Category Archives: Cohabitation

List of cohabitations

Here are links to a series of posts that record the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation. Some difficult classification cases can be found here.

Austria

1.) April 1966 – April 1970

President – Franz Jonas (SPÖ); PM – Josef Klaus (ÖVP); government – ÖVP

2.) Jul 1986 – January 1987

President – Kurt Waldheim (ÖVP); PM – Franz Vranitzky (SPÖ); government – SPÖ, FPÖ

3.) July 2004 – January 2007

President – Heinz Fischer (SPÖ); PM – Wolfgang Schüssel (ÖVP); government – ÖVP, FPÖ/BZÖ

 

Bulgaria

1.) January 1995 – February 1997

President – Zhelyu Zhelev (SDS); PM – Zhan Vasilev Videnov (BSP); government – BSP, BZnS(AS), DE

2.) July 2001 – January 2002

President – Petur Stoyanov (SDS); PM – Simeon Borisov Sakskoburggotski (NDSV); government – NDSV, DPS

3.) January 2002 – August 2005

President – Georgi Sedefchov Purvanov (BSP); PM – Simeon Borisov Sakskoburggotski (NDSV); government – NDSV, DPS

4.) July 2009 – January 2012

President – Georgi Sedefchov Purvanov (BSP); PM – Boyko Borisov (GERB); government – GERB (minority)

 

Cape Verde

September 2011-April 2016

President – Jorge Carlos de Almeida Fonseca (MPD); PM – José Maria Pereira Neves (PAICV); government – PAICV

Technically, there was also a very brief period of cohabitation from 1 Feb 2001 to 22 Mar 2001. On 1 February, José Maria Neves of the PAICV took up the post of PM, but the outgoing MPD President António Mascarenhas Monteiro did not leave office until 22 March.

 

Croatia

1.) February 2010 – December 2011

President – Ivo Josipović (SDP); PM – Jadranka Kosor (HDZ); Coalition – HDZ, HSS, HSLS, SDSS

2.) February 2015 – January 2016

President – Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (HDZ); PM – Zoran Milanović (SDH); Coalition – SDH, HNS, IDS

 

See also this post

 

Czech Republic

1.) March 2013 – July 2013

President – Miloš Zeman (Party of Civic Rights – Zeman’s people, SPOZ); PM – Petr Nečas (Civic Democratic Party, ODS); Coalition – ODS, TOP 09, LIDEM

2.) January 2014 –

President – Miloš Zeman (Party of Civic Rights – Zeman’s people, SPOZ); PM – Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD); Coalition – CSSD, ANO, KDU-CSL

 

Finland

1.) December 1926 – December 1927

President – Lauri Kristian Relander (ML); PM – Väinö Alfred Tanner (SDP); Government – SDP

2.) December 1928 – August 1929

President – Lauri Kristian Relander (ML); PM – Oskari Mantere (ED); Government – ED, KOK

3.) March 1946 – July 1948

President – Juho Kusti Paasikivi (KOK); PM – Mauno Pekkala (SKDL); Government – SKDL, SFP, ML, SDP

4.) July 1948 – March 1950

President – Juho Kusti Paasikivi (KOK); PM – Karl August Fagerholm (SDP); Government – SDP

5.) March 1950 – November 1953

President – Juho Kusti Paasikivi (KOK); PM – Urho Kekkonen (ML); Government – ML, ED (until Sep 1951), SFP, SDP (Jan 1951-July 1953)

6.) May 1954 – October 1954

President – Juho Kusti Paasikivi (KOK); PM – Ralf Johan Gustaf Törngren (SDP); Government – SFP, SDP, ML

7.) October 1954 – February 1956

President – Juho Kusti Paasikivi (KOK); PM – Urho Kekkonen (ML); Government – ML, SDP

8.) February 1972 – September 1972

President – Urho Kekkonen (ML/KESK); PM – Kustaa Rafael Paasio (SDP); Government – SDP

9.) April 1991 – March 1994

President – Mauno Henrik Koivisto (SDP); PM – Esko Tapani Aho (KESK); Government – KESK, KOK, RKP/SFP, SKL

