Lijphart’s discussion of presidential democratic systems
is somewhat lacking. Presidential systems are democratic systems in which the
head of state also serves as head of government and leads the executive.
Lijphart’s divide between majoritarian and consensus democracies seems too simple,
making the treatment of presidential systems awkward (Bormann, 2010, 3). He has
argued that presidential systems are theoretically strongly related to his
conception of majoritarian democracies even though they seemingly stress the
separation of powers between the legislative and executive (Lijphart, 2008,
141). While Lijphart has stated that majoritarian democracies usually have a
system of presidentialism, he fails to acknowledge that this is not the case in
every country. For example, the United Kingdom has a majoritarian democracy,
yet it is a parliamentary system. Presidentialism is key in many countries and
thus, it is strange that Lijphart does not describe it in further detail (cf.
Shugart & Carey 1992, 15; Fuchs 2000, 41; Lijphart 1999, 116-142). He attempts
to justify his omission by arguing that ‘the real question for a
differentiation between consensus and majoritarian systems is how influential
the executive is vis-à-vis the legislature’ (Bormann,2010, 3). In presidential
systems, cooperation in the form of a coalition provides little incentives as
the presidential office cannot be shared. The essence of presidentialism is a
paradox and many contemporaries have confirmed this in their research. Many new
democracies select presidentialism because they believe it to be a strong form
of executive government, yet the data compiled by Stepan and Skach showed that
between 1973 and 1987, ‘presidential democracies enjoyed legislative majorities
less than half of the time (Stepan & Skach, 1993, 13). Lijphart believes
that presidential democracies are quite stable. However, based on a study of
Asian countries carried out by researchers, the newly democratic countries
which adopted presidential systems, faced crisis and instability (Chang,
Dressel & Fukuyama, 2005, 103). New leaders that appear to be virtual
outsiders can appear and this can further instability. In his research, Cheibub
(2007,40) found that ‘presidential systems are much more likely to follow
military rule and more prone to democratic breakdown than parliamentary systems
due to the persisting military influence.’ Conversely, it can be argued that in
countries with struggling democracies, a new person to take control can be what
it needs to ensure it remains stable and functioning. A military presence may
not be necessary. Lijphart fails to account for alternate arguments and
exceptions to a presidential regime. The lack of detail included indicates
hints of biases towards the parliamentary system. 

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