Katari Revolutionary Movement of Liberation). This MNRMRTKL electoral front presented Bolivia with the first Aymara candidate, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, for a major political party. The postelectoral
alliance with MBL was expected, since MBL broke from MIR specifically over the issue of the latter party’s alliance with ADN. As with the MIRADN alliance, this new pluralist pole seems to hold MNR, MRTKL, and MBL together. The MNRMRTKL alliance is the strongest, since the two have since campaigned together in the 1997 elections (although MRTKL still campaigns independently in local elections). Bánzer Suárez was elected after the 1997 general elections. A dramatic rise in support for the two new populist parties, UCS and Conciencia de Patria (CONDEPA, Conscience of the Fatherland), spread the vote into five large blocks. Bánzer Suárez’s coalition government (known as “la Mega”) was a supermajority comprising of ADN, MIR, UCS, CONDEPA, and the small Nueva Fuerza Republicana (NFR, New Republican Force).6 The Mega has proved unwieldy, however, since as many as five political parties must coordinate against an opposition dominated by the large MNR, which is still closely supported by MBL. Within a year, tensions within la Mega caused a crisis as CONDEPA and UCS demanded more power within the coalition.7 In his August 1998 stateoftheunion address, Bánzer Suárez formally dismissed CONDEPA from the government coalition. Subsequently, the ADNled government no longer holds a supermajority in the Chamber of Deputies. The shortlived grand coalition of 199798 might have taught Bolivia’s political élites a valuable lesson. The power of a supermajority to enact legislation is diminished if intracoalition disputes prevent the development of a coherent government program. The smaller version of la Mega is now more able to implement policy with a legislative majority.
Parliamentarized Presidentialism and Democratic Consolidation Parliamentarized presidentialism was perhaps the most important contributing factor in Bolivia’s democratic consolidation. While other variables, such as political will, are also important, it is clear that the institutionalist argument —that political
NFR was part of the official ADNNFRPDC electoral front. The small Partido Democrático Cristiano (PDC, Christian Democratic Party) has not campaigned independently since 1985. Since then it has been incorporated de facto (when not explicitly) into the ADN electoral lists. The NFR is headed by the popular alcalde (mayor) of Cochabamba (Bolivia’s third largest city), Manfred Reyes Villa. Villa was a onetime member of ADN, but formed his own personalist party to become Cochabamba’s alcalde. Despite being a small preelectoral ally, NFR has special privileges with la Mega. CONDEPA was the more troublesome of the two. Posturing for greater power within the government coalition, CONDEPA voted against the government proposal to eliminate the Bono Solidario (BONOSOL), the national pension plan created by the Sánchez de Lozada government, less than a month before the 6 August 1998 stateoftheunion address. Tensions were even high shortly after the election when CONDEPA demanded the prefecture of Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s most economically dynamic department, as part of the coalition agreement. This resulted in mass protests from cruceños, since CONDEPA had gained only 2.13 percent of the departmental vote. Another source of tension was the election of the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. ADN and MIR had agreed, as senior coalition partners, to alternatively hold these positions. Both UCS and CONDEPA demanded that their candidates be considered for these important positions. 22
institutions shape incentives and significantly affect outcomes— is a powerfully convincing one. Glancing at two countries with similar conditions, Ecuador and Peru, we can more clearly see how the unique institutional design of parliamentarized presidentialism helped Bolivia avoid the problems that continue to plague its two Andean neighbors. The Bolivian model provides opportunities for what I term “political learning.” By increasing accountability and identifiability, reducing the negative effects of multipartism, and encouraging moderated competition, parliamentarized presidentialism allowed Bolivia’s citizens and political élites to quickly learn the operation of democracy. The central features distinguishing parliamentarized presidentialism, fused ballot proportional representation and formal separation of the executive and legislature with concurrent, fixed terms, also combine to reduce the chief dangers of pure parliamentarism and presidentialism. The fused ballot eliminates the problem of dual legitimacy found in presidential (and premier presidential) systems. The development of fixed terms and the lack of a legislative vote of confidence provision avoids the instability that could accompany a switch to pure parliamentarism. Instead, Bolivia’s political system of parliamentarized presidentialism encourages bargaining and coalition building which is flexible enough to provide broad basis of legitimacy to governments, while also providing incentives for coalitions to hold together and govern effectively for full terms. The historical evidence demonstrates that Bolivia’s party system has moved away from the polarized, fragmented party system of the past. Today, Bolivia has fewer political parties than in the hectic 197885 period. These parties have also developed a remarkable degree of discipline. Party leaders have been able to