Tacloban Tragedy: A Painful Wake-up Call

Tacloban after Super Typhoon Haiyan

Note: This was originally a status update from FB that went viral. We were able to  get permission to publish it from the lady who was able to speak with several survivors of Super-Typhoon Haiyan (local name: “Yolanda”) particularly the update of her own cousin who was in Tacloban when the disaster happened.

We’ve been instructed by her to edit some areas of the original post, in order to protect the witnesses who recounted their tales. But it is really important that we who were not there on the ground be able to read accounts like this. We’ve also modified some of the formatting and have italicized or set some of the text in bold where the original author sought to emphasize certain words or phrases.

The original Facebook status update was written on November 17, 2013, so please take note that “yesterday” refers to November 16 and calculate other time references accordingly.


     Krizette_FB

Dear friends,

Yesterday we met and talked to six survivors, not including my husband, who only had to survive the aftermath. In truth, for all the images we see here in Manila, all of them say that we cannot fully comprehend the extent of the devastation unless we see it with our own eyes — or smell the stench of death that sticks to clothes.

“The storm only lasted for 5 hours,” says my cousin. Her home, situated in front of Robinsons Place Tacloban and MS grocery, suffered minor damage. It was only after going out to survey the damage that she only fully understood the severity of the situation: Everywhere she looked she saw people walking dazed, frantic, and calling out for loved ones. She is a volunteer, so she walked to the city hall to help out the local government, saw bodies lying by the side. She and other volunteers, she says, repacked goods during that first couple of days. It was also understood that they would be given a pack each. “We saw it loaded in a truck, the truck drove away, and we never saw it again,” she remembers. “The volunteers were also not given anything.” 

Day One, she says, people waited patiently for help. By the end of Day Two, people became frantic. (Imagine finding your family members dead, your house completely damaged, no water and electricity, all compounded by no food.)

The first “looting” at Robinsons grocery was relatively peaceful, says another survivor who does not want to be named. People helped themselves and each other. “They were friendly, you can ask people where the baby food aisle is and they’d even help you go there,” says the survivor. People only took what they needed.

“It only became violent in days three and four, when people had been going for days without food or water and the bodies were still in the streets,” adds my cousin. Another grocery right beside Robinsons Mall, Market Savers, which is set up like Makro or S&R (warehouse style) stationed several armed men in the entrance protecting already-damaged goods. For 3 days, people ignored it. And then because starvation can make you do desperate things, on the fourth day, the guards were overpowered by a hungry, angry mob. Guns were reportedly fired, and some people got hurt.

“People have been neglected without nothing to eat for almost a week, their family missing, and you didn’t see any semblance of government,” says my cousin. Save for the organized criminals who attack the stores with guns and trucks, the ordinary looters only went in the stores days after inaction from the government, and only got what they needed. Another store, a corner mom and pop operation, was also looted, but the owners decided to just distribute the goods by “throwing” them from the second floor of the building. To be fair to the businessmen of the city, they gave away what they had. Another cousin of mine who owns gas stations gave away their gas before heading to Manila. My cousin also told a local official that somebody should go around with a megaphone to announce the schedule of the delivery of food, to calm the masses. “In one ear, out another, “ My cousin says, shaking her head ruefully.

There’s no use sugarcoating this: the government bungled the operations. The local government of Tacloban is ill-equipped; the national government’s attempts are half-hearted at best. I chatted on FB with the wife of the highest official of Tacloban and she believes the help did not come because of politics.” She laments, “They are so evil, they are so mean.” “They” refers to the national government. I shiver to think that President Aquino would intentionally neglect the people of Tacloban because it is a Romualdez bailiwick. But, guess what, I wouldn’t put it past him. Pakabili po siya ng empathy at sympathy, dahil wala po nun ang presidente natin.

Still, because it is human nature to move forward, you can see the first signs of life in Tacloban. Some stores are already opening — yesterday, too, some businessmen who are now in Manila met to discuss the economic future of the city, yet some will be forever boarded up. How can you recover when the chain of supply and demand is broken? The businessmen in the city lost their stocks, which amounts to millions. They have suppliers they are answerable to. Some of these goods were purchased on credit. In one fell swoop, all they worked hard for all their lives are gone, just like that. And then there are ordinary employees who now have no work and no means of income, because the offices will not be open in at least a couple of months. The scenario that looms for most: No house, no food, no money. There are those retirees who spent all their retirement money to finally purchase their own modest houses, and now they have nowhere to live. It’s hunger + helplessness + depression. Lesser people would have crumbled — but Warays aren’t getting sad, they’re getting mad.

Mr. President, people are not statistics. It only took one day—sorry, I meant five hours—for everything to change for them. Waraynons are naturally courageous and resilient, our ancestors after all were warriors, but we need help rising up from the rubble. You don’t think we’re even worthy of one day worth of your attention. You have not stayed even one full day to assess the damage.

Only 29 towns have been given relief—Leyte has more than 40 towns—7 days after the typhoon. The situation may be getting better, but not nearly fast enough for the millions of people at the mercy of a President who may care, but not nearly great enough.


The Wake-up Call

As you may already know, the issue of the national government’s unwillingness or inability to respond appropriately in providing relief to the victims of Supertyphoon Haiyan (aka “Yolanda”) is all related to the low quality of leadership over at the Palace. This is all a result of the election in 2010 of a man who was not only ill-prepared to assume the responsibilities and duties of being the top decision-maker of the country, but was totally unwilling to even try to get himself up to speed.

This was thanks to the dynamics of the Philippine system of government and the way elections occur within a Presidential System. Aside from all the research done by world renowned political scientists which has revealed numerous problems of presidentialism such as gridlock, a tendency to make extensive use of discretionary pork barrel funding, and a tendency towards greater corruption, our Presidential System has unfortunately caused many ordinary Filipinos — including highly educated ones — to tend to vote based on personality and name-recall. Presidential Systems tend to make people care less about platforms, programmes, and principles, and care more about “the personality of the person we voting for” and look at markers like “who his parents were” or “what surname does he have.”

Had we instead had a true Parliamentary System (not the fake/bogus one we had under Marcos’ martial law era or the French-style “strong president” semi-presidential system Marcos shifted to in 1981 when martial law was lifted), the Philippines’ electoral dynamics would have been very different.

In Parliamentary Systems, people do not care only about voting for who their local district representative would be but also care about who the party leader is of the party that the local candidate they choose belongs to. As such, instead of looking only at one personality, voters are forced to look at two main people: the local representative who will represent their constituency, and the party leader who will become the prime minister should his party win a majority of all seats. Since a vote for the local representative means a vote for his party’s leader as well, voters tend to think from within a “big-picture” perspective, putting more importance on the the party affiliations of the local candidates they vote for, knowing fully-well that their local candidates’ party affiliation will likely determine who will ascend to the post of Prime Minister, and which party’s members will constitute the Cabinet.

(Let’s take the UK’s example. When a person votes for the local member of parliament in his own district/constituency, he looks at what parties the candidates belong to.

One candidate might be named “John Smith” who represents the Conservative Party while another candidate named “George Jones” may represent the Labour Party. The Conservative Party is currently headed by David Cameron, while the Labour Party is headed by Ed Milliband. If the voter personally likes John Smith, he also has to consider that voting for John Smith represents voting for David Cameron to continue on as Prime Minister. If he doesn’t particularly like David Cameron for whatever reason, then the voter must then take a step back and look at what “John Smith” has in common with David Cameron: being from the same party and having Conservative Political Leanings. Does the voter agree with those political leanings? Well, that’s what the voter will be forced to deal with. Ultimately, in parliamentary systems, voters care a lot more about party platforms and their manifestos simply because of this electoral dynamic.

More importantly, it’s not just about who is going to be the Prime Minister. It’s about who will become the ministers. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Labour Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet of Ministers will all come from the Labour Party. If a majority of the members of parliament come from the Conservative Party, then the Prime Minister and his Cabinet will all come from the Conservative Party.)

This change in electoral dynamics goes a long way in improving the way people vote. It also changes the way politicians will campaign during elections. Since Presidential Systems are more about the candidates’ personalities and “who they are”, that’s what candidates and politicians concentrate on selling and what they stand for takes a back-seat. But in Parliamentary Systems, where party affiliation is of greater importance, candidates campaign more about what their own parties stand for. There is less of the “epal” credit-grabbing meant to gain name-recall among the populace. Instead, candidates in parliamentary systems are much more likely to talk about the ideas and principles that their parties stand for and plan to achieve as well as the programs and projects their parties plan to implement.

There are many other major advantages to Parliamentary Systems, including the absence of gridlock as well as the ease of replacing non-performing leaders such as ministers or even the prime minister himself. In addition, the Opposition plays an official and active role in scrutinizing the incumbent government’s policies and implementation thereof so that each minister is “shadowed” (aka “followed around” in meetings) by an official opposition counterpart known as the “shadow minister.” Each minister, including the prime minister, is shadowed by a member of the Shadow Cabinet. The Minister for Education is “shadowed” by the Shadow Minister for Education, etc, and the Prime Minister himself is shadowed by the Leader of the Opposition.

Come question period (which is at least once a week in open parliament), the Shadow Ministers each grill their corresponding ministers in government regarding their decisions and their performance. The most exciting question period of the week occurs when the Leader of the Opposition grills the Prime Minister. This constant scrutiny by the Opposition Shadow Cabinet of the Cabinet Ministers keeps all of them on their toes and prevents them from engaging in corruption, since the opposition and its shadow ministers are always in constant surveillance – looking for any sign of wrongdoing by the government that it can exploit in order to discredit the government and use to further their cause in seeking to take over. This constant surveillance by the opposition is why parliamentary systems have been proven to be generally less prone to corruption than presidential systems.

Imagine if we had a parliamentary system in the Philippines. Noynoy, Dinky, and Mar Roxas would be hard pressed to make excuses they way they did in front of journalists. Unlike journalists who tend to ask neutral questions, the opposition shadow cabinet tends to feature opposition leaders who are out to probe, grill, and cross examine government ministers in the open parliament. No more palusots. No more lame excuses. No more tolerance of incompetence. Noynoy or any other vote-magnet puppet simply cannot survive Parliamentary Question Period.

Post-Disaster Economic Reconstruction

It is also necessary that when thinking about the reconstruction efforts of all the affected areas, we must understand that we will need a lot of Foreign Direct Investments as the quickest way to help out in creating the much-needed jobs that will get people who have lost their livelihoods back on their feet.

Look at this graph of ASEAN’s 2012 Foreign Direct Investment in-flows:

2012 FDI in ASEAN

The Philippines is lamentably at the bottom of the ASEAN pile as far as attracting FDIs goes (which explains the high unemployment rate) and the super-typhoon’s destruction has obviously made things much, much worse as far as unemployment is concerned. We have continued to experience a dearth in domestic job-creation such that more than 10 million Filipinos have been forced to find employment abroad as OFW’s and emigrants. Now, an estimated 4 million people are said to have been displaced. How many of them lost their livelihoods? (Now we can see just how badly we need rapid job creation to occur in the Philippines on a massive scale.)

Removing all of those anti-FDI restrictions as well as the 60/40 ownership limits in the Constitution (as well as laws) will go a long way in attracting more and more investors to set up in the Philippines and create much needed employment for our people. Bringing in FDIs by removing anti-FDI restrictions has worked everywhere it has been tried and it is the secret of Singapore’s success and ascent into First World status despite having been poorer than the Philippines more than half a century ago. Massive FDI-attraction was the jump-starting spark that got China out Maoist Communist economic lethargy to become a major capitalist powerhouse and the second largest economy in the world, and it is also the key ingredient in Indonesia’s rapid rise within the ASEAN region.

We’re all so happy to receive aid and assistance from other countries but we have to realize that aid is temporary. Asking for aid long-term is mendicancy and that is unsustainable. As such, once it’s time to rebuild the Philippines and all the areas hit by disaster, we will start needing to earn our keep. We will need to work to earn some money for ourselves. Whether we like it or not, Foreign Direct Investments create employment opportunities and these pay salaries. We’re not asking for alms: we’re working for a livelihood.

Does it really matter if the companies we work for are foreign-owned versus Filipino-owned? Think about it — more than 10 million Filipinos are working abroad for foreign employers anyway. Bringing foreign investors in allows rapid job creation to happen in the Philippines so that our people can be with their families and find jobs without having to depart for faraway shores.

But lastly, we also need to make sure that when job creation does happen, it happens in the regions, not in the already overcongested Metro Manila where far too many rural peasants have gone in search of work to end up becoming the capital city’s urban poor. That’s why we need Evolving Federalism (aka “Region-based Decentralization”). We need to empower the regions in order to have the necessary autonomy they need to create their own pro-business economic policies that would be more conducive to fostering economic development and attracting investors – both Filipino and foreign.

Ultimately, when all three reforms are done, the Philippines can truly get back on its feet and turn itself around so that it ceases to be Southeast Asia’s laggard. This is not just about  the reconstruction of the affected areas hit by the recent super-typhoon. This is about doing what we should started to do long ago in order to improve our country as the Philippines has continued to slide and get left behind by other ASEAN countries who used to look up to us.

Super Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) ought to be the wake-up call that gets all Filipinos uniting behind this most important reform advocacy. This is, after all, for the benefit of ourselves and our future generations. The selfish Oligarchs and the ignorant anti-reform forces have held us back for far too long. It’s time all Filipinos learned more about these necessary reforms and started pushing for them so that we can achieve our rightful place among the successful and competitive countries of the world. Now is the time to spread the word!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

The Coming Fall of the “Noynoy Project”

noynoy

The writing is on the wall: “P-Noy” is losing support. As a result of the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda (aka “Haiyan”), Philippine President B.S. Aquino III has been exposed to the rest of the entire world as being irredeemably incompetent and even unconcerned about other people’s lives. He’s on his way out. The “Noynoy Project” is coming to a disastrous end.

The selfish Filipino oligarchs who propped up the obviously incompetent B.S. Aquino III to run for president on a purely name-recall “platform” to win the 2010 presidential elections with the intention of having their monopolistic interests looked after by Noynoy’s administration will eventually have to answer for their crime. Make no mistake, folks — pushing him to run for the highest office knowing fully well that Noynoy Aquino is a completely incapable and unempathetic individual was an act of evil and utter selfishness. They got him into a position of immense responsibility when all he really wanted to do was to play video games and spend time with his special nephew Josh. It is an unforgiveable crime. The evil oligarchs simply wanted Noynoy to do nothing that would create an inclusive economy that would promote competition, meritocracy, and provide upward mobility for hardworking Filipinos. Having the incompetent Noynoy doing nothing would mean protecting the rotten status quo that keeps the rich oligarchs rich, while preventing driven and hard-working individuals from moving up the ladder and later on engage in direct economic competition against the already entrenched old order of oligarchs.

special uncle

Noynoy’s only “job” (which he is doing, by the way) is to prevent the pro-oligarch and anti-poor 1987 Constitution from getting amended and improved. Every single time the president is asked about the need to fix the faulty constitution in order to attract more foreign investments to create jobs for ordinary Filipinos, his answer has always been “No.”

So yes, he’s fulfilling a role for the oligarchs and not much else. But what happens when crisis strikes?

Here’s what happens: Noynoy freezes. All the time!

In the Luneta Bus Hostage Crisis of August 23, 2010, he was totally absent even if the least he could have done was to briefly step in early on (within the first two hours of the bus hijacking) and announce that the National Government was taking over the resolution of that crisis. It was clearly beyond the capacity of the City of Manila to handle it since it involved coordinating with agencies such as the Office of the Ombudsman and other agencies which are “above its pay-grade.” (Vice Mayor Isko Moreno even had to travel through traffic all the way from Manila City Hall to the Office of the Ombudsman in Commonwealth Avenue just to try to meet the hostage taker’s easy-to-meet demands of reinstatement to his old job. But Isko Moreno did not have the authority to get that reinstatement order signed in time.) The National Government could have simply assigned a competent high-ranking national-level official and given him/her the appropriate “blanket authority” to take care of handling the crisis in a timely and efficient manner. But see, that’s why it all went to hell and people got killed. Noynoy did not step in at all to delegate all the necessary authority to someone competent while it was still early.

The same thing has been happening with this recent Yolanda/Haiyan typhoon disaster. TV News coverage – both local and foreign – repeatedly exposes how the national government is too slow to respond to the requests of the local governments of Tacloban and other affected places. There’s essentially no sense of urgency on the part of Noynoy to do anything right or at least temporarily assign someone who is experienced and competent enough to be the overall crisis-coordinator with all the necessary blanket authority to by-pass any bureaucratic processes. When a victim who had been held at gunpoint by looters at some point complained about the anarchy, the looting, and the violence that has spontaneously ensued as a result of desperation, and suggested declaring a limited “martial law” for the affected areas, Noynoy responded by saying “But you did not die, right?” Worse, he even walked out of that meeting!

Benigno Aquino III, Mar Roxas

There will always be disasters and emergencies and leaders will always be called upon to provide true leadership and the ability to organize the country’s resources, armed services, and bureaucracy to do whatever needs to get done. We do not deserve to have leaders who snap at victims who merely suggest certain courses of action based on what they know. We shouldn’t have leaders who totally “lose it” and walk out of meetings just because they can’t handle the stress. Leaders are supposed to handle stress. If Noynoy can’t handle stress, then he has no business being a leader!

I vividly recall how the pro-Noynoy campaign tried to brush aside the obvious fact that Noynoy Aquino was the most incompetent among all the candidates for president: “He may not be very competent, but at least he has a good heart and he is not corrupt,” so they said.

Yeah right. Not corrupt? Well what about the Pork Barrel scam? Not corrupt? What about his act of bribing legislators using the Priority Development Assistance Fund to get a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court ousted?

Let’s be honest. That whole point in misdirecting the gullible Filipino electorate’s attention away from Noynoy Aquino’s obvious lack of any leadership abilities or even any sign of personal achievement and talk about some non-existent quality (“incorruptibility”) was meant to get Filipinos forgetting about what was to happen when the incompetent Noynoy did win and thus defeated candidates way better than him.

Well, Filipinos, just look at who among last May 2010’s candidates for president is doing the greatest good right now: Richard Gordon – Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (and has always been with the Red Cross & Red Crescent Society even long before he got into politics). He’s been extremely active and on the scene in practically all disasters and emergencies, and the Philippine National Red Cross – under his leadership – has trained their personnel to be extremely competent in fulfilling their duties.

Noynoy Aquino has proven to be a total failure. His administration has done nothing other than to prop him up by releasing false reports of “economic growth” that even got foreign media fooled. What economic growth? There was no increase in productive capacity! Only an increase in consumption fueled by the desperation of more and more jobless, underemployed, or underpaid Filipinos forced to seek jobs in faraway countries so that as soon as they start earning salaries, they send remittances back. That is hardly the sign of a growing economy, especially if the real unemployment rate is likely to be somewhere along the lines of 30 to 40 percent of the total working-age population, but they make it look like our unemployment rates is only around 7%. What a lie!

But never mind. First things first: let’s go back to the typhoon victims.

Foreign volunteers have teared-up on TV when talking about the victims they saw and tried to help. A Turkish Chamber of Commerce leader who led the Turkish relief efforts delegation – Mr. Irfan Karabulut – was shown on GMA News tearing up and sobbing while he described the dire situation on the ground in Leyte.

Have we seen Noynoy Aquino cry or sob for Our People?

No. We’ve seen him smirk and smile! The guy is really abnormally incapable of any empathy towards fellow human beings. It’s not like we should be discriminating against people who have some kind of psychological disorder and can’t show empathy. We just simply shouldn’t have such a person as our country’s top leader!

No competence and no empathy and this guy is the Philippines’ leader?

Something has to be done at the systemic level. Our Presidential System whose winners emerge as a result of name-recall and popularity is at fault. After all, Noynoy won purely on the basis of his parents’ reputations. He won because people voted for his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino, and Noynoy got those votes win. We clearly need a better system.

Under a parliamentary system, Noynoy-types would hardly ever get a stab at becoming the top executive leader. And if someone like Noynoy ever did slip through, the system works in a way that a mishandled tragedy like the Bus Hostage Crisis that exposed his incompetence would have already gotten him thrown out and replaced. Immediately. No need for a long, drawn-out process of impeachment.

But we have a Presidential System so he’s still there, smirking and smiling and making excuses on Christiane Amanpour’s interview, talking about how he expected that the first responder in such an emergency would be the Local Government Units. Well, everyone knew that the Tacloban City local government was likely to be unable to function thanks to the overwhelming strength of that Typhoon, exacerbated by a Tsunami-like Storm Surge that is likely to have drowned and swept away lots of people.

How can anyone expect the Tacloban government to respond if they’re victims themselves? That’s why the National Government was supposed to step in immediately! All he did was to spew out excuses and cop-outs on Christiane Amanpour’s show, no different from how he made his first appearance in the news right after the Bus Hostage Massacre and used the hostage tragedy in Beslan, Northern Ossetia in Russia as an excuse to cover up his own ineptitude by saying “…but, as you know, even in Russia—they have resources and sophistication—when they had that theater hostage taking situation, the casualties were even more severe.”  What a freakin’ cop-out!

And Noynoy has even rubbed his bad habits off on Mar Roxas. Mar has recently been trying so hard to show his subservience to Noynoy, donning a yellow shirt instead of the national colors and reading off Noynoy’s cop-out script. Does Mar Roxas not remember how Noynoy’s inner circle screwed him over when they betrayed him and pushed for the Noynoy-Binay combination instead of what was supposed to be the Liberal Party’s solid Noynoy-Mar ticket?

Instead of sucking up to Noynoy, this disaster could have been Mar’s shining moment of stepping in as a real no-nonsense DILG Secretary, taking real control of the relief operations, taking initiative to disregard bureaucracy where Noynoy wouldn’t. But no… Even Mar Roxas talked about the need to fulfill certain bureaucratic procedures in front of CNN Reporter Andrew Stevens who retorted to Mar in exasperation “But surely you need to override bureaucracy in the light of this situation.”

This preoccupation with using “bureaucracy” as an excuse is part of the Noynoy script which has been used over and over again! When former Hong Kong Chief Executive Sir Donald Tsang tried calling Noynoy several times, Noynoy and his staff said something about how the HK Chief Executive “did not follow the proper protocol.” For crying out loud, Noynoy, that was an emergency situation! Suspend all this B.S. about protocol, paperwork, and bureaucratic procedure in order to save lives! Protocol and bureaucratic procedure are both done for normal situations, but during emergencies? The priority is saving lives!

It’s the same muddling up of priorities over and over again. And the Wharton-educated Mar Roxas who worked several years in the USA is supposed to be way more intelligent, more experienced, and more practical-minded than the grossly incompetent, unempathetic, and totally clueless Noynoy Aquino. But no, Mar Roxas is sucking it up to his lazy and sub-standard boss by wearing yellow, drinking the Noynoy Kool-Aid and mouthing all types of useless excuses and cop-outs, and generally just making himself a tool within a wider cover-up operation.

Mar doesn’t seem to realize it, but he’s now being turned into some kind of a scapegoat in all of this. A recent Inquirer news report came out trying to make it look as if the conflict was between him versus Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez, with Noynoy Aquino being presented as the peacemaking mediator who got both sides working together. Ultimately, Mar Roxas was merely following orders from Noynoy when asking the Mayor to declare that he could no longer function as Mayor. And now they’re trying to make it look like Noynoy is the good guy who’s bringing both together? Unbelievable how these people think they can fool the Filipino people!

The Noynoy Administration isn’t just incompetent. It’s evil!

People have talked about Noynoy going from Hero to Zero. His being totally unfit for the presidency has been exposed beyond reasonable doubt. He has single-handedly destroyed his family’s honor and now the Aquino-Cojuangco family’s good press has been totally eroded by his incompetence and ineptitude. Truth be told, Noynoy’s family and relatives knew the risks of making him president. But I guess they didn’t think he’d screw up big time and thus drag them down with him.

Noynoy is irretrievably on his way down and out. But before he gets thrown out, he can at least do the right thing and fix the flawed 1987 Constitution and regain the respect and honor he lost. He could at least try doing an F.W. De Klerk and fix the flawed status-quo.

Mandela_De_Klerk_309814b

Frederik Willem De Klerk was the last Apartheid Era leader of South Africa. Although he was a conservative member of the old white minority, he saw how Apartheid couldn’t be sustained anymore as his country continued to be ostracized in trade & economic relations, banned in many sporting events, and suffered from extremely negative press due to their institutionalized racism. He knew that the Apartheid era was coming to an end soon as it was losing support and relevance, so despite being the leader of the old order, he took the initiative to negotiate with the African National Congress and move to get Nelson Mandela freed. He presided over the dismantling of Apartheid, and the democratization of South Africa.

While De Klerk was from the same caste of people who had previously set-up the evil Apartheid system, instead of getting demonized, De Klerk is actually considered to be a hero as he was the one who helped to end it and paved the way for the equality of all South Africans and helped get Mandela becoming the next leader. He saw that Apartheid and the old order had to go, so he moved to get rid of it under his watch.

F.W. De Klerk got the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela in 1993 and in the election the year after, was named as Nelson Mandela’s deputy in what essentially became a unity government.

Despite being on the “way out”, Apartheid-era leader De Klerk became a hero and an acknowledged partner in the formation of the new South Africa.

Back to Noynoy Aquino…

The writing is pretty much on the wall:

מנא, מנא, תקל, ופרסין

Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin

(Modern translation of the biblical phrase: “You’re going down, boy!”)

Many of the people who used to be so supportive of him have suddenly gone silent on social media. All over social media, in taxi cabs, in open public spaces, the vast majority of people hate Noynoy & his administration for their incompetence in handling the Rescue & Disaster Relief Operations. The only few remaining ones who continue to support Noynoy look like a bunch of lunatics. Noynoy is truly on his way out. He has destroyed his clan’s name and whatever respect his late parents Ninoy and Cory Aquino used to get has gotten replaced by hatred and contempt all on Noynoy’s account.

He no longer has a political career. It’s over.

But instead of just simply giving up just like that, Noynoy can do an F.W. De Klerk and make sure that his eventual exit turns him into a respected figure – a transformative agent of reform. That’s something he can do to turn his life around.

2012 FDI in ASEANLook at how low the Philippines’ FDI-inflows are. They’re pathetic. And that’s because many would-be foreign investors get turned off by Constitutional Restrictions that explicitly discourage majority foreign-owned businesses from coming into the Philippines. When we start needing to rebuild and recover after this disaster is over, we won’t be able to do it alone and we’ll clearly need a lot of foreign direct investments to help create jobs for all those displaced people who lost everything.

To facilitate this post-disaster reconstruction, Noynoy must CoRRECT™ the flaws of the 1987 Constitution. The three things he needs to facilitate in order to earn the respect of all future generations are:

1) Economic Liberalization: Remove all the anti-FDI Restrictions in the Constitution in order that foreign investors can easily come in and create jobs for Filipinos. Local investors will never be enough given the massive devastation and loss of infrastructure resulting from the killer-typhoon. If we’re so happy to receive foreign aid, well, people will be much happier to stand on their own and work for a living, never mind that their employer is a foreign company. We’re doing it already anyway: OFW’s slave away working for foreigners in foreign lands. Well, how about opening up the economy to foreign companies so that our people won’t have to be OFW’s and instead can work for foreign companies while still based in the Philippines and be close to their loved ones?

2) Evolving Federalism: Set up the gradual region-based decentralization to eventually move towards regional autonomy to economically empower the regions and provinces to decongest the overcrowded National Capital Region. When regions are given the ability to determine their own economic policies, chances are they will more likely come up with more business-friendly policies since they are closer on the ground to the people in their areas. Most OFW’s come from the regions and provinces after all. Why not get the regions empowered to attract investors on their own and set their own tax policies and do whatever they see fit in bringing in more jobs?

3) Shift to the Parliamentary System: Shift to a system of government where incompetents do not emerge and in case they do, it is easy to remove and replace them with better people. In a Parliamentary System, competent statesmen like Richard Gordon, Gibo Teodoro, and others have better chances of becoming Prime Minister. In a Parliamentary System, transparency is higher while corruption is lower (assuming ceteris paribus, that is). It is no wonder that Parliamentary Systems by and large dominate the top ranks of global competitiveness, least corruption, highest GDP per capita, most economic freedom, best human development, etc. Elections are less expensive and are much more focused on platforms and parties rather than on candidates personalities and their surnames.

Noynoy has no choice. He has already lost the respect of the people. Outside the Philippines, he is seen to be an “empty suit” who simply rode on his dead parents’ reputations and cannot deliver. He has been exposed as an incompetent puppet and proxy of the evil oligarchy, and he has even used the disaster to get back at political opponents like Tacloban’s Romualdez family who come from the political opposition.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t regain respect and honor. He just needs to make the necessary reforms happen soon.

To President Noynoy Aquino: Your days are numbered. You are on the way out. But before you go, please make sure you do what you can to fix the flaws of your mother’s 1987 Constitution. If you do that, Noynoy, at least you can end your term on a positive note. Who knows, if you do get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform, you can earn your place as a real hero and regain the respect and honor that many of your administration’s wrong decisions have caused you and your family to lose.

CoRRECT™ the Constitution!

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

He has a nephew and niece who are related to Noynoy Aquino which is why Orion really wants Noynoy to be able to succeed at reforming the flawed Philippine system via Constitutional Reform. Rather than having his nephew and niece suffer the consequences of being related to Noynoy who is turning out to be a failure, Orion would like Noynoy Aquino to do the right thing and regain the honor he has lost so that his own niece and nephew won’t have to suffer that stigma. Noynoy must get the ball rolling for Constitutional Reform.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

The Parable of the Mountain Bike

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Once upon a time, there was an American Peace Corps volunteer named Sam. Sam was a nice, good-natured 29 year old White Anglo-Saxon American guy who stood tall at 6 ft 7′ and enjoyed playing basketball. Sam also loved riding around in his Mountain Bike, which he christened “The American Way.” In one of his assignments, Sam was made to go to a remote village in the the Philippines, and he was made to stay with one family which had a 6 year old boy named Felipe. Sam never left behind his mountain bike “The American Way”, and he thus brought it along with him. See, “The American Way” was a specially-crafted and customized bike, built specifically for Sam’s huge build and height. It was built with all his preferences into account, so that Sam was practically the only person who could maximize its comfort and features.

Sam was indeed a nice guy. He blended in well with the Filipino family, he learned Tagalog, and he taught them English. He helped out in the chores, and he and Felipe developed a strong friendship. Felipe always referred to Sam as “Uncle”, since his parents taught him to refer to older people as “Tito.” Of course, in English, Felipe used “Uncle…”

To Felipe’s eyes, Sam, was the ideal person. Felipe often told his Tatay and Nanay, “when I grow up, I want to be just like Uncle Sam.” 

Sam taught Felipe lots of things. He taught Felipe how to play basketball, and caused Felipe to become so enamored with the sport, despite the fact that excelling in basketball usually favored tall people, not short ones. He also showed Felipe all his mountain bike stunts, and made Felipe want to learn more about riding a bike. Everytime Sam rode the bike, he told Felipe how nice it was to have a mountain bike, and how free one was to go wherever he wanted. Time went by, and Felipe really wanted to try riding the bike named “The American Way.” Well, since Sam needed it in his job, he always brought it along with him. Felipe never got the chance to try it out. Sam somehow sensed it… Sam knew he needed to do something…

After two years of staying with Felipe’s family, Sam was now due to return to the USA. On the day Sam was about to be fetched to be brought to the airport, Sam said that he was leaving behind his mountain bike, “The American Way” as a gift to Felipe. Felipe was overjoyed… Sam hugged Felipe and they both tearfully said their goodbyes.

Felipe was sad to see his “Uncle Sam” go. But yet, he was also happy that he now had this GIFT of the “American Way” for him to ride and enjoy.

8 year old Felipe tried out the huge mountain bike… He could hardly reach the pedals, nor could his hands reach the handlebars… He constantly fell and scratched his knees. “Hmmmm, maybe tomorrow, I’ll try again”, he thought…

Next door neighbors were getting concerned about the short 8 year old Felipe’s attempts to ride the huge mountain bike that was custom-built for a 6 ft 7 White adult. They told him, “Felipe, we think you need to use a smaller bicycle with trainers first…” Stubbornly, Felipe did not heed their advice. He continued on attempting to use “The American Way” mountain bike, and responded to them that “This was a gift my Uncle Sam gave me! I’m going to use it whether you like it or not!”

In the meantime, some neighbors’ children were able to buy cheap second hand, smaller bicycles fitted with trainers, and thus the neighbors’ little kids learned to bike. They had trainers (the pair of little tires at the back used for beginners) and later on, the trainers would be slightly raised, until they learned balance. Felipe took no notice of these little kids who were his peers… After all, the little bicycles they used were all cheap, lousy, locally-made bicycles, while his, “The American Way”, was a special, top-of-the-line, imported, “made in the USA” Mountain Bike which originally cost more than the whole rural village’s entire monthly income combined. (2,500 USD for a rather “specially made” mountain bike… Certainly so much more than the rural village’s monthly income combined…)

Day in, day out, little Felipe continued to fall off the huge mountain bike. It was unfortunately unadjustable due to the fact that it was specifically tailor-made for Sam’s huge build. The farthest that Felipe could go was just a few meters before losing control and then falling on the side… Years passed, and Felipe still continued in the same “move a few meters, wobble, then fall” cycle.

He never learned to bike properly. Even in adolescence, he was never tall enough to properly reach the pedals and sit on the mountain bike comfortably and go anywhere with it. He’d always continue to move a few meters, lose control, fall on the side, and get scratched and bruised.

Young Felipe never learned to bike properly, yet his next door neighbors, the ones who used cheaper, second hand, small bikes with trainers, had all been able to upgrade their bikes as the years went by… As it happened, the little kids who started off with trainer-bikes learned to bike properly, took off the trainers, and they then used their biking skills later on to make money… Some used their biking skills to deliver mail, newspapers, and the like… Those who delivered mail and others, made enough money which they saved to upgrade their bikes…

Young Felipe now saw what was happening… Here he was, the “kid with the most expensive mountain bike in town”, yet he never learned to bike properly, while the other kids with the smaller cheapo-bikes were able to learn properly and later on upgrade…

“The American Way”, the great mountain bike that Felipe’s “Uncle Sam” gave to him as a gift had let him down… It was far too big… It was far too heavy… He couldn’t sit on it properly, as its proportions were made for a 6 foot 7 grown Caucasian, while Felipe was a very short young boy…

His parents, his neighbors, his friends, all told him that using the gargantuan mountain bike that was too big for him wasn’t going to work. Many years passed with the same sad results…

But poor young Felipe, now at 15 years old, still defiantly retorted back to them, “My Uncle Sam gave me this wonderful mountain bike which was christened ‘The American Way…’ I will continue to use it whether you like it or not…”

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* * *

This parable was first “published” on June 14, 2001 in the original Get Real Philippines website of Benign0 back when the site was still a freely-hosted Geocities site in the early stages of the author’s close friendship and collaboration with Benign0. Sadly, some disagreements a decade later caused the two to part ways (The author proposed Constitutional Reform as a means of fixing the Philippines since he still has hope that the Philippines can be fixed, while Benign0 felt content to criticize the Philippines from a distance and took pains not to propose solutions to fix it since the latter unfortunately tends to think that the “Philippines is hopeless.”)

The Parable of the Mountain Bike caught the attention of the celebrated blogger-turned-author “Bob Ong” who then contacted the author sometime after its publication and asked permission to feature it in his first book which bears the name “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” The Parable gained a certain popularity among students and was used a lot for school reports by many Filipino kids.

