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The semi-presidential system (referred to as semi-presidentialism) is a system of government in which a popularly elected fixed term president exists alongside a prime minister and Cabinet who are responsible to the legislature of a state. It differs from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected head of state who is more than a purely ceremonial figurehead, and from the presidential system in that the cabinet, although named by the president, is responsible to the legislature, which may force the cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence.
The Weimar Republic (1919-1933) was the first country with a semi-presidential system, but the term was first used in a 1978 work by political scientist Maurice Duverger to describe the French Fifth Republic, which he dubbed a régime semi-présidentiel.
Division of powers
The powers that are divided between president and prime minister can vary greatly between countries. In France, for example, in case of cohabitation when the president and the prime minister come from opposing parties, the president is responsible for foreign policy and the prime minister for domestic policy. In this case, the division of powers between the prime minister and the president is not explicitly stated in the constitution, but has evolved as a political convention. In Finland, by contrast, this particular aspect of the separation of powers was explicitly stated in the constitution until 2000: "foreign policy is led by the president in cooperation with the cabinet".
Semi-presidential systems may sometimes experience periods in which the President and the Prime Minister are from differing political parties. This is called "cohabitation", a term which originated in France when the situation first arose in the 1980s. Cohabitation can create an effective system of checks and balances or a period of bitter and tense stonewalling, depending on the attitudes of the two leaders, the ideologies of their parties, or the demands of their constituencies.
In most cases, cohabitation results from a system in which the two executives are not elected at the same time or for the same term. For example, in 1981, France elected both a Socialist president and legislature, which yielded a Socialist premier. But whereas the president's term of office was for seven years, the National Assembly only served for five. When, in the 1986 legislative election, the French people elected a right-center Assembly, Socialist President Mitterrand was forced into cohabitation with a rightist premier.
However, in 2000, amendments to the French Constitution reduced the length of the French President's term from seven to five years. This has significantly lowered the chances of cohabitation occurring, as parliamentary and presidential elections may now be conducted within a shorter span of each other.
Republics with a semi-presidential system of government
- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde (Cabo Verde)
- Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)
- East Timor (Timor-Leste)
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sri Lanka
- Taiwan (Republic of China)
- Bahro, Bayerlein, and Veser, 1998.
- See article 5, title II, of the French Constitution of 1958. Jean Massot, QUELLE PLACE LA CONSTITUTION DE 1958 ACCORDE-T-ELLE AU PRESIDENT DE LA REPUBLIQUE ?, Constitutional Council of France website
- Steven D. Roper. Are All Semipresidential Regimes the Same?
- Maurice Duverger. 1978 .Échec au roi. Paris.
- Maurice Duverger. 1980.’A New Political System Model: Semi-Presidential Government’ European Journal of Political Research, (8) 2, pp. 165–87.
- Giovanni Sartori. 1997. Comparative constitutional engineering. Second edition. London: MacMillan Press.
- Horst Bahro, Bernhard H. Bayerlein, and Ernst Veser. Duverger's concept: Semi-presidential government revisited. European Journal of Political Research. Volume 34, Number 2 / October, 1998.
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- Nousiainen, J. 2001. ‘From Semi-Presidentialism to Parliamentary Government: Political and Constitutional Developments in Finland.’ Scandinavian Political Studies 24 (2): 95-109 June
- Rhodes, R.A.W. 1995. "From Prime Ministerial Power to Core Executive" in Prime Minister, cabinet and core executive (eds) R.A.W. Rhodes and Patrick Dunleavy St. Martin's Press, pp. 11–37
- Shugart, M.S. and J.Carrey. 1992. Presidents and assemblies: Constitutional design and electoral dynamics. Cambridge University Press.
- Canas, Vitalino - “The semi-presidential system”, Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht (Heidelberg Journal of International Law), Band 64 (2004), number 1, p. 95-124.
- Veser, Ernst. Semi-Presidentialism-Duverger's Concept — A New Political System Model.
- Governing Systems and Executive-Legislative Relations. (Presidential, Parliamentary and Hybrid Systems), United Nations Development Program (n.d.).
- Blog of Robert Elgie