In “The Perils of Presidentialism” [Journal of Democracy 1 (Winter 1990): 51–69], Professor Juan Linz makes the claim that parliamentary systems are “more conducive to stable democracy” than are presidential sys-tems. “This conclusion,” he continues, “applies especially to nations with deep political cleavages and numerous political parties.” This theme forms a leitmotiv in Professor Linz’s recent works, has been picked up by other scholars, and runs the risk of becoming conventional wisdom before it receives searching scrutiny. Linz argues that the presidential office introduces an undesirable element of winner-take-all politics into societies that need mechanisms of conciliation instead. A presidential candidate is either elected or not, whereas in parlia¬mentary systems many shades of outcome are possible. Moreover, a directly elected president may think he has a popular “mandate,” even if he has been elected with only a small plurality of the vote, perhaps even less than 40 percent. The potential for conflict is accordingly enhanced. Conflict is promoted, in Linz’s view, by the separation of powers that divides the legislature from the president. The fixed term of a separately elected president makes for rigidity between elections. By contrast, parlia¬mentary systems are able to resolve crises at any time simply by changing leaders or governments. Separate presidential election also produces weak cabinets and fosters electoral contests in which extremists either have too much influence or the whole society becomes polarized. This is a powerful indictment, supported by an abiding concern for the stability of precarious democratizing regimes. Linz’s claims, however, are not sustainable. First, they are based on a regionally skewed and highly selective

Comparing Democratic Systems’, DonaldL.HorowitzJournal of Democracy, 1 (4) (1990): 73–79. © 1990 National Endowment for Democracy and The Johns Hopkins University Press. Reprinted with permission of The Johns Hopkins University Press.
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