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes the Philippine situation the way he analyzes IT systems: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement and spearheads the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

* * *

Extra reading on the US Federal Government Shutdown:

1. The Shutdown is the Constitution’s Fault by Dylan Matthews (Washington Post)

2. Government Shutdown: Is it George Washington’s Fault? by Peter Gier (CS Monitor)

3. The Founding Fathers’ Fiscal Crisis Mistake by Peter Singer (Project Syndicate)

4. Why a Government Shutdown Couldn’t Happen in Canada by Bert Archer (Random House of Canada)

5. How Australia dealt with the One Gov’t Shutdown they experienced by Max Fisher (Washington Post)

6. Why Other Countries Don’t Have Shutdowns by Joshua Keating (Slate)

7. Why Other Countries Don’t Shut Down their Governments by Peter Weber (The  Week)

* * *

You might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1. Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

3. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

6. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

US Government Shutdown: The Presidential System Sucks

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The recent US Federal Government Shutdown has further proven to everyone around the World that the Presidential System is an extremely unreliable, buggy, flawed, and faulty system of government whose proneness to gridlock has turned it into a major embarrassment. In the Philippines, the proneness to gridlock of the Philippine Presidential System is precisely what spawned the Pork Barrel as a “solution” to avoid gridlock. We all know how that turned out… Isn’t it obvious that the Presidential System sucks?

First of all, the US Presidential System is all about gridlock: Gridlock between the Executive branch versus the Legislative branch, and within the Legislative branch – between the Upper Chamber (Senate) and the Lower Chamber (House of Representatives). This recent Federal Government Shutdown is a prime example of how gridlock happened between the Democrat-led Senate and the Republican-led House. And this gridlock is not about a law not getting passed. It’s about the US federal budget not getting approved. Without a budget and the funding government needs to keep running, the result is The Shutdown.

Everyone with a brain knows that Gridlock is bad. It’s a stalemate that means nothing happens. Some people even call it “deadlock.” Well, many Americans unfortunately tend to think that “gridlock is good.” Hard as it may be to understand, these Americans (and the American-wannabe Pinoys who emulate them) subscribe to the misguided view that gridlock is a positive feature because it was “meant to prevent bad leaders from doing much harm.” Yeah right.

It’s a rather lame idea because the fixation that these proponents of the gridlock-prone Presidential System have is on “preventing bad leaders from doing any harm”, when ultimately, their system also prevents good leaders from doing any good. Not only that, as the recent events have shown, it has resulted in the Shutdown. In a nutshell, the idea behind the defense of gridlock is based on the assumption that all leaders are up to no good. Quite unfortunately, many Americans (and many Filipinos who worship America and its system of government) seem not to have heard about how the Parliamentary System works. Instead of a system whose inherent susceptibility to gridlock is supposed to stifle a “bad leader” from doing harm, the Parliamentary System is premised on preventing bad leaders from emerging in the first place. In fact, the system works such that in the off chance that a bad leader does emerge, the so-called bad leader can be very easily removed and replaced legally without any difficulty whatsoever.

Is it any wonder that the USA is often bested by other First World Countries who use Parliamentary Systems in many performance indices?

Why is the USA never on top at number one?

This is not to say that the USA is not a rich country. It is a rich country. But it could have been richer and better-run. It could have performed way better than it currently performs on many international performance indices like the Economic Freedom Index, Transparency and Resistance to Corruption (Corruption Perceptions Index), GDP per Capita, Property Rights Index, Human Development Index, the Global Competitiveness Index, and many others.

Now let’s not forget what it is that actually helps make the USA rich and have a relatively self-driven population that is out to succeed despite its lousy and flawed gridlock-prone system of government: the USA is the World’s Largest Immigrant Nation.

Yup. That’s right. The USA has the largest immigrant-dominated population in the entire world. Majority of its people are themselves immigrants or at least descended from immigrants, and it continues to attract a lot of first generation new immigrants. And immigrants, particularly voluntary immigrants, are people who made the decision to be self-reliant and self-driven towards achieving economic independence for themselves and for their own families. They made their decision to be self-reliant even before leaving their original home countries to move to the USA.

(Another mitigating factor for why the USA, despite using the faultily-designed Presidential System, is still able to prevent the failures that have characterized Presidential Systems everywhere else is because their presidential system uses the Electoral College which helps to stabilize their electoral processes in lessening the number of contending candidates for the presidency. In countries in Latin America or in the Philippines which do not use the Electoral College, the high number of candidates often destabilizes the election results particularly in countries that do not use run-off elections in order to force the emergence of a majority president. This topic is discussed in “Problems of Presidentialism” by the late Dr. Fred Riggs.)

So even if the USA has a system that was rigged to “sabotage itself” through gridlock and get the least amount of work or “new policies” done, the fact that majority of Americans (who are mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants) are still rather conscious of the need to be self-reliant mitigates the ill-effects of this institutionalized gridlock because the general psyche of voluntary immigrants is to “fend for themselves” anyway.

The Need for Good Governance in Developing Non-Immigrant Societies

On the other hand, in countries that are not immigrant nations, good governance is much more of a necessity. And ensuring that a country gets more-or-less the best kinds of leaders they can have generally means a better direction for them. Parliamentary Systems are meant to promote good governance. Of course they can’t guarantee it, but when compared to Presidential Systems, ceteris paribus, they obviously fare better in producing better-quality leaders. At the very least, the ideal scenario is that in such a society, excellent governance can and will emerge that will educate, train, and enable the people to become much more self-reliant so that ultimately, they’ll fend for themselves, be responsible to themselves as private individuals and not be too reliant on government.

In immigrant societies,  voluntary immigrants made a conscious decision to be self-reliant even before setting foot into their intended destinations. They don’t really need to be taught to be self-reliant. Even with a government whose wings are clipped, self-reliant people (which is what immigrants normally are) can still succeed despite having an emasculated government as these people are self-motivated, driven, and out to achieve by themselves and for themselves. (However, it certainly does not harm when immigrant societies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, or Singapore do have governments that are run well and are not clipped by gridlock. They certainly wouldn’t have to be sabotaged by a government shutdown like the one that has just recently hit the USA)

In non-immigrant societies, the people need to be molded and trained to become more attuned to the necessity of self-reliance. Why? Because the people there – “the natives” -have been in their home countries ever since. They’re “furniture that came with the house.” They didn’t decide to be there the way immigrants to new lands did. The people in non-immigrant societies need to be led to make the right moves towards success by good leaders. Good government (particularly good government whose ideas are based on Classical Liberal principles) can play this role of teaching the people to rely on themselves through education and creating an environment where hard work is rewarded and laziness is not rewarded. A gridlock-prone system, alas, will not allow this because it was designed to sabotage itself and clip its own wings. It’s very much like having the handbrake on while stepping on the accelerator.

As the Philippines is clearly not an immigrant society, it is quite obvious that our country desperately needs good governance and a system that prevents bad leaders from emerging in the first place, as well as hopefully enables good leaders to step up to the plate and train, mold, and enable a vast majority of the people to become successful, self-reliant, achievement-oriented citizens who can stand on their own economically. This is what a Parliamentary System is more likely to do than a Presidential System since Parliamentary Systems cause competent leaders to emerge, while Presidential Systems are more likely to cause “winnable” and “popular” (but not necessarily competent) leaders to emerge. The absence of gridlock in Parliamentary Systems means that shutdowns like the one hitting the USA are generally absent and leaders are empowered to do what they need to do in order to do the right things and pursue much-needed reforms.

(Australia is the only Parliamentary country to have formally had one and only one shutdown and it was very promptly resolved within a few hours thanks to the flexibility of the parliamentary system. Ironically, the reason why Australia had a shutdown in 1976 is a result of Australia’s decision to copy the USA in creating a relatively powerful elected Senate – emulating the US Senate – which ended up in gridlock against Australia’s slightly more powerful House of Representatives. Unlike Australia which had only one shutdown ever which happened in 1975 and it was only for a few hours, the USA has had a total of 17 government shutdowns, the last one was 17 years ago as of this writing and each of them lasted for days or even weeks! Shutdowns are unfortunately a “feature” of the US System. While the stability of Presidential Systems would be akin to operating systems that crash regularly, Parliamentary Systems are – to IT professionals’ and computer scientists’ eyes – reminiscent of heavy duty fault tolerant and crash resistant operating systems.)

Sadly, with the Philippines using a Presidential System, our country is likely to be forced into two extremes: Either a highly corrupted Pork Barrel-dependent system that uses such funds to prevent Gridlock or an extremely gridlock-prone system (if Pork Barrel is abolished but the Presidential System remains) which is prone to impasses, coups d’etat (like in Latin America) and government shutdowns no different from what the USA is experiencing at the time of this writing.

The choice is clear: The Presidential System must go. The Philippines has had its Pork Barrel scam which is ultimately traceable to the presidential system’s gridlock-prone separation of powers, while the US Federal Government Shutdown shows another ugly side of how gridlock can turn out. Surely, the benefits of shifting over to the Parliamentary System is becoming more and more easy to understand, and the urgency of making such a shift has become very obvious. Americans, your Founding Fathers were not infallible. The Presidential System they came up with is not perfect and how it works is essentially responsible for the gridlock inherent in the US system which in turn caused this US Government Shutdown. If you want to stay on using your gridlock-prone & susceptible to shutdowns system, go ahead and continue using it, but please don’t push it on others.

Filipinos, if we are serious in wanting to truly improve our society, it’s time to shift to the Parliamentary System!

* * *

About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes the Philippine situation the way he analyzes IT systems: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement and spearheads the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

* * *

Extra reading on the US Federal Government Shutdown:

1. The Shutdown is the Constitution’s Fault by Dylan Matthews (Washington Post)

2. Government Shutdown: Is it George Washington’s Fault? by Peter Gier (CS Monitor)

3. The Founding Fathers’ Fiscal Crisis Mistake by Peter Singer (Project Syndicate)

4. Why a Government Shutdown Couldn’t Happen in Canada by Bert Archer (Random House of Canada)

5. How Australia dealt with the One Gov’t Shutdown they experienced by Max Fisher (Washington Post)

6. Why Other Countries Don’t Have Shutdowns by Joshua Keating (Slate)

7. Why Other Countries Don’t Shut Down their Governments by Peter Weber (The  Week)

* * *

You might also like these articles by Orion Pérez Dumdum:

1.  Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change?

2. Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

3. Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

4. Senator Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

5. The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

6. Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

7. Eight Points in Enlightening the Élite

8. F to A: What P-Noy Needs to do in order to Succeed

 

Infographic: Solutions to the Root Causes of the Pork Barrel

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Many Filipinos want to get rid of the Pork Barrel. But as mentioned in a previous article, it is necessary to understand the root causes of this “contraption” in order to come up with a truly effective solution.

We at the CoRRECT™ Movement have come up with an infographic that aims to educate netizens in a step-by-step manner exactly how the Pork Barrel came to be and what solutions are necessary to address those root causes in order to totally eradicate the corruption-prone pork barrel as it exists.

Please feel free to pass this infographic around to as many people as possible in order to promote a much deeper understanding of the issue among a wider population.

Nápoles & Pork Barrel: It’s the Lousy System

Jeane Napoles

There’s been a lot of anger expressed regarding Janet Nápoles, her daughter Jeane, their lavish lifestyles, and the Pork Barrel scam that funded it all. Everyone seems to be screaming about the need to abolish the Pork Barrel, which today bears the official name “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

But before jumping into the “abolish the Pork Barrel” bandwagon, it is necessary for Filipinos to first understand why the Pork Barrel system exists, and why it was institutionalized the way it has been in the Philippines. Understanding this will allow us to see if merely abolishing the Pork Barrel fund will actually work, or whether it is actually part of a wider set of systemic problems that stem from a common set of root causes.

Nancy Binay – Don’t hate the player, hate the game!

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Nancy Binay is joining in the Senatorial Race because she can and because she has the necessary name-recall in order to win.

She’s joining the race because she has exactly what the current Philippine system of government favors in order to win a seat in the Senate: A well-known parent (Vice-President Jejomar Binay) and the right surname – Binay.

And that’s not her fault, honestly. It’s the system’s fault!

As the saying goes, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game!”

Think about it folks. We have a lousy presidential system with a Senate composed of 24 “nationally-elected” Senators of whom 12 are elected every 3 years for 6 years each

Why do we not have a system where we divide the country into “autonomized” regions (in federalized fashion) and then have those regions elect their own respective senators to represent each of them?

See, folks, there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that forces voters to have to vote for 12 people at a single time.

There is actually no fight in this system between parties, and hence, there is no real talk about common platforms or party manifestos or party stands. This is a fight of individual candidates against other individual senatorial candidates even among those who are supposed to be from the same “slate.”

(This is in contrast to the  USA, for instance, where in each state, there is a battle between the Senatorial candidate of the Republicans for the state seat versus the Senatorial candidate of the Democrats for that same state and it becomes a contest between two parties representing different platforms. Australia has a similar concept of a Senate whose senators represent states.)

There is, in real Truth, no fight between Rissa Hontiveros versus Nancy Binay. The fight of Rissa is against other members of her own slate as well as members of the other team in order to get into the magic 12. In effect, Rissa and Nancy are competing against everyone else so that they get into the magic 12. It doesn’t matter which team, be it Team PNoy or UNA. Rissa is competing against 11 people from her “own team” (Team PNoy) and 12 people from the other main team (UNA), and whoever else are independents. Nancy is doing the same: competing against the rest of the UNA slate and against all the Team PNoy and independent candidates.

Take note that this particular race — the Senatorial Race — is one of the most name-recall and popularity-driven of all elections in the Philippines, even more so than the actual Presidential Elections. The thing about this is that the Senate Race was envisioned by those eminent fools who created the Philippine Senate to be a kind of “launchpad” for future would-be presidential aspirants. Those who win as Senators to get into the magic 12 will later be eligible to run as Presidential Candidates because they now have “nationwide” reach. That’s why this system is so rotten: it produces 12 new mini-presidents every election (24 in total at any given time, when including 12 incumbent senators whose terms are yet to expire in the next 3 years) who are not answerable to specific constituencies and instead think that the entire country is their constituency. 

(Ever wonder why the Philippine Senate wastes  its time on issues like sex-scandals like the Hayden-Katrina sex-scandal or exposés like the old “Brunei Beauties” scandal? Well, that’s because they do not have specific constituents writing them letters, unlike in the USA where people from each of the states write their respective senators about problems specific to their own states.)

Even the way City or Municipal Councilors are elected is the same way! You can have candidates for councilor essentially removing the posters of their own fellow candidates for councilor coming from the same party/team slate.

Case in point: a friend of mine who ran for councilor of a town in the Province of Rizal recounted to me how certain fellow candidates from the same party/team were removing his campaign posters because even if they were from the same party, they were actually competing against each other for limited slots.

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Think again, Folks. In a system where Filipinos need to elect 12 candidates at any given time, you are not likely to really know 12 people you would want to vote for. Chances are, you’ll want to really passionately vote for maybe 3 or 4 candidates at most. But the system says you need to vote for 12 candidates on the ballot

So, ok, you select your 3 or 4 favorite senatorial candidates, and since you still have a remaining 8 or 9 more to go, you then think of who are the other candidates you remember in order to complete your list of 12 names. See? That’s name-recall!

In that situation, those who are easily remembered get their names selected on the ballot. And you’ll be more likely to choose just whomever it is you can remember as long as you don’t think he/she is “that bad.”

Get my drift, people?

The “vote 12 senators at one time” system favors candidates who are popular or enjoy name recall. That’s how it works. And that’s why Lito Lapid became a Senator. That’s why Tito Sotto became a Senator. That’s why Erap became a Senator long ago. That’s how Honasan became a Senator. That’s how Trillanes became a Senator. That’s how Noynoy became a Senator. And that’s how Nancy Binay has a shot at becoming a Senator.

That’s why so many clowns, idiots, and slackers end up as Senators. They’re winnable and have name-recall.

In this system, you don’t have to be the “first choice” of voters. You just have to be among those chosen on the most number of ballots. It doesn’t matter if you’re at number 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 of everyone’s mind when they were chosing whom to vote for. As long as you’re selected on the ballots of so many people and get into the top 12, you’re in!

If you happen to appear on the most number of ballots, even if you are nobody’s First, Second, Third, or whatever choice, you will get top spot (the safest spot).

And guess why candidates running for the Senate aren’t really that “friendly with each other” even when they’re from the same “slate” (or party or team or coalition)? It’s because they’re all competing against each other! There are no parties in the Senate, folks. No real parties. Notice how senatorial candidates do not even have unified stands. They are, in essence, all independents! Each candidate stands for his/her own “platform.”

Observe, for instance, how the current Senate of the 15th Congress of the Philippines features members of the same party on opposite sides of the Senate! Take the Senate’s Nacionalista party members: Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano, and Sonny Trillanes are in the Minority, while Bongbong Marcos and Manny Villar are in the Majority. How is this possible? Look at the Senate’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD members:  Joker Arroyo is with the Minority, while the two actors Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid are with the Majority.

This is impossible in a true functioning system. Your membership in a party is supposed to determine whether you go minority or majority. In a Real System, if your party wins majority, then you’re in the majority and you’re expected to vote the way the majority would vote. If your party is in the minority, then you’re in the minority and that’s how you’re supposed to vote on most issues..

Well, the Senate is not about parties. It’s all about individual candidates who merely pretend to be members of parties, where all the parties merely act as a means of pooling resources together for shared electoral campaign advertising, printing, and campaign sortie costs. The electoral system’s lousy algorithm is what makes them act the way they act: parties mean nothing after the elections. 

Told ya, folks! …Ours is a totally “effed-up” system!

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So all those who think that Nancy should not be running ought to really think about it carefully.

Rather than oppose Nancy Binay’s running, you ought to campaign to get rid of this lousy system that allows Nancy Binay to win in a contest where all she needs is to say who her daddy is and remind the whole world what her surname is.

It’s time to shift to the Parliamentary System!

(Note: In a parliamentary system, the Government – aka “Majority” or “Administration” – must constantly debate against the Opposition in order to get their decisions accepted by the wider parliament. The Government must always fend off criticisms coming from the Opposition during Question time. Only competent people shine in a parliamentary system while incompetent and lazy slackers get relegated to the back-benches and often get weeded out due to the highly competitive nature of that system. The dynamics of debate and constant “on your toes” scrutiny does not exist in the Presidential System.)

We must scrap the current Senate system we have until we have a Region-based Federal system with Regionally-elected Senators who will make up a Senate that represents regional constituencies that, according to the way a Parliamentary System works, should be weaker than the lower-house!

CoRRECT™ the Constitution! NOW!

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(Note: A recent brouhaha occurred when there was a small group of readers who did not understand context of this article’s title. The title is taken straight from a popular American colloquial expression “Don’t hate the player, hate the game”, often rendered in the African-American style as “Don’t hate the playah, hate the game”, which actually simply means that “the person you are looking at as being bad is only bad because the system/environment makes him/her so.” Unfortunately, several people didn’t get that, and erroneously mistook this article to be “pro-Binay.” Totally wrong of them. This article basically goes deeper than symptoms. Nancy Binay is only a symptom of the real disease and that disease is our failed system. Fix the system and there will be no Nancy Binays or Kris Aquinos and other incompetent candidates running next time. 

It’s that simple.)

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About the Author

OrionOrion Pérez Dumdum comes from an IT background and analyzes systems the way they should be: logically and objectively.

Being an Overseas Filipino Worker himself, he has seen firsthand how the dearth of investment – both local and foreign – is the cause of the high unemployment and underemployment that exists in the Philippines as well as the low salaries earned by people who do have jobs.Being Cebuano (half-Cebuano, half-Tagalog), and having lived in Cebu, he is a staunch supporter of Federalism.

Having lived in progressive countries which use parliamentary systems, Orion has seen first hand the difference in the quality of discussions and debates of both systems, finding that while discussions in the Philippines are mostly filled with polemical sophistry often focused on trivial and petty concerns, discussions and debates in the Parliamentary-based countries he’s lived in have often focused on the most practical and most important points.

Orion first achieved fame as one of the most remembered and most impressive  among the winners of the popular RPN-9 Quiz Show “Battle of the Brains”, and got a piece he wrote – “The Parable of the Mountain Bike” – featured in Bob Ong’s first bestselling compilation of essays “Bakit Baligtad Magbasa ng Libro ang mga Pilipino?” He is the principal co-founder of the CoRRECT™ Movement to spearhead the campaign to inform the Filipino Public about the urgent need for Constitutional Reform & Rectification for Economic Competitiveness & Transformation.

 

Should the Philippines Turn Parliamentary?

By Rep. Florencio B. Abad

It is unfortunate that enlightened debate about the proposed shift in the form of government has been hampered by allegations of hidden motives by Senate leaders and by a public suspicious of an unspoken agenda of certain politicians. The senators fear that the proposal is a means to cut short their political careers. The public, in turn, suspects that the plan has been advanced to secure the political futures of those who hold higher political ambitions, as well as to prolong the careers of those affected by the term limits set by the Constitution.

These reservations are not baseless nor unfair, given the embarrassing way patronage, narrow and self-interested politics have dominated the political way of life of the country. And while President Ramos has openly declared that any consideration of a change in government should not result in an extension of his term of office, his assurances have not prevented influential sectors of society,prominently the media and the business sectors, from calling for the abandonment of the effort.They instead urge more attention to the critical task of economic recovery and development. For a populace tired of the wrangling and positioning of politicians, the call to focus on pressing economic problems is widespread. Unfortunately, the appeal is premised on the erroneous assumption that rebuilding the economy can proceed without reforming political institutions and political markets.

The premise here is that the genuine democracy is founded not only on social and economic conditions, but also on the design of political institutions. The Philippines, or any other country similarly going through a difficult phase of transition, will be unable to cope without effective political institutions.

Strong political institutions make for effective governance. They do not guarantee the best policies,but they do ensure that the government will be able to make policies of some kind and that it will not be mired in endless standoffs. Research on the relationship between economic reform and democracy has shown that the strong political institutions are vital to accomplishing economic reform. While the socio-cultural and economic policy challenges faced by new democracies are important, these challenges cannot be met without strong political institutions.For these reasons, informed debate and research on constitutional reforms is important.The principal question that will be addressed is this: “Why is a parliamentary system a more appropriate framework of government, compared to a presidential system, in improving the capacity of government to function more effectively and in facilitating the consolidation of democracy in the Philippines?”

Three important assumptions in this question ought to be clarified:

First, despite the proliferation of non-governmental development institutions and the insistence of the business sector on a market-determined growth strategy, government will continue to play a central and dominant role in the development of the country.With an underdeveloped legislature, the initiative for policy making will have to emanate from the executive. With a limited manufacturing and industrial base, government will have to provide the infrastructure, the environment, and the push for economic recovery and growth.In our fractured and divided society, government must play a delicate mediating role in forging compromise and peace in the country.

Second, the government will have to function effectively to carry out these crucial roles. In the past,successive governments have been criticized — with good reason-for inefficiency, for lacking both economic an political competency, and, more importantly, for being unable to govern outside narrow political and economic interests.

Effectiveness can refer to a range of competencies. These capabilities will be defined and limited in the context of institutional reforms necessary to strengthen and consolidate our fragile democracy.

Consolidation refers to the process by which democracy becomes so broadly and profoundly legitimate among its citizens that it is unlikely to break down. It involves behavioral and institutional changes that normalize democratic politics and narrow its uncertainty (even to the point of rendering it rather boring). Consolidation involves the development of appropriate institutions so that democratic norms and practices take hold in the country.

Other questions also come to mind about the relationship between government structure and effective governance: Will the change in the system of government instantly bring about the capabilities that will enhance government effectiveness? If not, what other factors or influences will have to be considered?

This chapter has benefited immensely from a growing literature on the impact of institutions on promoting democratic consolidation and in enhancing effective governance. Interest has been focused particularly on the growing debate about the appropriateness of a presidential or a parliamentary system — or a hybrid of either – in new democracies. The writer has studied the experience of Latin American presidential democracies to prove a hypothesis: that the basic deficiencies of the presidential system that are not culture-bound and peculiar to the Philippines are, in fact, inherent in the system of government itself.

These are three reasons for focusing on Latin America first, countries in that region have had a long experience with democratic presidential systems. This is particularly true for those, which obtained their independence from Spain and Portugal early in the nineteenth century. In fact, in Latin America one finds the greatest concentration of US-style presidential democracies.

Finally, and most important, there has been a similar process of debate has taken place in the region about the wisdom of shifting to a parliamentary system or adopting applicable features of it within a semi-presidential framework.

The writer has also looked into the performance of democratic parliamentary regimes in Western Europe, particularly Britain, France, and Germany, where the parliamentary tradition is deeply rooted. To eliminate the possibility that economic growth and development would independently influence political stability, the writer has also looked into the experience of parliamentary systems in certain developing countries in the Caribbean and in Africa.

Before proceeding further, there is a need to briefly establish the debate in the context of the history of constitutional reform in the Philippines.

I. Historical Context of the Debate

Many of the proponents of the presidential system argue as if the system of parliamentary government is totally alien to the process of constitutional formation and the reform in the Philippines. Far from it.

In fact, in past exercises in constitution making — the Constitution of Biak-na-Bato of 1897, the Constitution of Makabulos, the Malolos Constitution, the Commonwealth Constitution of 1935 and the martial law-disrupted Constitutional Convention of 1971 — the issue of a parliamentary versus presidential structure of government has been at the heart of the deliberations.

THE 1898 PHILIPPINE REVOLUTION

At the turn of the century, Filipino revolutionaries were at the point of driving the Spanish colonizers out of the islands and establishing an independent republic. At that stage, the revolutionaries were contemplating the adoption of a constitution that had the main features of a parliamentary form of government. They drew their ideas of government from English and European sources, the Malolos Constitution, the Constitutions of Biak-na-bato and Makabulos, as well as the constitutional plans prepared by Apolinario Mabini and Mariano Ponce. The Revolutionaries envisioned a constitution that made the legislature the dominant department of government, with the executive powers vested in a President elected by a majority of the assembly of representatives.

Along with the revolutionaries’ struggle for genuine independence, this desire for a parliamentary structure of government ended in December 1898 when the Philippines was formally ceded by Spain to the United States. To justify its colonization of the islands, the US government issued the”Proclamation of Benevolent Assimilation” after a bloody “pacification” campaign. This began the process of implanting American political institutions in its new colony.

THE 1935 CONSTITUTION

Even then, until the adoption of the 1935 Constitution, features of parliamentary system were incorporated into a civil government, called the Philippine Commission, which had been established by the US. The Commission exercised both legislative and executive functions, as a result, were also legislators in a unicameral law-making assembly.After the passage of the Philippine Bill of 1902, however, a bicameral legislature was created, with the Commission as the upper chamber and a newly-instituted Philippine Assembly as the lower chamber. The Jones Law of 1916 put an end to this arrangement and vested legislative power in an all-Filipino bicameral legislature with the Senate as the upper chamber and the House of Representatives as the lower chamber. But the members of the legislature continued to be appointed as heads of executive departments and sat in the Cabinet.

The semi-parliamentary features of government persisted until 1935, when, by virtue of the Tydings-McDuffie Law, also called the Philippine Independence Act, a new constitution was adopted. The 1935 Constitution was patterned after the US system and created a powerful executive, the presidency, in which executive power was solely vested. The President served for a fixed term of four years with only one reelection.

THE 1971 CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

The presidential system characterized the system of government until 1972. A year later earlier, in1971, amidst a climate of protest and political instability, an elected Constitutional Convention convened to draw up a new constitution. Once again, a re-examination of governmental structure was in the agenda of the Convention.

On September 21, 1972, however, before the Convention could complete its task, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law, assumed extraordinary powers and began 14 years of profligate and repressive dictatorial rule. Despite the tense atmosphere and volatile political situation, the Convention continued with its deliberations.

To circumvent a constitutional ban on a second reelection, Marcos and his followers — employing a combination of bribes, intimidation and arrests – manipulated the Convention to scrap presidential system and replace it with a French-inspired semi-parliamentary government. But it was only in1978 when Marcos was finally able to convene an interim Batasang Pambansa(National Assembly). After the 1984 legislative elections, the Assembly attained regular status. The Assembly was generally perceived as a rubberstamp and a farce, as Marcos continued to exercise legislative powers under Amendment No. 6 of the 1973 Constitution. In fact, during martial rule, Marcos issued more decrees that the Assembly passed laws. Proponents of presidentialism who refer to this anomalous and undemocratic period of governance “as our bad experience in parliamentary government” to discredit the parliamentary system are grossly mistaken.

After a decade-and-a-half of forced rule, Filipinos finally mustered enough collective courage to shout, “Tama Na! Sobra Na!” (“Stop! Enough”) and marched in the millions in a non-violent show of defiance against the Marcos regime.

The People Power Revolution of 1986

The unprecedented People Power Revolution in February 1986 ousted Marcos and installed Corazon C. Aquino in power, it also created another opportunity for constitutional innovations and reforms. On May 1987, President Corazon Aquino convened an appointed Constitutional Commission to draft a new constitution to replace her “Freedom Constitution” under which she ruled with an extraordinary powers.

But as the eminent constitutionalist and Commissioner member, Rev. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J.,observed. “The year 1986, when emotions were high and a major preoccupation was how to ensure in the speediest way possible the restoration of the democratic processes, was not the best time to engage in protracted debates, especially about fundamental government structure.”Seven years after the 1987 Constitution was ratified, formal structures of democracy have been restored and the highly unstable political situation has settled down considerably.

Filipinos have had enough experience with, and learned enough lessons from, the new constitution. For many, it is time to take a second look at the fundamental law of the land. The initiation of debates on the appropriate governmental structure is an important phase of this process.Before comparing the two systems according to their capacity To promote effective governance and to facilitate the consolidation of democracy, a review of the basic characteristics of the two systems is in order.

II. Presidential vs. Parliamentary: Essential Differences

The central difference between a parliamentary and a presidential system lies in the relationship between the executive and legislative branches.

Principal Difference

In a presidential or separation of powers system, the chief executive, or the president, is elected fora fixed, constitutionally prescribed term. He or she cannot be forced by the legislature to resign,except for cause through the highly unusual and exceptional process of impeachment.Being directly elected by the people, the president has full claim to democratic legitimacy. The legislature is an assembly of elected representatives similarly enjoying fixed and constitutionally prescribed terms. As such, it cannot be dissolved by the president and possesses as much democratic legitimacy as the executive. Because of this essential characteristics, Linz has described the presidential regime as a system of”Dual democratic legitimacy” to emphasize the autonomy and co -equal position of the executive and legislative branches of government. Similarly, Stepan and Skach have called the presidential regime a system of “mutual independence”.

In a parliamentary system, the head of government, the prime minister, is chosen from within the ranks of the legislature. He or she must, therefore, be supported by, and is dependent upon, the confidence of the legislature. The prime minister can fall and be dismissed from office by the legislature’s vote of no-confidence. On the other hand, he or she (normally in conjunction with the head of state) has the power to dissolve the legislature and call for new elections.Because of the need for close collaboration between the executive and the legislature for their mutual survival, Stepan and Skach have referred to parliamentary democracy as a system of “mutual dependence”.

Other Basic Differences

Apart from this basic difference in the relationship between the executive and the legislature, there are other important differences:

1. In a parliamentary system, the executive is divided into a prime minister, who is the head of government, and a monarch or president , who acts as head of state. Unlike a prime minister, a president or monarch has fewer powers and plays an important role as an “above-politics” leader. He or she also plays a stabilizing and mediating role,especially in times of crisis. In a presidential system, on the other hand, the executive is undivided: the head of the government is also the head of the state.

2. In a parliamentary government, the prime minister appoints the ministers, but because the government is a collegial body, he or she is merely primus inter pares or is regarded as a “first among equals.” In a presidential government, on the other hand, the president is one-person executive. He or she also appoints the heads of departments, but they are his or her subordinates or alter egos.

3. While ministers are drawn from the elected members of the legislature in a parliamentary system, department heads in a presidential system are constitutionally banned from becoming members of the legislature and vice versa.

4. The president, unlike a prime minister, is not responsible to the assembly; instead, he is ultimately responsible to the constitution by the process of impeachment.

5. The legislature, in a presidential government, is ultimately supreme over the other branches of government. It approves the appropriation of government, may impeach the president if the latter behaves unconstitutionally and, in the event of conflict with the judiciary, may assert its will since it has the right to amend the constitution.In a parliamentary system, the government and the assembly cannot dominate each other. The government depends upon the support of the assembly to stay in power,but if the government chooses, it may dissolve the parliament.

6. The presidential executive, being directly elected by the whole body of electors, is directly responsible to the electorate. The parliamentary government, while being directly responsible to the assembly, is only indirectly responsible to the electorate.

7. Finally in a parliamentary system, the focus of power in the political system is the parliament. In a presidential government, there is no focus of power since power is diffused in the three co-equal and coordinate branches of government: the executive,the legislative and the judiciary.

It is important to remember that these basic features are more than categories. They are also defining and constraining conditions within which the vast majority of developing democracies must somehow work out substantial socio-economic reforms and develop their democratic institutions.

Parliamentary vs. Presidential: Comparative Analysis

In attempting to answer the question, “Why is a parliamentary system a more appropriate framework of government, compared to a presidential system, in improving the capacity of government to function more effectively and in facilitating the consolidation of democracy?” As bases for comparison, five capacities that are necessary for effective governance in the Philippines will be used.

These are the capacities to:

(1) prevent gridlock and promote consensus in governance,

(2) ensure stability and continuity in governance,

(3) strengthen accountability in governance,

(4) promote cohesive and disciplined political parties, and

(5) promote a broader based and inclusive politics through a multi-party system.

For sure, this is not an exhaustive list of capabilities. Limitations of time and space only permit a selection from a broad range of possible capabilities, which are critical at this stage of the country’s development. Considerable weight is placed on the values and capabilities that Filipinos would like to see characterize their government and which lie at the heart of their dissatisfaction with the presidential system. The most bewailed feature of the presidential system is a good starting point.

1. Capacity to Prevent Gridlock and Promote Consensus

The chronic problem of gridlock that has afflicted the Philippine presidential system with its cumbersome process of checks and balances has earned a bad name for politicians and political institutions. Evidence of this poor credibility is the consistently low ratings that political personalities and institutions, like Congress and political parties, register in surveys. Respondents invariably point to their frustration over the seemingly endless political squabbling among legislators and between government and Congress on almost any major policy issue that comes up for deliberation.

Proponents of the shift to a parliamentary system have repeatedly hammered on this problem of”wasteful and time consuming” stalemates to justify the change. Validly they point out that these crippling standoffs have prevented the country from responding in an efficient and timely manner to the many challenges and opportunities it faces as it struggles to catch up with the rest of the advancing economies in Southeast Asia. The criticism hits an issue that fundamentally distinguishes the parliamentary and the presidential systems: the relationship between the executive and the legislature.

Linz attributes this problem to an inherent structural weakness in a presidential system: the tenure of the president is fixed independent of the legislature and the legislature can survive without fear of the dissolution by the executive. This feature derives from the separate but co-existing democratic legitimacy enjoyed by the executive and the legislative branches, being both directly and popularly elected.

Lijphart goes along with this view, but at the same time holds that this is only part of the explanation. For him, “the real problem is … that everyone — including the president, the public at large, and even political scientists – feels that the president’s claim (to legitimacy) is much stronger than the legislature’s. Consequently, the feeling of superior democratic legitimacy may make the president righteously unwilling and psychologically unable to compromise.”

This problem is aggravated by the inability of presidential democracies to obtain strong congressional cooperation through majority control of the legislature. As a result, the legislature rests in the control of politicians who represent a constituency with a different political choice from rests in the control of politicians who represent a constituency with a different political choice from that of the constituency that supports the president.

