A semi-presidential system is a system of government in which a
president exists alongside a prime minister and a cabinet, with the
latter two being responsible to the legislature of a state. It differs
from a parliamentary republic in that it has a popularly elected head
of state, who is more than a purely ceremonial figurehead, and from
the presidential system in that the cabinet, although named by the
president, is responsible to the legislature, which may force the
cabinet to resign through a motion of no confidence.
While the Weimar
Republic (1919–1933) exemplified an early
semi-presidential system, the term "semi-presidential" was introduced
by a 1959 article by journalist Hubert Beuve-Méry and popularized
by a 1978 work by political scientist Maurice Duverger, both of
which intended to describe the French Fifth
Republic (established in
2 Division of powers
4 Advantages and disadvantages
5 Republics with a semi-presidential system of government
5.1 President-parliamentary system
5.2 Premier-presidential system
6 See also
7 Notes and references
8 External links
There are two separate subtypes of semi-presidentialism:
premier-presidentialism and president-parliamentarism.
Under the premier-presidential system, the prime minister and cabinet
are exclusively accountable to parliament. The president chooses the
prime minister and cabinet, but only the parliament may remove them
from office with a vote of no confidence. The president does not have
the right to dismiss the prime minister or the cabinet. However, in
some cases, the president can circumvent this limitation by exercising
the discretionary power of dissolving the assembly, which forces the
prime minister and cabinet to step down. This subtype is used in
Armenia, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, East Timor, France,
Georgia (since 2013), Lithuania, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Niger,
Poland, Portugal, Romania, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sri Lanka
Ukraine (since 2014; previously, between 2006 and 2010).
Under the president-parliamentary system, the prime minister and
cabinet are dually accountable to the president and the assembly
majority. The president chooses the prime minister and the cabinet but
must have the support of the parliament majority for his choice. In
order to remove a prime minister or the whole cabinet from power, the
president can dismiss them or the assembly can remove them by a vote
of no confidence. This form of semi-presidentialism is much closer to
pure presidentialism. It is used in Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique,
Namibia, Peru, Russia,
Senegal and Taiwan. It was also used in
Ukraine, first between 1996 and 2005, and again from 2010 to 2014,
Georgia between 2004 and 2013, and in
Germany during the Weimarer
Republik (Weimar Republic), as the constitutional regime between 1919
and 1933 is called unofficially.
Division of powers
The powers that are divided between president and prime minister can
vary greatly between countries.
In France, for example, in case of cohabitation, when the president
and the prime minister come from opposing parties, the president
oversees foreign policy and defence policy (these are generally called
les prérogatives présidentielles (the presidential prerogatives) and
the prime minister domestic policy and economic policy. In this
case, the division of responsibilities between the prime minister and
the president is not explicitly stated in the constitution, but has
evolved as a political convention based on the constitutional
principle that the prime minister is appointed (with the subsequent
approval of a parliament majority) and dismissed by the president.
On the other hand, whenever the president is from the same party as
the prime minister who leads the conseil de gouvernement (cabinet), he
often (if not usually) exercises de facto control over all fields of
policy via the prime minister. It is up to the president to decide,
how much "autonomy" leaves to "their" prime minister to act on their
In Finland, by contrast, the assignment of responsibility for foreign
policy was explicitly stated in the pre-2000 constitution: "foreign
policy is led by the president in cooperation with the cabinet".
Further information: Cohabitation (government)
Semi-presidential systems may sometimes experience periods in which
the president and the prime minister are from differing political
parties. This is called "cohabitation", a term which originated in
France when the situation first arose in the 1980s. Cohabitation can
create an effective system of checks and balances or a period of
bitter and tense stonewalling, depending on the attitudes of the two
leaders, the ideologies of their parties, or the demands of their
In most cases, cohabitation results from a system in which the two
executives are not elected at the same time or for the same term. For
example, in 1981,
France elected both a Socialist president and
legislature, which yielded a Socialist premier. But whereas the
president's term of office was for seven years, the National Assembly
only served for five. When, in the 1986 legislative election, the
French people elected a right-of-centre assembly, Socialist President
Mitterrand was forced into cohabitation with rightist premier Jacques
However, in 2000, amendments to the
French constitution reduced the
length of the French president's term from seven to five years. This
has significantly lowered the chances of cohabitation occurring, as
parliamentary and presidential elections may now be conducted within a
shorter span of each other.
