Semi-presidential system

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World's states coloured by form of government1
     Full presidential republics2      Semi-presidential republics2
     Republics with an executive president elected by or nominated by the legislature that may or may not be subject to parliamentary confidence.      Parliamentary republics2
     Parliamentary constitutional monarchies      Constitutional monarchies which have a separate head of government but where royalty holds significant executive and/or legislative power
     Absolute monarchies      One-party states
     Countries where constitutional provisions for government have been suspended (e.g. military dictatorships)      Countries which do not fit any of the above systems (e.g. provisional governments).
1 This map was compiled according to the Wikipedia list of countries by system of government. See there for sources.
2 Several states constitutionally deemed to be multiparty republics are broadly described by outsiders as authoritarian states. This map presents only the de jure form of government, and not the de facto degree of democracy.

A semi-presidential system, or dual executive system, is a system of government in which a president exists alongside a prime minister and a cabinet, with the latter two responding to the legislature of the state. It differs from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected head of state who is more than a ceremonial figurehead, and from the presidential system in that the cabinet, although named by the president, responds to the legislature, which may force the cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence.[1][2][3][4]

While the Weimar Republic (1919–1933) and Finland (from 1919 to 2000) exemplified an early semi-presidential system, the term "semi-presidential" was actually first introduced in a 1959 article by journalist Hubert Beuve-Méry,[5] and popularized by a 1978 work written by political scientist Maurice Duverger,[6] both of whom intended to describe the French Fifth Republic (established in 1958).[1][2][3][4]


Maurice Duverger's original definition of semi-presidentialism stated that the president had to be elected, possess significant power, and serve for a fixed term.[7] Modern definitions merely declare that the head of state has to be elected, and that a separate prime minister that is dependent on parliamentary confidence has to lead the executive.[7]


There are two distinct subtypes of semi-presidentialism: premier-presidentialism and president-parliamentarism.

Under the premier-presidential system, the prime minister and cabinet are exclusively accountable to parliament. The president may choose the prime minister and cabinet, but only the parliament may approve them and remove them from office with a vote of no confidence. This system is much closer to pure parliamentarism. This subtype is used in: Burkina Faso, Cape Verde,[8] East Timor,[8][9] France, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Niger, Georgia (2013–2018), Poland (de facto, however, according to the Constitution, Poland is a parliamentary republic)[10][11][12] Portugal, Romania, São Tomé and Príncipe,[8] Sri Lanka and Ukraine (since 2014; previously, between 2006 and 2010).[13][14]

Under the president-parliamentary system, the prime minister and cabinet are dually accountable to the president and to the parliament. The president chooses the prime minister and the cabinet, but must have the support of a parliamentary majority for his choice. In order to remove a prime minister, or the whole cabinet, from power, the president can either dismiss them, or the parliament can remove them through a vote of no confidence. This form of semi-presidentialism is much closer to pure presidentialism. It is used in: Guinea-Bissau,[8] Mozambique, Russia and Taiwan. It was also used in Ukraine (first between 1996 and 2005; then from 2010 to 2014), Georgia (from 2004 to 2013), South Korea under the Fourth and Fifth republics, and in Germany during the Weimar Republic.[13][14]

Division of powers[edit]

The distribution of power between the president and the prime minister can vary greatly between countries.

In France, for example, in the case of cohabitation (when the president and the prime minister come from opposing parties), the president oversees foreign policy and defense policy (these are generally called les prérogatives présidentielles, presidential prerogatives) and the prime minister is in charge of domestic policy and economic policy.[15] In this case, the division of responsibilities between the prime minister and the president is not explicitly stated in the constitution, but has evolved as a political convention based on the constitutional principle that the prime minister is appointed (with the subsequent approval of a parliament majority) and dismissed by the president.[16] On the other hand, whenever the president and the prime minister represent the same political party, which leads the cabinet, they tend to exercise de facto control over all fields of policy via the prime minister. However, it is up to the president to decide how much autonomy is left to said prime minister.