Stepan and Skach confirm this propensity of presidential governments to rule with legislative minorities in a study of all non-Organization of Economic Cooperation and development (OECD)countries that qualified as democracies for at least one year during the 1973 -1987 period.

The OECD countries were excluded to neutralize the effect of economic development as an intervening variable that might independently influence political stability. The findings show that in presidential democracies, the executive’s party enjoyed a legislative majority less than half of the time (48% of the democratic years), while in parliamentary democracies – in sharp contrast – the government was in control of the legislature at 83% of the time.” (See Table 1)

The inability of the executive, in a presidential system, to gain congressional control has often led to basic differences in policy positions. These conflicts then degenerate into a prolonged and unproductive impasse. In such a situation, the inevitable question arises: Who, on the basis of democratic principle to resolve this question.

Repeatedly faced with these stalemates and the expectation of their inevitability, presidents have learned to cope with them and have accepted that it is to their interest – and perhaps survival – to adopt “anti-party” practices to secure approval of their policies. In the Philippines, this practice has institutionalized the much detested, yet enduring practice of “pork barrel” politics and the ritual of party-raiding and party-switching that predictably follows every presidential elections.

David Wurfel blames this habitual practice of “turncoatism” to the primary preoccupation of legislators with their re-election. Recognizing the president’s almost absolute discretion in the release and transfer of funds to build schools, bridges, roads and other infrastructures, legislators find various ways – including changing party loyalties – to endear themselves to the president.The case of the 1992 Philippine Congress is no exception. At the time of the proclamation of congressional winners in 1992, the party of the administration, Lakas-NUCD, was a minority in the House of Representatives with only 39 out of 200 seats, or around 20%. The rest of the seats were spread out to seven other parties, with the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), the National People’s Coalition (NPC) and the Liberal Party controlling the majority of the seats with 87, 39 and 13 members respectively.

After a year of intensive recruitment by the administration, Lakas-NUCD gained 69 more seats to control the lower house with 108 seats, while the LDP was reduced to less than a third with only 25 seats. The ordinary voter has come to accept the proliferation of “political butterflies” as a justifiable act of political survival in a system that rewards, not party loyalty, but a politician’s ability to ingratiate himself to an all-powerful, spoils-dispensing president.

In a number of developing countries, when the legislature is intransigent and refuses to compromise or bow down to political pressure and a serious crisis threatens to embroil the country,the administration – stalemated, powerless and deeply frustrated – is often left with no other choice but to resort to extra-constitutional measures. Martial law, or rule by decree, becomes an option.The case of Alberto Fujimori in Peru comes to mind. Fujimori, to justify martial rule and ruling by decree on April 1992, blamed the lack of progress in Peru squarely on uncooperative congress. In1972, Marcos used the same excuse for closing down Congress and imposing “constitutional authoritarianism” in the Philippines.

The reverse may also be the case. When an unpopular and discredited president refuses to resign and civilian authorities are unable to resolve the standoff, the military exploits the situation and takes over from the civilian authorities. The two coup attempts in 1992 that ultimately led to the ouster of President Carlos Andrés Váldez of Venezuela prove this point.

In the same manner, in 1986, the attempted coup by the Reform the Armed Forces Movement(RAM) ignited the popular uprising that eventually ousted Marcos. But perhaps nowhere was this more flagrant than in the case of Ecuador. In the period 1931-1988, 13 presidential governments were forced to resign, seven were overthrown, one was impeached, while only 12 completed their terms.

Under the parliamentary system, the powerlessness and deep frustration that generally characterize presidential government is more exception than the rule. The difference lies in the ability of the parliamentary government to muster a majority in the legislature and command support and cooperation from it. More important, the mutual dependency relation in parliamentarism creates effective constitutional devices to break deadlocks or remove inefficient governments. Frustrating, unproductive and long impasses are thus avoided. Thus, as a system that can better avoid deadlocks, discourage coup attempts and promote better cooperation in policymaking, a parliamentary democracy is superior and should be preferred over a presidential system.

2. Capacity to Ensure Stability and Continuity in Governance

In arguing for the stability of the presidential system, critics of parliamentary democracy point tothe frequent crises and changes in the prime ministers in parliamentary democracies, such as the French Third and Fourth Republic, the frequent government turnovers in Italy and India today, and more recently, in Portugal.

While accepting the rigidity that presidentialism introduces into the political process, its proponents view this more as an advantage than a liability. This feature, they contend, reduces the uncertainties inherent in parliamentary democracies, where multiple political players can, at anytime between elections, effect basic changes, bring about realignment of forces and, above all,change the executive, the prime minister. Thus, in the critics’ view, the pinning for stability and predictability that normally accompany periods of transition and uncertainty seem to favor a presidential system.

But again it must be emphasized that presidents are elected for a period of time that, under normal circumstances cannot be modified: not shortened and sometimes, due to ban on reelections, not prolonged. The political process then becomes broken into discontinuous, rigidly determined periods without the possibility of continuous readjustments as political, social and economic events may require.

Thus, unexpected events may intervene, like fundamental flaws in judgment or political process. Does the system adjust better to crises? Most likely not, especially when the president is unyielding.There is the option of voluntary resignation through pressure from party leaders, the media and public opinion. But given the psychology of politicians, resignation is highly unlikely to happen.Moreover, the move will encounter opposition from the constituency that brought the discredited president to power.

Then there is the extreme measure of impeachment, which is difficult and complicated to execute successfully. Apart from the heavy burden of establishing sufficient evidence of misconduct, it also seems implausible that a legislative majority will support these proceedings, since members of the president’s party would have to go along with the impeachment process. Thus, it is almost impracticable to remove even the most corrupt and inefficient president from office.

The cases of Brazilian President Collor’s impeachment in 1992 on charges of widespread corruption in his government of the late U.S. President Richard Nixon’s resignation under threat of impeachment in 1973 in connection with the infamous Watergate wiretapping may defy this assertion, but these are clearly more the exception than the rule.

In sharp contrast, a parliamentary government – because of the mutual dependency between the executive and the legislature inherent in the system – permits flexibility in responding to changing situations and unexpected events. Proponents of presidentialism, in their critique of parliamentarism, overlook the “continuity of parties in power, the reshuffling of cabinet members,the continuation of a coalition under the same premier, and the frequent continuity of ministers in key ministries in spite of cabinet crises.

Moreover, it is also forgotten that the parliamentary system permits the removal of a prime minister who has lost party support or has been discredited and whose continuance in office may lead to serious political conflicts. Without engendering a serious constitutional crisis, the prime minister can be replaced in a variety of ways – by his or her party, by the formation of a new coalition, or by coalition partners withdrawing support of parties tolerating the minority government. Through these means, a new prime minister is bound to surface, perhaps with some difficulty and delay, but definitely with much greater certainty than had the crises taken place in a presidential democracy.

Thus, the problem that arises as a result of the so-called instability of parliamentary democracies are simply “crises of government, not regime.” The availability of deadlock-breaking devices anddecision mechanisms in a parliamentary regime help ensure that issues of government do not deteriorate into crises of the regime.

The absence of these self-correcting devices in the presidential regime leads to a paralyzing stalemate that ensures that nothing substantial gets done until new government is elected to replace the previous one, that is, if the people are patient enough to wait until the next election cycle. In many instances, most notably in Latin America, either the president bypasses the legislature and the rules by decree or a military coup overthrows the government. In both situations, the institutional framework collapses and those who take power rule extraconstitutionally.

The Stepan and Skach study covering 53 non-OECD countries, which they had classified as having been democracies for at least a year between 1973 and 1989, confirm these tendencies. Of the 53countries, 28 were pure parliamentary, 25 were pure presidential and none, surprisingly, were either semi-presidential or mixed. Only five of the 25 presidential democracies, or 20% were democratic for any 10 consecutive years in the 1973-1989 period, but 17 of the 28 parliamentary democracies, or 61% were democratic for a consecutive 10-year span in the same period. (See Table 2)

Clearly, parliamentary democracies, with a rate of survival more than three times higher thanpresidential democracies, demonstrate greater capacity for ensuring continuous democraticgovernance. in the same study, presidential democracies were twice as prone to breaking downthrough military takeover than parliamentary democracies. (See T able 3) This difference points to a greater ability of parliamentary regimes to accommodate conflicts and crises in government without leading to a rejection of the regime.

The same study presents further evidence of the durability of the parliamentary system in a survey of 93 countries that became independent between 1945 and 1979 and that were continuous democracies from 1980 to 1989. Forty-one countries functioned as parliamentary systems in their first year of independence, 36 were presidential systems, three semi-presidential systems and 13 ruling monarchies. During the 10-year period between 1980 and 1989, only 15 countries were able to develop as continuous democracies and all of them were countries that functioned as parliamentary systems in their first year of independence. Not one of the 52 countries that was not a parliamentary government evolved into a continuous democracy. (See Table 4)

Stepan and Skach examined all ministerial appointments during the years of democratic rule in Latin America, Western Europe and the United States between 1950 and 1980. The result was two major findings.

First, the percentage of ministers who serve more than once in their careers, or what they term the “return ratio” of ministers, is almost three times higher in parliamentary than in presidential democracies. The case of the U.S. is most striking, although probably not exceptional in presidential systems. Since 1945 – except in the case of Johnson’s retention of the cabinet after the assassination of Kennedy – only two cabinet members served under different presidents. This results from the almost total revamping of the bureaucracy that normally follows when a new presidential administration takes over.

Second, the average length of service of a minister in any one appointment is almost twice as long in parliamentary systems. The findings hold even if the study was limited to countries with more than 25 years experience in uninterrupted democracy. (See Table 5)

The evident conclusion is that ministers in presidential democracies have far less experience than their counterparts in parliamentary democracies. As a result, every presidential administration brings with it a contingent of “amateurs” with little experience in managing the bureaucracy and in dealing with politicians. This inadequacy is felt most in areas such as foreign policy and macroeconomic policy management, as well as in every weak ties to the legislature, whose support they cannot do without. In addition, the valuable wisdom that the new acquire on the job is not available to their successors.

Such is not the case in a parliamentary system, where a large pool of potential leaders is available. The reasonable chance of becoming prime minister or a key cabinet official among leaders of all major parties, particularly in a multi-party setting, encourages a greater number of aspirants for leadership positions to enter parliament. Moreover, even between elections, unless the government has a tight hold on the media, the parliamentary process – such as debates, motions of censorship, votes of no confidence, and other public actions – provides potential leaders with numerous opportunities to gain visibility and practice.

a. Switzerland and Finland are mixed systems. (Editor’s Note: Finland is now a full-parliamentary system, while Switzerland’s system is a “Council Parliamentary” or “Directorate” system which is still collegial like a parliamentary system)

b. According to Stepan and Skach, Austria, Ireland and Iceland are parliamentary rather than presidential regimes because parliamentary is the political practice. (Editor’s Note: Austria, Ireland, and Iceland are pure Parliamentary Systems as their presidents are purely ceremonial)

c. Traditionally in Kiribati, all candidates for the unicameral legislature – the Maneaba – have fought as independents. In 1985, various Maneaba members who were dissatisfied with the government policies formed a Christian Democratic opposition grouping. The government grouping then is generally known as the National Party although it does not constitute a formal political party.

Even leaders who have lost power do not end up with nothing, unlike in a presidential system. They are practically always assigned seats in the legislature and sometimes have the status of “leader of the loyal opposition.” In presidential elections, defeated candidates, regardless of the number of votes they garnered, are likely to be considered unattractive candidates for the next election and thereby lose their leadership position in the party. If they desire to continue with their political career, they will have to wait for the next cycle of election without any access to executive power and to patronage.

3. Capacity to Strengthen Accountability in Governance

In calling for the retention of the presidential system, respected constitutionalist and Senator Arturo M. T olentino argues that, in a presidential system, accountability is easier to locate. The chief executive, the president, is directly elected by the people and singularly represents the government. The voter is thus in a position to know whom he is voting for and who will govern in case his candidate wins. Moreover, the functions of the government are neatly divided among its three branches: the legislature sets down policy, the executive implements it and the judiciary interprets it. So responsibility is easier to pinpoint.

By implication, in a parliamentary system, presumably the voter electing representatives of a party will, in no way, know who the party will select as prime minister. And in a multi-party system, where the party is not expected to obtain a clear majority, the voter is not in a position to determine which parties will ultimately coalesce to choose the prime minister and to govern the country. Furthermore, since the executive and the legislature are fused in the parliament, the lines of responsibility are blurred and accountability for performance is difficult to locate. While these arguments may, in theory, be correct, reality negates most, if not all, of them. In presidential elections, the candidates do not need and often do not have any prior record as political leaders. This has given rise to the phenomenon of “presidential outsiders,” defined by Linz as candidates not identified with or supported by any political party, sometimes without any governmental or even political experience, and who ran for office simply on the basis of a populist appeal.

To a great extent, former Presidents Aquino and Ramos fall in this category, not having been members of any political party before running for office. Similarly, the two presidential aspirants who figured in a tight race with Ramos, Miriam Santiago, and Eduardo Cojuangco, were, in this sense, also “outsiders”.

Often, presidential candidates are elected on the basis of opinion about them or their promises or about the image that they project. The latter is increasingly true in the age of what Sartori calls the “new politics” of “videoploitics” as a result of which a presidential election is reduced to a video match eminently decided by good looks and “soundbytes” lasting a few seconds. “Outsiders” Fujimori of Peru and Collor of Brazil benefited immensely from the use of video technology in their political campaigns.

The problem with such candidates, according to Linz, is that they have “no support in the congress and no permanent institutionalized continuity (due to the principle of no re-election) and therefore find it difficult to create a party organization. They tend to organize their party around themselves such that when they leave the political scene, so does the party.

On the other hand, leaders in parliamentary democracies have to struggle to take hold of, and retain over many years, leadership over their parties. They, therefore, truly represent Not just themselves but, more importantly, their parties, which precede and survive them, also, the voters in a parliamentary election are well aware that eventual winners will be drawn from the party. Usually, the cabinet members are already established leaders of the party with vast experience in politics and government.

The contention that the voter in a parliamentary election will be hard put to determine who will eventually govern is contradicted by the fact that parties are usually identified with highly visible political leaders. Elections are increasingly focused on the leader aspiring to be prime minister. So a vote for British Conservatives is a vote for Mrs. Thatcher, SAP for Willy Brandt of Germany, PSOE for Felipe Gonzales of Spain, or Labor Party for Gro Brundtland of Norway.

While in this sense, personalization of leadership is not exclusive to presidential politics, the big difference is that leaders of parliamentary governments have to be loyal party members in good standing. It may be argued that such choice may be ignored by the party choosing another leader. This may happen but normally the party will not invest so much to build up the stature of a party leader only to replace him or her subsequently unless the leader has proven ineffective. And even then, the party and its leaders can be ultimately held accountable to the voters for such action.

As to the difficulty in parliamentary systems of determining who will govern in the coalition, again this contention is not generally true. Before the election, parties commit themselves to a coalition and the voter of the parties knows who the chancellor will be. The voter is also aware that unless a party establishes an absolute majority, all the parties in the alliance will have representatives in the government.

In a parliamentary system, government formation takes a short time because of the presence of a well-known shadow cabinet. In a presidential system, the organization of a new government takes longer as the president-elect begins his or her search for, and formation of, a cabinet and key officials only after the elections. And add to this delay the confirmation hearings – which can be protected and humiliating – that all major appointments go through.

Linz summaries the above points aptly: “The identifiability in presidentialism is of one person; in parliamentary government, most of the time it is of a pool of people and often a number of well-known sub-leaders.”

Finally, presidentialists argue that accountability in a presidential system is greatly enhanced by the fact that a president – not the cabinet, not a coalition, and not the leaders of the party – is directly and solely responsible for governance during his tenure in office.

In response, a president who cannot run for reelection will be difficult to hold accountable.

(Generally, in presidential democracies, including the Philippines, presidents cannot run for reelection. He or she no longer fears punishment by election defeat nor looks forward to the reward of reelection for good performance. And because the executive branch is intimately identified with the person of the president, even the party’s new presidential candidate or the party that supported the incumbent cannot be called to account. Even when reelection is allowed, the incumbent can always conveniently pass the blame to congress – regardless as to whether congress is dominated by his or her party or by an opposition majority.)

In a parliamentary democracy, because of strong party discipline and clear lines of responsibility, passing the blame somewhere else or avoiding accountability cannot be done. While accountability is hard to pinpoint in case of unstable governments or frequently shifting alliances, and no party is clearly on top of the coalition formation process, this situation is more the exception than the rule. Even if presidents are not barred from reelection, voters can only wait until his or her term ends before they could demand for an accounting, unlike a prime minister, who at any time, can be made accountable to his or her own party and the parliament by the vote of no confidence.

Finally, the separation of powers among the three branches of government in a presidential system is also the very cause of diffusion of responsibilities that makes it often difficult for voters to identify whom to hold accountable for particular decision or actions. This process has led one political scientist to refer to it as the “institutionalization of buck -passing.”

4. Capacity to Promote Cohesive and Discipline Parties.

Philippine scholar Carl Lande, commenting on the immature state of the Philippine party system, wrote: “The absence of a strong, responsive and responsible party system is o ne of the major flaws of the Philippine democracy.” Indeed, what dominates in the country is a system of loose, fractious, clientelistic or personalistic parties. These formations are in reality political clans, factions, cliques and alliances that are distinguished not by any coherent ideology and program of government, but by political personalities who lead them.

Political representatives often behave not on the basis of any issue-oriented platform but in pursuit of parochial and self-interested objectives. The history of democratization has shown that the development of political parties and their legitimation are necessary for democracy to take root. For in stable democracies, political parties are the viable and meaningful channels that closely link the state and society. This is certainly not the direction to which Philippine political parties are headed.

Those who oppose the shift to a parliamentary system have invariably pointed to this condition as justifiable reason to insist on the status quo. Correctly, they have pointed out that the strength and viability of a parliamentary regime rests on mature and disciplined political parties. Without genuine parties, the parliamentary system will be a sham and will only lead to greater concentration of political power in the hands of the already too powerful political elite, they would add. The logical prescription then is for institutional reformers to postpone any change and to concentrate instead on political and institutional reforms to strengthen the party system. The assumption of this proposition, of course, is that a mature party system can be nurtured within a presidential system of government. But is this possible? Does the framework of government have an important bearing on the quality of the party system?

Linz asserts that more disciplined and cohesive political parties are structurally compatible with the parliamentary systems, but would be in conflict with presidentialism. They are essential in the formation and maintenance of a syetm of independence and cooperation that is the hallmark of parliamentarism. Without this condition, the executive constantly faces a threat from being removed from office.

In Satori’s words: what a parliamentary democracy needs is to be serve by “parliamentary fit parties, that is to say, parties that have been socialized (by failure, duration and appropriate incentives) into being relatively cohesive or disciplined, into behaving, in opposition, as responsible opposition, and into playing, to some extent, a rule-guided fair game.

According to Weaver and Rockman, “party cohesion in parliamentary systems is no happy accident.” These they attribute to greater mechanisms of control over legislators. In proportional systems, for example, legislators are usually chosen from a party list generated by the central party organizations. T hose who did not tow the party line in crucial votes in the legislature may find themselves removed from the party line-up in the next elections.

In the case of single-member constituency system, legislators usually rely extensive on the central party organization for the ratification and financing of their campaigns. In practically all parliamentary systems, a legislator cannot advance in his political career without the support of his party leaders. So for both his survival and advancement in his career, a legislator depends heavily on his party, in the same manner that his party cannot govern or perform its role in government without his cooperation and support.

In a presidential system, or the system of separation of powers, it is not necessary for the president to prevail in Congress on all critical votes to be able to stay in power. Consequently, control over individual legislators is not as critical, and legislators have more leeway to vote for their own benefits or the interest of their own constituencies.

In addition, Weaver and Rockman found that central party organizations in presidential systems play a weaker role in the recruitment of candidates and in financing their campaigns. Legislators, therefore, have much more leeway to build a “personal vote” for themselves through constituency service and by voting the interest of their district or their economic class over that of the party. The job security and career advancement of legislators (both within the legislature and outside in seeking other offices) also depend much less on cooperation with party leaders. As a result, incentives to cooperate are much less.

As a consequence, even in a situation where the president’s party or coalition has majority control over the legislature, this advantage is no guarantee that the legislature will automatically cooperate to pass administration measures.

In the Philippines, nowhere was this more pronounced than during the term of President Aquino. In 1987, an overwhelming majority of legislators from both chambers of congress ran and won under President Aquino’s coalition, Lakas ng Bayanor Laban! ; in fact, a significant number of them could not have won without Aquino’s personal endorsement. But despite this enormous edge, Aquino drew more opposition than support for her measures in Congress.

Many of her major policy proposals, like the comprehensive agrarian reform; economic liberalization; recognition of and support for NGOs; and the ratification of the Philippines-Us bases treaty, never got past the legislature, and even if some did, they were severely watered down. Frustrated but determined to asserTher leadership, in early 1990, she brought together key leaders from the bureaucracy, local governments, NGOs, churches and business community and organized a political movement called Kabisig as counterforce against Congress.

But before Kabisig could even take off, the more politically sophisticated legislators scuttled it by subtle warnings to Aquino’s advisers that the move would be counter-productive and would only aggravate the already sour relationship between the president and Congress.

The situation is worse when the president has to govern with a legislative minority, As earlier pointed out, this is, in fact, the situation in minority of the times: that presidents usually have to face an opposition legislature. Confronted with an adversarial congress, presidents would see it to their interest to have to deal with weak parties.

And if the parties are stubborn and refuse to cooperate, it is not uncommon for presidents to employ “anti-party” tactics to bend their will. The tactics include distributing or withholding “pork barrel” funds, dispensing political appointments, provoking schisms and factions within parties, or doing openly hostile acts such as outright raiding of party membership. For this reason, Linz has concluded that: “The weakness of parties in many Latin American democracies, therefore, is not unrelated to the presidential regime but, rather, a consequence of the system. In so concluding, he may well have spoken of the party system, too.

Presidentialist asserts that the Philippine political terrain is not totally bereft of relatively more disciplined and cohesive parties, as evidenced by the emergence of parties like the revitalized Liberal Party (LP), the Partido Demokratiko ng Pilipinas-Laban (PDP-Laban) and the Partido ng Bayan (PnB). These parties posses defined ideological and political programs and positions on social, economic and political issues.

Rejecting the traditional brand of “guns-goons-and gold” politics, they have been key in promoting a “new kind of politics,” one that elevates the level of political debate beyond Vague, populist rhetoric and political praxis away from patronage and opportunism. Unfortunately, the prevailing political culture and institutional environment have worked against their transformative style of politics. As a result, except for the LP, these “alternative” parties have been relegated to the periphery of the political arena.

Beyond a change in political personalities and political thinking, it will take institutional reforms to enable emerging parties to play more substantial roles in Philippine politics. As pointed out, the constraining structures of a presidential system may not provide the environment for this necessary change. The parliamentary system of government has more promise in bringing this about.

5. Capacity to Promote a Multi-party System.

Political stability is key to democratic consolidation. The ability of a political society to achieve this condition rest on the existence of political vehicles that enable significant political forces to be represented in the mainstream of political and economic decision-making. In the formal democratic arena, this means the presence of vibrant political parties. It is difficult to govern democratically unless these forces are recognized and meaningfully represented in the party system.

Peace and stability has eluded the Philippines for close to half a century already because of an exclusionary brand of politics that few elite families fight to maintain. This has effectively shut off the greater part of the population from the political process. With no stake in the system, disenfranchised groups have turned to armed struggle as a means of getting heard and of achieving justice. T hus from the 50′s to the present, a Maoist-inspired communist insurgency movement – the only surviving one is Southeast Asia – has thrived in the countryside.

In the late 60′s, the much neglected and exploited Muslims in southern Philippines, in Mindanao island, also turned to armed confrontation to press for secession. Since formal independence in 1946, the elite controlled and dominated two-party system has effectively closed the door to other social classes in the country. Elections have been reduced to intra-elite competitions. The framers of the 1978 Constitution tried to address this problem by providing, among others, for multipartism within a presidential system. This arrangement similarly exist in most presidential democracies in Latin America. From a cursory observation, it would seem that, based on the outcome of the 1978 congressional and 1992 presidential elections, that multipartism has been successfully instituted in the country.

But a closer look reveals that the change has been more a quantitative increase in the number of parties than a development of real, multi-dimensional and ideologically distinct parties. T rue, more program-oriented and ideologically cohesive parties have emerge in the political arena. But they represent more the exception than the rule. In fact, the Liberal Party, since independence, had been one of two premier parties in the country. But when its party leaders begun to practice seriously its call fro alternative ways of doing politic – principled position on issues and rejection of the politics of “guns-goons-and-gold” – it begun ironically to lose considerable support.

In addition, as has been observed in Latin American presidential democracies, a minority government tends to be the inevitable result of a situation characterized by the presence of weak and undisciplined parties in a multi-party setting within a presidential system.

The case of 1992 presidential elections in the Philippines is a case in point: President Ramos, running against five other major presidential aspirants, won with only 24% of actual votes cast. This means his constituency in the electorate was much less at the time of his victory. Conscious of his narrow political base, he had to devote practically his first year in office to expand his political base of support.

So a question arises: Is a presidential system of government compatible with a multi-party system?

Can it create a political atmosphere conductive to the growth of distinct and genuine political parties?

Studies indicate that the two-party system is congruent with a presidential government, while a multi-party system is more associated with a parliamentary government. This is borne out again in the Stepan and Skach on the relationship of party systems and consolidated democracies. The study covered consolidated democracies in the world between 1979 and 1989, of which there were 34 parliamentary democracies, five presidential and two semi-presidential. The study found that of the 34 parliamentary democracies, 11 has between three and seven effective political parties. None of the presidential democracies had more than 2.6 effective political parties, while both the semi-presidential system had between three and four effective political parties. The absence of any long-standing presidential democracy with three or more effective political parties may explain why continuous presidential democracies are so few. This empirical study confirms the earlier finding that parliamentary democracies are more associated with a large number of parties than presidential democracies.

According to Lijphart, this tendency is due to the “zero-sum, winner-take-all” nature of presidential elections where the presidency is the biggest political prize to be won. Only the largest parties have a chance to win it. This creates an impulse towards a two-party system and away from a multi-party system.

This evidence is not conclusive though. The case of Finland and Chile prove otherwise. But then in both countries, the party system is well-structured and institutionalized. This cannot be said of most Latin American countries and the Philippines where the party system is loose and weak.

III. Conclusion

Political institutions are critical in strengthening governmental effectiveness, particularly in developing countries like the Philippines. For this reason political institutional reforms cannot be, and should not be taken for granted, but must be made part and parcel of a comprehensive set of social, economic and political reform program.

A strong case can be made that a parliamentary form of government is a more supportive evolutionary framework for developing effectiveness in governance and for consolidating democracy. From both the standpoints of theoretical predictability and empirical evidence, the parliamentary form of government has shown:

(1) Better ability to prevent gridlock and promote a cooperative relationship between the executive and legislature in policy-making

(2) greater capacity to ensure stability and continuity in governance and prevent military coups and extra constitutional action by the executive.

(3) better capacity to ensure accountability in governance;

(4) greater propensity to create a political environment conductive to the growth of coherent, disciplined and strong political parties, and

(5) greater ability to encourage a multi-party setting and promote a more open and plural politics.

While the distinct advantages of the parliamentary over the presidential system have been presented, the writer is inclined to look beyond a pure model of the parliamentary towards what Maurice Duvergere calls “a new political system model: semi-presidential system government.” According to Duvergere, a political regime may be dominated as such if the constitution which establishes it combines three elements: “(1) the president of the republic is popularly and directly elected by the people, (2) he wields substantial power, and (3) there is instituted a dual executive system, where opposite the president there is a prime minister and ministers who exercise executive and government powers and remain in office only with the continuing approval of the parliament.”

The most prominent representative of this model, of course, is France, although the historical precursor of the French system was Germany under the Weimar Republic. Other outstanding examples of this model are Finland, Austria, Iceland and Ireland. (Correction: Austria, Iceland, and Ireland are strictly parliamentary republics with ceremonial, powerless presidents.) More recently, Portugal, inspired by the French model, adopted this system.

In Latin America, while variances of this system have figured seriously in discussions about constitutional reform, no country has so far adopted the model. Should shifts in government structure take place in Latin American presidential democracies. The movement would not be towards a pure parliamentary form but, most likely, towards a semi-presidential model, with a dual executive system.

And the reason will be mainly pragmatic: the long tradition and intense desire of the ordinary voter to elect personally and directly his or her president. Peruvians expressed it best when they called “the principle of popular election of the president… sacred” and the sine qua non of the presidentialist system and the basis for governmental authority… election by the congress (of the president) would divert from the people what they consider their principal form of political participation.

Until the recent 1993 plebiscite in Brazil where people were asked to choose from a presidential, parliamentary or monarchial system, the Brazilian elite did not fully appreciate the importance of this sentiment. In surveys conducted over a three-year period from 1989 to 1991, Brazilian businessmen, labor leaders, journalist, intellectuals, public sector managers, politicians, navy and air force officers voted overwhelmingly (more than 3 to 1) for parliamentarism over presidentialism. Yet in the 1993 national plebiscite, the result was completely the opposite: 55% chose presidentialism while only 23% went for parliamentarism. Analysts widely attribute this result to a perception by the voters. – depicted and encourage aggressively by the presidentialist – that the parliamentary proposal was an attempt to deprive them their basic right to vote directly for the head of state.

Similarly in the Philippines, without the benefit of a survey, a similar preference by the social, economic, and political elites for the parliamentary system is apparent, for the same bases argued in this paper. But for reasons akin to the Brazilian plebiscite experience, the average Filipino voter will most likely opt for the retention of the presidential system.

Another important point to consider is that this chapter focused mainly on the issue of governmental structure, that is presidential versus parliamentary debate. Being the focus of the debate on institutional reform in the Philippines, this issue is a good starting point for further inquiry into more complex, but clearly related influences on governmental performance. For this reason, weaver and Rockman have called the presidential vs. parliamentary debate the “first tier” of the inquiry about the nature and effect of institutions and their impact on effective governance. But Weaver and Rockman also refer to second and third levels or tiers of influence that also impact on governmental capabilities. The second tier refers to variations within parliamentary and presidential systems. They are different ways in the modal pattern of government formation, or regime type, which tends to be durable over time, but is not unchangeable.

A parliamentary regime, for example, may come about through a multi-party coalition, party government or a single-party dominant government. Within each regime, there may be alternation over time among several government types, by which government is formed. This may be through two or more parties governing in minimum winning coalitions (e.g., Germany), or two major parties alternating majority control of government. (e.g.,Britain or the Philippines during the glory days of the Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party), or a dominant party rulling alone or as a dominant coalition partner For prolonged periods (e.g., PRI in Mexico, or the LPD in Japan before its recent breakup) correspondingly. The important point to remember is that both modal regime type and parliamentary type prevailing at any particular period may have substantial influences on a country’s decision-making structures, processes and capabilities.

The third tier or level of influences refers to broader institutional and non-institutional factors. The former pertains to broad framework institutions, such as judicial review, federalism, unicameralism and similar institutions, while the latter relates to factors such as political context and policymaker’s goals, socio-economic and demographic conditions, and past policy choices.

What these three-tiered influences on government capacity imply is that effective institutional reform requires a more comprehensive and complex approach. It necessarily involves a careful matching of a particular country’s priorities, policy problems and the societal conditions that influence how institutions will function, and the institutions themselves.

In this light, the two-step process adopted by the proponents of a French-style parliamentary system(technically, it is called “French-Style Semi-Presidential System”) in the House of Representatives-first, from bicameral, then, from presidential to parliamentary – may be too simplistic a response to a complex situation. That is why the campaign for parliamentarism has been more notable for exposing the deficiencies of the presidential system than for presenting a well-designed and clearly focused parliamentary alternative.

A final point: the route to reform. Constitutional change, in any setting and however beneficial, always invites controversy and enormous problems. Reformers need a strong case to justify any alteration to the fundamental law of the land.

For example, the 1986 People Power Revolution, because of massive failure in the government, enable President Aquino to discard Marcos’ 1973 Constitution and rule under a decreed “Freedom Constitution.” The latter was subsequently replaced by the 1987 Constitution drafted by a Commission of appointed delegates.

The euphoria and sense of urgency that surrounded these exercises in constitutional reform and formation no longer exist. A strong case for a new round of constitutional amendments needs to be presented. Whether the current situation in the Philippines presents such a case is debatable. But proponents of either a parliamentary or semi-presidential system do not have to wait for such a situation to ripen, if, indeed, it does not exist yet. They can begin the process of institutional reforms through legislative initiatives, such as reform of the campaign finance rules, simplification of the election process, institutionalization of the party list system, amendments of party formation and affiliation rules, among other enactments.

Apart from living the institutional foundation for amendments in the constitution, legislative reforms will also address the reservations of those suspicious of the changes. Most important, the reform will demonstrate the will, commitment and sincerity of the reformers.

* * *

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References:

Bernas, Joaquin, S.J. “To Amend Or Not To Amend, But How?” Manila Chronicle (May 19, 19 93).

Cones, Irene and Haydee Yorac. Final Report of Committee V. Constitutional Revision Project. Quezon City: UP Law Center

De Guzman, Raul P. and Mila A. Reforma, eds. Government and Politics of the Philippines. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Diamond, Larry. “Civil Society and The Constitution of Democracy.” CFIA Conference, Center for International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, December 7, 1993

Hofileña, Chay. “Arguments for the Presidential system.” The Sunday Chronicle (September 19,  1993).

Lande, Carl H. Leaders, factions, Parties: The Structure of the Philippine Politics. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965.

Linz, Juan J. “The perils of Presidentialism.”journal Democracy , 1 (Winter, 1990).

Linz, juan and Arturo Valenzuela, eds. The Failure of presidential Democracy: Comparative Prespectives, Vol. 1 Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

____________eds. Comparative Perspectives and the Failure of Presidential Democracy: The case Of  Latin America, Vol. 2. Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.

Lijphart, Arend, ed. Parliamentary Versus Presidential Government. New York: Oxford UniversityPress, 1992

____________ “Constitutional Choices for New Democracies.” Journal of Democracy, 2 (Winter,1991).

Stepan, Alfred and Cindy Skach. “Constitutional Frameworks and Democratic Consolidation:

Parliamentarism versus Presidentialism.” World Politics,  46 (Octiber, 1993).

The 1987 Constitution of the republic of the Philippines

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Valenzuela, Arturo. “Latin America: Presidentialism in Crisis,”Journal of Democracy , 4(Fall, 1993).

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Problems of Presidentialism & the US Exception

by Fred W. Riggs, PhD (1917-2008)

This is a draft for the text published as “Conceptual Homogenization of a Heterogeneous Field: Presidentialism in Comparative Perspective,” in Mattei Dogan and Ali Kazancigil, eds. Comparing Nations: Concepts, Strategies, Substance. Blackwell, 1994. pp. 72-152.


ABSTRACT:

The American constitutional system based on the separation of powers was modeled on a transitional stage in the evolution of democracy as experienced in 18th century England. With Kings struggling to retain power against insurgent parliamentary forces, a precarious imbalance of power existed which the Founding Fathers copied in America, but sought to stabilize by an ingenious though precarious system of checks and balances. When other countries imitated this plan — as in virtually all of Latin America and some countries in Africa, Asia, and the post-Soviet arena — they typically experienced break-downs followed by despotism. By contrast, in the United States, despite severe crises such as a major Civil War and the Depression, the system has survived until today, a truly exceptional experience that calls for explanations, as proposed here.

