Semi-presidential system of government

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
World map over the systems of government
Systems of government in the world
Republican form of government:
  • presidential political system
  • semi-presidential system of government
  • Parliamentary government system
  • parliamentary executive power

  • Monarchical form of government:
  • parliamentary monarchy
  • Constitutional monarchy
  • Absolute Monarchy

  • Dictatorial systems (mostly in republics):
  • One-party system (although block parties may exist)
  • Constitutional government overthrown
    ( de facto mostly military dictatorships )

  • other systems or unclear
    political situations
  • Last updated 2012

    A semi-presidential system of government (alternative terms presidential-parliamentary system of government , presidential-parliamentary system of government ) describes a system of government that combines elements of the parliamentary and presidential systems of government. The government depends on the confidence of both the President and Parliament.

    The term was introduced in 1980 by Maurice Duverger to denote the system of government in France during the Fifth Republic , and later it was generally used to denote mixed systems of government. Today, very different constitutional orders are sometimes referred to collectively as “semi-presidential”.

    The first political systems to show features of semi-presidentialism emerged in Latin America at the end of the 19th century. Such systems were first enshrined in the constitutions of the Weimar Republic and Finland in 1919. Over the following decades, such systems of government remained limited to a few countries and / or short periods of time; It was only after the fall of communism that semi-presidential systems became increasingly widespread, especially in Eastern Europe and Africa.


    In a presidential system , the state president is elected by the people of the state and may form the government without having to take into account the composition of the parliament. Still, the President has to work with Parliament because it makes laws. The best-known example is the USA . In a parliamentary system , parliament is not only responsible for laws, but also elects the government. In such a system, the president usually only has representative tasks. The United Kingdom is considered the original type , and Germany is one of them.

    A semi-presidential system of government is similar to the presidential system with the directly elected president who has an important role in forming a government. The government, however, depends on the confidence of parliament and can only govern through it. So there are two people at the head of the executive, the president and the head of government.

    Whether one should classify a certain political system as semi-presidential depends not only on the written constitution, but also on constitutional reality and political customs. For example, the constitution often stipulates that the president appoints members of the government, but the appointment must be ratified by parliament or that parliament can overthrow the government. So the President cannot appoint someone to the government whom Parliament rejects. A system that is semi-presidential according to the constitution can in reality be parliamentary, since the president would not appoint anyone who does not have the confidence of parliament.

    Heterogeneity of the concept and possible solutions

    Classification problems

    In addition to the problematic discrepancy between constitutional reality and the purely legal situation, in many cases the constellation between head of state and head of government is similar to that of the head of state in parliamentary systems of government . Furthermore, in other cases the president represents an extreme position of supremacy, a strong influencing factor over the head of government. This is especially true when there is no cohabitation . In the third problem case, the president is in any case much more powerful than the head of government.

    Approaches to classification

    Especially since not only the delimitation of semi-presidentialism from other systems of government is very complex, but also the governments grouped under this system differ greatly in some cases, an attempt was made to achieve a more concrete classification through sub-groups.

    The political scientist Markus Soldner divided the semi-presidential systems again into premier-presidential and presidential-parliamentary systems. The former describe a system of government in which the government depends solely on the confidence of parliament once it has been appointed. To distinguish it from the parliamentary system , however, the president has far-reaching powers (e.g. the right to decree , veto , right to dissolve parliament, etc.). Case studies are France or Ukraine . In the presidential-parliamentary system, the president does not have such serious special rights, but the government or at least the head of government is permanently dependent on the confidence of both parliament and the president. Examples of this would be Russia , the Republic of China (Taiwan) or the Weimar Republic .

    Wolfgang Ismayr defines the subordinate types of the semi-presidential system only slightly differently: Depending on the parliamentary majorities, a president in the semi-presidential system can be both stronger and weaker than in the presidential system . Therefore Ismayr considers the term to be misleading, but naturalized in political science; he does not want to decide whether it is a separate type of system or a presidential variant of the parliamentary system. Instead, he prefers the distinction between parliamentary-presidential and presidential-parliamentary systems of government. This distinction has been made since 1990 with regard to the Eastern European systems. In the presidential-parliamentary system , the president has far-reaching powers, particularly with regard to the government. Typically, he has the option of dismissing the head of government or individual ministers, at least the entire government, against the will of the parliamentary majority. Examples are Russia and Ukraine. In the parliamentary-presidential system of government (e.g. France), on the other hand, the president has no possibility of dismissing the government or the head of government - as in the parliamentary system, this can only be done by a parliamentary majority. However, it has far more extensive powers than in this one, for example often an independent right to issue ordinances .



