Category Archives: Historic cases of semi-presidentialism

General information

Since the switch to the new blog, Presidential Power, I am not updating this blog with information about semi-presidential countries. However, to facilitate visitors who want to find general information about semi-presidentialism very quickly, here are the links to the most frequently viewed posts on this blog.

List of current semi-presidential countries

List of historic semi-presidential countries

List of president-parliamentary and premier-presidential semi-presidential countries

List of presidential and parliamentary countries

Semi-presidentialism in disputed area or territories (current and historic)

List of periods of cohabitation

 

Visitors might also be interested in the following series of posts. Please just follow the thread on the archives.

When was the first reference to semi-presidentialism?

What was the first semi-presidential country?

Some difficult cases of semi-presidentialism

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

I am not sure how this case missed my attention. However, I have ‘discovered’ another case of historic semi-presidentialism. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was semi-presidential from July 2000 until the dissolution of the state in 2003 and the creation of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro.

Following the collapse of communist Yugoslavia, a new constitution was adopted in 1992. The text is available here. At that time, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was parliamentary. Arts. 103 and 104 make it clear that the PM and cabinet are collectively responsible to the legislature. However, Art. 97 indicates that the president is elected by the legislature.

In July 2000 the 1992 constitution was amended. (I have a copy of the text and can supply it, but the source is gated). There was a new Art. 97, allowing for the direct election of the president. Indeed, in September 2000 the first election was held, with Vojislav Koštunica beating Slobodan Milošević. There are details here as well as a more general article in Journal of Democracy , Volume 15, Number 4, October 2004.

In February 2003 the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved and the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was created. The constitution is available here. This constitution is parliamentary. Art. 21 states that the president is elected by the legislature.

To bring the story up to date, when Montenegro voted for independence in 2006 the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was dissolved. The 2007 Montenegrin constitution and the 2006 Serbian constitutions are both semi-presidential. Therefore, the dissolution of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro led to the creation of two new semi-presidential countries.

To complete the story, from 1992-2006 both Montenegro and Serbia were Republics within the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia/State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. Both had their own constitutions and both were semi-presidential. The constitutions are available here and here. So, even though at the national level Yugoslavia was semi-presidential only from 2000-2003, at the sub-national level both Montenegro and Serbia were semi-presidential prior to statehood in 2006.

 

Madagascar – Constitutional history

In a previous post, a question was raised about Madagascar’s constitutional history from 1991 onwards and how it should be classified. This post sets out how I see it. With the exception of the 1995 reforms, the documents are all available in French at the Digithèque MJP.

In October 1991, there was a constitutional convention that governed the transition to democracy. There was a president and a prime minister, but no legislature. This was clearly an interim document that was not semi-presidential (or either presidential or parliamentary).

In August 1992, a new constitution was adopted. ICL provides an English version here. This constitution created a premier-presidential version of semi-presidentialism. Arts. 53 and 61 made no mention of prime ministerial responsibility to the president, only to the National Assembly. Responsibility to the National Assembly took various forms. According to Art. 90, it was on the basis of an investiture vote on the government’s programme, whereby a majority of the members of the National Assembly was required to approve the PM. Art. 91 also stated that if the government decided to change its programme during the course of a legislature, then it could ask for a vote of confidence. If two-thirds of the National Assembly voted against the government, then it had to resign. Art. 94 also allowed for motions of no-confidence. Such a motion was adopted if it gained the support of a majority of the members of the National Assembly. The wording of this constitution is unproblematic.

