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Borrowing Constitutional Designs

Borrowing Constitutional Designs: Constitutional Law in Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic

Cindy Skach
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Borrowing Constitutional Designs
    Book Description:

    After the collapse of communism, some thirty countries scrambled to craft democratic constitutions. Surprisingly, the constitutional model they most often chose was neither the pure parliamentary model found in most of Western Europe at the time, nor the presidential model of the Americas. Rather, it was semi-presidentialism--a rare model known more generally as the "French type." This constitutional model melded elements of pure presidentialism with those of pure parliamentarism. Specifically, semi-presidentialism combined a popularly elected head of state with a head of government responsible to a legislature.

    Borrowing Constitutional Designsquestions the hasty adoption of semi-presidentialism by new democracies. Drawing on rich case studies of two of the most important countries for European politics in the twentieth century--Weimar Germany and the French Fifth Republic--Cindy Skach offers the first theoretically focused, and historically grounded, analysis of semi-presidentialism and democracy. She demonstrates that constitutional choice matters, because under certain conditions, semi-presidentialism structures incentives that make democratic consolidation difficult or that actually contribute to democratic collapse. She offers a new theory of constitutional design, integrating insights from law and the social sciences. In doing so, Skach challenges both democratic theory and democratic practice. This book will be welcomed not only by scholars and practitioners of constitutional law but also by those in fields such as comparative politics, European politics and history, and international and public affairs.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3262-0
    Subjects: Political Science, Law, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. 1-11)

    After the collapse of communism, some thirty countries scrambled to craft democratic constitutions. Surprisingly, the modal constitution chosen in these countries was neither the pure parliamentary model found in most of Western Europe at the time, nor the presidential model found in the Americas. Rather, the modal constitution chosen after communism’s collapse was semi-presidentialism—an unknown model known more generally as the “French type.”¹ This constitution combined elements of pure presidentialism and pure parliamentarism in one type. Specifically, semi-presidentialism combined a popularly elected head of state with a head of government who was responsible to a legislature.

    Throughout the 1990s,...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Constitutional Frameworks and Constitutional Law
    (pp. 12-29)

    The rather heated debate over constitutional design and democracy has almost exclusively concerned two constitutional types: parliamentarism and presidentialism. This chapter examines the structure of these two types and differentiates semi-presidentialism from both of them. In so doing, the chapter brings constitutional frameworks back to the study of constitutional law.

    Presidentialism and parliamentarism are conceptual opposites. Parliamentarism is a system ofmutual dependencebetween the executive and the legislature: through legislative support, governments remain legitimate and viable. Legitimacy and viability are in turn necessary for the effective, democratic formulation and implementation of government policies. Governments in parliamentary systems may be...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Parties, Leaders, and Constitutional Law in Ebert's Republic
    (pp. 30-48)

    Any discussion of Weimar Germany must begin by acknowledging that when the Weimar Republic was founded in 1919, Germany had just emerged from four years of devastating war. The country had lost almost 2 million people, and seen another 4 million wounded. The German monarchy, along with the entire imperial administration, had been debased by this loss.¹ This dishonor, and the subsequent abdication of the monarch, provided Germany with a chance, albeit a precarious one, to build a new order and to found it on the principles of liberal democracy. This is precisely what the Weimar Republic attempted to do....

  8. CHAPTER 3 Divided Minorities and Constitutional Dictatorship in Weimar Germany
    (pp. 49-70)

    The first few years of the Weimar Republic were relatively encouraging for German democracy, in spite of the huge constraints and challenges facing Weimar’s leaders. The period from 1924 to 1929 is, for example, sometimes referred to as “the Golden Twenties.”¹ Yet democracy was never consolidated, and gradually dissolved in the final years of the Republic. The reasons for this dissolution, and for the subsequent rise of the Third Reich under Adolf Hitler, have been the subject of much debate.² In this chapter I do not suggest an alternative, definitive explanation for the collapse of Weimar. Rather, I examine how...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Parties, Leaders, and Constitutional Law in de Gaulle's Republic
    (pp. 71-92)

    If we think about the different subtypes of semi-presidentialism that I just presented and discussed in Weimar, and now look at French legislative data from 1958 to 2002, we see that France clearly experienced most of the Fifth Republic to date (60 percent) from the vantage point of consolidated majorities. See figure 4.1.¹

    Moreover, with the exception of the 1959–1962 period, France’s transition from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic occurred under the vantage point of consolidated majorities. Had France not experienced most of the Fifth Republic under stable, consolidated majorities, would politics in the Fifth Republic have been...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Consolidated Majorities and Constitutional Democracy in the French Fifth Republic
    (pp. 93-117)

    Democracy in “de Gaulle’s Republic” has been, in general comparative terms, positive.¹ Comparative measures of political rights and civil liberties consistently rank France one of the most consolidated democracies in the world.² Consequently, the Fifth Republic’s constitution has been seen in a similarly positive light, as attested to by the increasing number of democratizing countries crafting constitutionsà la française

    I just discussed how the changing nature of the party system, influenced by historical, socioeconomic, and institutional developments, enabled the Fifth Republic to spend much of its lifespan under consolidated majority government. But France’s early, difficult experience, from 1959 to...

    (pp. 118-128)

    Among the many subjects of comparative law and politics over the past decade, three related bodies of literature stand out. One concerns the transition to and consolidation of democracy.¹ This literature posed questions and advanced our thinking about the prospects for democratic transition and consolidation in a variety of regions across the world. A second literature concerns the concept of democracy itself. Working at the borderline of comparative politics and political theory, scholars have been examining whether contemporary democratic theory adequately provides the cognitive space necessary for analyzing the variety of democratic practices we were witnessing in the late 1980s...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 129-144)
  13. Index
    (pp. 145-151)