Constitutions and Institutions - Memorial University of ...

Constitutions and Institutions - Memorial University of ...

Constitutions and Institutions How do they operate? What difference do they make in liberal democracies? Some questions: What difference do constitutions make? Are constitutions scraps of paper, as Bismarck argued? OR Do constitutions spell out relationships between different institutions, e.g. Between parliament and the executive? Between central and provincial governments?

A quick refresher: varieties of political systems Liberal democracies: Canada Britain France Germany United States Semidemocracies: Russia Ukraine ?

Egypt Algeria Serbia Authoritarian systems: China Iraq ?? Iran Saudi Arabia North Korea Unitary vs. federal systems: Unitary system -- sovereignty concentrated in a

central government: Power may be devolved to regional governments, created by the central government But devolved powers can be withdrawn (e.g. Northern Ireland) Federal system: sovereignty shared by a central government and provincial governments -- neither is capable of abolishing the other Presidential v. Parliamentary v. semi-presidential systems Presidential system: political executive is separate from the legislature

Parliamentary system: the political executive must serve with the support (or at a minimum, the forbearance) of a majority of the lower house of parliament Semi-presidential system: combines features of both: Directly elected president Premier, typically appointed by the president, must serve with the confidence of the parliament Forms of liberal democracies (and semi-democracies) Parliamentary SemiPresidential Presidential

Unitary UK France Uruguay Federal Canada Germany Australia

Russia US Mexico Four cases: Britain: Unitary parliamentary Germany: Federal Parliamentary

France: Unitary Semipresidential United States: Federal Presidential An argument: Constitutions matter, and matter a great deal, when political leaders follow them: Courts increasingly enforce constitutions But we need to look not only at the constitution on paper, but the way in which it is brought off paper and how it evolves

Valid not only for liberal democracies, but also semi-democracies and some authoritarian political systems Reasons for this: (a preliminary take) Institutions (and the shape they take) matter: Institutions shape the ways in which political forces are expressed and channelled, in particular some of the demands which end up on the political agenda the ease with which conflicts can be resolved Example: variation ways in which regional and

cultural differences are expressed and dealt with in federal and unity systems Variations in power of political executives UK: Unwritten constitution Parliamentary system: Prime Minister and Cabinet serve with the confidence of parliament Because the single member plurality electoral system usually manufactures majorities, the government usually has the support of a parliamentary majority

Some questions: How powerful are the political executives in different forms of liberal democracies? What role do assemblies play? Are legislative assemblies capable of controlling political executives? If so how? What differences do parties and party systems make? What difference does federalism make?

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