10.) March 1994 – April 1995

President – Martti Ahtisaari (SDP); PM – Esko Tapani Aho (KESK); Government – KESK, KOK, RKP/SFP, SKL (to June 1994)

11.) April 2007 – June 2011

President – Tarja Kaarina Halonen (SDP); PM – Matti Taneli Vanhanen (KESK); Government – KESK, RKP/SFP, VIHR

 

France

1.) March 1986 – May 1988

President – François Mitterrand (socialists); PM – Jacques Chirac (RPR); government – RPR, UDF

2.) March 1993 – May 1995

President – François Mitterrand (socialists); PM – Edouard Balladur (RPR); government – RPR, UDF

3.) June 1997 – May 2002

President – Jacques Chirac (RPR); PM – Lionel Jospin (socialists); government – socialists, communists, greens, left-radicals, citizens’ movement

 

Georgia

October 2012-November 2013

President – Mikheil Saakashvili (United National Movement – UNM); PM – Bidzina Ivanishvili (Georgian Dream); Coalition – Georgian Dream

 

Germany (Weimar)

1.) June 1920 – May 1921

President – Friedrich Ebert (SPD); PM – Konstantin Fehrenbach (Z); Government – Z, DPP, DVP

2.) November 1923 – May 1925

President – Friedrich Ebert (SPD); PM – Wilhelm Marx (Z); Government – Z, DDP, DVP, BVP (until June 1924)

Note:

22 Nov 1922 – 13 Aug 1923

President – Friedrich Ebert (SPD); PM – Wilhelm Cuno (non-party); Government – technocrats plus Z, DPP, DVP

 

Iceland

1.) August 1952 – September 1953

President – Ásgeir Ásgeirsson (AF, Social Democrats); PM – Steingrímur Steinthórsson (FSF, Progressive party); Coalition – FSF (Progressive party), SSF (Independence Party)

2.) September 1953 – July 1956

President – Ásgeir Ásgeirsson (AF, Social Democrats); PM – Ólafur Thors (SSF, Independence Party); ; Coalition – FSF (Progressive party), SSF (Independence Party)

3.) August 1996 – 1998

President – Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (AP, People’s Alliance/SFK, Social Democratic Alliance); PM – Davíd Oddsson (SSF, Independence Party); Coalition – FSF (Progressive party), SSF (Independence Party)

 

Ireland

1.) February 1948 – June 1951

President – Sean T. O’Kelly (FF); PM – John A. Costello (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour, National Labour, Clann na Poblachta, Clann na Talmhan

2.) June 1954 – March 1957

President – Sean T. O’Kelly (FF); PM – John A. Costello (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour, Clann na Talmhan

3.) March 1973 – July 1977

Presidents – Erskine Childers (June 1973-Nov 1974), Cearbhall O Dalaigh (Dec 1974-Oct 1976), Patrick Hillery (from Dec 1976) all FF; PM – Liam Cosgrave (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour

4.) June 1981 – March 1982

President – Patrick Hillery (FF); PM – Garret FitzGerald (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour

5.) December 1982 – March 1987

President – Patrick Hillery (FF); PM – Garret FitzGerald (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour

6.) December 1990 – February 1992

President – Mary Robinson (Lab); PM – Charles J. Haughey (FF); Coalition – FF, PD

7.) February 1992 – January 1993

President – Mary Robinson (Lab); PM – Albert Reynolds (FF); Coalition – FF, PD

8.) June 1997 – September 1997

President – Mary Robinson (Lab); PM – Bertie Ahern (FF); Coalition – FF, PD

9.) March 2011 – November 2011

President – Mary McAleese (FF); PM – Enda Kenny (FG); Coalition – FG, Labour

10.) May 2016 –

President – Michael D. Higgins (Labour); PM – Enda Kenny (FG); Government – FG and independents

 

Lithuania

1.) November 1996 – February 1998

President – Algirdas Brazauskas (LDDP); PM – Gediminas Vagnorius (TS-LK): Coalition – TS-LK, LKDP, LCS