Meanwhile, all the other industrial democracies, on the basis of 19th century developments in the UK, have adopted a significantly different constitutional design based on an the accountability of Cabinet Government to Parliamentary controls that evolved in England half a century after the American Revolution. Although no constitutional plan can guarantee success for any country, the likelihood that parliamentary regimes will survive is far greater than the prospects for those based on the separation-of-powers. Even the best recipe can be spoiled by a bad cook, but all cooks are more likely to succeed following better rather than worse recipes.


Note by the CoRRECT™ Webmaster:

The “transitional stage” in the evolution  of Democracy as mentioned by the late Dr. Riggs was also mentioned in the article “Senator Pangilinan & the Parliamentary System” where a diagram was presented describing the evolution of democratic systems from the original Absolute Monarchy in Feudal England all the way down to the Post-Victorian Parliamentary System (often within the framework of a ceremonial Constitutional Monarchy) that exists in today’s modern United Kingdom and several post-19th century former British colonies such as Canada, Australia, NZ, Bahamas, Barbados, Malaysia, Singapore, and others.

The diagram is shown below:

What we refer to as the US-derived Presidential System actually coincides with the system of a Powerful Semi-Absolute Monarchy which is merely one iteration away from an Absolute Monarchy. Most Presidential Systems are realistically just one step away from being Dictatorships. Parliamentary Systems are the most evolved systems.


CONTENTS

 PRESIDENTIALISM: WHAT IS IT?

The Institutional Framework
Regime Authentification

THE TROUBLES OF PRESIDENTIALISM

The Presidential Establishment
The Legislative-Executive Chasm
The Party System
Bureaucratic Dilemmas

THE SURVIVAL OF PRESIDENTIALISM IN AMERICA

A Procedure
The American Presidency
The Legislative-Executive Balance
An Immense Congressional Agenda
A Centripetal Open Party System
American Bureaucracy

THE OUTLOOK FOR PRESIDENTIALISM

Comparing Presidentialist Regimes

NOTES

REFERENCES


INTRODUCTION.

The frequent collapse of presidentialist regimes in about 30 third world countries that have attempted to establish constitutions based on the principle of “separation of powers” suggests that this political formula is seriously flawed. By comparison, only some 13 of over 40 third world regimes (3l%) established on parliamentary principles had experienced breakdowns by coup d’etat or revolution as of 1985 (Riggs 1993a) (1)..

This empirical data substantiates Juan Linz’s argument that parliamentarism “is more conducive to stable democracy…” than presidentialism (Linz 1990, 53). While Linz admits that a presidentialist regime may be stable, as the American case shows, he does not try to explain this exception. Here I shall speculate about some of the practices found in the United States which seem to have helped perpetuate an inherently fragile scheme of government. These speculations need to be tested by systematic comparisons with the experience of the presidentialist regimes that have broken down. Pending such analysis, however, I will offer some impressionistic evidence to support the hypotheses presented below.

The discussion that follows is divided into three parts. –

  • First: the institutional features found by definition in all presidentialist regimes;
  • Second some critical problems inherent in any constitution based on “presidentialist” principles
  • Third: American practices or traditions–frequently “undemocratic” in character–whose absence has apparently contributed to the collapse of presidentialism elsewhere.

* * *

* * *

PRESIDENTIALISM: WHAT IS IT?

Traditional institutional analysis antedated World War II and, unavoidably, focused attention on the well established polities of North America and Europe. Because all the stable industrial democracies (except the U.S.) adopted parliamentary forms of government and the other presidentialist systems were so unstable, however, the comparative analysis of presidentialism languished. Generalizations were based on a universe that included only one “viable” presidentialist regime and a good many parliamentary systems. Perhaps unavoidably, in this context, comparativists often assumed that the unique properties of governance in the U.S. could be attributed to environmental factors (i.e., geography, history, culture, economy, social structure, etc.) rather than its institutional design.

After World War II, Comparative Government experienced a radical re-evaluation of its fundamental premises in the light of the entry into the world system of over 100 new -third world- states. Many of them adopted constitutions that were quickly repudiated when military groups seized power in a coup d’etat, and it became apparent that formally instituted structures of government, typically based on Western models, did not or could not work as they were expected to. New approaches to comparative politics stressed functionalism or socio-economic determinism, and emphasized the crucial importance of external forces generated by the world capitalist system and international “dependency.” Political anthropologists emphasized the continuing vitality of traditional cultures and the comparative study of institutions languished. – 

* * *

The Institutional Framework

In this context, formal institutions of governance were down- played as having secondary, if not trivial, importance. The fact that virtually all presidentialist regimes except that of the United States experienced authoritarianism and military coups was attributed to cultural, environmental or ecological forces rather than any inherent problems in this constitutional formula. Comparative presidentialism was neglected because it was considered useless to take “unsuccessful” cases seriously: how could failures teach us anything about the workings of a political system?

Moreover, since there was only one “successful” case, it could scarcely prove anything about the requisites for success in a presidentialist regime. It never occurred to anyone to think that the failures of presidentialism outside the U.S. were due to deep structural problems with the institutional design rather than with ecological pressures caused by the world system, poverty, Hispanic culture, religion, geographic constraints, demographic forces, etc. Nor did anyone imagine that constitutional failures could be used to test hypotheses about why American presidentialism had survived, or to learn more about the risks involved in this kind of system.

A counter-intuitive hypothesis might explain why presidentialism in the third world has been so unsuccessful. The newer presidentialist regimes may have rejected, as -undemocratic,- some practices that, perhaps unintentionally, have helped American presidentialism to survive. If so, these regimes were unconsciously caught in a double bind: to be more -democratic- involved taking risks that could lead to dictatorship, whereas to perpetuate representative government meant accepting some patently undemocratic rules. Unfortunately, I believe, our ignorance of the regime-maintaining requisites of presidentialism blinds us to the negative impact of progressive reforms on the survival of this type of democracy.

In the U.S. itself, debates about proposed “reforms” fail to consider their likely impact on the viability of the constitutional system. An old example involves the use of “primaries” to select candidates for election to public office, a nominally “democratic” innovation that has weakened its political parties. The current debate about limiting the terms of legislators in order to enhance democratic values fails to consider how it might affect the capacity of Congress to maintain the precarious legislative/executive balance of power that is so crucial for the survival of presidentialism.

A recent critic of President George Bush’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to limit Congressional terms to 12 years points out that it would increase the number of legislative ‘lame ducks,’ reduce the incentives for ‘men [and women] of potential public excellence’ to compete for elective office, increase the dependence of neophyte legislators on their professional staff and on bureaucrats and lobbyists, and diminish the scope of effective electoral choice open to voters. The same author, who directs political and social studies at the conservative Hudson Institute, argues that other solutions can be found to overcome the unfair advantages — mainly financial — that incumbents have when seeking re-election, without incurring the grave defects of the limited term option. I agree with all of these arguments, but they do not consider how the proposed change would affect the vitality and viability of presidentialism in America (Blitz, 1990). My guess is that electoral primaries have already weakened our constitutional system, and term limits, if adopted, would also have a negative systemic effect — but these are points to be discussed below at greater length.

Meanwhile, without rejecting any of the important findings of functional, ecological and world systems analysis, I suggest that we should also view all institutions as fragile human creations vulnerable to erosion or collapse? In addition to asking how a constitution actually works and how democratic and effective it may be, we need to consider its viability: what are its prospects for survival in a dangerous and highly interdependent world?

As ‘comparative politics’ evolved since the Second World War, it focused on intra-regional comparisons — that is, within the ‘First,” “Second” and ‘Third” Worlds. Such a geographically and economically determined framework has impeded institutional modes of analysis that require a global approach, including a North-South perspective that compares the effects of fundamental (constitutional) designs regardless of their geographic location or economic status.

* * *

The Environmental Context.

An institutional framework does not preclude environmental considerations. Economic level, class conflict, ethnic heterogeneity, geographic inequalities in the distribution of resources and population densities, religious, linguistic and cultural variety and so on, are ll significant and affect the destiny of states, as do such external forces as imperialism, foreign interventions, wars, migrations, and trade. Every regime confronts such -environmental – problems, some much more acutely than others.

Since both environmental pressures and regime types vary significantly, we must eventually try to link the two kinds of considerations. However, the impact of institutional variables is much easier to isolate and compare. It is perhaps easier, also, to compare the capacity of similar regimes to handle tough environmental challenges. To reverse this approach poses an extremely complex problem: it is extraordinarily difficult to reach safe conclusions about how any environmental variable affects the survival of democracy. Moreover, if our goal involves helping presidentialist regimes cope with tough environmental challenges, it is much easier to propose legal or constitutional reforms that might help instead of trying to change the environment–e.g., by promoting economic or cultural transformations, religious movements, and the rest. 

* * *

Regime Authentification

Comparison of political institutions should begin with basic regime types, the constitutional principles that determine how a government is organized. No doubt every government has unique features, but it is easy enough to classify them into a few broad categories. Ideally speaking, the new (non-Western) states ought to devise indigenous institutions well adapted to their own needs and circumstances. So far, however, to cope with the problems of the modern world, they have relied for the most part on a few options borrowed from abroad, based mainly on the experience of presidentialist and parliamentary governments–or single-party authoritarianisms.

When these regimes fail, they typically give way to a military dictatorship and personal rule based on the seizure of power by public officials (mainly military officers) carrying out a successful oup d’etat Here I shall confine my analysis to a single regime type, one that has been widely emulated with disastrous results in some 30 countries of the third world, i.e., “presidentialism.”

The word, presidentialism (for reasons to be explained below) is used here to designate a type of -representative- government based, in principle, on the -separation of powers- between executive and legislative institutions, i.e.,. the President and the Congress. The meaning of “representative government,” or of “democracy,” will not be discussed here, but it presupposes the existence of a viable assembly (Congress or Parliament) whose members are elected from competing candidates by the citizens of a state. The separation of powers is a complex goal that cannot sustain itself simply because of a constitutional prescription. Rather, it results from adherence to a fundamental rule, namely that the head of -government- must have a -fixed term of office,- i.e., not be subject to dismissal by a no confidence vote of Congress: this does not preclude the power of impeachment for criminal conduct. The presidentialist separation of powers is viewed as a -result- of a single rule–the fixed term of the President. My definition of presidentialism, therefore, specifies this rule as its cause, rather than the separation of powers that is its consequence. The definition, of course, presupposes the existence of a viable legislative assembly without which any head of government may easily become a dictator.

* * *

The Defining Criterion

The definition of presidentialism offered here involves a sharp distinction between two key roles found in representative governments: that of head of -state- and head of -government.- This distinction is basic because non-presidentialist systems often have elected “presidents” who are heads of state but not heads of government. In parliamentary systems the two roles are easily distinguishable: the head of government is a prime minister, while the head of state is either a constitutional monarch or an elected -president.- Such “presidents” usually also serve for a fixed term and cannot be discharged by a parliamentary vote of no confidence, but this does not make their regimes “presidentialist.” The term president is often used also for the head of state in single-party and even military authoritarian regimes, but they are not therefore “presidentialist.”

In presidentialist regimes the elected head of government always serves concurrently as head of state. However, we must avoid defining a presidentialist system as one in which the head of -state- (president) is elected to office, a criterion that includes many non-presidentialist systems. A regime is presidentialist only if the effective head of -government- (President) is elected for a fixed term: the mode of election may be direct or indirect. To be “effective,” a head of government cannot be dominated by a single ruling party or a military junta, and the “fixed term” rule precludes discharge by a legislative no-confidence vote. (2)..

To repeat, by presidentialism I mean only those -representative governments in which the head – -of government is elected for a fixed term of office-, i.e., he/she cannot be discharged by a no- confidence vote of Congress. Note that this definition is -onomantic- rather than -semantic-: I am not reporting what the word, presidentialist already means. Rather, I am explaining a fundamental political concept and proposing a term to name it. Of course, presidential can be used to name this kind of system, but since this word is also used for other regime types– notably parliamentary systems with an elected head of state–there is less risk of ambiguity if we use an unfamiliar word, like presidentialist for the specific concept intended here. (3)..

Admittedly, this usage is not yet established. Many writers will say presidential when they mean presidentialis However, generalizations about “presidential” regimes are often invalid because they lump together some non-presidentialist with presidentialist polities. In this essay it is always necessary to know whether one is talking about the specific properties of a presidentialist system–as defined here–or using a loose concept that can also include parliamentary systems. These are different institutional forms of democracy and they have radically different properties that we need to understand. (4)

Scales of Variation The distinction between presidentialism and parliamentarism should be viewed as logical -contraries,- not -contradictories.- They are ideal types at opposite ends of a scale: in other words, representative government is not necessarily either presidentialist or parliamentary. There are intermediate possibilities, “semi-presidential” and “semi- parliamentary” in character.

Consider, for example, the French Fifth Republic, that Maurice Duverger has characterized as semi-presidential (1980). Although the head of -state- (president) is indeed elected for a fixed term of office, the head of -government- (premier) must command a parliamentary majority. So long as the president’s party has such a majority, the president may choose a premier of his own party, thereby permitting him to rule as the de facto head of government. Otherwise, the head of government (premier) may come from an opposition party in order to gain parliamentary support, as happened between 1986 and 1988 when President Francois Mitterand had to name an opposition leader, Jacques Chirac, as premier (Suleiman 1989, 11-15). At such times, the president is not a President. Juan Linz refers to the Fifth Republic as a “hybrid” (1990, 52). Scott Mainwaring also identifies Chile (1891-1924) and Brazil (1961-1963) as semi- presidentialist, even though their constitutional rules differed from those of the French Fifth Republic (1989, 159). Luis E. Gonzalez uses the terms, semi and neo-parliamentary to characterize the changing Uruguayan constitutions. The 1934 and 1942 charters, for example, had neo-parliamentary features insofar as the President had the authority to dissolve the legislature, and the legislature could censure the ministers, compelling the President to resign– but these powers were never tested (Gonzalez 1989, 3-4). The 1967 Uruguayan constitution retained the President’s right to dissolve Congress and hold new elections after a minister had been censured, but he would not, then, be required to resign (Gillespie 1989, 12-13). Giovanni Sartori proposes a four-type scale running from pure “presidential” [i.e., presidentialist] to pure parliamentary regimes. (5) This typology presupposes the maintenance of representative government. We need, however, to consider a second dimension of variation that runs from truly representative government to open authoritarianism or personal rule. Presidentialist forms may be retained even though their essential functions are lost.

Quasi-presidentiaist refers to a degenerated presidentialist system. Sometimes, regimes that were originally presidentialist become modified in practice when the principle of separation of powers is breached even though it remains nominally in effect. This has usually occurred when Presidential powers were expanded at the expense of the legislature that became a pliant legitimizing body, ratifying without resistance the decisions of the President. Although such regimes are presidentialist de jure, de facto they are not. We might put President in quotation marks to signify a role that appears to follow presidentialist rules but, in fact, violates them. It is often said that a weak legislature combined with “Presidential” domination is endemic in Latin America–countries like Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay provide the exceptions. Quasi-presidentialism may mask the dominant position of a hegemonic political party but it occurs more often, I believe, because an autocratic “President” or a dominant family or clique gains control of the Presidential office. Sometimes, also, unseen military “bosses” determine key policies while the formal office-holders, including the “President,” become their “puppets.” One may argue that most Latin American regimes are only “quasi-presidential”.

Whereas quasi-presidentialism results when an authentic presidentialist regime disintegrates, -pseudo-presidentialism- arises when a presidentialist charter is promulgated as a facade to cover some form of authoritarianism. For example, a military dictator establishing personal rule (Jackson and Rosberg 1982, 10) may adopt the title of “president” and sponsor a charter that copies the presidentialist formula: its elected assembly is politically impotent and the outcome of its presidential elections is predetermined. 

* * *

Constitutional Transformations.

When a presidentialist regime experiences serious crises, one might assume (or hope?) that its political leaders would recognize the need for fundamental reforms and adopt constitutional amendments or new constitutions that move in the parliamentary direction. Instead, what usually happens is a regime breakdown that moves toward authoritarianism, whether formalistically through quasi-presidentialism or more overtly, after a coup d’etat, into pseudo-presidentialism.

Authoritarianism, whether in the form of quasi- or pseudo-presidentialism, is no more stable than pure presidentialism. Ultimately, all forms of dictatorship (including single-party and military authoritarianism) may be overthrown and replaced by constitutional regimes and representative government. Whenever this happens, serious attention is usually given to the design of a new constitution that might overcome the liabilities of earlier schemes.

In such episodes of re-democratization, parliamentary or semi-parliamentary options are often seriously debated, as happened recently in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. However, it seems to be true that almost all ex-presidentialist regimes opt again for a new form of presidentialism. Under these circumstances, it is truly important to understand the survival problems inherent in the presidentialist formula. The practices that have enabled presidentialism to last in the United States might, perhaps, be institutionalized in other countries. However, I believe that most reformers would consider these practices (not presidentialism as such) so essentially undemocratic that they would reject them. When they recognize the costs involved in perpetuating presidentialism, they may be more willing to embrace options that move in the direction of parliamentarism. Until then, they are more likely, unwittingly, to approve presidentialism in a form that also involves quite democratic practices that, unfortunately, undermine the viability of the regime.

Presidentialism, per se, may be neither more nor less “democratic” than parliamentarism, although the American “founding fathers” explicitly prescribed a “republican” formula that they thought would avoid the dangers of populist “democracy.” However, even if one were to grant, provisionally, that presidentialism creates a more open and democratic regime than parliamentarism, one would have to balance this argument against the claim that, if presidentialism is likely to collapse into authoritarianism, then we ought to embrace a less democratic option that has better prospects of survival. Please understand: I do not claim that presidentialism is less democratic than parliamentarism. I only argue that if presidentialism is to survive as a regime type, heavy costs must be born, and some of these costs involve accepting undesirable (undemocratic?) practices. 

* * *

THE TROUBLES OF PRESIDENTIALISM 

In order to maintain the constitutionally prescribed separation of powers based on the election of a head of government for a fixed term of office, several fundamental and typical problems have to be solved in every presidentialist regime. Even though some of them may be solved in a given polity, failure to handle others can lead to deterioration or breakdown. Each major presidentialist problem is a kind of handicap: by itself it may not cause a breakdown but it becomes part of a cumulative and mutually reinforcing set of ruinous forces.

An executive/legislative relationship based on the fixed term of office set for the head of government constitutes the core problem: it generates other difficulties, however, each of which might precipitate a breakdown. Thus the separation vs. fusion of powers issue is not the only critical issue. In addition, each institutional feature of presidentialism–including the Presidential role, the Congress, the political party and electoral system, and the bureaucracy, as they relate to each other–needs to be examined. Questions involving a powerful third branch, the judicial system, are also relevant, but space limitations prevent discussion of this complex subject here. Might it be true, for example, that even a strong Supreme Court could not rescue a presidentialist regime about to collapse, or that a weak judicial system would not undermine such a regime if it had found other ways to cope with its major intrinsic problems? Such doubts reinforce my decision to ignore this important question here, but some tentative thoughts on it can be found in Riggs (1988c, 255 & 269-272). 

* * *

The Presidential Establishment

Although the presidentialist formula only requires, by definition, the election for a fixed term of office of the head of -government,- Presidents also always serve as the head of -state-. In addition, the President is typically also the commander-in- chief and sometimes heads a leading party (or coalition of parties). These overlapping roles create vast expectations . The power vested in the office eems overwhelming, and regime tabilit appears to be assured. Since presidentialist regimes are vulnerable to collapse, however, this is an illusion. No doubt, so long as the regime persists, the fixed term of a President’s office assures more continuity of leadership–despite possible cabinet reorganizations–than can be found in a multi-party parliamentary system vulnerable to frequent cabinet crises. In practice, nevertheless, Presidents are severely hampered in their leadership roles, and their inability to fulfill popular expectations often leads to crises and regime breakdowns. These limitations may be viewed from several perspectives.

* * *

Fusion of Roles.

As head of -government- every President has to make controversial policy decisions that unavoidably alienate substantial portions of the population. Even when a Government’s policies are widely supported, failures and injustices in their implementation are often blamed on the President. Yet Presidents, in their capacity as heads of -state,- are expected to symbolize and attract everyone’s loyalty, providing a common focus of patriotism for all citizens. Clearly, the requirements of the first role often clash with those of the second.

In parliamentary regimes, where loyalty to the head of state (“king” or “ceremonial president”) can easily be dissociated from support/opposition to the head of government (prime minister in cabinet), citizens can more easily sustain their patriotic loyalty to the State while opposing the policies of the Government. When the two roles are linked, however, citizens easily confuse their dissatisfaction with Government with disloyalty to the State. As a result, opposition to the current Administration may produce discontent with the Constitution and provide support for coups and revolutionary movements: opposition to Government easily becomes treason to the State; dissent becomes revolution. The absence of a separate head of state may also deprive the regime of an important moderating force to help conciliate opposing political movements or tendencies in times of emergency.

* * *

Fixed Term of Office.

The fixed term poses a double liability. In the case of effective Presidents it forces them out of office prematurely: one example may be that of Nobel prize winning President Oscar Arias Sanchez of Costa Rica–his four-year term expired in 1990 and he could not be reelected. The more usual cost, however, is that paid for an ineffectual President who, nevertheless, cannot be constitutionally discharged from office (except for criminal conduct as determined by impeachment). Ironically, one of the reasons for such ineffectiveness is precisely the fixed term: ambitious politicians, even in the President’s own party, often feel that they can best advance their own careers by distancing themselves from the President, building an independent (oppositional) base for future political campaigns, and establishing themselves as opponents of the current regime. This -lame duck- phenomenon occurs in the U.S. near the end of every President’s second term in office, but in many other countries we might even speak of a -dead duck- syndrome that afflicts new Presidents shortly after they assume office. In part this is due to constitutional barriers to any re-election of a President: in the American case, the possibility of at least one re- election (two or more until the enactment of Amendment 22 in 1951) enables a President to postpone the lame duck syndrome.

A dead duck President is not only gravely handicapped, but the growth of political opposition and popular discontent may well bolster the ambitions of a military cabal conspiring to seize power. A coup d’etat is the functional equivalent, under presidentialism, of a removal effort that, in parliamentary regimes, can be achieved by a no-confidence vote. Since coups involve suspending the constitution, Congress is also dissolved, whether or not its resistance contributed to the failures of the Presidency.

* * *

Veto Groups vs Opposition.

A President’s role as head of government is also severely limited by the pervasiveness of -veto groups- such as the legislature, the courts, and the bureaucracy, plus a fractionalized party system. Although these diverse bodies can block executive action, they cannot formulate the coherent alternatives that the political opposition can often produce in parliamentary regimes. Such an opposition may also compel Government to modify policies in a consociational direction (Lijphart 1989, 8), something that presidential veto groups normally fail to do. The possibility that an opposition can replace them means that cabinets must take their views seriously, whereas Presidents are tempted to view their opponents merely as hostile forces to be subdued.

Mainwaring tells us that in the Latin American presidentialist democracies, Presidents have often been able to initiate policies but unable to win support for their implementation (1989, 162). Thus veto groups can block action but they are powerless to bring alternative (opposition) parties to power. Since all Presidents, despite growing opposition and political impotence, must cling to office until they meet their scheduled deadlines, a kind of self-induced nemesis drives them into the dead end of their “lame duck” terms.

* * *

The “Winner-take-all” Syndrome. 

In parliamentary systems, the election of a ceremonial president means relatively little, while the election of party members to Parliament means a great deal–especially to party supporters. Even small parties may “win” to the degree that some of their candidates become Members of Parliament and may even join the Government.

By contrast, in presidentialist systems the electoral stakes are much higher and more concentrated because so much hinges on the selection of a governing President–often, indeed, it is more of a personal than a partisan victory. Presidentialism, writes Juan Linz, “is ineluctably problematic because it operates according to the rule of ‘winner-take-all’–an arrangement that tends to make democratic politics a zero-sum game, with all the potential for conflict such games portend” (1990, 56). There are many losers under presidentialism. Not only defeated parties but even members of a winning party–especially rival candidates for nomination–may feel that they have lost everything when a President is elected, leading to great discontent, alienation and the “dead duck” syndrome, as noted above.

To the degree that patronage prevails–and it is pervasive in all presidentialist regimes–a host of public officials may feel that their continuation in office depends on victory for the ruling party, and private interests supported by the Government also have a large stake in its survival. Consequently, a Presidential victory is a triumph for supporters of the winning candidate and a great loss for opponents (Linz 1990, 56). Understandably, their frustrations easily translate into popular resistance to the Regime rather than loyal opposition to the Government.

In pathological cases, the stakes seem so high that Presidents resort to unconstitutional means to maintain their power, including corruption, violence, and sponsoring proteges (relatives and cronies) so as to perpetuate a “family” dynasty, or even to compel constitutional changes that permit their own reelection. Corruption and violence at the polls often occur as a likely consequence of the high stakes winner-take-all contest.

Such contentiousness may be amplified by the electoral rules. In Peru, for example, until 1979, a President could be elected by a one-third plurality, and Congress could name the President when no candidate won a third of the votes. In Peru’s 1962 election, the leftist (APRA) party’s leader, Haya de la Torre, “beat Balaunde [of the centrist Accion Popular party] by less than one percentage point, 32.9% to 32.l%, with Odria third at 28%.” Since this threw the final choice to Congress, Haya sought first to make an alliance with Balaunde who rejected him, calling instead for new elections (APRA had been charged with electoral irregularities). Haya then turned to his arch rival, Odria, of the right wing PPC. “The specter of a government led by the presidential candidate who had finished third, in an ideologically disparate coalition between two parties that had been enemies for decades, may have been the last straw for the military. The coup came within two days” (McClintock 1989, 28-9). Thus the high-stakes winner-take-all game may even lead the losers to support the desperate expedient of a military coup.

* * *

A Fragile Political/Administrative Base. 

The institutional foundations of a President’s rule are inherently fragile. We may analyze this problem separately at the political (partisan) and the administrative (bureaucratic) levels, although in fact the two are closely interlocked.

At the political level, the contrast with parliamentary systems is instructive. The dependence of cabinets on parliamentary support means both that party discipline is necessary and that a government without parliamentary support must resign. The resulting fusion of powers often enables parliamentary governments to act decisively. By contrast, no such interdependence occurs under the presidentialist separation of powers where a persistent stalemate can block executive action.

Ideally, perhaps, a President’s authority ought to rest on a party system that mobilizes voters to support candidates for election to public offices so that a winning party can ensure Congressional support for Presidential policies. In fact, however, this rarely occurs. Presidentialist party systems vary widely in their capacity to mobilize political support for a President. Some are highly disciplined and others extremely loose, two equally dysfunctional extremes. Disciplined parties, as found in Chile, have prevented the President from getting necessary

Congressional support whenever he lacked a majority. Alternatively, as in Brazil, where party members freely vote their personal preferences, Presidents have responded by flagrantly overriding or flouting the parties that had formally supported their candidacy (Mainwaring, 1990b, 21). Even in the United States, as at present, the majority party in Congress need not be the President’s party, setting the stage for persistent conflict and deadlocks.

In multi-party systems, the President is likely to win only a plurality of popular votes, even though a technical majority may be formed in second round run-off elections or Congressional voting. Such majorities are ad hoc coalitions that soon fall apart, denying the President genuine legislative support for his/her policies: according to Mainwaring, “The combination of presidentialism and a fractionalized multiparty system is especially unfavorable to democracy. (Mainwaring 1990b, 25). See also (Valenzuela 1989, 33).

Even when, in a two-party system, the President’s party has a Congressional majority, the fact that the President cannot be discharged by a majority vote of no confidence may mean that members of the President’s party have little to lose by not supporting a Government bill they do not like. Moreover, party factionalism can also mean that many members of the ruling party consistently vote against the chief executive’s policies and leadership. No doubt, when party discipline is strong, as it has been in Argentina, a Congressional majority will assure support for Presidential policies. Nevertheless, even though the separation of powers may serve its original purpose of preventing arbitrary government, it often fails to provide the political support Presidents require in order to govern effectively.

The inability of Presidents to implement policy is compounded at the administrative level, as illustrated pointedly by the precarious dynamics of “cabinet” formation. A President needs the help of a highly qualified top echelon of department heads and bureaucrats who can administer public policies effectively and also secure Congressional and legal support for Administration policies. However, Presidents jeopardize the separation of powers if they rely either on members of Congress or on career officials to head their departments and form a cabinet. Accordingly, they seek to enhance Congressional support by naming party activists from outside Congress, or they recruit personal followers (even relatives) from the private sector to fill these posts, and to staff the Presidential apparatus, by-passing both elected politicians and experienced public administrators. Consequently, a highly personal style, inter-departmental conflicts and lack of institutionalization at the top levels of Presidential administration typically hampers the processes of governance in presidentialist regimes. 

* * *

The Legislative/Executive Chasm.

Consider the case of Ecuador, which has experienced frequent regime breakdowns, but has restored democratic procedures since 1979. Nevertheless, acute tensions between President and Congress persist, according to Catherine Conaghan, who tells us that shortly after the elections of 1984, “Congressional activity came to a stand still after sessions were marred by tear-gas bombings, fisticuffs on the floor of the assembly, and walk-outs by legislators on both sides. Meanwhile, [President] Febres Cordero had decided to physically bar the new appointees [named by Congress to the Supreme Court] from using their offices and banned the publication of the appointments…” (Conaghan 1989, 20). In 1987, the President was kidnaped by Air Force paratroopers who released him only after he had agreed to confirm the amnesty granted by Congress to two leading opponents of the administration (23-4).

“From 1979 through 1988, Ecuador staggered through a succession of executive-legislative confrontations that created a near permanent crisis atmosphere in the polity” (Conaghan 1989, 25). “Even when Presidents enjoyed a pro-government majority in Congress, the majority could easily erode under the pressures of interest groups and electoral calculations. Congressional opposition was a standard feature in the interruption of Presidential terms with interest groups and the armed forces joining in the fray” (Ibid., 8).

When a President is “…incapable of pursuing a coherent course of action because of congressional opposition… in many cases, a coup appears to be the only means of getting rid of an incompetent or unpopular president..” (Mainwaring 1989, 165). A similar argument can be found in Linz (1990, 53). Stalemate is even more unavoidable when–as noted above–the President’s party has only a minority in the Congress.

To overcome such impasses, Presidents frequently strive to dominate the assembly, a tendency that, in effect, vitiates the principle of separation of powers, leading to quasi-presidentialism and the erosion (or destruction) of presidentialist legitimacy. Embattled Presidents are often tempted to resort to desperate and even unconstitutional measures in order to bypass Congress and achieve their goals (Mainwaring 1989, 168-9). Sometimes, as in the Philippines in 1972, the President suspends Congress and rules by martial law and executive orders.

More often, as in Brazil, according to Mainwaring, all its democratic Presidents sought “…to bypass Congress by implementing policy through executive agencies and decree-laws… the practice of creating new agencies and circumventing congress for major programs…” has grave costs (1990b, 15). “When Quadros and Goulart were frustrated with Congress…they appealed to popular mobilization–with disastrous results in both cases… This strategy was catastrophic, as it further alienated major institutional actors, including the armed forces…” (1990b, 16).

Military interventions are not often explicitly due to an overt impasse between the President and Congress, but rather are attributed to habitual executive abuse or misuse of power provoked by a long-festering history of such conflict. The absence of a coherent opposition that could replace the Government–as noted above–often tempts a President to persist in unwise projects that undermine popular support. No cabinet officer or legislator is powerful enough to compel the President to make serious policy revisions. The frequent replacement of cabinet members not only reflects Presidential weakness but, reciprocally, generates sycophantism and intimidates those who might be able to correct a misguided President.

Since impeachment cannot replace the Government by an opposition party, even fierce opponents may oppose a procedure that will merely replace the President with an even more objectionable vice president. Consequently, the fixed electoral cycle of presidentialism creates structural rigidities that are readily overcome in the alternative parliamentary model by the threat of a cabinet crisis and/or new elections whenever the current leadership is seriously discredited. Is it, therefore, surprising that in such an environment a cabal of officials, mainly military officers, should seize power and overthrow the presidentialist regime?

* * *

Congressional Problematique.

Since the presidentialist formula requires that members of Congress as well as the President be elected for a fixed term of office, it is apparent that every effective Congress will have to cope with a vast and inherently unmanageable agenda. By contrast, in any Parliament, members mainly need only to agree or disagree with Government policies. Even members of a Government party who disagree with its policies will usually support them in order to avoid the likelihood of a new election in which they might lose their seats.

In all contemporary polities the number of complex issues calling for attention is so vast and controversial that it is really impossible for any body of legislators to study and reach collective agreements on all of them. The danger, then, is that an overloaded Congress will fail to act or find itself deadlocked in major controversies. If it is too compliant with Presidential policy demands, it becomes a mere rubber stamp, or it may simply refuse to consider many of the issues that might have been placed on its agenda. If, however, it habitually rejects Government proposals, or offers alternatives that the President will only veto, it can bring the processes of governance to a halt.

Moreover, members of Congress face competing demands that must be terribly frustrating. They are pressured by clients seeking patronage appointments, by local constituencies seeking funds for “pork barrel” projects, and they must mobilize support for re-election campaigns. Essentially, every Congress is placed in a kind of “no-win” situation from which it vainly struggles to extricate itself. Ultimately, it must share with the President a heavy burden of criticism that, all too often, generates military intervention and the breakdown of the regime. 

* * *

The Party System

Since a presidentialist regime is, by definition, a form of representative government, it needs to have an open party system: i.e., it needs electoral competition between two or more effective parties. I believe this is true because the maintenance of genuine legislative power is impossible whenever one party regularly dominates the elected assembly. A one-party system (as in Communist regimes) leads to complete party control of the elected assembly. Even a hegemonic party, in a polity that permits genuine opposition parties, nearly suffocates the Congress. Mexico provides a classic case. There, all the advantages resulting from electoral success belong repeatedly to the PRI and the Congress becomes a pliant legitimizing instrument. The separation of powers required, by definition, in a presidentialist regime is, therefore, incompatible with hegemonic or one-party rule–what I shall refer to as a closed party system. By definition, opposition parties may be permitted to run candidates in free elections, but if they have no real chance of winning power, then the party system is really “closed.”

An open party system, by contrast, is one in which two or more parties have real possibilities of winning power. We cannot use multi-party for this concept because a two-party system is also “open.” No doubt the distinction between two and multi-party systems is significant–as is the distinction between single and hegemonic party systems. However, I see them as sub-types of a more fundamental distinction, i.e., between open and closed party systems. Moreover, among open party systems there is a more fundamental difference based on the dynamics of inter-party competition that we need to consider here. 

* * *

Dynamics of Centrifugalism.

Among open party systems, the most fundamental distinction, I believe, involves the degree to which power is centrifugalized (polarizing) or centripetalized (centering). In the context of this distinction, we can better understand the two- party/multi-party contrast. (6) I believe that the survival of presidentialism is promoted by an open centripetal party system and undermined by one that is centrifugal or closed.

Centripetal forces arise when different parties compete mainly for center votes, i.e., the support of regular, mainstream voters who think of themselves as “independents,” willing to support candidates of any party or even to split their tickets, as current interests, policy issues or political personalities suggest. By contrast, centrifugal forces prevail when more extreme positions are taken by parties seeking to attract the support of non-voters. This typically involves proposing dramatic, populist, costly and controversial policies likely to win the support of apathetic or alienated citizens who normally cannot or will not vote. Unfortunately, most presidentialist regimes have developed centrifugal party systems, thereby creating self- destructive spirals based on circular causation.

* * *

Multiparty Systems.

A voting system that rewards small parties offers strong incentives for marginal groups to become organized and present extremist platforms that can mobilize special interest groups of many kinds, be they street sleepers, religious sects, or ethnic communities or social classes. Such pressures produce multi-party systems that undoubtedly create grave problems for parliamentary systems but they need not destroy them. No doubt each party represented in a coalition cabinet can exercise a veto power by threatening to withdraw, but it also needs the support of other coalition members to achieve any of its goals, often leading even extremists to support consociational accommodations.