In October 1995, a constitutional law was passed. The details are in J. du Bois de Gaudusson, G. Conac, C. Desouches (eds.), Les Constitutions africaines publiées en langue française, Paris, La Documentation Française, 1998. This revision did change various articles that are potentially relevant to the classification of the country. There was still no mention in Arts. 53 or 61 of PM responsibility to the president, only to the National Assembly. However, Art. 90 was reworded. A new clause was added at the end stating that the president ends the PM’s functions (met fin aux fonctions du PM) either as a result of a vote of no-confidence (vote de défiance), or as a result of a motion of censure, or for any other determining cause (toutes autres causes déterminantes). This article is now very confusing. It seems to deal explicitly with the terms of the government’s investiture, but the new clause at the end seems more general. Presumably, it put the onus on the opposition to lodge a motion of no-confidence or censure rather than requiring the government to obtain a majority. Even so, the phrase ‘for any other determining cause ‘ seems to apply far more generally than just the investiture. What is more, it is not entirely clear how a vote de défiance is different from a motion of censure. Art. 91 was also reworded to allow the government to ask for a vote of confidence at any time. Again, a two-thirds majority was required to bring down the government. In addition, Art. 94 was amended such that a vote of no-confidence now required a two-thirds majority to bring down the government.

In April 1998 there were further amendments. Art. 53 was amended so that it now read: ‘The president ends the PM’s functions for any determining cause’ (pour toute cause déterminante), though Art. 61 still only makes reference to PM responsibility to the legislature. Art. 90 was amended to remove any need for an investiture vote and the clause that was added in 1995 was deleted. Art. 91 was also amended. A motion of confidence now required only a majority of the National Assembly to bring the government down. Art. 94 remained the same.

There were further amendments in 2007, but the wording of the above articles was not changed, though they were renumbered. The constitution was suspended in February 2009.

So, how do we classify Madagascar from August 1992-February 2009. It seems to depend on two things. Firstly, there is the super-majority requirement in Art. 94 from 1995 onwards. For me, this does not make a difference to the classification of a country as semi-presidential. I have already posted about this issue here. Secondly, there is the phrase “pour toute(s) cause(s) déterminante(s)”. This is a very unusual phrase that I cannot remember seeing in another constitution. I interpret it as meaning that the president can dismiss the PM on the basis of a given reason. To me, this allows the president to dismiss the PM.

Overall, I class Madagascar as semi-presidential from 1992-2009, and as premier-presidential from 1992-1995 and president-parliamentary from 1995-2009.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – Peru

Last Friday I looked at the constitutional history of South Korea since 1948. This week I am looking at the constitutional history of another country that is consistently difficult to classify – Peru.

The full set of Peruvian constitutions from 1812-2001 is available in Spanish online here in a book by Domingo Garciá Belaunde, Las Constituciones del Perú, Lima, 2005. If you have access to the HeinonLine legal database, then you may also be able to download English versions of the texts from 1823-1946 as part of their World Constitutions Illustrated Resource Collection. This resource includes the British & Foreign State Papers series, which provided English translations of the texts of most constitutions in the world for more than a century.

The question is when can Peru be classed as semi-presidential? I am going to go through the 1919, 1933, 1979 and 1993 constitutions to try to answer this question. Bear in mind that the direct election of the president is included throughout. So, I am focussing on whether there is a PM and whether the PM and government are collectively responsible to the legislature. The bottom line is that there is a clear trajectory in the wording of the constitutions over time.

The 1919 Constitution

Art. 111 The head of the Government shall be styled President of the Republic.
Art. 128 The Ministers of State when assembled form the Council of Ministers …
Art. 133 Ministers against whom either of the Houses has issued a vote of lack of confidence may not continue in office

So, this constitution is clearly presidential. There is no mention of anything like a PM; the president is stated as being the head of government; and responsibility is purely individual

The 1933 Constitution

Art. 134 The President of the Republic is the Head of the State …
Art. 154 The attributes of the President of the Republic are:
(7) To appoint and remove the President of the Council of Ministers and the Ministers of State, in conformity with the. constitution;
Art. 157 The Ministers of State in assembly form the Council of Ministers … The Council of Ministers has its President.
Art. 158 The President of the Republic appoints and removes the President of the Council.
Art. 172 A vote of censure against the Council of Ministers or against any of the Ministers may be moved by a single deputy or senator, and the vote shall be taken at the same session.
Art. 173 The censured Minister must resign. The President of the Republic shall accept the resignation.