2.) February 2003 – April 2004

President – Rolandas Paksas (LLS/LLP); PM – Algirdas Brazauskas (LSDP); Coalition – LSDP, LDDP (merged with LSDP), LRS (part of Brazauskas electoral coalition), NU-SL

 

Macedonia

1.) November 2002 – May 2004

President – Boris Trajkovski (VMRO-DPMNE); PM – Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM/ZMZ): Coalition – SDSM/ZMZ, DUI

2.) August 2006 – April 2009

President – Branko Crvenkovski (SDSM/ZMZ); PM – Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE); Coalition – Until July 2008 VMRO-DPMNE, DPA, NSDP, DOM; From July 2008-; VMRO-DPMNE, DUI

 

Mongolia

1.) June 1993 – July 1996

President – Punsalmaagiyn Ochirbat (MUAN/MNDP); PM – Puntsagiyn Jasray (MAKN/MPRP): Government – MAKN/MPRP

2.) June 1997 – April 1998

President – Natsagiyn Bagabandi (MAKN/MPRP); PM – Mendsaikhany Enkhsaikhan (MUAN/MNDP); Coalition – MUAN/MNDP and DU (MSDN/MSDP)

3.) April 1998 – December 1998

President – Natsagiyn Bagabandi (MAKN/MPRP); PM – Tsakhiagiyn Elbegdorj (MUAN/MNDP); Coalition – MUAN/MNDP and DU (MSDN/MSDP)

4.) December 1998 – July 1999

President – Natsagiyn Bagabandi (MAKN/MPRP); PM – Janlavyn Narantsatsralt (MUAN/MNDP); Coalition – MUAN/MNDP and DU (MSDN/MSDP)

5.) July 1999 – July 2000

President – Natsagiyn Bagabandi (MAKN/MPRP); PM – Rinchinnyamyn Amarjargal (MUAN/MNDP); Coalition – MUAN/MNDP and DU (MSDN/MSDP)

 

Niger

February 1995 – January 1996

President – Mahamane Ousmane (CDS); PM – Hama Amadou (MNSD): Government – MNSD, PNDS

 

Poland

1.) December 1991 – Jun 1992

President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Jan Olszewski (PC); Government – PC, ZChN, PL

2.) June 1992 – July 1992

President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Waldemar Pawlak (PSL); Government – PSL, PC, ZChN

3.) July 1992 – October 1993

President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Hanna Suchocka (UD); Government – UD, KLD, ZChN, PChD, SL-Ch, PPG, PL

4.) October1993 – March 1995

President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Waldemar Pawlak (PSL); Government – SLD, PSL

5.) March 1995 – December 1995

President – Lech Wałęsa (NSZZ); PM – Józef Oleksy (SdRP/SLD); Government – SLD, PSL

6.) October 1997 – October 2001

President – Aleksander Kwaśniewski (SdRP/SLD); PM – Jerzy Karol Buzek (AWS); Government – AWS, UW (to June 2000)

7.) November 2007 – April 2010

Lech Aleksander Kaczyński (PiS); PM – Donald Tusk (PO); Government – PO, PSL

8.) August 2015 – November 2015

Andrzej Duda (PiS); PM – Ewa Kopacz (PO); Government – PO, PSL

 

Portugal

1.) March 1986 – October 1995

President – Mário Soares (PS); PM – Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD); Government – PSD

2.) April 2002 – July 2004

President – Jorge Sampaio (PS); PM – José Manuel Barroso (PSD); Government – PSD, CDS-PP

3.) July 2004 – March 2005

President – Jorge Sampaio (PS); PM – Pedro Miguel Lopes (PSD); Government – PSD, CDS-PP

4.) March 2006 – June 2011

President – Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD); José Sócrates (PS); Government – PS

5.) November 2015 – March 2016

President – Aníbal Cavaco Silva (PSD); PM – António Luís Santos da Costa (PS); Government – PS

6.) March 2016 –

President – Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (PSD); PM – António Luís Santos da Costa (PS); Government – PS