Advantages and disadvantages
The incorporation of elements from both presidential and parliamentary
republics brings some advantageous elements along with them but,
however, it also faces disadvantages related to the confusion from
mixed authority patterns.
Providing cover for the president — it can shield the president from
criticism and the unpopular policies can be blamed on the prime
Ability to remove an unpopular prime minister and maintain stability
from the president's fixed term — the parliament has power to remove
an unpopular prime minister;
Additional checks and balances — while the president can dismiss the
prime minister in most semi-presidential systems, in most of the
semi-presidential systems important segments of bureaucracy are taken
away from the president.
Confusion about accountability — parliamentary systems give voters a
relatively clear sense of who is responsible for policy successes and
failures; presidential systems make this more difficult, particularly
when there is divided government. Semi-presidential systems add
another layer of complexity for voters;
Confusion and inefficiency in legislative process — the capacity of
votes of confidence makes the prime minister responsible to the
Republics with a semi-presidential system of government
Main article: List of countries by system of government
§ Semi-presidential systems
Italics indicate states with limited recognition.
Republic of the
Republic of China)
Republic of Congo
São Tomé and Príncipe
List of countries by system of government
Notes and references
^ a b Duverger, Maurice (June 1980). "A New Political System Model:
Semi-Presidential Government" (PDF). European Journal of Political
Research (quarterly). University of Paris I, Paris: Elsevier
Scientific Publishing Company. 8 (2): 165–187.
doi:10.1111/j.1475-6765.1980.tb00569.x . Retrieved 21 August 2017
– via Wiley Online Library. The concept of a semi-presidential form
of government, as used here, is defined only by the content of the
constitution. A political regime is considered as semi-presidential if
the constitution which established it, combines three elements: (1)
the president of the republic is elected by universal suffrage, (2) he
possesses quite considerable powers; (3) he has opposite him, however,
a prime minister and ministers who possess executive and governmental
power and can stay in office only if the parliament does not show its
opposition to them.
^ a b Veser, Ernst (1997). "Semi-Presidentialism-Duverger's concept: A
New Political System Model" (PDF). Journal for Humanities and Social
Sciences. Taiwan: Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences.
11 (1): 39–60. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
^ a b Duverger, Maurice (September 1996). "Les monarchies
républicaines" [The Republican Monarchies] (PDF). Pouvoirs, revue
française d’études constitutionnelles et politiques (in French).
No. 78. Paris: Éditions du Seuil. pp. 107–120.
ISBN 2-02-030123-7. ISSN 0152-0768. OCLC 909782158.
Retrieved 10 September 2016.
^ a b Bahro, Horst; Bayerlein, Bernhard H.; Veser, Ernst (October
1998). "Duverger's concept: Semi-presidential government revisited"
European Journal of Political Research (quarterly). University
of Cologne, Germany: Kluwer Academic Publishers. 34 (2): 201–224.
doi:10.1111/1475-6765.00405. Retrieved 22 August 2017 – via Wiley
Online Library. The conventional analysis of government in democratic
countries by political science and constitutional law starts from the
traditional types of presidentialism and parliamentarism. There is,
however, a general consensus that governments in the various countries
work quite differently. This is why some authors have inserted
distinctive features into their analytical approaches, at the same
time maintaining the general dichotomy. Maurice Duverger, trying to
explain the French Fifth Republic, found that this dichotomy was not
adequate for this purpose. He therefore resorted to the concept of
'semi-presidential government': The characteristics of the concept are
(Duverger 1974: 122, 1978: 28, 1980: 166):
President of the
Republic is elected by universal suffrage,
2. he possesses quite considerable powers and
3. he has opposite him a prime minister who possesses executive and
governmental powers and can stay in office only if parliament does not
express its opposition to him.
^ Le Monde, 8 January 1959.
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Massot, Quelle place la Constitution de 1958 accorde-t-elle au
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^ Le Petit Larousse 2013 p. 880
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The Semi-Presidential One, blog of Robert Elgie
Presidential Power blog with posts written by several political
scientists, including Robert Elgie.