Friday, January 29, 2010

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 scientists advocate presidentialism, and see this form of democracy as superior to parliamentary systems – the world’s oldest democracy, the US, being the obvious example. However, concerning the specific challenges that young democracies are facing, study after study have shown that the stronger a new republic’s parliament is the better the chances are that genuine political pluralism will survive and that the novel system of government will consolidate.

Notably, these findings are not outcomes of theoretical considerations by experts who may have a preference for this or that form of government. Instead, the inference that parliamentarianism is better for an emerging democracy than a presidential or semi-presidential system is based on empirical research and results from more or less wide-ranging cross-national investigations. The conclusion for a country like Ukraine is that, in order to become a more stable and effective democracy, it should transform sooner rather than later into a parliamentary republic. While political conflicts will continue to be fought ferociously in such a system, they will happen within the parliament, and not between parliament and president. Coalition building will become the major feature of the political process, and replace such strategies as brinkmanship, intimidation and bluffing prominent during intra-executive confrontations in semi-presidential systems. Parlamentarians able to build bridges between political opponents and not ideologists whipping up their political camps will take center-stage. Apart from that, for Ukraine, simply saving the costs of another round of elections, and having only one national poll every four years will help to save much money and energy that is dearly needed to further reform and stabilize this young nation-state.