The Superiority of Parliamentarianism

Extract from Open Democracy

Ukraine’s Window of Opportunity

16 January 2009


It should be noted that not only Moscow’s “political technologists,”but also a number of serious international political scientistsadvocate presidentialism, and see this form of democracy as superior toparliamentary systems – the world’s oldest democracy, the US, being theobvious example. However, concerning the specific challenges that youngdemocracies are facing, study after study have shown that the strongera new republic’s parliament is the better the chances are that genuinepolitical pluralism will survive and that the novel system ofgovernment will consolidate.

Notably, these findings are not outcomes of theoreticalconsiderations by experts who may have a preference for this or thatform of government. Instead, the inference that parliamentarianism isbetter for an emerging democracy than a presidential orsemi-presidential system is based on empirical research and resultsfrom more or less wide-ranging cross-national investigations. Theconclusion for a country like Ukraine is that, in order to become amore stable and effective democracy, it should transform sooner ratherthan later into a parliamentary republic. While political conflictswill continue to be fought ferociously in such a system, they willhappen within the parliament, and not between parliament and president.Coalition building will become the major feature of the politicalprocess, and replace such strategies as brinkmanship, intimidation andbluffing prominent during intra-executive confrontations insemi-presidential systems. Parlamentarians able to build bridgesbetween political opponents and not ideologists whipping up theirpolitical camps will take center-stage. Apart from that, for Ukraine,simply saving the costs of another round of elections, and having onlyone national poll every four years will help to save much money andenergy that is dearly needed to further reform and stabilize this youngnation-state.

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