enforce coalitions, due greatly in part to the laws regulating political parties. These stipulate that legislative seats are held by parties, not by individuals. Subsequently, legislators who decide to vote against their party can be easily removed from office by simply being officially kicked out of the party. In such cases, their partydesignated “suplente” (alternate) would take the vacant seat. The electoral system has also encouraged a more moderate form of multipartism. As predicted by Jones (1995), the use of mediumsized district magnitudes has reduced the number of relevant political parties by introducing a high effective threshold. In the process, extremist parties have been marginalized to the point where many no longer campaign in national elections —though some still campaign in local elections. Thus, the extreme left and right of the political spectrum has been truncated, leaving only “centrist” parties. The reduction in the number of parties, and especially the virtual elimination of extremist parties, has also contributed to moderated competition and a reduction of zerosum politics. The normalization of coalitionbuilding strategies has meant that parties recognize the need to tone down campaign rhetoric in anticipation of seeking potential coalition partners immediately after the election. As politics has become centripetal, parties have developed cohesive policy platforms that seek to distinguish each other from competitors. At the same time, parties have learned to develop amicable relations with one another; friendly relations make alliances more likely. With
increased party discipline, party leaders are also better able to enforce coalition voting, thus also increasing levels of trust between parties. Parties that are unreliable coalition partners may be rejected in future coalition agreements in favor of parties that demonstrate more discipline and loyalty. Subsequently, coalitions are now formed at two levels: preelection and post election. Some parties have formed perpetual alliances during elections. These have usually involved smaller parties such as MRTKL (allied to MNR) or PDC (allied to ADN) which have simply merged into the larger party’s electoral lists and formally aligned themselves to the larger parties. Of course, these parties may still retain their individual identities and campaign separately for local offices. Postelectoral coalitions are made after election between parties (or groups of parties) agreeing to share power in government. The adoption of the Germanstyle multimember proportional electoral system may introduce a new level of coalition bargaining. Since voters can now vote for the traditional party list and the new singlemember district representative, the same type of electoral campaign arrangements and strategies developed there might soon also be more formally adopted in Bolivia. If so, this could only reinforce cooperative behavior between parties. The adherence to cooperative behavior among moderately competitive and disciplined parties has increased accountability and identifiability in Bolivia’s political system. Since parties are closely disciplined, voters are able to easily place blame or praise for policy outcomes. Similarly, Bolivia’s political parties have developed more “depth,” providing more future leaders. The major parties have especially developed second tiers of leadership within their parties. Up and coming party members are given highly visible ministerial posts or other positions from which to develop both expertise and visibility. These are expected to replace outgoing party leaders and campaign for the presidency. Since reelection (to any office) is prohibited, parties have developed future candidates who are groomed for succession. Although no such candidate has yet to win an election, it was often clear from the very early days of the government administration who these candidates would be. The end result is that voters are easily able to identify potential government “teams” from within the party itself and from the subsequent coalitions. Voters who cast a ballot for ADN, for example, are well aware that their party will most likely make an alliance with MIR, but not MNR. Subsequently, they can anticipate as easily as in a parliamentary system the identities of potential ministers and top level bureaucrats who will be chosen if their presidential choice was elected. Although it is difficult to directly test the claim that Bolivia’s institutional design contributed to democratic stability and consolidation —or the converse claim that another institutional design would have hindered democracy— a consideration of two similar cases can provide counterfactual evidence. Ecuador and Peru are two such cases. These two Andean countries, like Bolivia, are among the most underdeveloped in South America and lack any real history of democracy. Both are also members of the “third wave” and began their democratization experience (197880) with multiparty