 

Romania

1.) April 2007- December 2008

President – Traian Băsescu (PD/PD-L); PM – Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (PNL); Coalition – PNL, UDMR

2.) May 2012-December 2014

President – Traian Băsescu (PD/PD-L); PM – Victor Ponta (PSD); Coalition – PSD, PNL until March 2014, then PSD, UDMR

3.) December 2014-November 2015

President – Klaus Werner Johannis (PNL); PM – Victor Ponta (PSD); Coalition – PSD, LRP, PC, UNPR

4.) January 2017-

President – Klaus Werner Johannis (PNL); PM – Sorin Mihai Grindeanu (PSD); Coalition – PSD, PMP, ALDE

 

São Tomé e Príncipe

1.) October 1994 – December 1995

President – Miguel Trovoada (ADI); PM – Carlos da Graça (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD, PCD

2.) December 1995 – November 1996

President – Miguel Trovoada (ADI); PM – Armindo Vaz d’Almeida (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD, PCD

3.) November 1996 – January 1999

President – Miguel Trovoada (ADI); PM – Raul Bragança Neto (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD, PCD

4.) January 1999 – September 2001

President – Miguel Trovoada (ADI); PM – Guilherme Posser de Costa (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD

5.) March 2004 – September 2004

President – Fradique de Menezes (MDFM-PL); PM – Maria das Neves Ceita Baptista de Sousa (MLSTP-PSD); MLSTP-PSD, Ue-K (inc ADI)

6.) September 2004 – Jun 2005

President – Fradique de Menezes (MDFM-PL); PM – Damião Vaz d’Almeida (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD, ADI

7.) January 2010 – August 2010

President – Fradique de Menezes (MDFM-PL); PM – Joaquim Rafael Branco (MLSTP-PSD); Coalition – MLSTP-PSD, PCD

8.) August 2010 – September 2011

President – Fradique de Menezes (MDFM-PL); PM – Patrice Trovoada (ADI); Government – ADI

 

Serbia

November 2006 – May 2007

President – Boris Tadić (DS); PM – Vojislav Koštunica (DSS); Government – DSS, G17+, SPO, and NS

 

Slovakia

See this post

 

Slovenia

1.) December 2004 – January 2006

President – Janez Drnovšek (LDS); PM – Janez Janša (SDS); Coalition – SDS, NSi, SLS, DeSUS

2.) December 2012 – March 2013

President – Borut Pahor (SD); PM – Janez Janša (SDS); Coalition – SDS, NSi, SLS, DeSUS, LGV

 

Sri Lanka

1.) August 1994 – November 1994

President – Dingiri Banda Wijetunge (EJP); PM – Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (SLMP/SLNP); Government – SLMP/SLNP

2.) December 2001 – April 2004

President – Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga (SLMP/SLNP); PM – Ranil Wickremasinghe (EJP); Gove

TRNC – Government defeated in no-confidence vote, interim cohabitation government

In the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), the government has been defeated in a vote of no-confidence. A new government has been proposed and, if approved, will generate a period of cohabitation at least for the period prior to the snap election that is due to be held at the end of next month.

The previous legislative election in TRNC was in April 2009. The UBP party was returned with a slim majority of 26 seats in the 50-seat parliament. In April 2010 Derviş Eroğlu of the UBP was elected as president. His election marked the end of a period of cohabitation between the legislative and the presidential election.

Since 2009 the party composition of the TRNC parliament has changed. The parliament is now reporting that the UBP has only 22 deputies. In this context, Hürriyet Daily News is reporting that last week 8 UBP deputies joined the opposition and voted against the UBP in a no-confidence vote, generating a snap election that will be held on 28 July.

Now, a three-party coalition government has been formed, bringing together the CTP-BG, BP-UG and TDP. Together, they should have the support of 27 deputies. The new PM is Sibel Siber, TRNC’s first female PM, from the CTP-BG.

So, there is a period of cohabitation in TRNC, though it may be short-lived.

A discussion of semi-presidentialism in TRNC is available here.