We are on the cusp of semi-presidentialism here. There is a PM. There is mention of the possibility of a vote of censure against the cabinet. However, Art. 173 only makes mention of individual responsibility. While the implication from Art. 172 is that there is collective responsibility, there does not seem to be an explicit mention of this power in the constitution. So, I do not class Peru as semi-presidential under this constitution.

The 1979 Constitution

Art. 201 The President of the Republic is the Head of the State …
Art. 215 The Ministers of State in assembly form the Council of Ministers … The Council of Ministers has its President
Art. 216 The President of the Republic appoints and removes the President of the Council
Art. 226 The Chamber of Deputies hold politically responsible the Council of Ministers or Ministers individually by way of a vote of censure or a vote of confidence … The censured Council of Ministers or Minister must resign. The President of the Republic shall accept the resignation.

So, this wording is slightly but significantly different from the 1935 Constitution and the result is to make the country clearly semi-presidential. The mechanism for collective responsibility is explicitly specified.

The 1993 Constitution

Here, the wording is almost exactly the same as for the 1979 constitution. The relevant Articles are 110, 121, 122 and 132 respectively. So, again, this constitution is semi-presidential.

So, Peru is clearly semi-presidential since 1979. There is a case to be made for its inclusion from 1933. However, I tend to exclude this case.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – South Korea

As regular readers of this blog will know, the classification of South Korea has often caused me problems. I have now managed to obtain the texts of all but one of the six de facto South Korean constitutions since 1948. (Technically, there has been one constitution – the 1948 constitution – that has been repeatedly amended. In practice, though, they can be treated as different constitutions). This post is an attempt to classify South Korea on the basis of the texts that I have. (This post replaces a previous one on South Korea).

The 1948 constitution (available in Amos J. Peaslee, Constitutions of Nations, 1950, pp. 338-348.)

Initially, Art. 53 stated that the President was elected by the legislature. However, an amendment in 1952 established the direct election of the president. I do not have the text of the amendment, but there were direct presidential elections in May 1952, May 1956 and March 1960.

In Chapter III of this constitution, there is no mention of the National Assembly being able to vote down a PM or a govt. However, Art. 69 does state: “The President shall appoint the Prime Minister with the consent of the National Assembly. When the National Assembly convenes after a general election the appointment of the Prime Minister shall be confirmed by the National Assembly.” Thus, there is only individual PM responsibility at the point of appointment. Thereafter, the Assembly cannot dismiss the PM individually or the government collectively.

Given the individual nature of accountability, I do not class South Korea as semi-presidential in the period after the 1952 amendment.

The 1960 constitution – I do not have a copy of this text. If anyone can supply it, then I would be grateful.

The 1962 constitution (available in Amos J. Peaslee, Constitutions of Nations, 1966, pp. 581-597)

Art. 64 states that the president shall be elected by universal suffrage.

There is no mention of the PM being appointed with the consent of the Assembly. However, Art. 59 states that on the basis of an absolute majority vote the Assembly may recommend to the President of the Republic the dismissal of the PM and any Minister and that the President shall agree to the recommendation unless there is a special reason not to do so. So, while there is accountability to the legislature once the government has been appointed by the President, the accountability is only individual.

Given the individual nature of accountability, I do not class South Korea as semi-presidential under this constitution.

The 1972 constitution (available from the National Library of Australia, document supply service – identifiable on the library’s catalogue)

In this Constitution, there was, in theory if not in practice, the opportunity for collective responsibility of the government to the National Assembly.

Art. 63 (1) states that the PM “shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly”. So, this is individual responsibility.
However, Art 97 (1) allows the National Assembly to pass a motion for the removal of the PM or a minister on the basis of an absolute majority vote. Art. 97 (3) then indicates that if a motion to remove the PM is successful, the President shall remove the PM and all ministers. So, the president has no choice in the matter and there is collective responsibility.