By contrast, a centrifugal multi-party system surely undermines any presidentialist regime because its polarized parties lack pressure points vis a vis a fixed-term head of government. Although presidential candidates may temporarily seek the support of extremist parties, as when forming pre-election coalitions, the withdrawal of partisan support will have little influence on Presidents in office. Small parties lack bargaining power and Presidents have no built-in structures to counteract the polarizing tendencies of a centrifugal party system. Indeed, any President who seeks to meet the demands of extremists in Congress soon antagonizes the main-line parties and loses the support needed for policies of more general interest.

Multi-party systems usually lead to minority governments, in two senses. First, a plurality government is one in which a President has won office with a plurality vote, but no absolute majority of the popular vote and, second, a divided government is one where the President continuously faces an antagonistic majority in Congress (where the same party prevails in both branches we may speak of party government). Minority government in both senses is almost unavoidable because of the centrifugal dynamics inherent in multi-party systems : plurality Presidents lack the popular mandate needed to lead effectively, and minority governments cannot gain Congressional support for their policies.

In most of Latin America, sad to say, multi-party systems prevail. Among them, the most successful was probably Chile, “… the only case in the world of a multiparty presidential[ist] democracy that endured for 25 or more consecutive years” (Mainwaring 1989, 168). In Chile, Congress was called upon to make the final choice of a President but, in this situation, a temporary coalition of highly disciplined parties, formed to support the winning candidate, usually soon fell apart (Valenzuela 1989, 32). Thus, “…there was an inadequate fit between the country’s highly polarized and competitive party system, which was incapable of generating majorities, and a presidential[ist] system of centralized authority… As minority Presidents…Chilean chief executives enjoyed weak legislative support or outright congressional opposition. And since they could not seek reelection, there was little incentive for parties, including the President’s own, to support him beyond mid-term” (Valenzuela 1988, 33-4). The resulting sense of “permanent crisis” culminated in 1974 in the Pinochet coup and dictatorship.

A different kind of multi-party presidentialism is found in Brazil where “…Presidents could not even count on the support of their own parties, much less that of the other parties that had helped elect them. Brazilian parties in the two democratic periods have been notoriously undisciplined and incapable of providing consistent block support for presidents” (Mainwaring 1990b, 5). They have tried to cope with the deadlock of congressional opposition based on an extremely fragmented and fluid party system by developing an “anti-party discourse” and have “engaged in anti-party actions.” Often they were “recruited from outside or above party channels…” They usually avoided strong links with any party in order to enhance their political appeal to a broad range of public opinion (Mainwaring 1990b, 9-10).

Whether the individual parties are disciplined or not is certainly important, but I believe that a more important consideration is the centrifugal dynamism of all multi-party systems. Although these dynamics may even invigorate parliamentary systems, they ultimately destroy presidentialist regimes, producing both plurality and divided governments.

* * *

Two-Party Systems.

It is widely thought that two-party systems are generated by presidentialism and conducive to their survival. Actually, multi-partyism is more common in presidentialist regimes, and two-partyism by no means assures their survival. According to Mainwaring, “Two party systems are the exception rather than the rule in Latin America, but among the regions’s more enduring democracies, they are the rule rather than the exception”– including Colombia, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Venezuela (Mainwaring 1990b, 25).

However, a two-party system is not necessarily a permanent feature of any presidentialist regime, and by no means assures its survival. Since the 1984 election, Uruguay may no longer be classed as a “two-party system” and Venezuela has been a two-party system only during the last 20 years or so. In Asia, two-partyism prevailed in the Philippines from 1946 to 1972, after which President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law, suspended Congress, and created his closed system dominated by the New Society Movement (KBL) (De Guzman and Reforma 1988, 87-95). Actually, it is very difficult to maintain a viable two-party system: it may evolve into a multi-party or hegemonic party system.

Ideally, a two-party system will enable Presidents to secure a majority vote and a popular mandate to rule, with the support of a party majority in Congress. This premise is based on the familiar parliamentary model and fails to appreciate the basic fact that, because of the fixed term, presidentialist regimes lack the basic motor of parliamentarism that promotes party discipline. Even when the President’s party has a Congressional majority, there is no way to guarantee support for the President’s program.

To understand the acknowledged linkage between two-partyism and presidentialism we must first recognize that a two-party system may be centrifugal or centripetal: overcoming executive/ legislative conflicts is much easier with a centripetal two-party system than it is when that system is centrifugalized. To visualize the dynamics of a centrifugal two-party system, consider the situation in Uruguay, often mentioned as a leading example of successful two-party democracy. There, the Colorado party actually held power from 1865-1973–except for a brief interim (1958-62) of control by the opposition Blanco party–suggesting a de facto hegemonic party situation. A military group seized power in 1973, and democracy was not restored until 1985.

Centrifugalization in this “two-party system” was driven by party factionalization and high voter turnouts, leading to deep cleavages between the President and Congress (Gillespie 1989, 15; Gonzalez 1989, 14). The main explanation can be found in Uruguay’s exceptional scheme of proportional representation that permits party factions to present separate lists. This system, known as the “Double Simultaneous Vote,” has produced highly contentious intra-party factions (Gillespie 1989, 15). Even though each list goes under the label of a major party, the candidates on each faction’s list compete with each other just as they would in a multi-party system, and they also provoke wide-spread electoral participation. Consequently, Presidents typically face strong resistance within their own party–in addition to the opposition party.

Thus, when Oscar Diego Gestido was elected in 1967, his faction controlled only a fraction of the Colorado deputies. The resulting standoff, complicated by some quasi-parliamentary features of the constitution, resulted in no “…real control over the Executive but a permanent hindrance of its functioning which ironically increases the tendency toward coups.” In 1973 a military group seized power and dissolved Congress, although Juan Maria Bordaberry was allowed to remain as nominal “President” (Gillespie 1989, 15-17; Gonzalez 1989, 7-8).

A similar rule permits party factions to run separate electoral lists in Colombia and helps to explain the complexity of this country’s highly factionalized and centrifugal “two-party” system. “Factionalization forced each President to create and recreate an effective governing coalition within Congress, making the National Front period resemble a multi-party system” (Hartlyn 1989, 16). Although leading factions of the two main parties supported the Government, other factions of each party went into opposition. Immobilism and deadlock resulted. For further details see Hartlyn (1989, 15-20).

Since multi-party systems are necessarily centrifugal, only a two-party system is compatible, in the long run, with presidentialism. However, this is possible only if the system is centripetal, and as Uruguay and Colombia demonstrate, two-party systems may be highly centrifugal. We will clarify the problem, therefore, if we say that a centripetal open party system is needed. If, as I have argued, multi-party systems are necessarily centrifugal, this means that it must be a two-party system, but having only two parties is not sufficient. 

* * *

Electoral Foundations.

When our focus is on the centripetal/centrifugal distinction among open party systems, we can easily see that the electoral system provides the most important explanation. In general, a wide variety of multi-member-district proportional representation– i.e., PR–systems produce centrifugalized party configurations (normally, but not always, with more than two parties). The attempt to secure a popular majority for the President by means of a second-round run-off election cannot nullify the effects of PR in the first round. Moreover, when congressional elections coincide with the first round balloting for President, as may often be the case, it becomes most “unlikely that a President will enjoy a clear-cut majority in Congress.” This proved to be the case in Ecuador where many parties have proliferated (Conaghan 1989, 12-3).

The rhetoric of two- and multi-party systems lulls us into our preoccupation with the number of parties in a polity and distracts attention from an equally necessary factor, i.e., the internal distribution of power in a party. I believe the survival of presidentialism is as much affected by party-structure as it is by party-system. Yet we cannot easily discuss this dimension because our vocabulary is inadequate. We tend to make a simplified dichotomy between “disciplined” par ties, such as we normally find in parliamentary systems, and the “catch-all” parties found in the United States and, for example, in Brazil. We may also assume that PR leads to disciplined parties and SMD voting to loose parties–generalizing from U.S./European comparisons.

The comparative study of presidentialist regimes will show us, however, that such notions conceal a far more complicated reality in which, assuredly, electoral systems play a role, in combination with regime type. I believe we need to distinguish between at least three dimensions of power distribution found in all political parties: geographic, functional, and relational. We can use centralized/localized to talk about the geographic dimension; concentrated/dispersed for the functional dimension; and integrated/isolated to discuss relations between political parties and other social organizations based on religion, ethnicity, class, occupation, etc. Here I shall focus on the first two, leaving the third for later comment.

I shall use centered to characterize a political party where power is both centralized and concentrated; and fluid for a pattern in which power is both localized and dispersed. Discipline is properly used for the willingness of all legislators belonging to a given party to vote as instructed by their leaders. Clearly the more centered a party, the greater the likelihood that its parliamentary members will be disciplined. By contrast, members of a fluid party are likely to be undisciplined, often refusing to follow their party’s line. We need to retain this distinction between the internal power structure of a party and the voting behavior of its members in an elected assembly.

A party in which power is both centralized and dispersed is factionalized, as illustrated by the Uruguayan and Colombian parties. This pattern is produced, I believe, by an unusual form of PR (the “double simultaneous vote”) that produces a centrifugalized two-party system. Legislative voting will be disciplined (within the factions) and undisciplined (in an all-party sense). A neologism may be required to talk clearly about such cases: we might speak of dia- discipline in the case of factionalized parties.

Party power may be both localized and concentrated in the form of urban machines, such as Tammany Hall and many other political clubs typical of an earlier period in U.S. history. Rather awkwardly, we might speak of such a party as machined or machinist, but I use these words here only to illustrate our need for better terms. Legislative voting in such parties might also be dia-disciplined, but with members following orders from local machine bosses rather than from national faction leaders.

More importantly, however, we need to see that normally PR in a presidentialist regime produces a multi-party system in which the power distribution in individual parties can vary between centered and fluid. Fluid parties are found in Brazil, producing a chaotic Congressional arena where Presidents have to bargain with many individualistic members in order to secure clientelistic support for their policies, often by means of patronage and local (pork barrel) projects. “The extremely loose nature of Brazilian parties has added to the problems caused by the permanent minority situation of Presidents’ parties. Presidents could not even count on the support of their own parties, much less that of the other parties that had helped elect them” (Mainwaring 1990b, 5).

Similarly, in Ecuador, “…politicians of every stripe appear to be afflicted with a significant amount of distaste and disdain for the party system in which they operate.” “Rather than using presidential resources to build up his own party, Febres Cordero [as other Presidents had done] preferred to by-pass parties altogether and create a clientelist network…” (Conaghan 1989, 30) Thus, the efforts of Presidents and other politicians to undermine party solidarity often stimulates, by circular causation, the disruptive effects of fluid parties on legislative performance and the growing frustrations of the chief executive. Conaghan remarks that “What is striking in Ecuadorean political culture and style is the extent to which it has been permeated by an anti-party mentality…” (29). Alternatively, as I propose, one might see the extreme fluidity (localization and dispersal) of such parties as a normal feature of presidentialist regimes that use PR electoral systems.

It is equally normal, however, for such systems to produce highly centered parties, and they are equally dysfunctional for the maintenance of presidentialist regimes. The best example can be found in Chile where well disciplined (ideological) parties often combine to produce a solid opposition front whenever a President cannot sustain the majority coalition in Congress that brought him to power (Valenzuela 1989, 32-3).

In parliamentary systems, of course, PR also leads to centered parties–the dynamics of parliamentarism simply renders a fluid party non-viable. Moreover, centered parties are functional for the maintenance of parliamentary accountability because they produce discipline. Of course, reciprocally, the need for discipline has a feed-back effect which encourages electoral rules that generate centered parties. In presidentialist systems, by contrast, PR can produce parties that are fluid, centered, or factionalized: always in a centrifugalized party system and always dysfunctional for the maintenance of presidentialism. Moreover, neither President nor Congress seems to have any systemic means to counteract these party dynamisms.

Fortunately, between the polar extremes identified above some intermediate intra-party power distributions are also possible. Here our vocabulary is, again, quite inadequate. Provisionally, I shall use responsive to characterize an intra-party distribution of power that combines local autonomy with headquarters guidance, and permits intra-party groups to organize informally but not to become oppressively prominent. On the two basic power dimensions, responsiveness falls between centered and localized, and between concentrated and dispersed. In the section, Predictable Enigma, I argue that the survival of presidentialism in the United States hinges, among various factors, on the responsiveness of its political parties and the semi-disciplined voting patterns that this engenders. The causes are no doubt complex, but they surely include reliance on a single-member-district (SMD) plurality system for the election of legislators, plus the freedom to abstain from voting and a variety of other factors that will be explained below, under Centripetal Party System.

[figure 1 may be inserted here] 

* * *

Bureaucratic Dilemmas

The urgent need of any chief executive to be surrounded by competent and loyal officials capable of managing and coordinating the administration of government directs attention to a major problem that is easily overlooked by analysts predisposed to focus on the “political” aspects of governance at the expense of its “administrative” dimensions. Yet failure to administer well has dire political consequences. Public confidence declines and discontents soar, producing the kinds of unrest that lead, so often, to revolutionary movements and coups.

Moreover, many activities that are nominally administrative in character actually have strong political implications–for example, appointments to public office and administrative reorganizations, including the establishment of new agencies, can vitally affect a President’s power position, and influence the disposition of members of Congress to support or oppose a President’s policies. Perhaps, above all, bureaucratic power often expands to such a degree that public (especially military) officials become major actors in the political arena–sometimes even seizing power by a coup d’etat. Because the political implications of bureaucratic dilemmas are so often misunderstood, we need to take a closer look at these problems as they occur in presidentialist regimes.

* * *

The Power of Modern Bureaucracy.

The main instrument for administering any modern government is typically a bureaucracy whose members–military as well as civil–depend largely on their salaries to support themselves and their dependents. This feature of modern bureaucracy contrasts with the situation found in traditional bureaucracies where modest official stipends were normally supplemented by various kinds of legal but non-official income (Riggs 1991, 2-6). (7)

The significance of this fact becomes apparent when we remind ourselves that officials, like all other people, have their own interests to defend. However, their control over public offices and resources gives them weapons of power (especially in the armed forces) not available to most citizens. Unless their incomes are secure and their conduct is well monitored, guided and supervised by constitutional organs and popular forces, bureaucrats are easily able to exploit public office for personal advantage, as by widespread corruption and sinecurism. When they really feel threatened, they can also, under military leadership, seize power by a coup d’etat.(8)

The Need for Patronage. The public interest in contemporary societies requires that many bureaucrats, especially those in leadership and technocratic positions, be experienced and highly qualified to perform difficult tasks. The necessary qualifications are best assured by the establishment of a “merit” system designed to recruit well trained persons whose continuing (tenured) experience in government service enables them to perform effectively.

In parliamentary democracies–and even under single-party domination and in traditional monarchies–the development of experienced cadres of public officials is usually possible, and ruling elites or cabinets are able to rely, for the most part, on career bureaucrats to staff and implement their politically-driven policies in ways that are essentially technocratic and professional.

By contrast, in presidentialist regimes, the structurally precarious position of Presidents–for reasons discussed above–would be seriously jeopardized were they to depend on career officials to staff the highest bureaucratic offices, including cabinet positions. Moreover, Presidents cannot recruit sitting members of Congress to serve as cabinet members without endangering the autonomy and power of the executive office, nor is it possible for non-elective cabinet members to hold seats in the assembly without jeopardizing the balance of power. In this necessarily precarious position, Presidents have no option but to recruit a large number of leading officials, starting at the cabinet level, from outside the government service: they cannot be either career officials or elected politicians.

Consequently, heavy reliance on patronage appointments (clientelism, cronyism and spoils) is a prevalent and necessary feature of all presidentialist systems. It entails fateful political and administrative costs. The most apparent is a lack of experience, qualifications, and dependability–Presidents must, on very short notice, try to assemble a “team” of personal supporters to manage the Government and direct a host of subordinates whose interests and obligations often conflict with those of the President.

Members of Congress also have a compelling interest in patronage. They typically seek posts for their supporters (clients) in order to maintain the political support without which they could not be elected. This gives them a powerful incentive and basis for bargaining with a beleaguered President: they can trade votes for favors. This is no trivial matter since their own power base may be seriously undermined if they cannot secure appointments for their proteges. Consequently, the indispensable minimum of political appointees needed to staff a presidentialist regime’s top posts is vastly inflated because both the President and the Congress need patronage to maintain the system.

Presidents typically need patronage to gain legislative support for their policies. Hartlyn reports that in Colombia a “…President had massive appointive powers, whose significance was augmented by the importance of spoils and patronage to the clientelist and brokerage oriented parties and by the absence of any meaningful civil service legislation. Presidents could appoint cabinet ministers without congressional approval” (1989, 13). The effect of the growing power of the President was “…to marginalize Congress further from major decisions, reducing its functions to ones of patronage, brokerage and management of limited pork barrel funds” (21).

Mainwaring reports that, in Brazil, “The only glue (and it is a powerful one at times) that holds the President’s support together is patronage–and this helps explain the pervasive use of patronage politics” (1990b, 7). “Both Vargas and Kubitschek pressed for reforms that would strengthen the merit system and protect state agencies from clientelistic pressures, but they were defeated by a Congress unwilling to relinquish patronage privileges” (6).

Here we find a classic double bind: the President needs patronage to secure congressional support and members of Congress cannot abandon clientelism without undermining their own political support base. Only a judicious use of patronage can sustain the separation of power needed for presidentialism to survive. Thus, although both President and Congress need a non- partisan career system in the bureaucracy in order to implement their policies effectively,

neither can afford to embrace a merit system without undermining their own precarious power base and threatening the presidentialist balance of power. 

* * *

The Tenacity of Retainers.

In every polity bureaucratic self-interest produces additional problems that involve officials in office. Most conspicuously, in presidentialist regimes, this concerns the retention/rotation dilemma. In all non-presidentialist regimes, as noted above, almost all appointed officials are recruited and retained on a career basis. In presidentialist systems, by contrast, powerful forces lead to patronage appointments under a succession of elected officials, including both the President and members of Congress. What happens to these appointees when new elections bring new personalities and political parties into power? Will they be able to keep their jobs, or will they be discharged?

It is much easier to hire than to fire, and those in office fight to keep their jobs: no doubt they are more interested and powerful than are candidates seeking new posts. We need to recognize a large class of political appointees who are able to retain their positions–I refer to them as retainers. Although they remain in office, they are often down-graded and humiliated (siberianized) when new political appointees replace them in higher office. Only their dependence on salaries and their eagerness to protect their personal security and fringe benefits lead them to put up with many humiliations. Predictably, however, demoralized and underpaid officials do unsatisfactory work and lower the quality of public administration.

Moreover, because bureaucratic retainers work on a salary basis and depend on government for their income and security, they will often (when their livelihood is threatened) support a coup. Its military leaders are not only enraged by the policy failures of a regime but they want to safeguard the interests of all public employees, not just themselves. In all bureaucratic revolts, military officers play the dominant role because they control the means of violence, but they need the support of civil servants in order to run the government successfully. This is why I use bureaucratic polity for the resultant dictatorships, rather than the superficial term, “military authoritarianism.”

Merit-based careerism will surely help any regime cope with the serious crises that might lead to a coup simply by improving the quality of public administration. However, it is extremely difficult to establish such a system, not only because of short-term Presidential and Congressional resistance, but also because retainers see it as a threat that must be fiercely resisted. In order to pave the way for careerists to replace retainers, rotation in office must first be accepted. A government must be able to discharge incumbents in order to create the vacancies that a new class of careerists can fill. Yet attempts by any presidentialist regime to enforce a rotation policy generate fierce resistance and usually compel Governments to compromise with incumbents rather than risk the serious costs of mass lay-offs, including a possible coup d’etat.

A costly alternative to rotationism was developed in Chile where civil servants could retire “…with fifteen years service and a relatively good pension. Agency heads, however, would retire with what was known as la perseguidora–a pension that kept pace with the salary of the current occupant of the post retired from…. Agency heads were thus appointed as a culmination of their careers and could be persuaded to retire to allow a new President to make new appointments” (Valenzuela 1984, 262). Another common bureaucratic practice in Chile deprived officials of significant functions while respecting their job security: “The haustoria (or common grave), a series of offices for individuals with no official responsibilities… became a feature of many agencies” (ibid., 264). Moreover, “…new agencies…that could carry forth new program initiatives of the new administration were brought into existence without having to abolish older ones. Even the conservative and austerity-minded Jorge Alessandri added 35,000 new employees to the public sector during his tenure in office” (ibid., 263). This practice enables a President to make patronage appointments without discharging incumbent officials.

In Brazil, similarly, Presidents often expanded the apparatus of government by creating new state agencies in order to enhance their power and overcome Congressional resistance (Mainwaring l989, 169). By such means, some of the short-term political benefits of rotationism have been achieved, but only at immense cost. Most importantly, by thwarting the establishment of merit-based career systems, they have perpetuated a deep flaw that helps us explain the collapse of most presidentialist regimes.

* * *

Structural Poly-normativism.

A second fundamental problem for all presidentialist bureaucracies involves the need of bureaucrats to be responsive concurrently to the separate authority of the President, Congress and the Courts. This results, as David Rosenbloom has pointed out, in three sets of criteria governing bureaucratic performance that frequently clash with each other, generating bureaucratic poly-normativism. Presidential authority can lead to emphasis on the managerial values of efficiency and effectiveness; Congressional demands may generate insistence on political responsibility and responsiveness; and Judicial decisions often give priority to standards of legality and the protection of citizens’ rights versus bureaucratic abuse of power (Rosenbloom 1983). A fourth criterion, suggested by the discussion of patronage, involves partisan pressures. Indeed, it may be true that in all political systems partisanship can play an important role in public bureaucracies. This is especially true of presidentialist regimes, however, where it has disastrous consequences.

Even where a “non-partisan” merit system has been established, as it was in the Philippines because of American influence, career officials are often openly partisan. Carino reports that “…a third of middle-level bureaucrats in a survey mentioned helping in an electoral campaign– against civil service rules. Another third acknowledged nurturing political ambitions…” “Civil servants also sometimes played off the executive against Congress, claiming the ability to get appropriations despite the absence of the President’s support” (1989, 12, 14). In addition to the career officials, of course, in the Philippines, as in all presidentialist polities, there were always a good many overtly partisan Presidentially appointed “…agency heads and such aides as could be justified as ‘policy determining, highly technical or primarily confidential'” (1989, 10).

This was the “normal” pattern of bureaucratic politics in the Philippines, always involving substantial Congressional intervention, before the advent in 1972 of the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos. He sought to institutionalize an intermediate, highly politicized and well paid, layer of political appointees, the “Career Executive Service,” to become vehicles of his authoritarian regime and to help him perform functions of the dissolved Congress. Since the advent of President Corazon Aquino in 1986 and the attempt to re-establish a democratic presidentialist regime, there have been sweeping bureaucratic replacements, purges of many officials, and tumultuous reorganization schemes. The partisanship involved in this highly traumatic and often unsuccessful effort to “de-Marcosify” the bureaucracy are summarized by Carino (1989) and described in more detail in her monograph (1988).

In Chile a partisan type of merit system evolved. According to Valenzuela, “The Chilean civil service was recruited and promoted through a Chilean version of the spoils system: party recommendations, and legislative support, in addition to formal credentials, were important in gaining entry and crucial in rising to higher office. The civil service was fragmented… by strong partisan loyalties that prevented the development of institutional loyalties” (1984, 271).

In practice, therefore, public officials in presidentialist regimes are typically cross-pressured from four main sources: the President, Congress, Courts, and Political Parties. Although comparable cross-pressures can no doubt be found in non-presidentialist regimes, they are less disruptive of administrative performance in them than they are in presidentialist systems where, I believe, they augment the forces contributing to the collapse of these regimes mentioned above. Further details on this subject can be found in Riggs (1993b). 

* * *
THE SURVIVAL OF PRESIDENTIALISM IN AMERICA

All of the resulting from the presidentialist design that have been enumerated above compel us to conclude, I believe, that it would be amazing if any country could maintain such a regime for any length of time. The likelihood of catastrophe is simply too great. Any one of these major problems could lead to disaster, but normally, we may assume, adverse results are due to the cumulative and mutually reinforcing consequences of many unsolved problems. No one of them by itself can be blamed for the collapse of a presidentialist regime but, cumulatively, they generate insoluble difficulties that lead to catastrophe.

Moreover, disasters typically occur in stages. The economy may stagnate and civil strife break out, provoking foreign interventions, even though the formalities of presidentialism are maintained. Sometimes, a frustrated and angered President will then usurp power and by-pass Congress, leading to quasi-presidentialism. Power may become concentrated in the hands of an authoritarian “President” or, more often, in behind-the-scenes military, family, or social elites and factions. Eventually, revolution, military or foreign intervention may occur, accompanied by complete suspension of the constitution.

It is, perhaps, comforting to note that military bureaucratic and autocratic regimes are themselves unstable. They provoke growing resistance and even external pressures that often lead to their collapse and, possibly, to the restoration of constitutional government. At such times it is important to understand the prospects and costs of presidentialism by contrast with its parliamentary alternatives. An explanation of the survival of presidentialism in the U.S. by contrast with its fate elsewhere will, surely, contribute immensely to such an understanding. 

* * *

A Procedure

In the light of the problems identified in Part II, we need not be astonished at the fate of the thirty or so polities that adopted the American presidentialist scheme, by contrast with the greater ability of parliamentary regimes to survive. No doubt, some contextual variables help to account for the striking U.S. exception: for example, are North Americans more “practical,” “tolerant,” or “problem oriented” than the citizens of Latin America, as some analysts assert? Have geographic, economic, cultural, historical, or social advantages of various kinds facilitated the perpetuation of presidentialism in America? Such claims are often made to explain the apparent viability of American presidentialism.

I feel helpless to evaluate these claims. Moreover, insofar as we may be interested in the possibility that other states–especially the new Republics in the East–will want to emulate the American model, we need to consider the proposition that, if environmental conditions are the determining factors, they cannot be replicated in other countries; but if rules and practices that can be changed by political decisions are decisive, their adoption by others might enable them to establish or perpetuate presidentialist regimes.

To the degree that important political practices found in the United States are not found in other presidentialist regimes, their absence may have explanatory significance. We do need comparative data to reach any persuasive conclusions. The single American case cannot provide conclusive evidence to support any important causal explanations, but it can suggest hypotheses that may be tested by the comparative study of presidentialist regimes. If practices that seem to be associated with the survival of American presidentialism are missing in countries where presidentialism has failed, then this evidence provides empirical support for the hypotheses. We must not reject comparisons between the U.S. and other presidentialist regimes because of the failures of the latter–rather, they provide the information we need in order to explain the relative success of the United States.

I say “relative success” because some observers now wonder whether or not American presidentialism can continue to survive in the face of growing world complexity and interdependency. For example, Philip Cerny has recently offered an English political scientist’s opinion that “The Madisonian formula of checks and balances–federalism and the separation of powers–provided a resilient and flexible means during the nineteenth century…” By contrast, he argues, at the present time “…the capacity of the United States to play an effective role in an increasingly interpenetrated world has frequently been undermined in significant ways by the workings of the system. …as other countries adapt more effectively than the United States to contemporary conditions, the American system of government both exacerbates crises and stalls solutions. Such counterproductive propensities threaten continually to turn an otherwise manageable hegemonic decline into a steep and slippery slope” (1989, 47-48). “The effects of Madisonian entropy are already reaching a critical point, seriously compromising the capacity of the United States to respond coherently to the challenges of the future” (Ibid., 55). Although federalism may well be a liability in presidentialist regimes, it may also be an asset, in my opinion, for reasons explained at Role of Federalism. –see also note 19.

No doubt, increasingly, foreign friends will become more aware than Americans of the serious limitations of presidentialism. Fortunately, however, there are a few American political scientists who are seriously studying the problems inherent in the American presidentialist system and proposing significant constitutional reforms. In 1963 Quentin Quade argued that “American government is inadequate for the responsibilities confronting it…” and that we need “…a fundamental alteration of our political institutions” (Quade 1963, 73). A collection of documents offering diagnoses of the problem and proposed reforms is contained in Robinson (1985). This work reflects the efforts of the Committee on the Constitutional System–under the leadership of Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Lloyd N. Cutler and C. Douglas Dillon–to pro mote serious inquiry into the need for and possibility of some basic reforms in the American constitution (cf. also Hardin 1974 and 1989; Robinson 1985 and 1989; and Sundquist 1986).

* * *

The Fruits of Comparison.

So far, unfortunately, these analyses pay scant attention to comparisons with other presidentialist regimes. Instead, they focus on parliamentary democracies and on the strategic considerations that might block or support proposed reforms. To view the American case in a broader perspective, consider the sad Argentinian experience. By the 1920’s, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal cited with approval by N. Guillermo Molinelli, Argentina was “one of the world’s richest countries, had a democratically elected government, an elaborate university system, a literacy rate close to 90%, one of the best credit ratings in the world, and its per capita output of goods and services in 1929 was four times higher than Japan’s” (1988, C6-7).

Since then, starting with the first of six military coups in 1930, political instability has prevailed, and “Argentinians have suffered an increasing economic downward trend, characterized by more and more inflation and less and less growth. Today, most Argentinians know that theirs is the only underdeveloping country of the world, ‘going back from the First World to the Third in a generation'” (loc. cit.). The explanation of this huge disaster, I believe, is primarily political (and institutional) rather than ecological. Carlos Waisman offers a somewhat different but relevant explanation (1989, 160-2). Argentina’s fate can, assuredly, happen to any other country, including the U.S., that strives to govern itself by the antiquated and increasingly non-viable 18th century presidentialist model: past successes provide no assurances for the future.

The Argentine case illustrates another point: although we often assume that economic conditions determine political systems–as when we compare “industrialized democracies” and relegate comparisons among “third world” countries to a separate category–we may also want to consider the possibility that political institutions affect, though they do not determine, the nature and extent of economic growth or “development.” Put differently, political systems may provoke economic decline, as the ex-Communist countries have now discovered.

Finally, and ironically, democratizing reforms in some Latin American countries undermined the stability of presidentialist regimes that had previously seemed to work rather well. Many of the traditions that seem to explain the survival of American presidentialism appear to have “undemocratic” implications. Not surprisingly, they have often been rejected elsewhere in favor of rules or practices that seemed to be more “democratic.” Actually, some American traditions are currently under severe attack in the U.S. precisely because of their undemocratic implications and, if my conjectures are correct, reforming them may undermine the continuing viability of the U.S. system. In this connection, see the last paragraph under Constitutional Transformations.

The analysis offered here includes points routinely made in constitutional studies by American political scientists. However, several differences should be pointed out. Most importantly, the usual premise of these analyses is that the separation of powers not only safeguards democratic freedoms but it poses no serious problems for system survival. When constitutional issues have been debated in the U.S., according to James Sundquist, they have focused on such details as the length of presidential and congressional tenure, links between the cabinet and Congress, the direct election of senators, the amendment process, approval of treaties, the war power, and (in a limited academic environment) questions of leadership and accountability growing out of the divided (executive/legislative) powers (1986, 41-74). Sundquist also notes, “…no amendment that would contravene the separation of powers principle has ever been debated on the floor of either house of Congress, and few have even been proposed…. When structural amendments have been debated in the halls of Congress, proponents have been at pains to insist…that their proposed changes would certainly not weaken, or would even reinforce, the constitutional structure of checks and balances” (Sundquist 1986, 40-41).

No doubt, some American political scientists have questioned the long-term viability and utility of presidentialism, but their ideas have not provoked much general interest or debate. For example, almost half a century ago Charles McIlwain wrote that, “For this dissipation of governmental power [i.e., the separation of powers inherent in presidentialism] with its consequent irresponsibility I can find no good precedents in the constitutional history of the past. The system has worked disaster ever since it was adopted, and it is not the outcome of earlier political experience… It is a figment of the imagination of eighteenth century doctrinaires who found it in our earlier history only because they were ignorant of the true nature of that history” (1947, 143).

Had McIlwain’s warnings been seriously heeded, we would long since have undertaken a serious popular debate on presidentialism and the high costs of preserving the archaic American constitutional system. Today, in the light of comparative analysis based on the experience of countries that have emulated the American model, it is even more urgent to engage in such a debate, not only for the sake of the U.S. itself, but also for the future of other countries–notably the newly independent Republics of the USSR and Eastern Europe–that are today seriously considering the possibility of new constitutional frameworks for representative government and democracy.

In the discussion that follows, I shall try to identify some of the important practices–para- constitutional in character (Riggs 1988c)–that appear to play a significant role in enabling the American presidentialist system to survive. I do not argue that any one of them is a necessary condition for the persistence of presidentialism, and certainly no one is a sufficient condition. Taken as a whole, however, we need to ask ourselves how the presence, or absence, of these practices affects the survival of presidentialism. I shall now discuss each of the major problems identified in Part II (omitting the need for a powerful judicial system only because this question is too complex for the kind of brief treatment that might be possible here), starting with the role of a head of government (President) elected for a fixed term of office. 

The American Presidency.

No good solution has been found to overcome the essential limitations on the Presidency dictated by the separation of powers and its precondition, a fixed term of office. In presidentialist regimes the role of President has been called a “winner-take- all” competition, leaving many powerful and frustrated losers whose bitterness in defeat undermines the viability of the new government (Juan Linz 1990, 55-8). However, in the United States, the stakes appear to be considerably lower than they are in other countries with the same rules for choosing the head of government–resulting in fewer embittered losers, and hence less antagonism against the President.

* * *

Lower Stakes.

A number of significant features of the American political system reduce the weight of the Presidential sweepstakes. Similar features are found in some but not most other presidentialist systems.

Because of federalism, real power in the United States is distributed by constitutional mandate among the fifty sovereign “states.” Much of the decision-making power that affects the average citizen, the success or failure of most politicians and the fate of office-seekers is determined at the local level–not only in the sovereign states, but also in cities, counties, towns, and other jurisdictions having delegated authority. Although Presidential power rises above that of all sub-national politicians, it is nevertheless shared with a host of elected officials. Because of the “responsive” two-party system (see last paragraph under Business of Capitalism ) the President cannot command the loyalty nor control the actions of innumerable locally powerful politicians–including members of his own party–with whom his/her power is shared.

By contrast, to a large degree, power is much more centralized in most presidentialist systems, even when the system is formally “federal.” Although Venezuela is a “federal republic,” the governors of its states are appointed by the President; in the Philippines power is highly centralized despite changing constitutional and legal provisions for local self-government. The Mexican federal constitution authorizes each member state to have its own constitution and elect its governor, but in practice only candidates of the President’s party, the PRI, win these elections and power is highly centralized. Argentina has a federal constitution that authorizes the provinces to elect their own governors and legislatures, but in practice the central government exercises overwhelming power.

Brazil has long been a genuine federation, but since 1930, under the domination of President Getulio Vargas, central power has increasingly prevailed over state power. According to Abdo Baaklini, “Vargas’ reforms and programs transformed the federal government’s role in the socioeconomic realm… The role of state governments was irrevocably diminished… The federal system of government and its decentralization that Brazil enjoyed until 1930, gave way to a more centralized system… The governor’s role as a counter balance that the governor had vis a vis the president during the old republic was undermined. From then on the presidency became the undisputed power center of the entire political system.” The period prior to 1930 represented “…the highest degree of institutional stability that Brazil has attained” (2). Its subsequent history has been highly unstable (1991, 2 and 4).