Bulgaria – New govt approved and a new period of cohabitation? (Amended)

In Bulgaria a new government has been approved.

The general election earlier this month led to the incumbent GERB government receiving the highest number of seats of any party in the legislature – 97/240. However, only four parties were returned to parliament and none of the other three were willing either to form a coalition with GERB or to support a minority GERB government in parliament.

The mandate to form a government, therefore, moved to the second largest party, the BSP. The BSP proposed a minority government containing three MRF ministers and a number of ‘experts’. The BSP had the support of 84 deputies. The MRF party has 36 seats. So, the government has the support of 120 seats in the 240-seat legislature.

In this context, the proposed minority government was presented to the Bulgarian parliament today. There were two issues. The first was whether there would be a quorum to allow a vote on the new government. The constitution requires at least 121 deputies to be present for a quorum. GERB announced yesterday that they would not be present. This meant that whether or not there could be a vote on the government was a function whether the fourth party in parliament, the nationalist Ataka party with its 23 deputies, would turn up to vote. If they did not, then there would be no vote on the government. In the end, one Ataka deputy was present, ensuring a quorum.

The second issue was then the vote on the proposed government. At this point, GERB deputies did take their seats. The subsequent vote was 119 in favour and 98 against with Ataka abstaining. The political effect of GERB’s position was to allow it claim that the socialist BSP-led government was only voted in with the support of the far-right, nationalist Ataka party.

Whatever the politics of the situation, the net result is that Bulgaria has a new government. However, it is a cohabitation government, or at least it might be classed as such. This is because President Rosen Plevneliev of GERB took office in January 2012 and GERB is not represented in government. That said, PM Plamen Oresharski is an independent, even though he is associated with the BSP. Therefore, even though the president’s party is not in government, the PM is not formally from a party opposed to the president. This does beg the question of whether this should be classed as a ‘true’ period of cohabitation. For now, I have not updated the list of cohabitations in Bulgaria.

In any case, the current government faces a dual dilemma. It does not have a majority in parliament. Instead, it will rely both on the continuing support of MRF and the continuing abstention of Ataka. Even if it maintains its current position in parliament, the BSP government still runs the risk of its legislation being vetoed by the president.

In this context, the chances of the legislature lasting a full five-fouryear term are probably small.

Iceland – New coalition agreed

Parliamentary elections were held in Iceland on 27 April. The outgoing government was roundly defeated. A new coalition has now been agreed.

The two leading parties following the election, the Independence Party and the Progressive Party, each won 19 seats. There are 63 seats in the legislature.

In the end, the Progressive Party will take the premiership. The new PM will be Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson. The leader of the Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson, will become the Finance Minister. Iceland Review is reporting that the Progressive Party will have four other cabinet posts and that the Independence Party will have five as well as the Speaker of Parliament.

One issue this raises is whether Iceland is about to begin a period of cohabitation. This depends on whether you consider the president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, to be partisan. He was previously an elected member (and minister) representing the People’s Alliance (AP). When he was elected president in 1996 he became an independent. However, he was required to do so and worldstatesmen.org still record him as AP. Given I use worldstatesmen.org as the source of partisanship, then this would suggest a new period of cohabitation should be recorded.

One complicating factor, though, is that AP no longer exists. It merged with other parties to form the Social Democratic Alliance in 1998, though some members did not join and set up the Left-Green Movement. So, while worldstatesmen.org may be right in 1996, it cannot not correct about President Grímsson’s affiliation now. If AP still existed, then I would record a period of cohabitation. However, given it does not, then I am not recording the current period as a period of cohabitation. By the same token, I have amended the list of cohabitations for Iceland in another part of this blog.

Cohabitation – Czech Republic

This is a series of posts that records the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation.

Here is my list of cohabitations in the Czech Republic:

March 2013 – July 2013
President – Miloš Zeman (Party of Civic Rights – Zeman’s people, SPOZ); PM – Petr Nečas (Civic Democratic Party, ODS); Coalition – ODS, TOP 09, LIDEM

 

Lithuania – President rejects ministerial nominations. When have other presidents done the same?