Semi-presidential systems may sometimes experience periods of time in which the president and the prime minister are from different political parties. This event is called "cohabitation", a term which originated in France after the situation first arose in the 1980s. Cohabitation can either 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 themselves/their parties, and the demands of their supporters.[17]

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 while 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-of-centre assembly, Socialist president François Mitterrand was forced into cohabitation with right-wing premier, Jacques Chirac.[17]

However, in 2000, amendments to the French constitution reduced the length of the French president's term 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.

Advantages and disadvantages[edit]

The incorporation of elements from both presidential and parliamentary republics can bring certain advantageous elements; however, it also creates disadvantages, often related to the confusion produced by mixed authority patterns.[18][19]


  • Parliament has the ability to remove an unpopular prime minister, therefore maintaining stability throughout the president's fixed term
  • In most semi-presidential systems, important segments of bureaucracy are taken away from the president, creating additional checks and balances where the running of the day-to-day government and its issues are somewhat separate from the head of state where issues tend to be looked at on their own merits with their ebbs and flows and not necessarily always being tied to the head of state and who the head of state is.


  • Providing cover for the president, as unpopular policies could be blamed on the prime minister, who runs the day-to-day operations of the government
  • Creating a sense of confusion towards accountability, as there is no relatively clear sense of who is responsible for policy successes and failures
  • Creating both confusion and inefficiency in the legislative process, since the capacity of votes of confidence makes the prime minister respond to the parliament

Republics with a semi-presidential system of government[edit]

Italics indicate states with limited recognition.

Premier-presidential systems[edit]

The president has the authority to choose the prime minister and the cabinet, but only the parliament may remove them from office through a vote of no confidence. However, even though the president does not have the power to directly dismiss the prime minister or the cabinet, they can dissolve parliament.

President-parliamentary systems[edit]

The president chooses the prime minister without a confidence vote from the parliament. In order to remove a prime minister, or the whole cabinet, from power, the president can either dismiss them, or the parliament can remove them through a vote of no confidence. The president also has the authority to dissolve the parliament.

Former semi-presidential republics[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ In France, the president chooses the prime minister (if they do not have a majority in the National Assembly, they have to choose the leader of the opposition) but can only dismiss them if they have a majority in the National Assembly. The National Assembly can remove the prime minister from office with a vote of no confidence. The president can also dissolve the National Assembly once a year.


