Presidents’ Role in Policy-making and Government Performance

Comparative Politics
Political Parties
Section Number
Section Chair
Gianluca Passarelli
Sapienza University of Rome
Section Co-Chair
Thomas Sedelius
Dalarna University

Presidents are designated executive leaders in both presidential and semi-presidential regimes, and they are more than just figureheads in a number of parliamentary regimes. The extent to which they are involved in, and able to impact on policy making vary considerably between as well as within different regime types, however. And there is great variation in how countries have organized co-ordination and procedural mechanisms within and between the executive and legislative branches. This Section, supported by the Standing Group on Presidential Politics, will set up a number of Panels on the president’s role in relation to policy making and government performance. It primarily seeks Panels with a comparative outline. The Section welcomes Panels that include presidential, semi-presidential and/or parliamentary regimes focusing on the role and mechanisms of presidents and policy making. A list of Panel themes could include:

1. Policy-making and cohabitation in semi-presidential democracies
In the past, cohabitation was blamed for governance problems and political instability. Our Section welcomes proposals for empirical reconsiderations of these links, which could focus, for example, on the impact of cohabitation on policy-making, legislative efficiency and productivity, and inter-executive conflict (Lazardeux 2015). Important questions may be raised in this context about whether cohabitation periods are associated with moderate policies closer to the status quo or even legislative gridlock, in line with veto-player theory (Tsebelis 2002). The impact of cohabitation on policy stability could be a related research avenue. In terms of methodological approaches, large-n and small-n approaches are equally welcome, as well as theory guided approaches drawing on veto player readings of cohabitation (Leuffen 2009). The study of policy-making under conditions of divided government is welcome in a wide range of semi-presidential environments, at different levels of governance.
Potential Panel Chair: Dr. Cristina Bucur, University of Oslo, Norway.

2. Non-partisan presidents in representative democracies
Despite the crucial representation, coordination, and recruitment roles political parties fulfill in representative democracies, the election of non-partisan presidents is far from a rare phenomenon in presidential, semi-presidential, and parliamentary systems alike. That said, preliminary research indicates that the election of a non-partisan president is a relatively rare phenomenon outside Europe (Beuman 2014). We invite Panel and Paper proposals addressing the conditions that provide incentives for the election of non-partisan presidents, such as the extent of the president’s formal and informal powers, and the way in which the election of non-partisan presidents may affect important matters of democratic representation and executive decision-making.
Potential Chair: Dr. Lydia Beuman, Dublin City University, Ireland.

3. Coordination mechanisms for policy-making in semi-presidential and presidential regimes
Semi-presidential and presidential systems pose challenges of organizing the core executive for policy coordination. In semi-presidential systems, the respective roles of the president and the prime minister are meant to be complementary and clearly defined. In reality the distribution of authority is often ambiguous and fluid. As domestic and foreign affairs cannot be easily separated in relation to e.g. EU policy, this requires a complex set of institutional norms and operative mechanisms inside the executive apparatus. This Panel seeks Papers that dig into “the real world” of coordination and intra-executive dynamics in semi-presidential (and presidential) regimes. It welcomes studies of informal and formal regulations and norms inside the executive. The Papers could be of theoretical or empirical nature, and include comparative or case oriented approaches.
Potential Chair: Associate Professor Thomas Sedelius, Dalarna University, Sweden.

4. Presidents and legislation: Policymaking consequences of presidential veto power
The presidents’ legislative veto has traditionally attracted great scholarly attention and scholars have been able to identify common predictors of its use across political systems. This research now provides the basis for a shift of scholarly focus from explaining general patterns of presidential veto use to more bill-specific theoretical and statistical models of presidential involvement in the legislative process. To date, the actual consequences of presidential veto power on specific policies and the policy-making process as a whole still remain underresearched. Furthermore, questions of how presidents employ amendatory observations to vetoes (Tsebelis and Rizova 2007), partial/line-item vetoes or their other legislative powers have not yet been sufficiently addressed. This Panel invites submissions that push the boundaries of current research on presidential vetoes and involvement in legislation; both case studies of individual countries and/or mechanisms as well as comparative contributions are welcome.
Potential Chair: Dr. Philipp Köker, Canterbury Christ Church University, UK.

5. The role of presidents in the recent EU crises
Throughout the recent European crises, presidents have emerged as exceedingly vocal actors in a number of countries where they normally do not play a leading executive role. The Eurozone crisis and austerity policies have provoked presidential action just as much as questions of (inter)national security in the wake of Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the influx of refugees from the Middle East into Europe. The aim of the Panel is to analyse the context and consequences of these interventions in which presidents – despite limitations in formal prerogatives – have gone beyond established roles and constitutional practice in a bid to influence the management of European crises at national and international level. In particular, this Panel welcomes contributions that look at individual cases but embed their analyses in wider scholarship on political leadership, agenda-setting and EU studies.
Potential Chair: Dr. Patrícia Calca, University of Konstanz, Germany.

Panel List

P072Coordination Mechanisms for Policy-Making in Semi-Presidential and Presidential Regimes View Panel Details
P232Mode of Election or Powers? Presidents and Regime Types in Central Europe View Panel Details
P251Non-partisan Presidents in Representative Democracies View Panel Details
P278Policy-making and Cohabitation in Semi-presidential Democracies View Panel Details
P301Presidents and Legislation: Policy-making and the Consequences of Presidential Veto Power View Panel Details
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"Aristocracies … may preserve themselves longest, but only democracies, which refresh their ruling class, can expand" - Hugh Trevor-Roper

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