The formation of the new government in Lithuania has been very difficult. The difficulty has arisen not so much from the negotiations between the parties in the coalition, but from the attitude of the president towards the government. The president’s actions have raised a more general issue.

The legislative election in Lithuania was held at the end of October. A three-party agreement on a new government was reached very quickly and a fourth party was soon added. However, from very early on the composition of the prospective government was contested. President Dalia Grybauskaitė refused to accept the nomination of certain ministers from the Labour Party. More specifically, at first she seemed to imply that she would refuse the nomination of any minister from the party. However, the president has now approved the government and, as 15min.lt reports, it does include Labour Party ministers. However, the government is incomplete. President Grybauskaitė has indeed refused the nomination of two Labour Party ministers and their replacements have yet to be found. In addition, the report states that the initial nominee for the Minister of Culture was rejected and another name was found.

This got me thinking. During periods of cohabitation, how often have presidents refused the nomination of government ministers?

Well, first, it should be stressed that Lithuania is not experiencing a period of cohabitation. President Grybauskaitė is an independent. All the same, she has clearly aligned herself with the Conservatives. So, what we have in Lithuania is a ‘difficult case’ of cohabitation. In previous posts, I have recorded certain other examples.

If we leave the specific Lithuania issue aside and concentrate on the general problem, then three examples of presidents refusing to nominate particular ministers during cohabitation have been identified.

In France in 1986, President Mitterrand rejected the appointment of the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministers. At that time, he intimated that because he had constitutional competences in these areas and also because the president does have to approve the appointment of ministers nominated by the PM, then he was entitled to oppose the proposed nominations. The new PM, Jacques Chirac, did not make a fuss and they agreed on two new appointments. So, the rejections were known, but it was not a stand-off or a crisis, partly because neither the president nor the PM saw it in their interests to create one.

My colleague, Iain McMenamin, reminded me of a similar case in Poland. He recounts the case in his chapter in the book edited by myself and Sophia Moestrup, Semi-presidentialism in Central and Eastern Europe. In the early 1990s, President Walesa insisted that he appoint three ministers in his “special special areas of responsibility”. In a slightly later Cabinet, Walesa refused to accept an SLD nomination for Finance Minister. As McMenamin then writes (p. 130): “Eventually, after a prolonged standoff, Walesa got the SLD to produce a new nomination for finance minister, while he accepted coalition-nominated deputy ministers in the presidential ministries.”

Another colleague and great friend to this blog, Cristina Bucur, also told me of a similar situation in Romania. In December 2007 President Băsescu refused to appoint Norica Nicolai as Minister of Justice. There are some details here.

I can’t think of any other examples, but I would guess that there are some. If anyone has any further examples, then do please comment.

The bottom line is that President Grybauskaitė is following the example of certain other presidents. That said, presidential refusals of ministerial nominations under cohabitation do seem to be pretty rare. If so, then it is perhaps more evidence that cohabitation is not necessarily as problematic as it is sometimes portrayed.

Cohabitation – Georgia

This is a series of posts that records the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation.

Here is my list of cohabitations in Georgia:

October 2012-
President – Mikheil Saakashvili (UNM); PM – Bidzina Ivanishvili (GD); Coalition – GD, GD-FD, GD-R

Party abbreviations:

UNM (United National Movement)
GD (Georgian Dream)
GD-FD (Georgian Dream – Free Democrats)
GD-R (Georgian Dream -Republicans)

 

The problems of semi-presidentialism and cohabitation in Africa (updated and corrected)

Yesterday, Octavio Amorim Neto kindly drew my attention to an article in the Jornal de Angola. I posted a link to it on the Facebook site. It is an opinion piece about semi-presidentialism in Africa. It argues that semi-presidentialism is problematic, particularly because of the prevalence of cohabitation. The author, Faustino Henrique, argues in favour of a presidential system and also appears to prefer parliamentarism to semi-presidentialism. If you don’t have Portuguese, then Google Translate does a pretty good job of conveying the argument.

