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Failed presidencies and social protest in the context of Bolivian politics: Empirical evidence
Unformatted Document Text:  branch of government has the ‘better’ legitimacy, conflicts arise when either branch tries to impose its legitimacy while attempting to implement its agenda. A second major weakness of the democratic presidential system is the fixed term in office, normally written in the constitutional text. For Linz, this feature bestows rigidity onto the system. In contrast to parliamentarism, presidentialism does not allow for the flexible replacement of a regime in response to circumstances which would require this step. The system is divided into separate and discrete periods, which break up the political process, thus resting continuity. While it may seem that this provision gives the democratic process more stability and certainty, Linz argues that it induces rigidity instead, in the event of unexpected events which may require flexible and swift changes of presidencies. Even when the line of succession is invoked or in the case of ‘voluntary’ resignation, the result is not free of complications and the words ‘regime crisis’ are often used in this context. In Linz’s words, “The uncertainties of a period of regime transition and consolidation no doubt make the rigidities of a presidential constitution more problematic than a parliamentary system” (1994:9). In addition to the above mentioned observations to democratic presidential regimes, Linz states several characteristics supporting his argument. First, he argues that in presidential systems, voters do not generally know who incumbents are. In the majority of cases, presidential candidates do not have a well defined political career, as politicians in parliamentary systems do. Voters have little information on the candidate’s priorities, record, political orientation (other than what he himself tells them) and do not know who the President will select to be in his cabinet or in important public offices. More often than not, they have to place trust in personality and promises. Second, presidents who serve for only one term are not accountable. Voters cannot elect him again, if the job was well done, and they cannot hold him accountable in election day, if the job was poorly done. The argument is that in systems with separation of powers, it is difficult to make one party accountable. Third, Linz argues that presidential systems have ‘winner-take-all’ outcomes. The elected president, who generally wins with a relative majority, gains the control of the executive, while the other candidates (especially the opposition) lose a vote in government. This situation is especially precarious when we consider the presidential term. The opposition is virtually excluded from government for the duration of the mandate. Fourth, there is an inherent ambiguity in the fact that the President is, at the same time, head of state and head of government. A president is 5

Authors: Buitrago, Miguel.
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branch of government has the ‘better’ legitimacy, conflicts arise when either branch tries to
impose its legitimacy while attempting to implement its agenda.
A second major weakness of the democratic presidential system is the fixed term in office,
normally written in the constitutional text. For Linz, this feature bestows rigidity onto the
system. In contrast to parliamentarism, presidentialism does not allow for the flexible
replacement of a regime in response to circumstances which would require this step. The
system is divided into separate and discrete periods, which break up the political process, thus
resting continuity. While it may seem that this provision gives the democratic process more
stability and certainty, Linz argues that it induces rigidity instead, in the event of unexpected
events which may require flexible and swift changes of presidencies. Even when the line of
succession is invoked or in the case of ‘voluntary’ resignation, the result is not free of
complications and the words ‘regime crisis’ are often used in this context. In Linz’s words,
“The uncertainties of a period of regime transition and consolidation no doubt make the
rigidities of a presidential constitution more problematic than a parliamentary
system” (1994:9).
In addition to the above mentioned observations to democratic presidential regimes, Linz
states several characteristics supporting his argument. First, he argues that in presidential
systems, voters do not generally know who incumbents are. In the majority of cases,
presidential candidates do not have a well defined political career, as politicians in
parliamentary systems do. Voters have little information on the candidate’s priorities, record,
political orientation (other than what he himself tells them) and do not know who the
President will select to be in his cabinet or in important public offices. More often than not,
they have to place trust in personality and promises. Second, presidents who serve for only
one term are not accountable. Voters cannot elect him again, if the job was well done, and
they cannot hold him accountable in election day, if the job was poorly done. The argument is
that in systems with separation of powers, it is difficult to make one party accountable. Third,
Linz argues that presidential systems have ‘winner-take-all’ outcomes. The elected president,
who generally wins with a relative majority, gains the control of the executive, while the other
candidates (especially the opposition) lose a vote in government. This situation is especially
precarious when we consider the presidential term. The opposition is virtually excluded from
government for the duration of the mandate. Fourth, there is an inherent ambiguity in the fact
that the President is, at the same time, head of state and head of government. A president is
5


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