The catch with the 1972 constitution comes in the form of the election of the president. This constitution is dominated by the presence of the National Conference for Unification (NCU). This institution was composed of over 2,000 directly elected representatives. According to Art. 38 (2), one of the tasks of the NCU was to elect the president. Indeed, on 23 December 1972 President Park was elected by all but two of the 2,359 votes of the NCU. (See Sugjoo Han in Asian Survey, vol. 14, no. 1, 1974, pp. 43-51).

The NCU was much more than just a once-off electoral college like the US or former Finnish electoral college. Art. 37 (4) stated that the term of office of NCU representatives was six years. They elected one-third of the members of the National Assembly. They were an advisory council and could be delegated other powers by an organic law.

The bottom line is that the president was not directly elected under the 1972 constitution, nor was the president elected by a US-style electoral college. Instead, there was an indirect election by a permanent institution. So, I do not class South Korea as semi-presidential under this constitution.

The 1980 constitution (available in Amos J. Peaslee, Constitutions of Nations, 1985, pp. 549-570)

In terms of semi-presidentialism, aspects of this constitution are very similar to the 1972 constitution.

Art. 62 states that the PM “shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly”. Crucially, Art. 99 states that National Assembly may on the basis of an absolute majority vote pass a motion for the removal of the PM or any Minister from office. Art 99-3 then states that if a motion to remove the PM is passed then “the President shall remove the Prime Minister and all members of the State Council [government] from office”. Therefore, there is very clear collective responsibility.

In the 1980 constitution, the NCU was abolished. In terms of the election of the president, Art. 39 states that the president shall be elected by an electoral college. Art. 40 states that the electoral college shall be composed of electors elected by universal suffrage. Art. 41-5 states that the electoral college shall dissolve on the day the elected president assumes office. This system, therefore, closely resembles the one in the US. For me, this counts as a direct election.

Given the collective nature of accountability and the direct-like election, then I class South Korea as semi-presidential under this constitution.

The 1987 constitution (commonly available)

Art. 67 states that the president shall be elected by universal suffrage.

Art. 86 states that the PM “shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the National Assembly”. Art. 63 states that on the basis of an absolute majority vote the Assembly may recommend to the President of the Republic the dismissal of the PM and any Minister. There is no further qualification. Therefore, the assumption is that the President may ignore the recommendation.

Given the individual nature of accountability and the fact that, once the PM has been appointed, the President would seem to have the final say on whether or not to dismiss the PM, then I do not class South Korea as semi-presidential under this constitution.

Conclusion

Leaving aside the period 1960-1962, the texts show that South Korea was semi-presidential, on the basis of the definition used in this blog, from 1980-1987.

Ukraine – Semi-presidential history

In a previous post I referred to some of the difficulties involved in determining when a country should start to be classed as semi-presidential. As someone who does not speak Russian, I find this issue particularly problematic in the case of former USSR countries. Most simply grafted a directly elected president onto a nominally parliamentary system in 1990-91. In this way, they probably became semi-presidential at that time. However, it is extremely difficult to find the texts from this period in order to confirm this situation and, if they are available, the texts are usually in Russian. Therefore, I tend to date the start of semi-presidentialism from the time of the first consolidated constitution. These are generally available.

The case of Ukraine is interesting in terms of its semi-presidential history. I only had the opportunity to become familiar with this case when I was examining a PhD by Eugene Mazo late last year. Anyway, one of the things I learnt from the PhD was that Ukraine was not semi-presidential, as defined in this blog, from June 1995 until the passage of the current constitution in June 1996.

The first presidential election in Ukraine was held on 1 December 1991, just a few months after the declaration of independence in August of that year. So, Ukraine became semi-presidential during that period.

By June 1995 the constitution-making process had already been going on for nearly four years. A problem was that any constitution had to be passed by a 2/3rds majority of all members. Moreover, elections failed to return a full set of deputies. So, the supermajority requirement was insuperable.