I am responding to the article not because I think that semi-presidentialism is the best of all systems of government and that it needs to be defended from its critics. Indeed, as regular readers of this blog will know, I like promoting the study of semi-presidentialism, but I have severe reservations about recommending semi-presidentialism as a system of government. Instead, I think I was driven to respond partly because doing so helps to promote the study of semi-presidentialism and partly because I was frustrated by the way in which the author defends the argument.

The author’s basic argument is that semi-presidentialism has been the cause of political crisis in Africa. Particularly, the author argues that cohabitation between the executive and the parliamentary majority is the cause of political problems.

What struck me most about the article was the absence of empirical evidence. There was only one example, the case of São Tomé and Príncipe where a representative of the opposition MLSTP-PSD party is quoted as saying that “the country is heading for political instability”. Apart from that one quote, we are simply told that cohabitation has created “many problems”.

São Tomé e Príncipe is indeed one of the most cohabitation-prone countries in the world. Indeed, the most recent period of cohabitation ended in 2011. However, despite the fact that it has had so many periods of cohabitation, it has remained democratic. What about cohabitation in Africa more generally? Well, it was certainly associated with the collapse of democracy in Niger in 1996. However, the only other African country to have experienced cohabitation is Cape Verde, where it began in September 2011. To the best of my knowledge, cohabitation in Cape Verde has worked without incident since this time. So, while cohabitation in Niger was a very difficult experience and is a sign that cohabitation can definitely cause problems, I am not sure that many countries have faced the problems of cohabitation that the author alludes to in the article.

Interestingly, when pointing to the causes of instability, the author identifies not only periods of cohabitation but also periods where an independent president has been at odds with the government or the parliamentary majority. Here is where São Tomé e Príncipe comes back in. The current president, Manuel Pinto da Costa, ran as an independent in 2011, though he was formerly a member of the MLSTP-PSD. The government is headed by Patrice Trovoada from the ADI. It is a minority government. The MLSTP-PSD is the main opposition party in parliament. Currently, the government is having problems passing legislation in parliament. It is also possible that the president is making the government’s life more difficult, even if he is no longer formally a member of the MLSTP-PSD. So, the presence of an independent president may be problematic.

However, the impact of ‘independent’ president is one that needs more research. The term ‘independent’ can cover a lot of situations. It can refer to people who claim to be independent but are really supported by a party/group or block of parties/groups. It can also refer to people who are populist and who do not have a party backing but do have a strong social base. It can refer to people such as technocrats. I don’t know of any studies that have tried to systematically assess the impact, positive or negative, of independent presidents on democracy in Africa. I can certainly think of the problematic situation in Guinea-Bissau following the election of the late João Bernardo Vieira. He had been a member of the PAIGC, but had left the party at the time of his re-election in 2005. Generally, though, I don’t think we know enough about independent presidents to draw any systematic conclusions.

So, this is what I think. Cohabitation is unique to semi-presidentialism. There is evidence that it can be problematic. However, in Africa it has not occurred very often and it has only been associated with the collapse of democracy in one case. Independent presidents are not unique to semi-presidentialism. They can occur under presidentialism too. So, if independent presidents are problematic, and they may be, then presidentialism is not necessarily a solution. Finally, minority governments are not unique to semi-presidentialism. They can occur under presidentialism and parliamentarism. If they are problematic, and as before they may be, then again presidentialism is not necessarily a solution and neither is parliamentarism in that regard.

Overall, I have no particular desire to promote semi-presidentialism as a form of government. I think there are arguments in favour of and against parliamentarism, presidentialism, and semi-presidentialism. However, if we are arguing the merits and demerits of specific regimes, then I think we need to think carefully about how the argument is made. What is the empirical evidence? (And I haven’t even mentioned the need to include all sorts of control variables in order to determine the independent impact of semi-presidentialism and its various forms). What is the alternative? Are the problems of semi-presidentialism likely to occur under other forms of government too?

(This post replaces an earlier version. Thanks to Gerhard Siebert for corrections. Obviously, this post represents only my own opinion).

