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Electoral Reform and its Effects on Formal versus Informal Presidential Powers: France and Romania Compared

Romana Careja
University of Cologne
Romana Careja
University of Cologne
Florin Fesnic
Open Panel

Abstract

Political institutions matter not only because describe the rules of the game, thus affecting both political processes and political outcomes, but also because they shape the expectations and behavior of political actors. Political elites do try to take advantage of their position and change the rules to their own benefit. In that, they are helped by knowledge of the effects of various types of institutions in other countries, as well as the effects of institutional reforms. In this paper we present a comparison between an established democracy (France) and an emerging democracy (Romania). They recently reformed their electoral systems in different directions in respect to duration of presidential mandate and timing of elections, but the consequences appear to be similar. We explain this surprising development focusing on the weakness (or strength) of parties and the role of personalistic politics. The general lesson is that the effects of institutional reforms are not universal, but context-specific, and two seemingly contrary reforms implemented in different settings can have similar effects. Therefore, institutional designers should be aware that good institutional design cannot be reduced a mere knowledge of the theory. A thorough knowledge of country-specific conditions is equally important.