In June 1995 an agreement was reached between the president and parliament to pass an interim constitution by way of an ordinary law, hence avoiding the supermajority requirement. This so-called ‘constitutional agreement’ created a presidential regime. It was in force until the end of June 1996. During that time, the president could not dissolve the assembly; the president could appoint the government without parliamentary approval; and parliament could not dismiss the government.

At the end of June 1996 with the deadline looming a full constitution was finally agreed. This constitution was, of course, semi-presidential.

Therefore, there is a one-year gap in Ukraine’s semi-presidential history.

There are publications by Eugene Mazo available at: http://cesp.stanford.edu/people/eugenemazo.html.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – Central African Republic

The Central African Republic has had an interesting semi-presidential history. Working backwards, the current constitution, dating back to 2005, is semi-presidential. This replaced an earlier semi-presidential constitution that dated from 1995. In between, in 2003 François Bozizé, the current president, seized power and suspended the 1995 constitution, replacing it over a series of weeks with a number of constitutional decrees. These decrees did not amount to a semi-presidential regime. Prior to the passage of the 1995 constitution, in 1991 there was an amendment to the 1986 constitution that, as far as I can tell, grafted a prime minister who was responsible to parliament onto the existing presidential system. (If anyone has a copy of the 1991 amendments, then please share them). Anyway, all of this means that, according to the current state of my research, the Central African Republic became semi-presidential in 1991.

Before that, though, there was also a short period of semi-presidentialism that is probably forgotten. In 1981 David Dacko, who had seized power from the self-styled ‘Bokassa I’ in 1979, proposed a new constitution that was approved in a referendum in February. This 1981 constitution was semi-presidential. (I have a hard copy of the text that I can share if required). In March 1981 David Dacko was elected president, winning just over 50% of the vote in an election that was at least somewhat free and fair.

However, the Central African Republic’s first experiment with semi-presidentialism ended soon after. On 1 September there was a coup and Dacko was deposed. The new military leader, André-Dieudonné Kolingba issued a constitutional act that ended Dacko’s earlier constitution.

So, for a few months in 1981 the Central African Republic operated under a semi-presidential constitution. More information, in French, including various texts, can be found at a really useful website here.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – Zaire

I suppose it depends whether you knew about something in the first place and how long your memory is, but Zaire might qualify as a case of forgotten semi-presidentialism.

Some of my documents are not with me, but Zaire adopted a new Constitution (and a new name for the country) in 1971. As far as I remember, the 1971 constitution was, nominally, extant until 1997. There were numerous amendments during this time and at times there were competing constitutions issued by other participants in the armed crisis.

Anyway, in 1977 the position of prime minister was created. At that time, though, and thereafter, Zaire was officially a one-party state under the rule of President Mobutu Sese Seko. Constitutionally, therefore, Zaire was not semi-presidential in that the president was not selected on the basis of a direct competitive election.

In 1990 the one-party state came to an end, the constitution was amended and Zaire became semi-presidential.

The text of the constitution is available here. It is a classic French-style semi-presidential constitution, though the powers of the president are greater than in the French version largely because the constitution was amended rather than written anew.

In May 1997 President Mobutu lost power to Laurent-Désiré Kabila. President Kabila issued a decree that abolished the post of prime minister.

There is a sense in which Zaire was in such a state of war and near anarchy for part of the period 1990-97 that it is somewhat misleading to say it was constitutionally semi-presidential for at least some if not all of this period. For example, Polity has classed Zaire/Congo-Kinshasa as anarchic (-77) from 1992. However, to the extent that President Mobutu operated under his constitution and the constitution was semi-presidential, then Zaire should be classed as semi-presidential for the period 1990-97.

Obviously, with the passage of the new Constitution in 2006 the Democratic Republic of Congo has become semi-presidential again. Prime Minister Gizenga, the first PM under the new semi-presidential system has just resigned. News about his as-yet-unannounced successor will be posted here soon.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – South Vietnam

I think the most surprising example of semi-presidentialism that I have come across so far is the case of South Vietnam from 1967-75. Obviously, this period of the country’s history is better known for the ongoing conflict, but in the domestic context South Vietnam operated for a short period of time with a semi-presidential constitution.