systems. The different paths that these countries have taken help demonstrate the unique advantages of the Bolivian model. Both Ecuador and Peru use a majority runoff formula to elect their president instead of congressional election, as in parliamentarized presidentialism. The combination of a secondround runoff for the president combined with a separate election for the legislature meets Linz’s expectations for presidential systems. Both regimes are plagued by problems of dual legitimacy and the manufactured majorities for presidents. In Peru, this combination led to the election of a political outside, Alberto Fujimori, who was unable to cooperate with an oppositiondominated legislature. Shortly after his election, Fujimori simply disbanded the legislature with support from the military —introducing the term “presidential coup” to our political vocabulary. In Ecuador, on the other hand, democracy has managed to survive (even if barely) despite the lack of effective governments. Ecuadorian presidents are elected with little party support, which soon disintegrates due to lack of party discipline. Coalition governments are very difficult to implement, since party discipline is so low that a soccer term “cambio de camisetas” (change of shirts) is commonly used to describe how politicians change parties while in office (Barczak 1997). Finally, the addition of midterm elections means that Ecuadorian presidents must try to cobble together a piecemeal coalition every two years. That Ecuadorian democracy has managed to limp along for two decades is, in my opinion, nothing short of a miracle. I suggest, however, that adoption of a form of parliamentarized presidentialism would dramatically improve Ecuador’s chances of building effective governments and finally consolidating its democracy. If Bolivia had a presidential system, there is no reason to believe that the outcome would have been similar to Ecuador (less likely) or Peru (more probable). Similarly, I argue that a parliamentary system would have been an obstacle to democratic consolidation in Bolivia. With newly emerging political parties, parliamentarism would have been extremely chaotic. The use of a vote of confidence would have been further debilitating. Evidence from Bolivia’s 311 municipal governments is instructive. The electoral system used for municipal governments is similar to that used for national elections. Voters choose from party lists headed by the party’s choice for alcalde. From this single vote, the municipal council’s seats are proportionally distributed among parties. In the event that no party wins a majority, coalition governments are formed. Municipal governments, however, do use a constructive vote of confidence. The use of the constructive vote of confidence (which is a mild form of the vote confidence) has proved problematic in Bolivia’s municipal governments (Rojas Ortuste 1998). Many of the more “parliamentarized” municipal governments have been unstable, as they change alcalde on a yearly basis. From this evidence, we can expect that the introduction of a vote of confidence (constructive of otherwise) might lessen democratic stability and effective governance.
We must, of course, be careful in drawing overly broad conclusions about Bolivia’s democratic consolidation from the little evidence we have about its political institutions. We need more research and data on the development of Bolivia’s political system and its operation. There is no reason to believe that Bolivia’s model of parliamentarized presidentialism was either the cause of democratic consolidation or that it made consolidation inevitable. Democratic consolidation is a complicated process that involves several variables. If anything, the Ecuadorian case demonstrates that political will —the sheer desire to make democracy work and maintain civilian government— can go a long way. The Bolivian case does suggest, however, that parliamentarized presidentialism should at least be considered by new democracies. Countries with little experience with democracy and weakly institutionalized party systems would, I believe, benefit from such a constitutional system. The Bolivian system is simple to operate, and requires few drastic changes away from either a presidential system or a parliamentary one. Countries that currently use a presidential system could be easily parliamentarized by adopting congressional election of the president and a fused ballot. Conversely, parliamentary systems could be presidentialized simply by removing the vote of confidence. It is also important to distinguish the Bolivian model as a general “type” and as a “species.” Although Bolivia offers us the only operating example of parliamentarized presidentialism, I do not expect that all of its specific institutional features are essential to parliamentarized presidentialism as a type. What is most important are legislative election of the executive (the “parliamentary” element) and the lack of a vote of confidence (the “presidential” element). Thus, we see that the Bolivian system is a true “hybrid,” unlike premierpresidentialism, which is rather a subtype of presidentialism, as Suleiman (1994) argues. I do not wish to argue that all of the particular specifics of the Bolivian system should be adopted by other new democracies. Different countries have different needs that must also be considered. What this paper offers is merely the suggestion of a “frame” upon which to build the machinery of democratic institutions. Finally, it is important to remember that parliamentarized presidentialism, in a multiparty context, requires adopting informal coalition building rules. I do not claim that these informal arrangements follow necessarily (or even easily) from the institutional framework of parliamentarized presidentialism. After all, it took Bolivian élites several years to learn how to work together to build government coalitions that could effectively govern. But a further lesson that the Bolivian case provides is a lesson in coalition building for future democracies. If other new democracies adopt parliamentarized presidentialism, I hope they can avoid similar costly mistakes.
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