The separation of powers in the Federal government, of course, also means that Presidential power is shared with Congress and an extremely powerful judicial system. In addition, there are many autonomous governmental bodies, like the Federal Reserve Board, whose powers are not subject to Presidential control. Because of the vigorous independence of the private sector in the United States, including not only capitalist profit-making corporations but also a vibrant non-profit (third) sector, the range of Presidential decision-making is also significantly restricted. Except in times of grave national emergency, as during an economic depression or war, when central controls over the economy multiply, it may not make much difference who occupies the Oval Office. By contrast, in other presidentialist systems, despite the existence of capitalism and free market institutions, governmental powers are often more extensive than in the United States, especially where corporatism prevails.

Within the Federal bureaucracy, the overwhelming majority of bureaucratic offices are now filled on a non-partisan career basis. Because career advancement occurs primarily within specific programs and government agencies are strongly oriented to legislative committees, Congressional influence over career officials is very strong by contrast with the relative weakness of Presidential control. This means that extremely powerful structures within the bureaucracy exercise considerable autonomy–in collaboration with private interest groups and legislative committees (i.e., the “iron triangles”)–again limiting the real power of the President. By contrast, in other presidentialist regimes, the number of people whose jobs hinge on the outcome of a Presidential election is terrifyingly great, magnifying the stakes of the game.

Finally, the moderate, compromising platforms offered in the context of a centripetal two-party system means that the actual programs of the government are never radically transformed, regardless of who wins the Presidential elections. By contrast, in most presidentialist regimes a new head of government is more likely to initiate far-reaching changes with important consequences for large sectors of the population.

Insofar as a crisis atmosphere created by the winner-take-all character of Presidential elections prevails in most presidentialist systems, we can understand why it contributes so much to the instability of these regimes. By contrast, the relatively low stakes involved in the American Presidential sweepstakes contributes to the capacity of this system to survive.

* * *

Surrogates for the Head of State.

No doubt, a dampened role as elected head of government permits American Presidents to serve better as head of state. Nevertheless, because Presidents must still take sides in many controversies, their actions as head of government are necessarily more salient than their ceremonial role as head of state. To compensate for the inherent weakness of the President as head of state, impersonal symbols play an exceptionally important role in America, contributing to a sense of national unity or patriotism that the President, in person, cannot sustain.

Americans pledge allegiance to the flag (consider the recent outrage about flag burning and calls for a constitutional amendment to ban such protests), sing the national anthem, visit patriotic monuments and the Statue of Liberty: above all, they honor the constitution and take oaths to support it, even though they often know little about its real meaning. Thus the American “Constitution” is reified, a glamorized myth, more or less loosely based on the written charter. Eric Black tells us that “..the Constitution that binds us is the one we have in our heads. That mythic Constitution performs functions no 200-year-old parchment ever could. It functions as the bible of our national civic religion” (Black 1988, 173).

No doubt other presidentialist regimes also have some functionally equivalent symbols, though I cannot comment on their potency. However, I believe it would be rare to find a presidentialist Constitution that commands so much unquestioned patriotism as does the 200-year old American prototype. As the recent flurry of constitution drafting in ex-presidentialist countries reveals, there is a widespread willingness to question and reassess pre-existing constitutions, even though in every case the new version has been some form of presidentialist charter. In most presidentialist regimes, I suspect, the Constitution is viewed as a product of expediency, a more or less useful set of rules for the conduct of government, but far from a sacred symbol of national identity.

* * *

Presidential Powers.

Considerable variation exists among presidentialist regimes concerning the powers constitutionally assigned to the office, ranging from extensive authority, especially in emergencies, to carefully limited powers. May we assume that both extremes are dysfunctional, leading to imbalances in the executive/legislative relationships. The intermediate powers assigned to the American President are probably conducive to system survival, but this is not a question about which I feel able to say anything more concrete. Certainly, however, it deserves careful study.

It is also clear that historical and personal factors affect the vigor with which different Presidents exercise whatever powers they hold by constitutional fiat. Energetic leaders, during emergencies, such as war or depression, exercise more power than weaker persons in ordinary times. A weak President during a great crisis may be faulted for the collapse of a regime, but because of the low stakes discussed above, even a relatively ineffective American President is not likely to cause a breakdown of the system. Variations in Presidential leadership style and capabilities naturally interest historians–especially those who focus on one country in a non-comparativist mode–and may help explain a particular constitutional debacle. However, they have little bearing on the questions studied here.

One restriction, however, has important implications that need to be mentioned here: namely term limits that produce the lame duck phenomenon, a drastic reduction of Presidential powers during a final term in office. American presidents were not truly vulnerable to this phenomenon until 1951, when the twenty-second Constitutional amendment (to limit American Presidents to two terms in office) was adopted. Even now, during the President’s first term, the lame duck syndrome is avoided.

By contrast, in many if not most Latin American countries, Presidents are limited to one term. This restriction was often imposed as a democratic safeguard against serious abuses caused by incumbent presidents who used unconstitutional means to enable them to repeat their terms in office. However, such term limitations seriously hamper many presidents who find that, almost as soon as they have been sworn in, rival and defeated candidates begin to organize campaigns against them and to undermine their efforts to govern effectively. This is a good example of a democratic reform that undermines the viability of presidentialism. 

* * *

The Legislative-Executive Balance.

 All modern representative governments require the concurrent exercise of authority by a dynamic leader (or small group) and a restraining/ legitimizing representative body (9) The relationship between the two countervailing centers of political legitimacy are never easy to manage, but the parliamentary principle works more smoothly than the presidentialist one. When a cabinet can be ousted at any time by a parliamentary no-confidence vote, the leadership can act vigorously so long as it retains a majority, and yet it can be held strictly accountable. By contrast, a fixed term of office for the head of government sets up a built-in opposition (“separation of powers”) between President and Congress in every presidentialist regime. Presidents must often choose between abuse of their powers in order to accomplish much-needed policy objectives or a supine posture of doing only what Congress mandates.

The formula invented by the American founding fathers was designed to prevent the abuse of power by safeguarding the interests of minorities (especially propertied minorities). It has worked well to accomplish this goal, but it could not anticipate the growing need of modern governments to provide effective policy leadership and implementation over a wide range of extremely complex issues. Moreover, a formula that can, indeed, safeguard civil rights and human freedoms offers small comfort for democracy when it collapses in the face of problems it cannot solve, only to be replaced by dictatorships. Juan Linz, commenting on the dangers of imbalance in the legislative/executive relations of presidentialist regimes points out that presidentialism is based on “…dual democratic legitimacy: no democratic principle exists to resolve disputes between the executive and legislature about which of the two actually represents the will of the people” (1990, 63).

To illustrate this problem, consider the Argentine experience where, according to Guillermo Molinelli, executive/legislative relations have evolved in such a way as to enhance Presidential powers at the expense of Congress. One result has been the erosion of the authority of the regime and the “probable role of this low level [of authority] in a general loss of political legitimacy as a concurring factor for coups d’etat” (1988, 22). This long term trend has been reinforced by the norms promulgated by authoritarian rulers during Argentina’s six periods of “de facto” (military) rule, between 1930 and 1983. Each time, when democratic government was restored, these decisions might have been revoked by the new President, “but it seems unrealistic to expect such generous behavior: power is power is power.” Although Congress would have good reason to revoke new norms that typically curtailed legislative authority, any such law would be “…subject to Presidential veto, which can only be overridden with 2/3 of the votes in each chamber… It is a sort of Catch-22 situation” (1988, 31). (10)

* * *

The Party Line.

A critical element affecting the legislative/executive relationship in presidentialist regimes involves the role of political parties. In the American case, exceptionally, a centripetal open party system prevails, and the distribution of power within each of the main parties is responsive — see discussion under Electoral Foundations No doubt it has often happened, in America, that the President’s party also held a majority in Congress. Between 1796 and 1945 the same party dominated both the Presidency and Congress three-quarters of the time–the ratio fell to less than half since 1945 and less that one-third since 1968 (Robinson 1989, 43). Thus the phenomenon of divided government has been increasing in the U.S. while its opposite, party government, has declined. However, we must not exaggerate its importance. Having an undivided government by no means assures Presidents of Congressional support for their policies, though it surely helps. Our habit of comparing presidentialism with parliamentary systems leads us to assume that the solution involves party discipline and, somehow, finding a way to give Presidents a partisan majority in Congress.

In fact, however, American Presidents who lack a partisan majority in Congress–a continuing recent phenomenon–have, nevertheless, been able to secure legislative support for many of their main policies and, because of the veto power, they can abort laws that they seriously oppose. Consequently, despite continuous tension between President and Congress in the U.S., it has been possible to reach sufficient accord on fundamental issues for the two institutions to coexist. We need to learn why this has been possible–and how the main problems due to the separation of powers can be overcome.

The grave disadvantages for a President of fluid parties are well illustrated by the Brazilian situation where the extreme individualism or fluidity of Congressional voting puts every bill at risk and compels the President to bargain separately with every member in order to secure a winning package. “Brazilian catch-all parties,” writes Mainwaring, “make the U.S. parties appear to be the paragon of well disciplined, cohesive parties” (1989, 167). By contrast, however, in a few countries, e.g., Chile and Venezuela, discipline in its centered parties is exceptionally strong. When the President lacks a Congressional majority, as was typically the case in Chile before 1974 when Maj. Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power, the President also experienced grave difficulties in maintaining Congressional support.

These examples suggest that the legislative/executive relationship may be impaired by excesses of partisan discipline/indiscipline. Both the domination exercised by party leaders over the votes of their members in centered parties, and the complete absence of such control found in fluid parties are equally dysfunctional for presidentialism, whereas party domination over the votes of legislators is both necessary for, and produced by, the dynamics of parliamentarism. 

* * *

A Predictable Enigma. 

In the American case, exceptionally, an intermediate degree of partisan responsiveness grounds Congressional support of Presidential policies, while always making the outcome of Congressional votes indeterminate. Enough party discipline exists so that American Presidents can normally count on the support of a substantial number of members of their own party, and they also know that a significant proportion of opposition party members will predictably oppose their initiatives. Consequently, they can focus their energies on efforts to sway enough opposition party members to secure a majority–and also, of course, to dissuade those members of the government party most likely to defect. No doubt “responsiveness” is not a constant: at different times members of the U.S. Congress have been more or less responsive to their party’s leadership, but they have not, I believe, ever gone to the extremes of party domination or extreme fluidity.

American Presidents who are sufficiently determined and adroit can often influence enough of the wavering party members to create a voting majority. Moreover, the President can usually count on the support of at least a third of the members of Congress, thereby permitting his/her veto of a measure to be sustained. Knowledge of an imminent veto can also influence waverers to compromise with the President so that at least some of their legislative goals will be accomplished. This means that preliminary negotiations in which staff members and even the President personally take part play a fundamental, though behind-the-scenes role–in ameliorating clashes. These practices by no means assure legislative/executive congruence in the U.S. but they do permit some agreements to be reached and help to prevent the bitter stalemates so often found in other presidentialist regimes. For American Presidents, Congress is a “predictable enigma”: the available options present solvable puzzles.

To explain the responsiveness of American political parties we need to understand the Centripetal two-party system as discussed below. This appears to be truly exceptional among presidentialist regimes. Its significance is reinforced by the dynamics of a vast Congressional agenda. 

* * *

An Immense Congressional Agenda

The separation of powers scheme can only be effective if Congress can make its own decisions on a vast agenda. This seems to be an impossible task, especially when compared with the modest burdens imposed on a Parliament that needs only to accept or reject its Government’s bills. Despite the growing attacks on Congress that we now hear, I believe the American Congress handles its responsibilities exceptionally well–in large measure because of the effectiveness of its innumerable sub- committees–and this helps to explain its contribution to the viability of this presidentialist regime. I suspect, though I have no clear evidence, that the failures of other presidentialist regimes may be due in part to the inability of their Congresses to accept or process comparably large agendas. The American achievement, however, may be possible only because some important democratic values are sacrificed. We can evaluate them by examining the influence of senioritism, lobbyism, and bureaucratic functionism.

* * *

Senioritism.

According to the seniority rule, members of the majority party who have been on a committee for the longest time usually chair it. Moreover, in the absence of rules against re-election, incumbents are usually returned to office. These practices reinforce each other: members win the real rewards of office only after several terms, a consideration that motivates voters to return incumbents and incumbents to seek reelection, with the help of affluent contributors who tend, also, to support incumbents. I refer to both the seniority rule and the re-election of incumbents as senioritism.

Senioritism contributes to the power, prestige and subject-field expertise of long-term members of Congress. This enables them to build organizational networks and alliances while learning the complex rules and practices that govern legislative action. Seniority may also strengthen committee chairs because their leadership does not depend on popularity: where the members elect their chairs, they will presumably choose more congenial or less domineering personalities. Although seniority can, assuredly, produce ineffective and rigid leaders, it also favors capable and experienced persons, those most able to secure re-election and willing to provide strong leadership. Senioritism also enables legislators and committees to retain competent staffers whereas rapid turn-over of members, because of patronage, would reduce the professional expertise available to them.

In most presidentialist systems, by contrast, there is a widespread aversion to senioritism as essentially undemocratic. Committee chairs are often filled on a non-seniority basis, incumbency in Congress is limited by rules against reelection, and restrictions are placed on the length of time that members may chair or remain in a single committee. Such rules, which vary greatly between countries, are usually supported because they enhance the representativeness of elected assemblies by favoring citizen “amateurs,” impede the growth of a professional class of “elitist” politicians, and hamper the accumulation of power by old-timers and political insiders.

For evidence, consider the situation in Brazil where the rapid turn-over of legislators and lack of senioritism greatly limits the effectiveness of the Congress (Baaklini 1989, 17, 32). “For ambitious politicians, serving in the legislature is a means to an end–executive positions–rather than an end in itself” (Mainwaring 1990b, 23). Because executive branch positions–President, governors, mayors–offer much more power and prestige, ambitious politicians treat legislative seats as a short-term step in their careers, resulting in rapid rotation and a relatively low level of competence, both in policy areas and in knowing how to make a legislature work effectively.

The penalty for term limitations is that less experienced members of Congress will be more vulnerable, as “lame ducks,” to outside pressures, especially from special interest groups, local elites and, of course, public officials. Moreover, anti-senioritism rules mean that able and ambitious politicians are less likely to view legislative careers as an attractive vocation: at best they may think of it as a mere stepping stone to other more interesting political roles. In the contemporary American debate about this important issue, we hear much about the short-term advantages of term limitations for “democracy,” but the long-term implications of this important rule for the survival of presidentialism in America is never discussed. (11)

Instead, the frequent re-election of Congressional incumbents is deplored by American reformers who, quite rightly, regard it as a violation of democratic norms. However, from the point of view of system survival, the practice seems quite functional–it enables members to acquire relatively high levels of expertise, especially in the subject fields of the committees where they hold office for a long time, and their large bureaucratic and interest group networks substantially enhance the power of Congress in relation to the President. 

* * *

Lobbyism.

Lobbying includes the efforts of special interests to promote advantageous legislation in Congress–no doubt lobbying occurs in every democracy, parliamentary as well as presidentialist. In the U.S., lobbying is grounded in the institutionalization and legitimization of mutually advantageous long-term relationships between committee members in Congress and private organizations representing powerful constituencies. The agents of these constituencies enhance the informational, financial and political resources needed by their Congressional collaborators without, I think, thereby gaining the upper hand in this relationship. A term is needed for this broader framework, which I call lobbyism. Lobbyism benefits from senioritism and, reciprocally, senioritism is strengthened by lobbyism, but both need to be limited in appropriate ways. To control lobbyism presents issues as complex as those involved in the effort to restrict senioritism.

In some presidentialist regimes, lobbyism is strictly limited as an undemocratic practice that rewards the rich and better educated citizens at the expense of the masses. Unfortunately, I suspect, anti-lobbyist policies, especially if combined with term limitations, have unintended consequences. In place of legally registered and controlled lobbyists, inexperienced legislators are easily influenced and manipulated by outside private interests that include rich and prestigious families, large landowners, merchants, industrialists, and foreign corporations, working in a highly individualistic and invisible way. The bulk of the population lacks the resources needed to influence legislators and anti-lobbyist rules hamper their efforts to become mobilized in mass-based public interest organizations. As with party discipline, presidentialism requires a balance between too much and too little power in the hands of lobbyists.

* * *

Interest Networks.

The American pattern of recruitment and promotion for career officials normally places them, throughout their professional lives, in the service of a particular government program. This pattern, which I call functionism, differs from the normal practice in parliamentary systems where officials often rotate between different departments — note that functionism differs from functionalism. As a result of the interactive linkages between bureaucratic functionism, senioritism and lobbyism there has emerged in the United States a complex set of interest networks (“iron triangles,” “subgovernments”) which, in large measure, determine policy and its implementation in a host of specialized fields of public policy.

By yielding authority in these fields to its subcommittees, the American Congress is able to process a gigantic agenda, in close liaison with interested components of the federal bureaucracy and the constituencies most directly affected. Consequently, a vast “infrastructure” of public business has become so self-governing and autonomous that it maintains itself regardless of political party and policy changes at the highest Presidential and Congressional levels.

When combined with the power of federalism, capitalism and a vast non-profit “third sector,” interest networks offer most Americans enough of a stake in the status quo so that they are not easily stirred to support wide-spread protest or revolutionary movements–including movements to make any fundamental changes in the presidentialist constitution. In most presidentialist regimes, by contrast, political substructures like the “iron triangles” are weaker–not because of any specific opposition to them but because the fundamental practices that lead to them are discouraged as anti-democratic. Unfortunately, this means that vast populations have little reason to support the status quo.

* * *

Dispersal and Decentralization of Power.

Sad to say, however, the process of legislation by delegated authority, rooted in interest networks, carries heavy costs. It means that a few committee members (both in Congress and in state legislatures) allied with bureaucratic counterpart agencies and private constituency organizations can create mighty oligarchies. Public decision-making becomes so compartmentalized, as a result, that it replaces, for the most part, decisions by the whole Congress, to say nothing of “all the people.” The resulting dispersal of power (not only within Congress, but also in the bureaucracy) poses a tremendous challenge for Congressional and Presidential leadership: how to coordinate programs that often contradict and clash with each other. Much of the business of governing proceeds independently of the President’s preferences or the “will of the people” as a whole. (12) 

* * *

A Centripetal Open Party System.

Under the Dynamics of Centrifugalism I suggested that the prevalence of centrifugal party systems (whether two- or multi-party in structure) is dysfunctional for the survival of presidentialism. Although less common, a hegemonic (closed) party system, such as we find in Mexico, is equally dysfunctional. By contrast, perhaps alone among presidentialist regimes, the U.S. has an open centripetal party system. We need to understand the practices or forces that have created and maintained this system, and how it has contributed to the development of responsive parties, as discussed above under Predictable Enigma. I shall first discuss party-system centripetalism and then the problematics of an open party system.

* * *

The Maintenance of Centripetalism.

The clearest evidence of centripetalism in the U.S. can be found in the campaign strategies of its two major parties: each aims primarily to win the support of independent voters. To attract their votes, both parties adopt compromise platforms that are only marginally different from each other. This provokes the scorn of non-voters who believe they have little to gain from the victory of either party. A wide range of lower class, ethnic and minority constituencies do not vote, thinking they have little to gain from either party. For many of the poor and less educated, assuredly, the costs of voting outweigh the likely benefits. Most non-voters are bored by elections or view them with hostility as a no-win exercise, preferring to spend their spare time and effort on family, sports, religion, or entertainments that promise immediate rewards. (13)

Each of the two U.S. parties counts both on the abstention of non-voters and on the support of innumerable party regulars. It pays them, therefore, to target the independent voters: they do vote and whatever ideology they embrace (whether “conservative” or “liberal”) it generates ambivalence toward both of the major parties. What is “moderate” in the U.S. is typically “right of center” in parliamentary systems. The point is that they are not party regulars and can, therefore, be swayed to vote either way, or to split their votes.

The limitations of our vocabulary lead us to think of American political parties as “loose” or unstructured. Clearly they are not fluid in the sense of having an extremely localized and dispersed power structure, nor are they centered (centralized and concentrated) as are most parties in parliamentary regimes. Instead, I believe they are responsive (centralized/localized and concentrated/dispersed), and their members in Congress vote in a semi-disciplined way. This structure is often criticized by those who view centered and responsible parties as more “modern” and preferable. (14) However, the responsiveness of American parties and politicians also permits American Presidents and Congress to make bargains, organize strong committees, and find practical solutions to many of the crucial problems of presidentialism.

Two basic practices appear to be the main causes for the maintenance of centripetalism in the American party system: first, the SMD pluralist electoral system and second, the right of citizens to abstain from voting. I shall discuss them next, reserving the problematics of an open party system for later treatment.

* * *

SMD Plurality Voting.

Concerning American electoral systems, Leon Weaver reports that “The numbers of PR and SPR [semi-proportional representation] systems constitute a very small proportion when compared with the total number of electoral systems in the United States, most of which are of the SMD variety (all national, virtually all state, and many local legislative seats), or in the AL [at-large] category, which are found mostly at the local level” (1984, 195).

Many critics condemn this situation, arguing that PR is a requisite for genuine democracy. J. F. H. Wright, for example, claims that “The basic failure of any single-member-district system to provide for the representation of a large proportion of voters is sufficient to disqualify such systems for use in countries claiming to be democratic” (1984, 127). Similarly, George G. Hallett, Jr. states, for the American case, that “Millions of voters across the country are regularly left with ‘representatives’ whom they voted against because they were outvoted in the district where they resided. Though they are all sorts of people, they form together a major class of unrepresented citizens just as surely as if they had been denied ‘the free exercises of the franchise'” (1984, 114).

Even if we accept this argument, viewing SMD majoritarianism as anti-democratic, we might also consider that it is a price that has to be paid for the survival of presidentialism. Interestingly, Arend Lijphart, who argues in favor of parliamentary-PR systems as the most democratic and effective kind of voting system, now says that “…the Latin American model of presidentialism combined with PR legislative elections remains a particularly unattractive option” (Lijphart 199la, 77). (15) Charles Gillespie remarks: “…very little thought has been given to the implications of Latin American democracies’ peculiar combination of presidentialism with PR as the basis for legislative elections” (1989, 2). It is clear, nevertheless, that PR systems are widespread in Latin America, and they encourage the proliferation of centrifugal party systems.

By contrast, advocates of SMD plurality contend that it produces non-ideological and loose “people’s parties,” appealing to a wide range of voter interests. Ferdinand Hermens writes that “Such parties do have different tendencies within them, but if these tendencies are organized (which, as a rule, they are not), their influence is limited and the entire line-up is characterized by fluidity and flexibility. The upshot is pragmatism and practicality in government” (1984, 22). As Hermens has also pointed out, the essence of a two-party majoritarian system is not the absence of third parties or the possibility of winning by a mere plurality, but rather the likelihood that a single party will command a parliamentary (i.e., Congressional) majority, and will gain a majority mandate for the President (1990, 6). Consider that local, class, ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic interests that could easily, under PR rules, generate viable political parties, find in the American SMD context that their best hopes for political representation arise in the context of a major party since only one candidate can win in each district. To organize a “third” (small) party is virtually to ensure defeat.

Whatever its costs for representative democracy, the rejection of PR strikes me as crucial to the survival of presidentialism in the U.S.–and reliance on PR as fatal for its survival in Latin America. Moreover, I accept Hermens’ argument that SMD majoritarianism is not totally undemocratic: each of the major parties recognizes that, to enhance its electoral prospects, it must offer hospitality, intra-party representation and participation in electoral tickets to any significant minority willing to support its candidates–especially when this minority commands a local majority. The impetus to win an electoral majority also leads both American parties to accept minority group planks that, they believe, would enhance their chances of winning. No doubt, groups joining a major party must also pay a price, sacrificing part of their special interests in the hope of winning some influence through the victory of a loosely structured but responsive political party.

SMD voting accounts for some basic differences between the responsive U.S. political parties and the factionalized parties found in Uruguay: both are “two-party systems,” but they are very different. No doubt American parties are highly sectionalized and localized, lacking in discipline and sharply focused goals. They focus attention on candidates, their personalities and opinions, their weaknesses and strengths, at the expense of party or faction loyalties and ideological commitments. They produce “tendencies” rather than “factions”. (16) They are also isolative–as I shall show. Those who prefer the centered and integrated parties produced in parliamentary PR regimes will easily find fault with the American parties. However, those committed to the perpetuation of American presidentialism may see that SMD plurality voting generates a type of party system that promotes its survival.

* * *

The Right to Abstain.

By itself the electoral system is not enough to assure the development of responsive parties in a centripetal party system. In addition, the right to abstain is necessary. When the American constitution was adopted, state voting limitations were perpetuated. These typically required property qualifications that seriously restricted mass voting–and, of course, women could not vote and slaves were automatically excluded. Other kinds of restrictions can also impede the formation of new parties, thereby protecting the privileged position of the established parties. In the United States, recently, such “anti- democratic” restrictions have increased so much in states like Florida, California, Oklahoma, Maryland, North Carolina, and Massachusetts that it is almost impossible now for a third party to collect enough signatures, within the required time and cost limits, to put their candidates on the ballots (Harris 1990. 548-9). Over the years the right of all citizens to vote has been greatly expanded, but the duty to vote has never become institutionalized: indeed, the right not to vote, to abstain, has been viewed as a basic right. Quite unconsciously, this “right” may contribute significantly to the survival of presidentialism in America.

Many writers condemn the low turnout in U.S. elections as a very regrettable undemocratic phenomenon. Such an analysis is offered by Richard Pious who points to a 53.2% turnout in the U.S. in 1984 by contrast with from 72.6 to 91.4% in the European democracies (1986, 139- 40). Edward Greenberg offers comparable data and points to a continuing decline in voter turnout in the U.S.: e.g., from 65% to 54% in Presidential years, and from 47% to 37% in off- year congressional elections, between 1960 and 1978 (1980, 230). A similar assessment can be found in Rodgers and Harrington (1985, 129-134).

Unfortunately, none of these authors note the connection between these data and their constitutional significance. Wherever PR systems prevail, the interests of those who would not otherwise vote can be espoused by political parties or factions that can attract their support. According to the prevalent myth of democracy, universal suffrage is not only a right of all citizens, but its exercise provides the basis for legitimizing representative government. Unfortunately, however, the high turnout levels PR systems produce are system-destroying for presidentialism because they generate strongly centrifugal political pressures that make it increasingly difficult for a President and a Congress to reach agreements on important policies.

In some presidentialist regimes concern for non-voters has led to compulsory voting. Politicians striving to capture the support of the new voters produced thereby have unintentionally centrifugalized party systems that might previously have been centripetal with SMD voting rules. In Argentina, for example, compulsory voting was mandated in 1912, trebling the voter turnout in the next (and succeeding) elections. As a result, the Radical and Peronist parties, at different times, came to power, permanently displacing the conservative parties that had hitherto monopolized power. Carlos Nino reports that there was “…considerable political stability in Argentina prior to 1916 (from the enactment of the Constitution in 1853/60) and extreme instability afterwards. Obviously, those displaced by the results of massive voting sought other ways of acceding to power” (Nino 1988, 19).

In Brazil, “When popular participation was still quite limited, ideological consensus…was reasonably strong, making it possible to form moderately stable, informal coalitions. Between 1945 and 1964 [the year of a coup] there was an explosion of popular participation in politics, with a significant impact on the parties. Politics ceased being an elite game and elite consensus eroded, and along with it so did the facility of forming these broad coalitions” (Mainwaring 1990b, 12).

Chile’s vigorous and ideological multi-party presidentialist system, rooted in PR, has generated high voter turnouts and centrifugal pressures. In its 1970 election, this turnout (83.7%) gave Marxist candidate Salvador Allende a plurality of 36.3% (Lijphart 1989, 10). The tragic denouement was the breakdown of 1973 and the Pinochet military dictatorship. Two opposing coalition parties, Popular Unity and the Democratic Confederation, were formed during Chile’s 1973 congressional elections, but, as Arturo Valenzuela notes, “Rather than moderating the political spectrum, the two party configuration came to embody the ultimate in polarization [centrifugalization], a U-shaped curve with a total absence of any center force. …under such circumstances the moderate forces within each coalition are pressured heavily by the extremes, reducing further any centripetal tendencies in the political system” (1989, 31). Apparently, even a two-party system with a large voter turnout and PR voting rules becomes centrifugalized. (17)

Non-voting in the U.S., by contrast, supports the viability of a centripetal party system. If the focus of a centripetal party system has to be on securing the support of independent voters, then it follows that centripetalism requires the right to abstain–compulsory voting assures centrifugalism in the party system regardless of whether it has two or more than two parties. PR always generates centrifugalized party systems, and SMD by itself does not assure a centripetal party system: it needs to be coupled with the right to abstain. Even an SMD-based two-party system will, I believe, become centrifugalized when voting is made compulsory.

Low turnout, then, is neither a property of presidentialism nor of geographic exceptionalism (as comparisons of the U.S. with European parliamentary polities alone suggest). Rather, either PR or compulsory voting will produce centrifugalized party systems and high levels of voter participation–as they typically have in Latin America. By contrast, party system centripetalism (as in the U.S. deviant case) is associated with SMD voting, the right to abstain, and widespread voter apathy or alienation. Of course, this pattern is reinforced by circular causation: the inability of elected politicians to deliver on their campaign promises because of the inherent problems in presidentialism fortifies the tendency of many citizens to abstain from voting.

* * *

A Terrible Paradox.

These considerations generate a terrible paradox: the more “undemocratic” a presidentialist system (with low turnout), the more viable it will be! The more “democratic” a presidentialist regime (with high turnout), the more likely it is to be overthrown and replaced by authoritarianism. The only way to achieve high turnout levels and safeguard democracy will be to abandon the presidentialist “fixed term” formula and move toward executive accountability to the legislature, i.e., toward parliamentarism. A few pro- democracy rule changes unaccompanied by constitutional reform in the United States, –notably the introduction of PR in multi-member districts, compulsory voting, and the elimination of barriers that prevent third parties from placing candidates on the ballot–would soon centrifugalize the party system and prevent any President from securing a popular majority. This would throw the final choice of the President into the hands of Congress where a temporary coalition (Chilean style) would select the chief executive but deny him/her continuing support, thereby ensuring devastating stalemates between the President and Congress and enhancing the likelihood that a military group would seize power.

Unfortunately, even an SMD electoral system and the right to abstain, by themselves, cannot guarantee the maintenance of an open party system in a presidentialist regime. A comparison between multi-party and two-party systems indicates that the former are quite stable, even surviving periods of suppression under military dictatorships, but the latter are fragile and vulnerable to erosion. In particular, a two-party system easily slides into a hegemonic closed party system, although continuation of SMD election rules will keep it from becoming a centrifugal multi-party system. To explain the persistence of an open two-party system, therefore, we need to introduce some additional factors among which, I believe, the most important involve federalism and capitalism.

* * *

The Role of Federalism.

Even if we suppose that SMD pluralities and a low voting turnout assure centripetalism in an open party system, we cannot assume that, somehow, one party will not become overwhelmingly successful at the expense of the other, engendering a type of hegemonic party situation. It is quite conceivable that, in every district, the same party will win

and will be able, by various means, to prevent the opposition party from gaining power. Since each party acts in its own interests rather than that of the whole system of which it is a part, we cannot assume that idealism will lead a dominant party to help its rivals succeed.

Such a scenario can be found in some American states where a single dominant party has long held power at the expense of an impotent opposition party. e.g., in the long-standing Democratic domination of Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama–and Hawaii–and in the Republican control of New Hampshire and Vermont. (18) Because these state governments exist within the framework of the American federal system, their hegemonic parties cannot monopolize power but must share it with national and local authorities, often of a different party.

In a sovereign centralized state, however, the inability of an opposition party to win elections could well become a self-reinforcing vicious circle. The defeated party would have difficulty raising money or finding volunteers interested in jobs that are unlikely to materialize. Affluent contributors will support incumbents in preference to their opponents. Leaders of the opposition party naturally become discouraged and some, succumbing to the “bandwagon effect,” defect to the ruling party. Others, in frustration, abandon politics or try to form more dynamic “third” parties, covering a wide ideological spectrum, thereby dooming themselves to defeat so long as the SMD rule prevails. Only a unified opposition party can hope to defeat an entrenched hegemonic party under these rules.

One reason why, despite these inherent dynamisms, centripetal two-partyism persists in the U.S., involves the framework of American federalism. Consider the fact that because the governors of each state, its legislators, mayors and city councils all stand for election, there are many opportunities for a defeated national party to win local victories on the strength of local issues and personalities. This is only possible, of course, because of the “responsive” though not utterly localized structure of American parties.

In the two major American parties, local organizations nominate candidates and control their campaigns, including those for members of Congress. So long as each of these parties can dominate local politics in a substantial number of states, the members of Congress will represent both parties, and the majority in Congress will be independent of the ruling party in the White House, even when it has the same name. Moreover, inasmuch as having party competition in a legislature sustains that body’s power position, members of both parties in Congress may, perhaps, unite in support of measures that help them maintain the strength of the legislature and, consequently, their own power and prestige, simply by safeguarding the openness of the party system (Riggs 1973).

If the President’s party apparatus could control a permanent majority in Congress, the effectiveness of that body would collapse, as it has in other countries with hegemonic or single- party regimes. Although divided government unavoidably hampers the ability of a presidentialist regime to make and implement policy effectively, it also contributes to the maintenance of an open party system. Such a contribution may well be a necessity if democratic presidentialist government is to survive.

Remember that the national party is only a coalition of local parties designed to conduct presidential campaigns and has no authority over the conduct of the local parties. Because local party organizations in a centripetalized party system cannot have strong ideological commitments, but would love to place their own candidate in the White House, they will form a coalition with kindred party organizations in other states for the sole purpose of sponsoring a Presidential candidate. The continuing local power of party organizations affiliated with a defeated national party surely helps to explain the survival of an open party system in the U.S.

To say that federalism supports the maintenance of an open centripetal party system in the U.S. clearly is not to imply that federalism will always have this effect. Indeed, a centrifugalized multi-party system may well be weakened by federalism. If its parties are centered–as in Chile, for example–they would view federalism as a threat. To maintain centralized control in each party, a unitary state is functional.

In a multi-party system with fluid parties, we may expect federalism to aggravate the localization and dispersal of power so as to undermine the capacity of Congress to perform in any coherent way. In the Brazilian case, an unusual electoral system that combines PR with open lists that permit voters to choose among rivals in the same party (a kind of quasi-primary system) augments the weight of locally-sponsored political appointments in the state bureaucracy. Combined, these factors undermine all sense of party solidarity by favoring individualistic local clientelism (Mainwaring 1990a, 26, 28-9). (19) By holding its primaries before an election, the American national party organization, although weakened, can still generate a moderate sense of responsiveness, and not all of its local party organizations are victims of the primary system.

The Uruguayan system might be viewed as a refutation because, there, a two-party system has survived despite a centralized system of government. However, the unique form of PR used in Uruguay supports the formation of powerful intra-party factions that, in effect, operate much like the centered parties in a multi-party system.

My conclusion, therefore, is only that federalism enhances the prospects for survival of an open party system, provided SMD plurality voting and the freedom to abstain from voting combine to make it a centripetal system. Such a system, I now think, may be a sine qua non for the long-term survival of a presidentialist regime. 

* * *

The Business of Capitalism.

By itself, however, even the momentum of federalism might not be strong enough to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S. Additional reinforcement may be attributed to the requirements of campaign financing in the context of a dominant capitalist economic system. Wealthy and powerful individuals, corporations and associations recognize, I believe, the advantages they enjoy as a result of the open party system. By direct contributions and through “Political Action Committees,” they support individual candidates and campaign committees in both parties, enabling them to conduct costly primary and electoral campaigns. (20)

During the heyday of the spoils system, volunteers hoping for political appointments powered the American party system. Since expansion of the career system (see American Bureaucacy ), however, and the development of modern media campaigning, plus the burdens of extensive pre-electoral primaries, the costs of political campaigning have radically escalated. The result, of course, has been a vast expansion of the importance of corporations and wealthy contributors in the political process. The direct primary was introduced in order to bring the people into the process of candidate selection and to by-pass the inner circle nominating process formerly dominated by local party bosses at national conventions.

