Category Archives: General resources

General resources

SP resources – Election reports

There are quite a few organisations that engage in electoral assistance and observation and that publish reports. Some of these reports are purely formal, but some also provide useful background information about the election and an analysis of the results. Moreover, because of the very nature of the work, the reports are often on countries about which it is otherwise difficult to obtain information. Here are some sites:

African Union (usually in French, including Gabon, Guinea-Bissau and Mauritania)
Carter Center (including DRC and East Timor)
Commonwealth Secretariat (including Mozambique and Sri Lanka)
European Union Election Observation and Assistance (including Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau)
National Democratic Institute (including reports on Ukraine, Georgia, and a really interesting report on democracy in Montenegro)
OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (including Armenia and Azerbaijan)

SP resources – Freedom House 2010 Report

The Freedom House 2010 Report has just been issued, giving scores for Free, Partly Free and Not Free countries as well as a list of Electoral Democracies for the period 1 January-31 December 2009.

Five countries moved from the status of Partly Free to Not Free, including Gabon, Kyrgyzstan and Yemen, all of which have semi-presidential constitutions.

On a happier semi-presidential note, Montenegro was one of two countries to move from the status of Partly Free to Free.

Within these categories, there were also some improvements and disimprovements.

Semi-presidential countries that registered an improvement in their score (but not their Free, Partly Free or Not Free status) were Croatia, Serbia, and Togo.

Those semi-presidential countries with a disimprovement were Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, and the Palestinian Authority.

In terms of electoral democracies, four countries lost this status, including three with semi-presidential constitutions: Madagascar, Mozambique, and Niger.

SP resource – Ibrahim Index of African Governance

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance has just been announced for 2009. The index can be used in the same way as other indices such as the Freedom House and Polity, or the World Bank Governance Indicators. Like them, it provides an overall score for good governance that is an aggregation of individual scores in four general categories (Safety and Rule of Law; Participation and Human Rights; Sustainable Economic Opportunity; Human Development). Unlike Freedom House and Polity, it is not attempting to establish how democratic a country is, though there is a strong correlation between the various indices.

The index goes from 0-100, with 100 being the best score. In 2009, the highest score is Mauritius at 82.83 (85.1 last year where it was also first). The lowest is Somalia at 15.24 (18.9 last year where it was also last).

In terms of semi-presidential countries, Cape Verde is ranked second overall at 78.01 (74.7 last year). The lowest this year is Chad, which comes second-bottom below Zimbabwe!, at 29.86 (last year it was DRC). (There is a margin of error of +/-6 points.)

The website sets out the methodology of the Index very clearly. Obviously, this is a new resource. There is no historic data. The website makes it clear that data before 2006 is unreliable. So, the index is not useful for time-series comparisons, but it is very good for contemporary cross-sectional analysis.

Here is the list of the top 30 countries.

Source here.

SP resources – Afrobarometer 2009

Late last month Afrobarometer released a new set of surveys. They were carried out in 2008 and some have a particular focus on democracy in Africa.

The surveys were conducted in 19 sub-Saharan African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, and Senegal. So, there is a good range of semi-presidential countries and some opportunities to make comparisons between semi-presidential countries and both presidential and, to a lesser degree, parliamentary countries.

There is a Working Paper to download: “The Quality of Democracy and Governance in Africa: New Results from Afrobarometer Round 4”. There is also a very interesting Briefing Paper to download: “Neither Consolidating Nor Fully Democratic: The Evolution of African Political Regimes, 1999-2008”.

The Briefing Paper has a particular, but fairly intuitive, way of defining whether democracy is declining or advancing. In the context of semi-presidentialism, the worrying finding is that only one of the four countries to advance was semi-presidential (Cape Verde between 2002 and 2008), whereas two (or even three) of the four countries to decline were semi-presidential (Madagascar between 2005 and 2008 and Senegal between 2002 and 2008 – Kenya also declined between 2003 and 2008, but it did not become semi-presidential until early 2008). Moreover, given Madagascar’s collapse occurred in 2009, the decline there is even greater there than the one recorded in the paper.

Overall, there is a lot of interesting data and some interesting arguments.

SP resources – Ireland Dáil debates

The debates of the lower chamber of the Irish parliament, Dáil Éireann, are available online. The record covers the period from the convocation of the first Dáil on 21 January 1919 to the present day.

Of interest to semi-presidential researchers might be the debates that surrounded the introduction of the current constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, in 1937. The full proceedings of the debates are available. The name of the Bill where the debate can be found is: Bunreacht na hEireann (Dréacht)—Dara Céim.

Some of the interesting days are 11 May when the then prime minister, Eamonn de Valera, introduced the Bill to reform the constitution. On P. 39 he discusses the election and powers of the president. Given de Valera had considerable influence over the writing of the constitution, his interpretation is important.

On 11 May (PP. 131-133) and on 12 May (P. 230) there is an interesting discussion of the equivalent of the dangers of what we would now call cohabitation if the president were to be directly elected.

