Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism

62 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2013

See all articles by Jose Antonio Cheibub

Jose Antonio Cheibub

Texas A&M University

Zachary Elkins

University of Texas, Austin

Tom Ginsburg

University of Chicago Law School

Date Written: December 9, 2013


The presidential-parliamentary distinction is foundational to comparative politics and at the center of a large theoretical and empirical literature. However, an examination of constitutional texts suggests a fair degree of heterogeneity within these categories with respect to important institutional attributes. These observations lead us to suspect that the classic presidential-parliamentary distinction, as well as the semi-presidential category, is not a systemic one. This paper investigates whether the defining attributes that separate presidential and parliamentary constitutions predict other attributes that are stereotypically associated with these institutional models. The results lead us to be highly skeptical of the “systemic” nature of the classification. Indeed, the results imply that if one wanted to predict the powers of the executive and legislature, one would be better off knowing where and when the constitution was written than in knowing whether it was presidential or parliamentary.

Suggested Citation

Cheibub, Jose Antonio and Elkins, Zachary and Ginsburg, Tom, Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism (December 9, 2013). British Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming, University of Chicago Coase-Sandor Institute for Law & Economics Research Paper No. 668, U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 450, Available at SSRN: or

Jose Antonio Cheibub

Texas A&M University ( email )

Langford Building A
798 Ross St.
College Station, TX 77843-3137
United States

Zachary Elkins

University of Texas, Austin ( email )

158 W. 21st St. Stop A1800
Austin, TX 78712
United States

Tom Ginsburg (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

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