Its critics claim that primaries have actually weakened democracy in America. For example, Edward Greenberg writes, “With the coming of the direct primary, prospective candidates could bypass the party organization, thus weakening it as an important entry to politics. It soon became apparent that the people best able to conduct direct primary campaigns were those with ready access to money… and to a favorable press, persons who were rarely a threat to dominant groups” (1980, 222). Rodgers and Harrington also show how primaries have gravely weakened the political parties (1985, 325-328). Primaries have also enhanced the salience of the President’s personal preferences and political appointees, bringing them daily into the living rooms of most Americans. These effects have increased the influence of wealthy contributors who support political party activities. Not only do they enhance the electoral prospects of pro- capitalist candidates, but winners are reluctant to betray those who finance them by supporting social programs that appear to curtail the scope of a free market system.

Here, however, we have to raise a different question: how does this system affect the viability of American presidentialism, and more specifically, does it safeguard the survival of an open party system? To answer this question, do we not need to re-think the relations between bourgeois capitalism and the American system of government. They have usually been assessed in the context of theories which hold that property holders have contrived (plotted?) to design and maintain a regime that protects their interests. Little attention has been given, I believe, to a different hypothesis, namely that the maintenance of an open party system depends on capitalist support for candidates of both parties.

The survival of capitalism is, we may assume, a basic goal in all capitalist systems. Because of its own “contradictions,” to use a Marxist term, it is vulnerable to self-destructive tendencies currently manifested in the U.S. savings and loan crisis, junk bonds and insider trading, bankruptcies produced by monopolistic competition among giant firms, etc. To overcome such risks, capitalism requires regulation by a state that is not just its pawn. The point is that this is not an “either/or” situation–either socialism or rampant capitalism. There are many degrees of regulation and control over free market institutions, and some of them are, indeed, prerequisites for the survival of capitalism.

However, a state dominated by a hegemonic party can easily be seen as a threat to capitalism. Once securely in control of the state apparatus, the leaders of a dominant party are free to impose oppressive regulations that undermine private property and the market system. At least, property holders may reasonable fear such domination and feel helplessly threatened whenever an open party system is crushed.

Without further discussion of this admittedly controversial hypothesis, we may use it to ground a corollary, namely that shrewd capitalists will use their resources to perpetuate an open party regime within which they may feel their prospects for enhancing their more specific interests are also enhanced. To accomplish this goal, they will want to see both parties succeed and the collapse of either party will be viewed as a threat. They understand that their interests lie with the system rather than with either political party. By supporting candidates in both parties whose views support capitalism, even though tinged with enough commitment to social justice to ameliorate the most flagrant causes of unrest, contributors help to maintain the system. So long as the party system remains centripetal, politicians know that they need not commit themselves to policies that will mobilize a mass electorate. Plenty of issues remain to attract the attention of independent habitual voters and to swing the election to one side or the other. I have to admit that this argument is speculative, but it seems reasonable enough to deserve study.

Moreover, it can be tested by the comparative study of party systems in other presidentialist countries. These dynamics do not apply in parliamentary systems, however. In them mass- based popular parties have a good chance of winning power because of the PR electoral system and the dynamics of cabinet government. The commitment of their members also greatly reduces the dependence of parliamentary parties on generous financial support. Consequently, it is much easier for social democratic or labor parties to gain power and they can regulate capitalism quite strictly while ensuring its survival.

In most presidentialist regimes, however, capitalist interests are much weaker than they are in the United States, and they are also vulnerable to external pressures. They may not understand how an open centripetal party system would help them, nor how it could be created. Moreover, if PR electoral systems and compulsory voting have already been established, they may feel helpless to promote the general interest and compelled to concentrate on their own short-term personal problems. In the context of an established multi-party system, they will tend to sponsor a party committed to their specific interests, as will their various class and ethnic opponents. The option of supporting coalitional catch-all parties such as those produced by a centripetal two-party system is simply not available to them.

To conclude, it seems to me that capitalism–in conjunction with federalism–helps to perpetuate an open party system in the U.S., even though it could not create such a system. This effect occurs only because the party system is centripetal, a fact that may be attributed to the prevalence of SMD plurality voting and the right to abstain. Finally, it is the responsiveness (not the discipline) of party members that enables Presidents to bargain with and reach accommodation with Congress, even when confronted with an opposition party majority. Such accommodations are no doubt easier to reach when the President’s party has a majority in Congress–but the lack of party discipline means that even then such agreements are not guaranteed. This is fortunate for the survival of American presidentialism because it sustains the independent power of Congress, and probably also helps perpetuate the openness of the party system. 

* * *

American Bureaucracy

An ubiquitous patronage system and poly-normativism are inescapable consequences of the separation of powers (see Bureaucratic Dilemmas They hamper public administration and promote corruption in such a way as to undermine support for any regime, providing a basis for all kinds of popular complaints, military coups, and protest or revolutionary movements. Although we habitually take public administration for granted as a non-political function of government, clearly the effective administration of public policies is a sine qua non for the success of any political regime and bad administration can lead to the overthrow of representative government, especially when bureaucrats themselves feel threatened by the status quo and, under the leadership of military officers, take measures to discharge elected officials and appropriate their functions. The reasons why the risk of such a catastrophe are significantly greater under presidentialism than they are in other types of constitutional system are also discussed in Bureaucratic Dilemmas. 

* * *

A Unique Experience.

To explain the deviant American case–why it alone has never experienced the type of breakdown that other presidentialist regimes have suffered–we need to pay attention to the structure and role of bureaucracy in the United States. The topic is so important and complex that it deserves separate treatment and I have, therefore, written another paper that explores the subject in some detail (Riggs 1993b). An earlier discussion of related problems can be found in Riggs (1988a). Here I shall only summarize the argument.

Two decisive reforms ameliorated the effects of patronage and poly-normativism and limited their negative impact in the U.S.–though, of course, they never eliminated them. These involved the establishment of large-scale non-partisan merit-based career services rooted in the principle of functionism. The reforms that led to this development have deep historic roots that need to be understood: they involved the development of a spoils system based on the principle of rotation in office–as I shall explain below.

However, other factors also need to be taken into account. Admittedly, the relative efficacy of the political superstructure (President, Congress, Courts, and Party System) meant that the temptation for public officials (especially military officers) to seize power was probably never as great in the U.S. as it has been in many other presidentialist regimes. Some commentators argue that the indoctrination of American military officers to accept civilian rule may be the most important variable. I accept this argument as part of the explanation. Perhaps, historically, it can be attributed to the small and intermittent character of the armed forces during the early days of the Republic, and the relative importance of state militias by contrast with small and weak Federal forces. By the time national forces had become permanently institutionalized, their political subordination had become well established and culturally reinforced. Even so, as Dwight Eisenhower warned, the “military-industrial complex” has become an extremely powerful actor in American politics and, despite lip-service to civilian rule, I suspect that in a time of major political crisis it would be as able and willing to seize power as any other military establishment.

Another important factor is the federalist configuration of the American government: more officials serve in state and local government than in the federal government. Consequently, no unified “national” bureaucracy has ever existed and the kind of coordinated action among dissidents that is possible in unitary polities would not be possible in the U.S. Moreover, insofar as the “winner-take-all” game applies also to U.S. presidentialism, its effects are greatly ameliorated by the distribution of patronage powers among a great many jurisdictions: the President controls only a small part of the total pie to be divided among the winners of political power.

Moreover, a powerful capitalist market system and innumerable private associations in the U.S. offer many job opportunities that, for most people, are highly prized and often more attractive than public office. By contrast, in most presidentialist systems the demand for government jobs is disproportionately large because of the relative weakness of the private sector. This point affects all third world countries, regardless of the degree to which they have market economies. It may well be one of the environmental variables that most powerfully affects the survival of American presidentialism. Indeed, it may now also be true that the President’s need to appoint officials who are not only loyal but also well qualified has changed the dynamics of political patronage. Although the supply of applicants is undiminished, those who are most wanted are often reluctant to serve. Accordingly the stakes in the Presidential winner-take-all game are reduced.

Because of its strong capitalist (free enterprise) influence (see Business of Capitalism ) the U.S. offers fewer social benefits–health, social security, welfare–than other democracies (mainly parliamentary) that have universalized such services. This relatively “undemocratic” feature of the U.S. system greatly reduces the number of government positions. Moreover, the tendency to “privatize” many operations that elsewhere would be handled by government agencies curtails the number of officials in the state bureaucracy. By contrast, I believe most presidentialist regimes employ a larger percentage of the population as bureaucrats, thereby increasing the opportunities for patronage (and for resulting corruption and mismanagement of these functions).

Perhaps above all the successful introduction of non-partisan merit-based careerism has radically reduced the pressure for making a large number of patronage appointments. Americans now take this development for granted, but comparative analysis shows how truly exceptional it is for presidentialist systems. How can we explain this exception?

* * *

Non-partisan Merit-based Careerism.

Different kinds of careerism are well established in most presidentialist regimes, but they are typically partisan and based on favoritism. Indeed, this was the way the American public service started: according to Leonard White, “The Federalists took for granted permanence of tenure and were sensitive to the claims of officeholders except where they proved untrustworthy.” By the end of the 1790’s, “…the rule of continuing tenure had become established.” (White 1948, 514, 180).

Despite the important political changes that occurred at the century’s end when Jeffersonian Republicans succeeded the Federalists, public administration remained under the control of “gentlemen,” to whom, Thomas Jefferson wrote, he “would wish to give office, because they would add respect and strength to the administration” (White 1951, 550). In fact, without any contracts or examinations, a conservative upper class of retainers (see Tenacity of Retainers ) dominated the public administration for 40 years, from 1789 to 1829.

The rotation system in America was established during the Jacksonian period when, as White explains, President Andrew Jackson (1829-37) “did not introduce the spoils system,” but he did “introduce rotation into the federal system…” (1954, 4-5). Although we normally associate the Jacksonian era with the rise of the “spoils” system, the introduction of rotation was historically more critical. It opened the doors of public office to ordinary people (not just “gentlemen”) and it also enabled succeeding Presidents to discharge many (though not all) officials in large numbers. Thereby, it not only created vacancies to be filled by patronage but it also dampened the natural growth that occurred in other patronage-based retainer bureaucracies. In such bureaucracies, as top officials retain their salaries while being downgraded and replaced (siberianized), the costs of government rise and the quality of public administration declines.

The rotation principle made government more “popular” in the sense that, by opening the doors of public office to those of humble background, it made bureaucracy more “representative.” At the same time, public administration became more formal as, increasingly, rules and regulations replaced the idiosyncratic habits and traditions that had been established by the long-term gentlemen retainers of the first forty years (Crenson 1975, l3l-39).

If we assume that the tendency of public officials to cling tenaciously to their posts and their perquisites is even stronger than the zest with which applicants seek new appointments, we may understand how persistently the retainer tradition has maintained itself in most other presidentialist regimes. In a comparative perspective, the Jacksonian achievement was truly remarkable and paved the way for a new type of merit-based nonpartisan careerism that was to emerge fifty years later.

Had the patronage-based retainer bureaucracy established by the founders been permitted to continue, it would assuredly have become an incubus on the body politic, encouraging corruption and oppression while encumbering the public administration. A good example can be found in Brazil where, according to Scott Mainwaring, “The political class has been acutely aware of the overshadowing of the legislature by the bureaucracy and has responded by expanding their influence within the bureaucracy… [with] deleterious consequences upon the efficacy of the state apparatus” (1990a 20).

In the American case, by contrast, Jacksonian rotationism and spoils generated a new set of problems and opportunities that paved the way for the successful movement to establish the merit-based career services. First, the spoils system, by itself, created so much abuse of office and incompetence in administration that it spawned a growingly powerful middle-class reform movement that, ultimately, succeeded in launching a new kind of nonpartisan and merit-based careerism–for details see Van Riper (1958, 60-95) and Hoogenboom (1961).

Although the spoils system generated powerful incentives for reform, it also created opportunities that have been little noticed. Any well-entrenched class of retainers in public office is experienced enough to administer better than inexperienced spoilsmen. At the same time, they clearly have good reason to resist the introduction of a merit-based system that might bring bet ter qualified new-comers into office and, eventually, undermine their own security. By contrast, a host of American ex-spoilsmen, having some experience in public office, may have joined forces with reformers in the expectation that they could qualify themselves for re-employment on a permanent career basis. After the merit system was introduced, many patronage appointees were actually “blanketed” into the career services: facing discharge because of continuing rotationism, they may have supported the extension of the career-based reforms.

Finally, it must be emphasized that the new careerists were emphatically nonpartisan. It was clearly in their interest, in order to avoid being rotated out of office when a new party came to power, to emphasize their own nonpartisanship. The myth of a dichotomy between “politics” and “administration” served as a powerful argument to support the reforms and, thereby, helped to preserve the American constitution. At the time, politics clearly meant partisanship. As “politics” came to be used for a much broader concept that includes non-partisan policy- oriented and organizational competition (in the Lasswellian sense), it informed a growing disjunction in the study of government that separated the academic disciplines of Political Science and Public Administration, with adverse consequences for both.

The success of the reform movement was also affected, I believe, by the subsequent emergence of “lobbyism” as a powerful force in American politics (see Lobbyism). In many countries, parliamentary as well as presidentialist, political parties have closely associated themselves with religious and social movements–thus one party may bring together conservative Catholic farmers and another radical Protestant workers, and a third liberal anti-clerical intellectuals. Many professional, class, religious, and policy-oriented movements become identified with a single integrative political party, one whose “ideology” includes a variety of explicit policy commitments.

By contrast, the isolative American political parties reduced their linkages with a wide range of interest groups and embraced bland essentially non-ideological party platforms. The rhetoric of bureaucratic politics has been shaped by this difference: transient appointees are oriented to party politics and hence “partisan,” whereas careerists are associated with policy politics and interest group lobbies on a “non-partisan” basis. In countries where integrative parties prevail, such a dichotomy is scarcely viable: bureaucrats necessarily link party loyalties with interest group policies. The American solution required, however, not only a disjunction between political appointees and careerists, but also a separation of career-ladders on a programmatic or policy-oriented basis, that may be discussed under the heading of functionism. 

* * *

The Significance of Functionism.

The success of the merit system in the U.S. may well hinge on its adoption of the principle of functionism, whereby candidates are admitted to a program-oriented career service (based on functionally specific examinations) that produces a host of functionaries (rather than mandarins). An important obstacle to the formal adoption of a career system in America involved resistance to the British model of the Administrative Class that produces a powerful “mandarinate” of generalists who rotate between different government departments. Paul Van Riper explains that the American functionist adaptation was due to the rejection of youthful recruitment (by permitting entrance at all levels) and academic criteria (in favor of practical tests) (1958, 100-1). He also tells us that the Congressional debate thoroughly explored “the likely effects of the proposed legislation upon the constitutional position of the President and Congress, upon the party system…” but it appears that the main issue involved the constitutionality of Congressional action to restrict the President’s power of appointment, in view of his unrestricted removal powers (1984, 97). More practically, Congress insisted on a quota system that would assure recruitment of personnel from all the states, a safeguard against its loss of patronage, but also a barrier to the rise of an elitist bureaucracy recruited from the most prestigious universities–the American counterparts to Oxbridge.

Perhaps unconsciously–though I have no positive evidence–members of Congress might have sensed that careerists, rooted in functionism, would be more responsive to legislative committees and more dependable as political allies than an elite core of bureaucratic generalists (mandarins) shaped according to the typical parliamentary mode (Riggs 1988a, 363- 5, and 376, note 40). In fact, this adaptation of the British model has surely fostered the survival of American presidentialism. Had the British system (itself derived from the Chinese Confucian prototype, via the Indian Civil Service) prevailed, an elite class of career generalists would have become so powerful that it could, I believe, have unbalanced the separation of powers principle, first by undermining the power position of the Presidency, and ultimately by subordinating the Congress itself. As it turned out, career functionaries became closely attached to Congressional committees and their programmatic goals. Through evolving interest networks, career bureaucrats became ambivalently interdependent with members of Congress and thereby augmented the power of the legislative branch. (22)

Some reformers apparently hoped, eventually, to replace all patronage appointees by merit- based careerists. Their efforts were reinforced by the teachings of the newly-emergent academic field or discipline of Public Administration that, borrowing from business management theory, tended to see the President as a kind of chief executive officer (CEO) of a gigantic corporation in which norms of efficiency and effectiveness prevail over political and legal norms. Had their efforts succeeded, however, the independence of the Presidency would surely have given way to the growing power of an “Imperial Congress.” Some alarmists think this has already happened, as Charles Kesler explains: “…the principal beneficiary of the growth of the executive bureaucracy has been Congress, not the president…” (1988, 23).

Confirming the image of American bureaucrats continuously caught in a cross-fire between the three branches of government that David Rosenbloom (1983) has given us, John Rohr writes that “…American Public Administration… is necessarily and appropriately caught in the perennial cross fire involving a Congress, a president, and courts–all fiercely independent of one another” (1986, 89). However, in Rohr’s view, career officers should “…become active participants rather than feckless pawns in the constitutional struggle for control of the Public Administration.” By deciding for themselves which “…branch to favor and for how long…” they could preserve “…a certain autonomy within the framework of the Constitution and would thereby capture the professionalism that was at the heart of the reforms [Woodrow] Wilson and [Frank J.] Goodnow had in mind” (loc. cit). In short, “The Public Administration” has a responsibility to help “Run the Constitution” and, thereby to preserve the balance of power between its constitutional branches that undergirds the American presidentialist regime.

If only careerists were employed in the Federal Government, however, I suspect they would dangerously unbalance the separation of powers. To maintain the balance it is necessary to retain the President’s patronage powers, although it was not until the Presidencies of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt that those powers became well entrenched in the continuously expanding apparatus of the White House and the Office of the President. These powers have proven increasingly effective both in helping the President to influence the outcome of Congressional votes and also (hopefully) to coordinate the mutually competitive, not to say antagonistic, branches of the functionist career bureaucracy. Although the balance between (non-partisan) careerists and (partisan) transients in the federal bureaucracy remains, at best, conflicted and hazy, it has to be coped with as one of the costs of survival of a presidentialist regime (Durant 1990).

The manifest purpose of the merit system reform was administrative rather than political: it provided a growing body of experienced officials whose institutional memory and personal competence enabled them to implement public policies with some consistency and efficiency despite changes in the Presidency. However, these improved administrative capabilities had important political consequences that strengthened both the Congress and the Presidency. Through the creation of stable interest networks (“iron triangles” or “subgovernments”), the State bureaucracy directly enhanced Congressional power.

Moreover, since authorized public policies could, as a result, be implemented with minimal intervention from the White House, the President’s work-load was greatly reduced (Riggs 1988a, 363-5), and Presidents could also become more selective in choosing their patronage appointees, singling out those who could really help them achieve their major political goals (Newland 1987). Simultaneously, they could claim credit for the continuous implementation of a vast array of public programs that were uninterruptedly administered by experienced career officials whose work required no direct intervention by the President. Concurrently, better public administration reduces popular discontent and also helps the regime survive.

Paradoxically, the American Presidency, as a result of these changes, has become both more institutionalized and more personalistic. The stability of interest networks involving career officials, members of Congress and professional lobbyists has institutionalized governance in the U.S. to such an extent that it proceeds “autonomously” regardless of who occupies the White House. However, the growing importance of television, the primaries, and the resultant loosening of party organization throws a spotlight on the personalities of the President and key political appointees, giving each administration an idiosyncratic flavor that sets it apart from its predecessors and challenges American political historians and journalists to focus public attention on every eccentricity in the kaleidoscopic White House scene. Confusingly, it occurs to me that this public theater, by distracting attention from more basic problems, may also contribute to the survival of this complicated and precarious political system.

I cannot prove that the absence of nonpartisan, merit-based functionist bureaucracies or the ubiquity of patronage (cronyism, spoils, clientelism) in other presidentialist regimes has contributed to their collapse, but I believe it is an important possibility that deserves careful study. Put differently, I think the presence of nonpartisan merit-based and functionist careerists in the American government has contributed significantly to its survival in the twentieth century at a time when the challenges facing all contemporary governments have escalated. 

* * *

THE OUTLOOK FOR PRESIDENTIALISM

A comprehensive explanation of the survival of presidentialism in the U.S. should, admittedly, include an assessment of the environmental conditions that have favored it. These might include the Common Law system, inherited from Britain, that may have helped the Courts exercise their powers of judicial review and maintain the system of federalism. The Puritan tradition in church organization may have paved the way for widespread acceptance of collegial decision-making through elected assemblies. The historical sequences that permitted the thorough institutionalization of representative institutions prior to the development of a modern administrative state were surely important. The availability of jobs in the private sector facilitated the establishment of the rotation principle in the public bureaucracy and the existence of a vast frontier that could easily be seized from its indigenous inhabitants provided opportunities that alleviated socio-political pressures.

Many other environmental conditions could be mentioned–their significance for comparative analysis would require that we evaluate the effects of their presence or absence in other presidentialist systems of government. I cannot do that here. Moreover, insofar as there may be some interest in discovering the conditions that might enable other presidentialist regimes to survive after their recovery from bouts of authoritarian dictatorship, it is surely relevant to focus on practices rooted in constitutional prescriptions and laws that can be adopted by political choice–after all, environmental conditions based on culture, geography, history, and socio- economic circumstances are more difficult to manipulate and defy transfer from one country to another.

* * *

Comparing Presidentialist Regimes

The structural dynamics of presidentialism as a whole system of government, moreover, seems to have received precious little attention. Only by comparing the operations and fate of different presidentialist regimes–including those that broke down as well as those that persisted for varying lengths of time–can we gain an understanding of the inherent problems of this system and how they mighty be solved. This essay highlights some of the dangers inherent in the presidentialist design, and points to some of the practices that have helped the system survive in the United States, including federalism, SMD plurality voting, the right to abstain, senioritism, lobbyism, rotationism, functionist careerism, and capitalism.

The strength of these practices (traditions) should not be taken for granted. Many them have been attacked as “undemocratic” by reformers. Because we have not studied presidentialism comparatively we were unable to see how some proposed reforms (e.g., proportional representation) might undermine the viability of representative government in the U.S.

In this context, widespread support for the fundamental reforms required to overcome the essential constraints of the presidentialist formula will not arise until the country has experienced deeper crises than any so far encountered. Moreover, the Constitutional myth based on the separation of powers principle is itself so necessary as a supplement (if not replacement) for the compromised role of the President as head of state that we cannot seriously challenge it without undermining the viability of the regime and gaining a sinister reputation for ourselves.

The Committee on the Constitutional System (see A Procedure) has struggled heroically to mobilize interest in fundamental reform and has no doubt provoked some academic interest (see Hardin 1974 and 1989, Sundquist 1986, and Robinson 1985 and 1989). Unfortunately, however, the comparisons made by Committee members usually involve only parliamentary systems–the index to Robinson (1989), for example, lists about 15 parliamentary democracies with which some comparisons are made, but the only presidentialist polities mentioned are Nicaragua and El Salvador, where the text only takes up U.S. foreign policy issues. Until specific comparisons are made with other presidentialist regimes, I believe we cannot really understand the deeper problems inherent in the presidentialist design. Such an understanding, moreover, will enable us to attract the interest of a large constituency composed of many kinds of frustrated reformers who will discover that, until the regime itself is transformed, they will continue to be frustrated for reasons they cannot understand.

It is surely important and feasible for us now to engage in a serious analysis of the political/ administrative implications of presidentialism, and to re-evaluate the American experience in a comparative framework that takes into account the ordeals suffered by other countries following the American model. Such an analysis will help us understand the plight of other presidentialist regimes, why presidentialism has survived in the U.S., and what other countries must do if they want their presidentialist constitutions to succeed. We will also, I hope, become very wary about recommending presidentialist constitutions to any of the new republics that are now emerging from long periods of single-party domination.

* * *

Para-Constitutional Practices.

Elsewhere I have characterized the fundamental traditions, rules and practices that seem to help maintain the American presidentialist system, despite its great inherent problems, as para-constitutional (Riggs 1988c). These would include rules that favor the reelection of members of Congress, reward seniority in committee assignments and delegate great power to their subcommittees, recognize lobbies that represent affluent and well organized constituencies while permitting them to subsidize the re-election of incumbents. They must tolerate the frequent rotation in office of political appointees who have to work in antagonistic cooperation with career officials, and they embrace the formation of stable interest networks, including the notorious “iron triangles.” They must put up with an electoral system based on federalism, special interest funding, the right to abstain, and SMD plurality voting.

No doubt, even compliance with all these para-constitutional practices might not assure the survival of a presidentialist regime–especially if environmental conditions were not also auspicious. Of course, the lack of any one or more of these practices may not, by itself, precipitate the collapse of a presidentialist regime–it is their cumulative effect that is important. However, I believe that each of them does contribute significantly to the survival of such a regime and its absence acts like a handicap that, cumulatively, jeopardizes its continued existence.

I do not have systematic data on all presidentialist regimes, but my impression is that most of them abhor many of these practices and, in fact, have adopted more “democratic” rules that, tragically, have the paradoxical effect of undermining any presidentialist regime and leading to military, personalist or hegemonic-party authoritarianism. Any constitution-makers who are unwilling to pay the price needed to enhance the prospects for survival of presidentialist governance ought to consider seriously the alternative designs that are based on executive accountability to an elected assembly. Whenever the head of government can be succeeded, in a crisis, by a responsible political opposition rather than a military junta or a personal dictator, the prospects for the survival of representative government will, I believe, be enhanced and the viability of various democratic practices and public policies will also be increased. 

* * * *

NOTES

1. Between 1946 and 1984 Bolivia had experienced 12 coups, Argentina 8, Ecuador 7, Brazil, Venezuela and South Vietnam 6, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Peru 5, Panama 4, Dominican Republic 3, Colombia and South Korea 2, Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Uruguay 1. The Philippines fell under presidential authoritarianism in 1972. Although Costa Rica and Mexico did not experience coups during this period, Mexico, after a stormy political history, came under the domination of a hegemonic party, the PRI; and Costa Rica experienced uprisings in 1917 and 1948, but since promulgation of the Constitution of 1949 has had the most stable presidentialist regime, after the United States. All but forgotten are the abortive Chinese (1913) and Philippine (1898, Malolos) republics and the unfortunate Liberian case. Most of the surviving parliamentary regimes are mini-states, but they also include gargantuan India, plus Jamaica, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago. Fiji had not experienced a coup before 1984, but succumbed to one in 1987. These data are unavoidably rough because complex historical events defy simple coding.

2. By contrast, Giovanni Sartori suggests that a polity should be defined as presidential only if 1) the head of state is popularly elected, ii) during his preestablished tenure cannot be displaced or removed by a parliamentary vote, and iii) is both head of government and head of state (Sartori 1990, 1). The first criterion conflates presidentialist with parliamentary systems, many of which have elected heads of state (presidents), and they may be elected indirectly (see note (4)). My single criterion covers the essential points in all three of Sartori’s stipulations while excluding those that are not necessary.

3. Additional distinctions are made here: I shall refer to the elected assembly in any presidentialist system as a Congress and in a parliamentary system as a Parliament, while using legislature as a generic term for both. Since presidential often refers to the office of a President as well as a system of governance, I shall use either Presidential (capitalized) or President’s to characterize properties of the office in presidentialist systems only.

4. The approach used here distinguishes between the defining, accidental and redundant characteristics of a concept. A defining (essential) characteristic is one that is always found in members of a defined class. When only some members of that class have a characteristic, it is called accidental (accompanying) and if non-members also have it, it is redundant (superfluous).

These distinctions are often ignored in definitions of presidential systems. For example, since some Presidents may be re-elected but others may not, this is an accidental property. Similarly, the head of government is normally just one person, but a small group (board or commission) may also exercise Presidential functions, as happened in Uruguay from 1917-33 and 1951-67. Consequently, to specify that the President is one person is to identify an accidental rather than a defining characteristic of presidentialism–though most Presidents, assuredly, are individuals. All Presidents, as heads of government, serve concurrently as heads of state. However, since presidents are also elected in such parliamentary regimes as Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, India, and Ireland, it is redundant to define Presidents as elected heads of state.

Although Presidents are usually elected by a direct popular vote, this is not true by definition. The American Constitution provides for the indirect election of Presidents by an Electoral College–a rule that is still formally observed. The final choice may actually be made in Congress, as it has been in Bolivia and Chile and even in the U. S. where the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to choose the President when no candidate secures a majority in the Electoral College. Exceptionally, this happened in 1801 when the House chose Jefferson over Burr to break an Electoral College tie, and in 1824 when it selected Adams, although Jackson had a plurality. Since most Presidents are, indeed, popularly elected, this is an important accidental, but not a defining, feature. Moreover, since presidents are also directly elected in some non-presidentialist (parliamentary) regimes–e.g., Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Finland–the direct election of the President is also a redundant characteristic in any definition of presidentialism.

5. Sartori’s scale recognizes semi-presidential and semi-parliamentary forms of government that intervene between the pure presidentialist (primus solus) and the pure parliamentary (primus inter pares) models. His preference is clearly for the two “semi-” types: semi- presidential illustrated by France and Finland, and semi-parliamentary illustrated by Great Britain and West Germany (1989, 6). I shall not discuss the parliamentary alternatives in this paper, but we could usefully examine the experiences of several Latin American countries that have experimented with semi-presidentialist features. Some proposed fundamental reforms of the American constitution also go in the direction of semi-presidentialism rather than full parliamentarism.

6. The dangers of “polarized pluralism” have been lucidly explained by Sartori (1976, 131-145). However, his treatment focuses on parliamentary multi-party systems (except for Chile) and he draws a basic line between “moderate” and “polarized” pluralism, using five or six parties as the dividing line. My analysis supplements his by emphasizing the parliamentary/presidentialist context and by arguing that even a two-party system can be highly polarized (centrifugal) by PR- based factionalism, as in Uruguay and Colombia.

7. Because much if not most of the income of traditional officials was secured from extra- governmental sources, bureaucrats lacked the incentives found in modern polities for seizing power and we find no examples of a real coup d’etat in these societies, with the possible exception of the Mamlukes in Egypt (Riggs 1991, 7-8).

8. The historical reasons for this phenomenon are elaborated in Riggs (1991 and 1993a). Most importantly, the new states have inherited well entrenched modern bureaucracies whereas the institutions of representative government required to control them were established, usually, only as independence approached. Not surprisingly, when and if these new-born institutions failed to handle serious problems, especially those involving public finance, threatened officials were willing to support a coup that promised to stabilize their own incomes.

9. No elected assembly can, by itself, govern effectively–it always falls into disarray and deep cleavages. According to Douglas Verney, “Convention government, the domination of a political system by the Assembly, has generally been unsuccessful” (1959, 57). Until the development of both the presidentialist and parliamentary models in the 19th century, political theorists tended to think that the only option for governing a society involved a choice between the rule of one (as in monarchy) or the rule of an assembly (as in classical Greek democracy). Monarchic absolutism remains as a political fossil in a dozen or so countries (mainly in the oil-rich Arabian peninsula) but convention government has been severely discredited ever since the disaster of the French Convention of 1792-5.

10. What determines the capacity of a legislature to sustain its power position in the face of Presidential pressures is a complex and important problem that I shall not address here. However, in an earlier essay, I offered some reflections on the need for party competition as a basis for legislative power, pointing out that legislatures in countries with a single-party or hegemonic party system are reduced to political powerlessness (Riggs 1973).

11. A strong political campaign is now under way in the United States to restrict senioritism by setting limits to the time legislators may remain in office. This campaign appears to be partly motivated by the hope of Republicans that, thereby, they might regain “parity in Congress and in most of the legislatures of America” (Cannon, 1990). California has recently adopted, by referendum, a rule that limits members of its state Assembly to six years in office. Since some 96% of its members who sought reelection during the last decade were returned to office, this will force a mass turn-over by 1996. Meanwhile, many state legislators, “…concerned about their political and economic futures [will] seek other offices or leave government altogether” (Cannon 1990). By contrast, the state of Washington, in November 1991, rejected a proposition that would also have set term limits–mainly because of a desire to retain their own long-term member of Congress, Speaker Tom Foley.

12. This situation has generated an interesting academic debate–the classical preference of American political theory for democratic values rooted in liberal notions of the importance of majority rule has been largely replaced by theories rooted in pluralism, the idea that it is in the general interest to permit many special interests to compete freely for their share of the public patrimony, the sum of these claims adding up, supposedly, to the general interest. As Trudi Miller has noted, the prevalence of a pluralist orientation among American intellectuals welcomes special interest politics as desirable. She calls for a revival of 18th century liberal theory in a modernized form. Such a theory, rooted in the notions of individualism, rationality, and majoritarianism, is attributed, among others, to James Madison who wrote in The Federalist, no.10, “If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote” (1989, 80).

13. Juan Linz argues that “In countries [e.g., the U.S.] where the preponderance of voters is centrist… and expects both rightist and leftist candidates to differ only within a larger, moderate consensus, the divisiveness latent in presidential[ist] competition is not a serious problem. With an overwhelmingly moderate electorate, anyone who makes alliances or takes positions that seem to incline him to the extremes is unlikely to win…” (Linz 1990, 57). By contrast, my analysis of the American party system attributes its ability to sustain a centripetal dynamic to the reluctance or inability of most poor and uneducated citizens to vote, rather than to any consensus that can be ascribed to moderate “independent” voters. Indeed, I believe that there are as many potential voters with extremist views in the U.S. as in any other country. The big difference is that they see no reason to vote. Perhaps charismatic candidates, like Jesse Jackson on the left or David Duke on the right, could mobilize many apathetic non-voters, but only at the cost of centrifugalizing the party system, encouraging candidates to espouse extreme positions that would appeal to white racist non-voters as well as impoverished and disaffected ethnic minorities–a good example can be found in the defeat of David Duke for governor of Louisiana in November 1991, where an unprecedentedly large turnout of black voters was generated in reaction to Duke’s racist history.

14. Linz, for example, writes about “…the diffuse character of American political parties– which, ironically, exasperates many American political scientists and leads them to call for responsible, ideologically disciplined parties…” He notes, however, that the American case is exceptional by contrast with the “development of modern political parties…” elsewhere (1990, 53). From a different perspective, Edward Greenberg attacks the American party system as too loose, uncommitted, and elitist (1980, 229-234) and argues that, although “Elections play an important function in the overall maintenance of the American system, and of the capitalist order at its base,” they “…do so even though–indeed precisely because–they perform largely ceremonial and symbolic functions” (229). Greenberg fails to see that the kind of parliamentary (ideological) party that he prefers as more inherently democratic would centrifugalize the party system and jeopardize the survival of presidentialism in America.

15. By contrast, PR is clearly compatible with parliamentarism where small minorities can actually participate in coalition governments. PR may even be compatible with two-party parliamentary systems, but this combination is unusual. Maurice Duverger, while advocating PR systems in general, has pointed out that “…it can happen that PR does not prevent the formation of a two-party system, as in Austria and the German Federal Republic. But these cases are exceptions and depend on special circumstances” (1984, 37). In view of the rejoinders to Lijphart (1991a) by Lardeyret (1991) and Quade (1991) I am not persuaded that PR necessarily improves the performance of parliamentary regimes but, on the basis of Lijphart’s response (1991b), I agree it might be better than plurality systems. My argument here is simply that, by promoting centrifugalism, PR undermines the viability of presidentialism.