    The French political system is still often cited as a classic example of a semi-presidential system of government. The prime minister is appointed by the state president (and formally dismissed by the president's resignation) and can be overthrown by the national assembly by a vote of no confidence. So the government depends on the trust of both. The president has significant power over the government.

    Constitutional reality depends heavily on whether the president and the majority in parliament belong to the same political camp. If so, then the president is the clear political leader who chooses the head of government. When forming a government, however, he also takes into account the wishes of the governing parties in parliament that support him.

    In 1986, however, the other case came about for the first time: President François Mitterrand was a socialist, but the liberals and conservatives had a majority in parliament. Mitterrand therefore appointed the conservative Jacques Chirac as prime minister. One speaks of cohabitation , the difficult "living together" of the two opposing political camps. The president can still set his own course, especially in foreign policy. In addition to 1986–1988, there was cohabitation from 1993 to 1995 and from 1997 to 2002.

    Using the example of France in particular, however, the independence of the semi-presidential system of government as a type of system is called into question, because there is no continuous government practice that can be distinguished from parliamentary and presidential systems. Rather, in France phases of presidential governance alternated with party-political agreement between the president and parliamentary majority and phases of parliamentary governance in times of cohabitation.


    In the government system of the Weimar Republic , the Reich President appointed the Reich Chancellor according to the Weimar Constitution of 1919 and, on his suggestion, the ministers (Art. 53). The Reichstag, however, was allowed to overthrow the Reich government or any individual member of the government (Art. 54 WRV). The constitution thus imitated its predecessor from the empire , according to which the emperor appointed the imperial chancellor, but parliament also had the opportunity to depose the government ( October constitution ).

    In practice, however, the Reich President often had to make an active effort to form a government, in which case his political preferences could play a role. In 1930 , Reich President Paul von Hindenburg opposed further participation by the SPD in government and in 1931 dismissed Minister Joseph Wirth , who was too far left .


    In Austria , the Weimar system with a - potentially - strong president was largely taken over in 1929 and renewed in 1945. The Austrian Federal President has little influence on the formation of a government if there is a clear parliamentary majority, because the Austrian Federal Government must be legitimized twice by the President and Parliament . In accordance with the Federal Constitutional Act , the Federal President appoints a citizen who can be elected to the National Council as Federal Chancellor and, on his proposal, the rest of the government. The Federal Chancellor or the entire government can be dismissed at the discretion of the Federal President and without countersignature or proposal; individual members of the government can only be dismissed by the National Council or by the Federal President on the proposal of the Federal Chancellor. The National Council is dissolved with a simple majority of the National Council itself or at the discretion of the Federal President on the proposal of the Federal Government. This competence of the Federal President has only come into play once in 1930. Since after 1945 every federal government had a parliamentary majority behind it (or at least a majority was tolerated) and action against parliament could lead to a state crisis, the Federal Presidents of the Second Republic have so far refrained from exercising these rights. Ronald Barazon stated: “The Austrian Federal President is the country's political fire brigade. If there is no government, if parliament does not work, in short, if there is imminent danger, then it is the Federal President's job to govern the country and restore orderly conditions. In order to have the appropriate legitimation for this, the Federal President is elected directly by the people. ”In order to do justice to both the presidential and parliamentary possibilities offered by the Federal Constitution , Austria is sometimes also referred to as a“ parliamentary semi-presidential republic ”. Often, however, this fact is reduced to pure parliamentarianism.

    supporting documents

    1. Markus Soldner: “Semi-presidential” systems of government? Considerations on a controversial system type and building blocks of a typological reconceptualization. In: Klemens H. Schrenk, Markus Soldner (ed.): Analysis of democratic systems of government. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2010, pp. 61–82.
    2. Wolfgang Ismayr: The political systems of Western Europe in comparison. In: ders. (Ed.): The political systems of Western Europe . 2nd updated edition. Leske + Budrich, Opladen, pp. 8–52, here p. 15.
    3. The abolition of the fire brigade. In: Salzburger Nachrichten, May 2, 2010
    4. Manfried Welan: Presidentialism or Parliamentarism? Perspectives for Austrian Democracy (PDF; 95 kB)

    Web links


    • Dieter Nohlen, Rainer-Olaf Schultze, Suzanne S. Schüttemeyer (ed.): Lexicon of politics. Volume 7: Political Terms. Beck, Munich 1998.
    • Udo Kempf: The French political system . In: Wolfgang Ismayr (Ed.): The political systems of Western Europe . 2nd updated edition. Leske + Budrich, Opladen 1999.
    • Robert Elgie, Sophia Moestrup: Semi-presidentialism outside Europe: A comparative study (=  Routledge Research in Comparative Politics Series . Volume 19 ). Routledge, New York 2007, ISBN 978-0-415-38047-8 ( limited preview in Google Book Search).