In 1966 South Vietnam held elections for a Constituent Assembly. As far as I understand it, the elections were relatively free and fair. The Assembly, a constitutional committee, and the government were responsible for drawing up a constitution, which was finished by the end of March 1967. The constitution was promulgated on 1 April 1967 and the first presidential election was held on 3 September 1967. General Thieu was elected president in an election that, again, I understand to have been held relatively freely and fairly.

Article 52 made provision for a President and Vice president, who were elected on a single ticket. Both served for a four-year term.
Article 58 stated that the president appointed the prime minister and Article 67 (2) stated that the prime minister was responsible to the president. So, this was a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.
Article 42 (1) stated that the National Assembly had the right to recommend the replacement of the government by a two-thirds vote. Article 42 (2) stated that the president had to accept the recommendation unless there were “special reasons” for doing so. If the president rejected the recommendation, Article 42 (3) stated that the Assembly could still insist of the replacement of the government by a three-quarters majority. So, South Vietnam was clearly semi-presidential.

Obviously the operation of semi-presidentialism was overshadowed by the war. However, there one particularly interesting aspect to South Vietnamese semi-presidentialism. In May 1968 Tran Van Huong was appointed as prime minister. He had been one of president Thieu’s opponents at the 1967 presidential election. His appointment was a sign that President Thieu’s position was not secure, despite his election and despite the constitution, which appeared to give the president a predominant position.

For Polity, South Vietnam scored -3 from 1967-75. So, it was not a partial democracy. However, Freedom House, whose recording begins in 1972, classed South Vietnam as Partly Free from 1972-74 inclusive. Democracy then collapses with the fall of Saigon and the reunification of Vietnam under the communists in 1975.

The reunification of Vietnam saw a new constitution and so, in 1975, South Vietnam’s semi-presidential experiment came to an end.

The experience of South Vietnam represents another example of semi-presidentialism in Asia. In addition to the current semi-presidential countries in that region – Mongolia, Taiwan, Timor-Leste and South Korea, though my reservations about classing it as semi-presidential have been noted elsewhere in this blog – there was also the case of the Philippines. So, Asia has a considerable amount to tell us about the operation of semi-presidentialism and its different sub-types.

Much of the information for this entry was derived from the yearly reviews in Asian Survey for the years in question and from the commentary in Flanz’s Constitutions of Countries of the World for this constitution.

Historic cases of semi-presidentialism – Cuba

I suppose there will a limit to how many ‘forgotten semi-presidentialism’ postings there can be, but I still have a few more to share.

I have never seen Cuba classed as semi-presidential, but this was the case from 1940-1959.

In 1940, a new constitution was passed. The text is available in Spanish from the really excellent Database of the Americas website. There is also an English version available here (enjoy the musical accompaniment).

The 1940 constitution provided for a popularly elected president. The president was to be elected via a US-style or Finnish-style electoral college (Article 140). In addition, there was a Council of Ministers that included a prime minister (Article 151). The president could dismiss the prime minister. So, this was a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.

The Council of Ministers was collectively responsible to both the Chamber and the Senate (Article 164). Either Chamber could propose a motion of confidence. An absolute majority was required for the no-confidence motion to be passed (Article 165). If the motion was passed, the government had to resign (Article 168).

The Cuban legislature was highly fractionalised and there were 15 different prime ministers from 1940-1959.

Polity classes Cuba as, in effect, a partial democracy from 1940-52 when former president Batista staged a coup. I am slightly unclear as to the constitutional situation at that time. My understanding is that Batista suspended the constitution. Certainly, a new constitution was passed in February 1959 following the Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro. This constitution was not semi-presidential.

I think Cuba is perhaps the second most surprising case of semi-presidentialism. There is one other that took me even more by surprise when I learned about it and I will do a post at a future date. In the meantime, if anyone would like to hazard a guess as to what is the most surprising example in the history of semi-presidentialism, then please leave a comment.