16. Faction is often used loosely, especially when describing local party organization in the U.S.(Henry 1984, 83-85). In fact, however, local intra-party groups rarely combine to form coherent national “factions.” A lucid explanation of the difference between factions (well organized intra-party groups) and tendencies (loosely patterned attitudes) is contained in Sartori (1976, 75-82). He classes both as fractions. A good example of an American party “tendency” would be the “Boll Weevils” in the Democratic Party who helped President Ronald Reagan gain Congressional support for some of his key programs. A counterpart Republican group, the “Gypsy Moths,” frequently defected from their party’s position. How Reagan and his followers managed to secure the support of Boll Weevils and prevent defection by the Gypsy Moths is explained in colorful detail by Hedrick Smith (1988, 471-7). Although one may well deplore this amorphous pattern of “tendencies” in American political parties and its affinity for elitist “back room” wheeling and dealing, it seems to be conducive to the survival of presidentialism in America.

17. Under presidentialism, it is almost impossible for a centrist governing coalition to form when a centrifugalized party system prevails. A possible exception might have been Chile, but even in this case, as Valenzuela explains, “…centrist movements only minimally represented a viable centrist tendency and were in fact primarily reflections of the erosion of the two extreme poles… The instability of centrist movements…contributed to the difficulties in building common public policies because centrist consensus at the decision making level was so fragile. The erosion of centrist consensus accelerated dramatically during the Allende years and contributed to the crisis culminating in regime breakdown” (1989, 14).

Linz also recognizes this problem when he writes: “One of the possible consequences of two-candidate races in multiparty systems is that broad coalitions are likely to be formed (whether in run-offs or in pre-election maneuvering) in which extremist parties gain undue influence.” Consequently, “…a Presidential election can fragment and polarize the electorate.” He sees the American system as exceptional because, there, “the preponderance of voters is centrist, agrees on the exclusion of extremists, and expects both rightist and leftist candidates to differ only within a larger, moderate consensus…” thereby overcoming “the divisiveness latent in presidential competition…” (1990, 57).

However, Linz ignores the possibility that the American exception is not so much due to a “centrist consensus” as it is to the centripetalism of a party system based on SMD voting and the right to abstain that, together, enhance the weight of a relatively small number of independent voters while dampening participation by peripheralized people. The point is that we may better understand the attitudes of American voters and non-voters if we view them, structurally, as a consequence of the centripetalized party system. My guess is that any presidentialist polity would generate popular responses similar to the American if it were to develop a centripetalized rather than a centrifugalized party system. However, to do that, it would have to sacrifice important democratic values, e.g., by relying on SMD plurality electoral systems and accepting the right of citizens to abstain from voting. Under these conditions, no doubt, the behavior of voters might create the illusion of a centrist consensus as the cause of political moderation, rather than the consequence of electoral rules and widespread non-voting.

18. For a summary of one party domination in the states and the shifts that have occurred, together with analysis of the reasons for these changes and their significance, see Henry (1984, 98-106).

19. Mainwaring argues that the “…combination of presidentialism and a multiparty system is further complicated by the strong federalist bases of Brazilian politics” (1990a, 23-4) I would argue, instead, that Brazil’s fluid multi-party system is primarily caused by its open-list PR electoral system, which is simply reinforced by its federalism. Mainwaring also points out that the extreme fluidity of party identification in Brazil leads “…clientelistic politicians to join the party in power, regardless of what it is” (1990a, 24). There is a similar tendency in the U.S., before elections, but party responsiveness dampens the tendency and, once elected, legislators will be strongly sanctioned by their local supporters if they try to jump to the other party.

20. Elsewhere, I have argued that presidentialist regimes have to be conservative in order to survive whereas parliamentary regimes may well move much further in the direction of social democracy and the regulation of capitalist enterprises (Riggs 1990, 230-232). However, in that context I failed to appreciate the importance of an open centripetal party system as the linkage mechanism that both enables capitalism to dominate the regime while compelling the regime to protect and regulate capitalism in order to assure its own survival.

21. A pioneer exposition of the class basis of the American Constitution was offered in Beard (1913). The founding fathers counted on the indirect election of both the President and the Senate, plus the prevalence of property qualifications in the state laws governing elections to the House of Representatives to assure support for the minority interests of property-holders (augmented by the obstacles to be overcome by decision-makers subjected to the severe constraints of an institutional design based on the separation of powers). Subsequent constitutional changes have eliminated these electoral safeguards, rendering all three of these basic institutions subject to popular elections (despite the anachronistic survival of the Electoral College). Contemporary radical explanations of the American government rely, more explicitly, on the Marxist view that bourgeois capitalism is an autonomously powerful socio-economic actor capable of imposing its preferences on a government subject to its domination. Greenberg, for example, writes that “…the building blocks of a general understanding of the political economy appear in that body of work known as Marxist social theory.” In that context, Greenberg sees “Government…as the institutional expression of the needs and interests of those who own property, and not as a popular tool for the redress of grievances,” and views “…what we might call normal politics (elections, representation, petition, and the like) only from within the more general framework of capitalism as a whole” (l980, 13-14).

By contrast with the position I am offering here, Greenberg views capitalism in a unilinear perspective as accountable for the performance of both government and the party system, while dismissing the relation of the party system to government as unimportant or purely symbolic. By ignoring the properties both of parliamentary government and of other presidentialist regimes, his interpretation is essentially non-comparative (parochial).

More conventional authors often ignore the linkages between presidentialism and the capitalist system. Comparisons with other presidentialist (and parliamentary) regimes, however, should enable us to formulate a more adequate understanding of the interdependence of capitalism and presidentialism in a context of circular causation, via the party system. Here my focus is more specifically on the linkages between capitalism and the maintenance of an open party system.

22. American specialists on Public Administration normally use the term program-oriented in contrast with career-oriented, a juxtaposition that emphasizes positions rather than rank as a focal concept. This distinction also separates the American from the British practice, but here I need to emphasize a different dichotomy: the specialist (departmental or functionist) by contrast with the generalist (class) criterion. Functionaries are career specialists, by contrast with transient generalists (the political appointees)–they constitute the two main divisions of the American bureaucracy. In the British, as in most parliamentary systems, elitist mandarins are career generalists by contrast with lower level functionaries (career specialists).


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Sen. Claro M. Recto on the Presidential System

The late Senator Claro M. Recto, president of the 1934 Constitutional Convention which drafted the 1935 charter, describes the Philippine political system this way:

The late Senator Claro M. Recto

“Our Constitution was frankly an imitation of the American charter. Many of the delegates were products of an American system of education and consequently were obsessed with the sincere belief that Democracy can be defined only in American terms. Necessarily, therefore, the Philippine presidency became a copy of the American presidency, with its vast concentration of powers and only periodical accountability to the people. Like the man in the White House, the man in Malacañang is now safe from immediate responsibility. And like the men on Capitol Hill, the men on Taft and Lepanto (the old Congress) do not have to render accounts for the fixed limits of their terms. A bad President and a bad Congress may not, in Lincoln’s phrase, fool all the people all of the time. But they can make fools of the people – they can make fools of themselves – for at least four years.

Only God and impeachment can remove the President from high office, no matter how incompetent or dangerous he may have proved himself to be in the eyes of the majority of the electorate. He may quarrel with his Congress. Congress may rebel against him and systematically obstruct his administration. But the issue must remain unresolved for the duration of their arbitrary terms. Neither the President nor the Congress may be changed although those two active powers of government may be stifling the Nation in a stubborn and unbreakable deadlock.

Under the Constitution the Presidency is potentially more powerful. I do not believe it an exaggeration to state that the President of the Philippines could easily convert himself into an actual dictator within the framework of the Charter. With his control of local governments and all that it signifies in terms of elections, with huge sums and unlimited sinecures to distribute, with emergency powers to rule by executive decrees as a last resort, he is restrained only by his own conscience from perpetuating himself or his party in power.

I do not recall any considerable discussion in the Constitutional Convention on this ancient and persistent problem of governmental responsibility. I believe we were too deeply under the spell of the American system to give much thought to any alternative. But now that we have presumably been freed by the declaration of our independence… the Filipino people may soberly consider (another) system… to harness the power of government to the will of the people.”

Taken from: http://www.iper.org.ph/documentation/parlshift.pdf

(Note: Recto was commenting on the 1935 System which was better than the 1987 System. What would C.M. Recto say if he were talking about the 1987 System which is a much more degenerated and defective system than the 1935 one?)

* * * 

* * *

Here are some useful articles on the Parliamentary versus Presidential Systems:

1) Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

2) Sen. Pangilinan and the Parliamentary System

3) The Parliamentary System Fits the Philippines

4) Two Filipinos: A Football Legend & A Spanish Prime Minister

5) Why Charter Change is CoRRECT™

6) Chicken or the Egg: Culture Change or System Change? 

Philippine Progress: Shift in Sports, Shift in System

(First published on antipinoy.com on July 7, 2010)

At the time of this writing, millions of people around the world are obsessing about the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the noise of the annoying Vuvuzela horn. From every continent, people speaking almost every language, coming from practically every race, creed, and color are excitedly watching the game called “Association Football.”  Unfortunately, there’s been relative calm in the Philippines, as hardly anyone, save for a few die-hard soccer fans, actually watched the World Cup closely.

Soccer, (coming from the word “association” in the sport’s full-name “Association Football”), called “Football” by everyone else, is also known as the world’s Beautiful Game. It is one of the most democratic sports ever – as Time Magazine recently described it. Anyone can play and excel in it: Rich or poor, light-skinned or dark-skinned, and most importantly, tall or short.  That last one is of utmost importance, considering that we Filipinos, most of whom are not very tall, are crazy about basketball – a sport that obviously favors tall players.

It has caused numerous ceasefires in many conflict zones as Israelis and Palestinians (Soccer is the biggest sport in the Middle East) or Rebel guerrillas and Government troops in continents like Africa or Latin America, often stop fighting just to watch the World Cup or other high-profile soccer matches on TV or listen to live commentaries on radio. During World War I, an informal Truce on Christmas Day in 1914 witnessed one of the most amazing displays of human fraternity as warring sides – British & French versus the Germans came together and played Soccer. After having played the game, made friends, and exchanged names & addresses, the soldiers simply could not shoot at each other once the truce ended, forcing their respective angry generals to send all of them to other fronts to fight against other enemies.

It’s a real shame because while Filipinos were glued to the NBA Finals at about the same time that the World Cup was just about starting, one unfortunate fact continues to be ignored by basketball-crazy Filipinos: We are never going to excel in sports that require height. Unlike most basketball-loving Filipinos, millions of average-height, barely middle-class, or even impoverished Africans and Latin Americans who play and practice soccer can actually dream of one day playing professionally for local or internationally-famous professional teams such as Manchester United (England), Juventus (Italy), Real Madrid (Spain), or Galatasaray (Turkey) – to name a few – and live a life of fame and fortune. These are dreams which are feasible as long as whoever plays and practices the sport has the competence, talent, and commitment, because the game-dynamics of soccer simply does not require height. It needs to be said that soccer legend Diego Maradona of Argentina became a soccer superstar with his very Filipino height of 5 ft 4.

In stark contrast to the meritocratic nature of soccer which does not care much about being born with the genes for height, the fixation that Filipinos have for basketball creates so many shattered dreams. Millions of young Filipinos are raised to love a sport that does not love them back. Many waste inordinate amounts of time practicing the game, wishing that they would be just like Kobe Bryant when they grow up, only to grow to their full height which might be just a few inches taller than Diego Maradona – a height that is just not cut for competitive basketball.

Filipinos even love to watch the NBA play-offs, but even if the Philippines is perhaps the most basketball-crazy country in the World (Americans are more obsessed with American Football and Baseball), countries with much more diversified sporting interests such as Mainland China and the former Yugoslav republics of Serbia, Croatia, etc, who all watch more soccer than they do basketball, have successfully sent players to the NBA. The Philippines has never sent a Filipino to the NBA!

Numerous honest discussions and debates have erupted about the need to shift the Philippines’ team sports focus from the excessively height-centric basketball towards the more height-agnostic soccer in order to focus on a sport in which every ordinary Filipino can excel. However, the rebuttals to the contrary range from such excuses as “The cultural temperament of Filipinos makes them prefer basketball because it has a faster-pace of point-scoring while soccer’s scores are low and goal-scoring is rare” to other excuses like“soccer requires a huge field in order to play while basketball needs a much smaller space.”

Who says you need a field to play soccer?

Both excuses fall flat considering that Filipinos are ethnically and even temperamentally similar to the Malays of Malaysia and Brunei (except in religion), both of whom enjoy and excel in soccer within the ASEAN region. It can be argued too that most Latin Americans, with whom Filipinos share common Spanish colonial history vis-à-vis Hispano-America and a very similar Iberian heritage with Portuguese-speaking Brazil, are somewhat culturally similar to Filipinos (especially in their sense of humor) and yet they too enjoy the sport immensely and are perhaps among the most excellent players of the Beautiful Game in the World. Most importantly, millions of impoverished Latin-Americans and Africans often practice playing soccer just about anywhere, be it on a small field, a dusty road, or even a small backyard. Some of the world’s highest-paid soccer stars come from such an impoverished background and they often cherish their childhood memories of growing up, playing soccer barefoot with plastic bottles or anything they can kick around as their ball, drawing lines on the ground to serve as their “goals.” It is just not true that Filipinos cannot shift to soccer.

The unfortunate fact is that Filipinos prefer to stick to whatever status quo they’ve grown used to. The real problem here is Inertia: the resistance to change.

Resistance to Change

Indeed, there is something really flawed about the situation, and Filipinos have to immediately correct it. Unfortunately, there seems to be something about us Filipinos that exacerbates our resistance to change: We have a tendency to refuse to admit that a problem exists, and often prefer to just ignore it and sweep the problem under the rug. In case that problem stares squarely at us, thereby making it impossible to ignore, quite often, we just outright refuse to do the work that would fix that problem and just endure the resulting mediocrity. Worse, many Filipinos prefer to make excuses that seek to justify such refusal to fix the problem, oftentimes reasoning – using intellectual dishonesty – that trying to fix the problem would actually make things worse.

We need not look far to see that this problem is not solely confined to the world of sports, in which increasing attention is being placed on the Soccer versus Basketball debate. Just recently, journalist and current Ambassador to Greece, Rigoberto Tiglao, recently wrote a two-part special on why Filipinos are not into Soccer.

The Tall Man’s Game

In it, he likened the need for Filipinos to carefully consider shifting from basketball to soccer and the difficulty in convincing Filipinos to do so, with the fact that many Filipinos still stubbornly refuse to at least attempt to consider the objective merits of the Parliamentary System as a possible option to replace the current Philippine Presidential System. It has been observed that the Philippine Presidential System’s skew towards popularity and name-recall , coupled with the Philippine Electorate’s preference for form over substance that unfortunately brought about perhaps the most embarrassing stain on the Philippines’ international reputation in 1998, when celebrity actor Joseph “Erap” Estrada won as President of the Philippines. The Philippines had another close call in 2004 when his fellow celebrity actor and close friend, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. almost won. And just recently in May 2010, the convicted-of-plunder ex-President Estrada who was deposed in 2001 ran again and took second place.

In the meantime, numerous politicians aspiring for the Presidency jockey for positions in the equally useless and non-representative Philippine Senate (whose Senators do not represent constituencies unlike in the USA, where Senators are elected per State), and as a result, the Philippine Senate has numerous “Senactors” (Senators who are actors) as well as politicians married to actresses or celebrities.

We continue to be a basketball-crazed society that is isolated from the soccer-loving rest of the world and yet we can’t even excel in this game we so love, nor can we send talented Filipino players to the NBA because basketball is a game that clearly favors height and we simply do not have the height that would at least give us a fighting chance.

In almost the exact same way, we continue to clamor for improvements in our lives, our economic livelihood, and the quality of our politics, yet because of a system of government whose electoral procedure (choosing the name of an individual candidate running for President) clearly favors “winnability” (popularity and name-recall) over competence, we end up with incompetent people who become President only because of their celebrity status or famous surnames. At other times, we also end up with leaders who – though sometimes competent – are forced to pander to the public lest they risk being unable to govern if they fail to play the popularity game.

When will we Filipinos realize that for us to excel in team sports, we need to choose a sport where competence and real talent are much more important than one’s height?

When will we Filipinos realize that for our society to be better-run, more efficient, and more responsive to our people’s needs, we need to choose a system of government in which quality policy-making, platform relevance, and competence take overwhelming precedence over petty traits such as celebrity-status, personal popularity, and name-recall?

Knowing that both basketball and the current Presidential System are not good for us, why then do we Filipinos continue to insist on sticking it out with the both of them instead of making the necessary changes that would correct the problems that these two Problematic American Imports continue to cause?

Once upon a time, Albert Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

Basketball & the Presidential System: Problematic US Imports

There is absolutely no doubt that an objective and honest discussion on the merits of soccer over basketball most certainly parallels the discussion on the merits of a Parliamentary System over the Presidential System.

Both Basketball and the Presidential System are largely American inventions which they brought along with them during the almost 50 years that they occupied our country and we Filipinos took to both of them as if they were our own.

Unfortunately, both basketball and the Presidential System have pre-requisites that Americans often meet which Filipinos don’t: Basketball inherently favors height for a player to be considered eligible for competitive play because the hoops are high. On the other hand, the Presidential System requires that the electorate be naturally issues-centric and platform-oriented in order to counterbalance the inherent personality-centered exercise of voting for a presidential candidate.

They want to be like Kobe

Incidentally, both basketball and the Presidential System have brought Failure to Filipinos: Basketball has shattered the dreams and self-esteem of millions of young Filipinos who’ve continued to aspire to be just like their idols Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant, practicing basketball for hours on end, only to be rendered ineligible for competitive basketball all because they were too short.  On the other hand, the current Philippine Presidential System (based on the 1987 Constitution) has shattered the lives of millions of Filipinos who – because the system favors candidate winnability (popularity, and name-recall) over competence and a sound platform for governance – often end up with leaders who merely have popularity but no competence. Sometimes we end up with leaders and lawmakers who have no choice but to pander to the public instead of focusing on doing what is the correct and beneficial course of action in the long-term, even if it may appear to be unpopular in the short-term. Most politicians with presidential ambitions (except for a select few) therefore tend to focus too much on short-term popularity by engaging in publicity stunts in order to have the name-recall and media attention they need just to have a stab at the Presidency when the time comes to run for it.

In the end, Philippine Society as well as its Government is often unable to make the hard decisions necessary that would bring about a better economy, more jobs, more prosperity, and more improvements to the lives of the people, all because the focus on popularity-based personality-politics always manages to derail society away from focusing on the most important aspects of governance.

In a manner of speaking, it can be said that both basketball and the Presidential System are skewed towards traits which Filipinos either do not have in abundance (height for basketball) or towards traits that Filipinos are extremely obsessed about (popularity and celebrity-status for the Presidential System), both of which lead to Mediocrity and ultimately, towards Failure.

In the former case, Americans have a bigger pool of tall people to select from who may excel in professional basketball, while Filipinos clearly do not. In the latter, Americans have the required cultural and political maturity, policy and platform focus, issues focus, and the ability to zero-in more on the message rather than the messenger in order to counteract and counterbalance the inherent skew towards popularity and name-recall that is inherent in the Presidential System. Filipinos, sadly, are more culturally pre-disposed towards personality, celebrity-status, and popularity, so that winning Philippine presidential elections is more about fielding candidates who are deemed “winnable” rather than determining who among the prospective candidates is the most competent, possesses the necessary qualifications that would enable him to perform his duties successfully, and who has done the best job related to governance in the past and as such, is therefore most likely going to do a splendid job.

Regarding the sport of basketball, it is also no wonder that Filipino basketball players are not exactly NBA-quality (and therefore explains why no Filipino has ever gone to the NBA). In the Philippines, many basketball players who get chosen to go professional are often those who are of towering height, never mind that they may not exactly be the best among the entire pool of available players. There are oftentimes people who play basketball really well and can shoot hoops accurately, but simply because they are too short and unable to do slam-dunks, they are totally ignored by recruitment scouts for professional or semi-professional teams.

In fact, stories circulated in the past about some UAAP basketball teams whose alumni associations recruited players who were not really basketball prodigies, but just plain “tall giants” from their respective high schools. It was evident from their on-court performance: These were extremely tall players who always missed getting the ball through the basket during free throws. No mystery there: Such players were recruited for their height, not for their prowess in basketball.

Product of the Philippine Presidential System

Once again, this parallel zeroes in on the main problem that the Presidential System has brought on the Philippines. Very similar to basketball’s unfair preference for tall people, the  Presidential System has an inherent skew towards winnability  (popularity and name-recall), coupled with the cultural inclination of Filipinos to gossip more about popular celebrities and their private lives or marital woes, and discuss less about the most important issues related to the economy and governance. It is therefore not difficult to see why numerous actors and showbiz celebrities end up as politicians and why professional politicians often end up marrying famous actresses or TV personalities just to gain media mileage and rapport with the voting public. It also shows precisely why the discussions in Philippine Politics tend towards vacuity and pettiness, rather than on real practical problem-solving. For this reason, the Philippines continues to be unable to fix the same kinds of problems that have hounded it for decades, while other countries are zooming ahead leaving the Philippines in the dust.

In other words, the system of government in the Philippines is set up so that the people who are most favored to win in national elections tend to be those candidates who have the necessary popularity and the name-recall (actors, showbiz celebrities, children of well-known politicians, politicians married to celebrities, controversial public figures who get excessive media exposure, athletes and basketball stars, etc) required to win said popularity contests, to the detriment of those people who have the requisite expertise, competence, track record, vision, and most importantly, the relevant platform of governance that matches the needs of the country at a given point in time.

It doesn’t help much that the Philippines continues to make use of the direct popular vote in stark contrast to the more indirect voting system of the US Electoral College, which was set up by America’s Founding Fathers with the express intention of moderating and mitigating the tyranny of popularity, name-recall, and emotionalism that is the unfortunate negative tendency of direct democracy. In addition, there also is the fact that the two-party system of the USA makes use of party-based Caucuses & Primary Elections to ensure that – as much as possible – the best man (or woman) for the job is chosen by each party.

To be absolutely honest about it, there is a steadily increasing dissatisfaction and growing base of evidence worldwide against the dismal operational efficiency and low degree of accountability resulting from the Presidential System. Case in point: There is a large number of disadvantages that the Presidential System is described to possess by numerous political scientists and economists, particularly by renowned political scientist and expert on political systems Dr. Juan Linz, PhD of Yale in his famous essay “The Perils of Presidentialism) as well as a recent joint World Bank and University of Chicago study entitled “Accountability and Corruption: Political Institutions Matter” – authored by three Latin American economists namely, Dr. Daniel Lederman, PhD – Chile, Dr. Norman Loayza, PhD – Peru, and Dr. Rodrigo Soares, PhD – Brazil, correlating the Presidential System with greater levels of corruption on the one hand, and much lower incidences of corruption with the Parliamentary System on the other.

Notwithstanding all those operational disadvantages of the “separation-of-powers” Presidential System, coupled with the inherent tendency towards personality-politics found in it, at the very least, it can be said that the USA has specific safeguards such as the use of Primaries and the Electoral College which clearly mitigate the negative traits associated with the Presidential System’s popularity-centric electoral procedure.

Alas, no such safeguards such as a “Two-Party System”, “Party Primaries” and the reliance on an “Electoral College” exist for the current Philippine Presidential System based on the 1987 Constitution. It is for this reason that the full unadulterated impact of the tyranny of popularity bears down heavily on Philippine Society.

* * *

Defects of the 1987 Constitution’s Presidential System 

Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ: Forgot to consider the Problem of having a Minority President

Unfortunately for Filipinos, the Philippine Constitutional Commission of 1986 which created the current 1987 Constitution – of which one of the most vocal members is revered Constitutionalist and Jesuit Fr. Joaquín Bernas, SJ – set up a system that has consistently produced presidents who do not have a majority mandate. The 1987 Constitution did not support the creation of a two-party system which would enable the electoral winner to emerge with an absolute majority, and instead, allows for multiple candidates to run for president. The real dilemma here is that allowing multiple candidates to run for President of the Philippines invariably results in splitting the vote in three ways or more, in which there is a big possibility that the candidate who emerges with the most number of votes merely wins with a plurality but unfortunately does not have a majority (more than 50%) of all votes cast. A President who does not get a majority of all votes cast is a Minority President.

Having a minority president is obviously a major disadvantage and creates a crisis of governance. In fact, it is a curse. Minority Presidents are always disadvantaged, because Philippine media has always had the tendency to pander to the preferences of the public. A minority president with say, 40% of the vote, will have 60% of the electorate stacked against him as they did not vote for him, making him vulnerable to gripes, complaints, and negative articles published in the papers.

Every single Philippine President who came after the late President Cory C. Aquino has been a minority president. Former President Fidel Ramos only had 23.5% of the entire vote thanks to so many rival candidates running for the presidency in the 1992 elections. Ousted former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada was a minority president, having just around 40% of the entire number of votes cast. And in 2004, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was also a minority president with around 38% of all votes cast. It is no surprise, therefore, that all of them were often presented unfavorably by media during their term.

In fact, our popular new president, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III is himself a minority president as his mandate is said to be just around 42%, with roughly 58% of the electorate having voted for another candidate.

Now, lest we think that Minority Presidents are extremely common around the world, the fact is that in a majority of countries that allow for multiple candidates for President such as France, numerous countries in Latin America, countries using a presidential system in Eastern Europe, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and even East Timor, the prospect of a Minority President (a president with less than 50% of all total votes cast) is thoroughly avoided through provisions for a second round of elections called the “Run-Off.”

Le Pen took 16% versus Chirac’s 19% in 2002’s first round as the vote was split among 16 candidates. After the Run-off: Chirac won 82%, Le Pen took 18%

The dynamics for holding Two-Round elections are simple: The first round of elections pits all candidates, say, 3 or more candidates for President against each other. After they slug it out in the first round, the top 2 candidates who emerge from the first round are then pitted against each other in the Run-Off election, where a week or more after the first round, everyone goes back to the polling stations to vote in the second round “Run-Off.” Since there are only two candidates in a run-off, a clear majority-winner will emerge. It is in such an electoral system where people who voted for other candidates during the first round are then forced to “choose the lesser evil” during the “Run-Off” round. At the very least, voters can choose whom they really want during the first round, and if their favorite candidate was eliminated after the first round, it’s during the run-off where they throw their support behind one of the two candidates.

Here is an example: France’s 2002 Elections. The first round of elections saw numerous candidates slugging it out with Gaullist re-electionist Jacques Chirac coming out on top and with Right-wing “Neo-Nazi” and anti-immigration Front National candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen snatching second place. As there were too many candidates, Jacques Chirac did not get a majority of the vote, so a Run-Off had to be held exactly one week after, pitting the top two candidates from the first round  against each other. The Run-Off was an amazing display of solidarity among the French in order to avoid allowing a “Neo-Nazi” like Le Pen to emerge victorious. Everyone from the Left – Communists, Socialists, even people who had formerly hated the right-of-center Gaullists with a vengeance, went in all-out support for Jacques Chirac in order to ensure the defeat of far right, ultra-nationalist, anti-immigration Front National candidate Le Pen.

Alas, the 1987 Constitution made absolutely no provisions for a run-off election, nor did the Constitution’s framers find it important to avoid having a minority president. That is a major defect.

Unfortunately, this inherent defect in the 1987 Constitution cannot be fixed unless the Constitution is amended. That is exactly what a Constitutional Amendment is all about: If something is missing, needs to be removed, or changed in the Constitution (never mind if it’s a word or a punctuation mark), the Constitution needs to be amended. There is unfortunately no real way around it. The 1987 Constitution is defective and needs thorough revision, if not an overhaul.

The Better Way: Soccer and the Parliamentary System

Fortunately, since it is clear that both basketball and the current Philippine Presidential System are more and more proving to be inappropriate and extremely non-conducive to success for Filipinos, we now have the opportunity to look at the clear alternatives. For our “national team sport”, we definitely should consider soccer. For our form of government, we should bid Adieu to the Presidential System and move on towards the highly recommended Parliamentary System. (Recommended by Ivy League Political Scientists and Economists)

We already know the issue with basketball. Basketball requires height and average Filipinos just don’t have height. Rather than continuing to produce heart-broken basketball-loving youngsters whose dreams of going professional are shattered by their inability to grow to at least 6 ft tall, it’s about time our society – led by our Government, Media, Schools, and our Businesses who sponsor sporting events – decisively shifted over to soccer.

There should be no turning back. Soccer is clearly the World’s Beautiful Game, loved by almost everyone of all creeds, colors, cultures, languages, races, and continents. It is a sport that can allow Filipinos to excel because it does not require nor does it even favor height in order for players to be successful. It is a sport that promotes more teamwork as there is much more ball-passing that goes on than in basketball. In soccer, most goals are scored as a result of teamwork and last-minute ball-passing, in contrast to basketball’s tendency to promote keeping the ball to oneself selfishly in order to reap the glory of scoring.

We also know that the Presidential System has the tendency to promote personality politics due largely to the electoral procedure of choosing an individual candidate to become President. During such Presidential campaigns especially in the Philippines, candidates are extremely likely to promote and differentiate themselves from their opponents by talking more about their own personal traits. Instead of playing up their party-affiliations and their party platforms, advocacies, and policy proposals, Presidential candidates in the Philippines, are forced to play the popularity game simply because it is ultimately popularity, winnability, and name-recall that gets voters picking a candidate’s name on the Presidential System’s ballot. Worse, the Philippine Presidential System creates Minority Presidents.

Question Time: You need to know your stuff well to be Prime Minister

In stark contrast, the Parliamentary System requires the formation of majority governments, through either of two ways: a party can win an overwhelming majority of parliamentary seats, and immediately, the majority party’s leader immediately becomes the Prime Minister. Another way such a majority government is formed is through coalition-building. Coalition-blocs can be formed, so that if one bloc gains a majority of all seats in parliament, that coalition then forms the government, and the leader of the party with the most seats within that majority bloc emerges as Prime Minister. Prime Ministers in a Parliamentary System, therefore tend to have more majority-support and therefore a clearer mandate than minority Presidents emerging from the runoff-less Philippine Presidential Elections.

Moreover, the Parliamentary System is a much more party-centric system whose campaigns tend to be much more issues-advocacy, ideas-centric (as opposed to personality-centric), and platform-focused as the electoral dynamics do not involve the Pubic Electorate directly choosing who the Prime Minister will be. This does not even talk about the Parliamentary System’s bias towards leaders with competence and solid knowledge of all the relevant details regarding the country’s affairs: A Parliamentary System features a weekly Question Time session where the Prime Minister and his Front Benchers (Cabinet) are grilled by members of the opposition to make sure that all angles relating to policy-making and functioning of the government and cabinet have considered the best options and are also running properly. A Prime Minister must therefore be on his toes, totally knowledgeable, and able to respond extemporaneously as he is often expected to answer most questions without deferring to other members. For this reason, not all ordinary MP’s aspire to become PM and members of the majority party often cooperate to help brief the PM and the front bench on what they need to know so that they can properly respond. This Parliamentary feature further promotes more solid team dynamics as party members close-ranks to support their PM and party front-benchers.

Listed below are two ways in which the Philippines can develop a True Party System where the politicians rally around ideas, platforms, and consistent policies, and form a loyalty to their parties and their core principles, and where the voting public can be made to look less at personalities and look more at the collective nature of parties and vote accordingly:

  1. Dr. Kasuya´s observation: 1 term only limit = weaker parties

     Removal of Term Limits – Allowing the top leader to continue to stand for elections more than once (removal of term limits) actually promotes stronger party dynamics as parties cease to be ad-hoc election clubs that get formed only to defray election-period campaign costs, and become more long-standing and consistent in rallying around a stable policy-platform in order to maintain continuity. This was the observation made in a research paper entitled “Presidential Term Limits and Party-System Stability in New Democracies as well as the book “Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines“, both authored by Japanese political scientist Dr. Yuko Kasuya, PhD when she observed that the party structure of the Philippines rapidly deteriorated after the idea of presidential re-election was banned by the 1987 Constitution, thus preventing an elected President (or Head of Government) from standing for more than one term.  This has caused presidential aspirants as well as those people running together with them in their parties to unfortunately regard each election as essentially a one-shot deal. In case a presidential candidate does win and becomes President, there is hardly any real sense of continuity as that President and his staff only look at the specific 6 year term he has. One-shot deal thinking of that sort turns parties into ad-hoc “cliques of convenience” (my term), thereby eroding whatever sense of continuity and working for the same goals may have existed during the campaign. In short, the idea that an incumbent President may run for re-election develops a better focus on continuity among members of a party to act in support of the incumbent party-mate. Since Parliamentary Systems do not have term limits for Prime Ministers, the tendency for parties to act like one-shot, ad hoc, and temporary “cliques of convenience” is greatly reduced and in fact, practically eliminated, and it is thus no wonder that the party system is much stronger in countries using Parliamentary Systems. A Prime Minister who continues to enjoy his own party’s (or coalition’s) internal support, and whose party (or coalition) continues to enjoy a parliamentary majority stays on as Prime Minister. (Technically, under the Parliamentary System, the parties are bigger than the personalities involved, and so it does not matter who the Prime Minister should be, because it is the party or coalition and its accompanying platform that truly matters.)

  2. Strong Parties: a section of a US Ballot from the 1908 polls – Mark a circle in order to choose a Straight Party Ticket

    Forced “Straight Ticket Voting”– Superior party-dynamics emerges (or is further enhanced) when the ability to choose different candidates vying for different positions is eliminated, and replaced with a system that forces “Straight Ticket Voting” or “Straight Party Voting(sometimes confusingly called “bloc-voting” as that term may also mean groups voting as a “bloc” as in the INC’s tendency towards telling their members whom to vote for: “voting as a bloc”) The use of the term “Forced Straight Ticket Voting” clearly refers to the scenario where voters are not able to split the ticket across to vote  for a candidate from party A to be President, a candidate from party B to be Vice-President, and a candidate from party C for their local district representative.  “Straight Ticket Voting” in the USA would clearly refer to voting straight Republican (for all positions) or voting straight Democrat (for all positions).  Modifying the ballots to remove the ability to choose different candidates from different parties for each position and instead determine the party that the voter chooses and all candidates from the same party are assumed to be selected for all the relevant positions. This feature forces the electorate to cease looking at individual candidates and instead forces the voters to look at entire parties. Since political parties are not human beings with “individual personalities”, the key differentiator between political parties then becomes their Party Platforms.

Mahathir: Product of Parliamentarism

When one carefully looks at both, it is obvious that number 1 forces Strict Party Dynamics among the Politicians themselves, as they end up having better party discipline as they seek to allow for more continuity of their party’s programs instead of seeing their “parties” as mere ad-hoc cliques that stand for nothing and come together every 3 or 6 years with the sole purpose of simply pooling campaign financial resources together to share and defray the costs of their poster printing, TV and Radio advertising, etc. Number 2, on the other hand forces Strict Party Voting among the Electorate. As mentioned, the inability of the voters to “extricate” the personalities from the parties forces the electorate to look at parties as a whole, rather than rely on the default Filipino tendency which is to look for individual superstars.

Both these features which promote better Political Party Dynamics can be done within a Presidential System. Term-limits can be removed *and* the ballots can be redesigned to force voters to choose only straight party tickets. In order to do this, ballots should no longer have individual names of candidates, and instead, only party names will be written down and selected by the voters.

However, when you do both 1 and 2 within a Presidential System, you’ve essentially turned that Presidential System into a Parliamentary System, because this time, the voting system fuses the choice of Executive (President) and Legislative (Senate and Local District Representative) together so that both choices come from the same party.

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