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The Double-Headed Eagle: Semi-Presidentialism and Democracy in France and Russia

Harvey, Cole J. (2009) The Double-Headed Eagle: Semi-Presidentialism and Democracy in France and Russia. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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It has become a commonplace observation in recent years that Russian democracy is in remission. Indeed there is a significant difference between the struggling democratic performance of Russia and that of a consolidated democracy such as France. The modern French and Russian states are both semi-presidential states, meaning that in each country executive power is shared between an elected president and an appointed prime minister who can (at least in theory) be voted out of office by the legislature. Despite this broad similarity, semi-presidential institutions are organized in significantly different ways in each country. This paper examines those differences in order to understand how they can help account for poor democratic performance in Russia and strong democratic performance in France. Four political institutions will be examined in each country: presidents, prime ministers, parliaments, and political parties. By comparing these institutions across two semi-presidential states, important differences can be unearthed and their implications for democratic performance analyzed. This paper concludes that, if anything, the Russian legislature is more independent than the French National Assembly, and more capable of influencing independent policies and laws. However, a weak vote of no-confidence means that the Russian legislature has little control over the selection of the prime minister and cabinet. This severely hobbles Russian political parties and creates a leadership class that is not dependent on party support for its position. These non-partisan leaders are therefore free to create the clientelistic 'parties of power' that have become characteristic of the Russian system. By contrast, the strong vote of no-confidence in the National Assembly obliges French national leaders to cultivate and reward political parties in order to build a supportive majority in the legislature. As a result, French parties are able to act as links between the state and society, while Russian society remains alienated from its leaders.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Harvey, Cole
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHarris, Jonathanjonharri@pitt.eduJONHARRI
Committee MemberSbragia, Albertasbragia@pitt.eduSBRAGIA
Committee MemberLinden, Ronaldlinden@pitt.eduLINDEN
Committee MemberRemington,
Date: 14 April 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 14 July 2008
Approval Date: 14 April 2009
Submission Date: 26 September 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1995 parliamentary election; 1999 parliamentary election; cabinet formation; cohabitation; Communist Party; Communist Party of the Russian Federation; decree; decree power; executive-legislative relations; Fatherland-All Russia; government formation; interest aggregation; Liberal Democratic Party of Russia; no-confidence; opposition; Our Home is Russia; oversight; parties and government formation; party opposition; party politics; policy initiation; presidential powers; Putin; unified government; United Russia; Unity; veto; veto power; Vladimir Putin; vote of no-confidence
Other ID:, etd-09262008-125441
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:02
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:50


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