On the same day just a few pages later on (P. 233) there is a discussion of the possible perils of majority government and a directly elected president. The key point here is that the Opposition (Fine Gael) were worried that Eamonn de Valera would be elected president and would act like a dictator. There is no evidence that he ever considered being president, but the opposition were trying to raise the spectre of such a situation. On P. 303 one of the senior figures in Fine Gael makes the charge of dictatorship quite explicitly. On 13 May de Valera responds to this charge (P. 421 onwards).

The committee stage of the Bill was discussed by the whole house, staring on 25 May. Amendments concerning the president were debated on this day in the second session (P. 1004 onwards).

Note that the Fianna Fáil government had a bare majority in the Dáil, but it had a clear majority on all the Constitution votes. So, any Fine Gael amendments were likely to fail.

The debate ended on 14 June. The Dáil was dissolved on that day. The the general election was held on 1 July 1937. A referendum on the Constitution was held on the same day and was approved by 56.5%. The Fianna Fáil government was returned in the election.

If you read the debates, then, for information, note that de Valera then held the position of President of the Executive Council. This was the equivalent of the post of prime minister. This means, though, that in the Dáil debates he is referred to as President. This can cause some confusion especially when the deputies are debating the powers of the President (meaning the head of state) in the new constitution. After 1937, the Irish head of government has been called Taoiseach.

Polity – 2007 figures

The publication of Freedom House’s 2009 Report reminded me that there was an update of the Polity democracy scores at the end of December. The figures have been updated to include scores for 2007.

There were several changes in the scores for semi-presidential countries (the Polity scale goes from -10 (complete autocracy) to +10 (complete democracy)):

Georgia +7 to +6
Kyrgyzstan +4 to +3
Mauritania -3 to +4
Russia +7 to +5

Polity’s scores are more difficult to interpret than Freedom House’s categories. However, Polity classes countries with a score of -5 to +5 inclusive as anocracies. Therefore, Russia has gone from being classed as a democracy to an anocracy, which means that it is more unstable (and also less democratic, of course).

Another way of interpreting Polity’s scores is that countries in the range +1 to +5 inclusive can be classed as Partly Free, or countries that are partly democratic. If so, then Mauritania joined the list of such countries in 2007. Presumably, because of the events last August, it will lose this status when Polity updates for 2008.

Bear in mind that Polity does not include small countries in its list (Iceland, Cape Verde and Sao Tome, for example, are all excluded from Polity’s classifications).

Freedom House – 2009 Report

It’s unclear whether Freedom House scores are used by researchers any more, at least as a dependent variable for studies of successful/unsuccessful democratisation. However, the 2009 Report has just appeared, giving scores for Free, Partly Free and Not Free countries for the period 1 January-31 December 2008.

All in all, according to Freedom House, 2008 was a bad year for semi-presidential countries.

Let us assume that a move from Partly Free to Not Free constitutes a collapse of democracy. In that case, one semi-presidential country collapsed in 2008 – Mauritania. Interestingly, Senegal also registered a change of status, from Free to Partly Free. No semi-presidential countries moved from Not Free to Partly Free or from Partly Free to Free.

In addition, Armenia, Bulgaria and Democratic Republic of Congo recorded a decline in their overall Freedom House score, even though they did not change status. No semi-presidential countries registered a rise in this way.

Unless it is my imagination, there is a data innovation this year. There is now an Excel sheet with the list of Electoral Democracies from 1989-2008 inclusive. Previously, I had only been able to compile a list of Electoral Democracies from the year-by-year reports and the full list was only reported from 1994-95. If this is a new development , then it is really welcome. Even though the time series is shorter that the standard FH scores, the concept of an Electoral Democracy is a useful proxy for some studies.

Semi-presidentialism did not fare very well in 2008 in the Electoral Democracy category. Three semi-presidential countries lost the status of an Electoral Democracy – the Central African Republic, Georgia and Mauritania – while no semi-presidential countries joined the list. Actually, that is not quite true. Turkey joined the list because of its switch to semi-presidentialism (if we count full years rather than part years of scores).

Ibrahim Index of African Governance

The Ibrahim Index of African Governance has just been announced for 2008. Given so many semi-presidential countries can be found in Africa, it seems like a useful research tool for studies relating to the comparison of presidential, parliamentary and semi-presidential countries, or for the performance of different types of semi-presidential countries.

The index is similar to but different from other indices such as the Freedom House and Polity indices, and it can be used like them in studies to measure comparative development and so on.

The index goes from 0-100, with 100 being the best score. The highest score is Mauritius at 85.1. The lowest is Somalia at 18.9. The highest semi-presidential country is Cape Verde at 74.7 and the lowest is DRC at 29.8.

The website sets out the methodology of the Index very clearly.

SP election resource

There is a nice resource for European elections on the Fondation Robert Schuman website. The site includes the election results, but, more interestingly, some fairly substantial analyses of the election, including presidential and parliamentary elections.

Conveniently for the student of semi-presidentialism, Europe is defined to include elections in places such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russia and Turkey.

The website has election reports going back to 2002.

To demonstrate how comprehensive the reports are, the most recent posting is a report on the 2008 presidential election in Iceland, an election which did not take place because there was only one candidate!