  1. ^ a b Duverger (1980). "A New Political System Model: Semi-Presidential Government". European Journal of Political Research (quarterly). 8 (2): 165–187. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.1980.tb00569.x. The concept of a semi-presidential form of government, as used here, is defined only by the content of the constitution. A political regime is considered as semi-presidential if the constitution which established it, combines three elements: (1) the president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage, (2) he possesses quite considerable powers; (3) he has opposite him, however, a prime minister and ministers who possess executive and governmental power and can stay in office only if the parliament does not show its opposition to them.
  2. ^ a b Veser, Ernst (1997). "Semi-Presidentialism-Duverger's concept: A New Political System Model" (PDF). Journal for Humanities and Social Sciences. 11 (1): 39–60. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  3. ^ a b Duverger, Maurice (September 1996). "Les monarchies républicaines" [The Republican Monarchies] (PDF). Pouvoirs, revue française d'études constitutionnelles et politiques (in French). No. 78. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. pp. 107–120. ISBN 2-02-030123-7. ISSN 0152-0768. OCLC 909782158. Retrieved 10 September 2016.
  4. ^ a b Bahro, Horst; Bayerlein, Bernhard H.; Veser, Ernst (October 1998). "Duverger's concept: Semi-presidential government revisited". European Journal of Political Research (quarterly). 34 (2): 201–224. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.00405. The conventional analysis of government in democratic countries by political science and constitutional law starts from the traditional types of presidentialism and parliamentarism. There is, however, a general consensus that governments in the various countries work quite differently. This is why some authors have inserted distinctive features into their analytical approaches, at the same time maintaining the general dichotomy. Maurice Duverger, trying to explain the French Fifth Republic, found that this dichotomy was not adequate for this purpose. He therefore resorted to the concept of 'semi-presidential government': The characteristics of the concept are (Duverger 1974: 122, 1978: 28, 1980: 166):
    1. the president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage,
    2. he possesses quite considerable powers and
    3. he has opposite him a prime minister who possesses executive and governmental powers and can stay in office only if parliament does not express its opposition to him.
  5. ^ Le Monde, 8 January 1959.
  6. ^ Duverger, Maurice (1978). Échec au roi. Paris: A. Michel. ISBN 9782226005809.
  7. ^ a b Elgie, Robert (2 January 2013). "Presidentialism, Parliamentarism and Semi-Presidentialism: Bringing Parties Back In" (PDF). Government and Opposition. 46 (3): 392–409. doi:10.1111/j.1477-7053.2011.01345.x. S2CID 145748468.
  8. ^ a b c d Neto, Octávio Amorim; Lobo, Marina Costa (2010). "Between Constitutional Diffusion and Local Politics: Semi-Presidentialism in Portuguese-Speaking Countries" (PDF). APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper. SSRN 1644026. Retrieved 18 August 2017.
  9. ^ Beuman, Lydia M. (2016). Political Institutions in East Timor: Semi-Presidentialism and Democratisation. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. ISBN 978-1317362128. LCCN 2015036590. OCLC 983148216. Retrieved 18 August 2017 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ McMenamin, Iain. "Semi-Presidentialism and Democratisation in Poland" (PDF). School of Law and Government, Dublin City University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ "Poland 1997 (rev. 2009)". Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  12. ^ "Poland - The World Factbook". 22 September 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  13. ^ a b Shugart, Matthew Søberg (September 2005). "Semi-Presidential Systems: Dual Executive and Mixed Authority Patterns" (PDF). Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. United States: University of California, San Diego. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 August 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ a b Shugart, Matthew Søberg (December 2005). "Semi-Presidential Systems: Dual Executive And Mixed Authority Patterns" (PDF). Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego. French Politics. 3 (3): 323–351. doi:10.1057/palgrave.fp.8200087. ISSN 1476-3427. OCLC 6895745903. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  15. ^ See article 5, title II, of the French Constitution of 1958. Jean Massot, Quelle place la Constitution de 1958 accorde-t-elle au Président de la République?, Constitutional Council of France website (in French).
  16. ^ Le Petit Larousse 2013 p. 880
  17. ^ a b Poulard JV (Summer 1990). "The French Double Executive and the Experience of Cohabitation" (PDF). Political Science Quarterly (quarterly). 105 (2): 243–267. doi:10.2307/2151025. ISSN 0032-3195. JSTOR 2151025. OCLC 4951242513. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  18. ^ Barrington, Lowell (1 January 2012). Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices. Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1111341930 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Barrington, Lowell; Bosia, Michael J.; Bruhn, Kathleen; Giaimo, Susan; McHenry, Jr., Dean E. (2012) [2009]. Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices (2nd ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cenage Learning. pp. 169–170. ISBN 9781111341930. LCCN 2011942386. Retrieved 9 September 2017 – via Google Books.
  20. ^ One-party parliamentary republic as a Soviet member-state in 1990-1991, and after independence it was a semi-presidential republic in 1991-1998, a presidential republic in 1998-2013, a semi-presidential republic in 2013-2018 and has been a parliamentary republic since 2018.
  21. ^ Known as the Weimar Republic.
  22. ^ Known as the Fourth Philippine Republic.
  23. ^ One-party parliamentary republic as a Soviet member-state in 1918-1991 and semi-presidential republic in 1991
  24. ^ A parliamentary system in which the leader of the state-sponsored party was supreme in 1918-1990 and a semi-presidential republic in 1990-1991.
  25. ^ All South Korean constitutions since 1963 provided for a strong executive Presidency; in addition, the formally-authoritarian Yushin Constitution of the Fourth Republic established a presidential power to dissolve the National Assembly, nominally counterbalanced by a vote of no confidence. Both of these provisions were retained by the Fifth Republic's constitution but repealed upon the transition to democracy and the establishment of the Sixth Republic
  26. ^ One-party parliamentary republic as a Soviet member-state in 1918-1991 and semi-presidential republic in 1991.
  27. ^ An interim constitution passed in 1995 removed the President's ability to dissolve the Verkhovna Rada and the Rada's ability to dismiss the government by a vote of no confidence. Both of these provisions were restored upon the passage of a permanent constitution in 1996.


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