Cohabitation – Romania

This is a series of posts that records the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet. Presidents classed as non-party cannot generate any periods of cohabitation.

Here is my list of cohabitations in Romania:

Apr 2007- Dec 2008
President – Traian Băsescu (PD/PD-L); PM – Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu (PNL); Coalition – PNL, UDMR

May 2012-
President – Traian Băsescu (PD/PD-L); PM – Victor Ponta (PSD); Coalition – PSD, PNL

The situation in Romania is unusual. The president’s party was in the governing coalition after the 2004 election. However, it left the government in April 2007 at the time when President Băsescu was being impeached by parliament with support from members of the PNL. Thus, cohabitation began part way through a legislature and without an election occurring.

Exactly the same scenario occurred in May 2012. This time the ruling coalition, which included the president’s party, was defeated in a confidence motion. The opposition formed a government without the president’s party, thus beginning another period of cohabitation without an election having taken place.

Romania and São Tomé & Príncipe are the only cases where cohabitation has begun outside an election (presidential or legislative).

Party abbreviations:

PD-L (Democratic Liberal Party)
PNL (National Liberal Party)
PSD (Social Democratic Party)
UDMR (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania)

Difficult cases of cohabitation – Croatia

In a previous series of posts I recorded the cases of cohabitation in countries with semi-presidential constitutions. Cohabitation is defined as the situation where the president and prime minister are from different parties and where the president’s party is not represented in the cabinet.

One potential problem with this definition is that non-party presidents cannot generate any periods of cohabitation. The problem is that some nominally non-partisan presidents may actually be de facto partisans. If this is the case, then the cases of cohabitation may be underestimated.

This series of posts discusses ‘difficult’ cases of cohabitation, meaning the situation where nominally non-partisan presidents are de facto partisans and where there are no other supporters of the president in the government.

For the record, I take party affiliation from worldstatesmen.org. To the best of my knowledge, there is no systematic error in the recording of non-partisanship there.

This case concerns Croatia during the presidency of Stjepan “Stipe” Mesić and the prime ministership of first Ivo Sanader and then Jadranka Kosor from 23 December 2003 to 19 February 2010.

Sanader led an HDZ-dominated government from 23 December 2003 to 12 January 2008. Thereafter, the HDZ was in a coalition with three other parties. (A list of Croatian governments is available here).

Mesić is classed as a non-partisan president. However, he had a partisan past. According to Wikipedia, he was a member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) until 1994 when he joined the Croatian Independent Democrats (HND), which split from the HDZ. In 1997, when the HND failed to win seats in the legislature, he joined the Croatian People’s Party (HNS). He was elected as president in February 2000. In the January 2000 legislative election the HNS won seats in the legislature and it did so again in 2003 and 2007. The HNS was not in government after December 2003.

So, if Mesić was really a member of the HNS and the HNS was not in the cabinet from 23 December 2003 to 19 February 2010, then there was a period of cohabitation in Croatia.

Was Mesić really a partisan? The East European Constitutional Review, Volume 9 Numbers 1/2, states the following: “Although a member of CPP and a candidate of the four-party coalition, Mesić did not really enjoy their full support during the campaign, and the public perceived him as an independent.” However, in an overview of Croatian political parties, Čular (Politička misao, 2004, No. 5) identifies the HNS at the “[p]arty of Croatia’s President Stipe Mesić.” Also, Grbeša in Politička misao, 2004, No. 5, p. 60) notes that Mesić was on the HNS party list at the January 2000 legislative election but did not get elected. So, he was clearly associated with the HNS immediately prior to the January/February 2000 presidential election.

As with any ‘difficult’ case of cohabitation, no definitive conclusion can be drawn. As with the previous post, this is why I believe it is better to define cohabitation systematically and to identify partisanship via a reliable source such as worldstatesmen.org. However, if a research project wanted to test for the effect of cohabitation vs. non-cohabitation on a certain outcome, then it might be worth including the clear-cut cases of cohabitation first and then including the difficult cases subsequently to ensure that there was no systematic selection bias in the results.