Non-democratic presidentialism and the classic typology of systems of government: the experience of post-Soviet Eurasia

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Author: Petra Stykow

DOI: 10.21128/1812-7126-2018-4-108-130

Keywords: 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation; powers of the Russian President; авторитарные конституции; конституциональная диффузия; Конституция России 1993 года; парламентско-президентское правление; патрональные режимы; полупрезидентское правление; президентское правление


This article challenges the claim that authoritarian constitutions are indistinguishable from their democratic counterparts by examining the constitutional regime types of the twelve post-Soviet countries in Eurasia. First, the classic typology of systems of government is applied to all executive-legislative arrangements as stipulated by the first post-communist constitutions and their subsequent amendments, adopted between 1992 and 2017. Based on a thorough analysis of constitutional texts, it is shown that cases whose categorization is contested in the literature are in fact presidential rather than parliament-presidential. Second, these presidential constitutions codify presidential supremacy-a fundamentally non-liberal-democratic arrangement, the template of which can be found in the 1993 Constitution of the Russian Federation. Presidents in these systems stand above the system of functionally separated powers and are not subject to institutionalized checks and balances. This “Eurasian presidentialism” entails a constitutional doctrine of presidential supremacy, authorizing the head of state to ensure the “coordinated functioning and interaction” of the executive and the legislative and to define the political agenda. This constitutional norm is operationalized by several features, forming a pattern of “family resemblance,” such as the president’s discretion over the formation, operation, and termination of the government, the resolution of conflicts with the assembly by dissolving it, and the abolition of reelection restrictions for the incumbent. These arrangements are categorically different from democratic presidentialism based on separation-of-power arrangements, including checks and balances. Strikingly, in the region’s politically more competitive countries, such constitutional features have never been adopted or were abandoned, when political regime changes occurred. To avoid conceptual overstretch and enhance conceptual homogeneity, the introduction of a subtype of “nondemocratic presidentialism” into the classic taxonomy of systems of government is suggested.

About the author: Petra Stykow – Dr. phil. habil., Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.

Citation: Stykow P. (2018) Klassicheskaya tipologiya sistem pravleniya i nedemokraticheskiy prezidentsializm: opyt Evrazii [Non-democratic presidentialism and the classic typology of systems of government: the experience of post-Soviet Eurasia]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.27, no.4, pp.108–130. (In Russian).


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