CCR №3 (124) 2018
Post-Soviet super-presidentialism

Abstract. This article will argue that the predominant form of constitutional design in the former Soviet republics is not semi-presidentialism. Instead, it is a fourth type of formal constitutional design: super-presidentialism. Super-presidentialism is analytically distinct from both presidential and semi-presidential systems for two reasons. First, super-presidential constitutions are not semi-presidential because they give the president final control over the formation and dismissal of the executive-branch government. In the post-Soviet region, presidents have the formal power to make the final decision on both the appointment and dismissal of the prime minister and other executive branch ministers, chair government meetings, and rescind official decisions made by executive branch officials. Second, these constitutions are not presidential because they give the president significant power to supervise and control the legislative branch. In the post-Soviet states, this authority – a result of the pseudo-monarchical, free-standing position of the president as “head of state” and “guarantor of the constitution” – includes the formal presidential power to dismiss the legislature and, frequently, appoint members of the upper house of legislature. This finding is important for two reasons. First, it revises the generally held idea that semi-presidentialism is the primary form of constitutional government in the former Soviet republics. Second, it demonstrates that many post-Soviet states consciously adopted a new constitutional structure that rejects western concepts of divided government. Instead, they adopted a super-presidentialist structure that grants vast formal constitutional power to a president who would then be able to break deadlocks and coordinate a unified state in overcoming post-Soviet challenges.

About the author:
William Partlett – Associate Professor, Melbourne Law School, Melbourne, Australia.

Citation: Partlett W. (2018) Postsovetskoe superprezidentstvo [Post-Soviet super-presidentialism]. Sravnitel’noe konstitutsionnoe obozrenie, vol.27, no.3, pp.103–123. (In Russian).

References

Beranger D., Murry C. (2013) Systems of Government. In: Tushnet M., Fleiner T., Saunders C. (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Constitutional Law, New York: Routledge Press, pp.73–84.

Black J.L. (1973) The “State School” of Russian History: A Re-Appraisal of its Genetic Origins. Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas. Neue Folge, vol.21, no.4, pp.509–530.

Borisova T. (2008) Russian National Legal Tradition: Svod versus Ulozhenie in Nineteenth-Century Russia. Review of Central and East European Law, vol.33, no.3, pp.295–341.

Chirkin V.Е. (1997) Konstitutsionnoe pravo zarubezhnykh stran [Constitutional law of foreign countries], Moscow: Yurist. (in Russian).

Chirkin V.Е. (1998) Konstitutsionnoe pravo: Rossiya i zarubezhnyy opyt [Constitutional law: Russia and foreign experience], Moscow: Zertsalo. (In Russian).

Colton T.J., Skach C. (2005) The Russia Predicament. Journal of Democracy, vol.16, no.3, pp.113–126.

Elgie R. (1999) The Politics of Semi-Presidentialism. In: Elgie R. (ed.) Semi-Presidentialism in Europe, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, pp.1–21.

Elgie R., Moestrup S. (2016) Semi-presidentialism in Democracies, Quasi-democracies, and Autocracies. In: Elgie R., Moestrup S. (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism in the Caucasus and Central Asia, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.1–28.

Engibaryan R.V., Tadevosyan E.V. (2000) Konstitutsionnoe pravo: Uchebnik dlya vuzov [Constitutional law: A book for universities], Moscow: Yurist. (In Russian).

Fish M.S. (1997) The Pitfalls of Russian Superpresidentialism. Current History, vol.96, no.612, pp.326–330.

Fruhstopher A. (2017) Paradoxes of Constitutional Politics in the Post-Soviet Space. University of Illinois Law Review, no.2, pp.767–790.

Gardbaum S. (2013) The New Commonwealth Model of Constitutionalism: Theory and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hale H.E. (2014) The Informal Politics of Formal Constitutions: Rethinking the Effects of “Presidentialism” and “Parliamentarism” in the Cases of Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Ukraine. In: Ginsburg T., Simpser A. (eds.) Constitutions in Authoritarian Regimes, New York: Cambridge University Press, pp.218–244.

Holmes S. (1994) Super-Presidentialism and its Problems. East European Constitutional Review, vol.2–3, no.4–1, pp.123–126.

Jacobsohn G.J. (2010) Constitutional Identity, Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press.

Kozlova E.I., Kutafin O.E. (2018) Konstitutsionnoe pravo Rossii: uchebnik [Constitutional law of Russia: A textbook], 5th ed., Moscow: Prospekt. (In Russian).

Krasnov M. (2008) Glava gosudarstva: retseptsiya idei “ottsovstva” [The Head of State: The reception of the idea of “paternity”]. Obshchestvennye nauki i sovremennost’, no.5, pp.68–79. (In Russian).

Krasnov M. (ed.) (2012) Proekt Konstitutsii Rossii [Draft Constitution of Russia], Moscow: Fond “Liberal’naya missiya”. (in Russian).

Krasnov М.A., Shablinskiy I.G. (2008) Rossiyskaya sistema vlasti: treugol’nik s odnim uglom [The Russian system of power: A triangle with one angle], Moscow: Institute of Law and Public Policy. (In Russian).

Levinson D., Pildes R. (2006) Separation of Parties, Not Powers. Harvard Law Review, vol.119, no.8, pp.2311–2386.

Lukashuk A. (2001) Constitutionalism in Belarus: A False Start. In: Zielonka J. (ed.) Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe. Vol.1: Institutional Engineering, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, pp.293–318.

Nakashidze M. Semi-Presidentialism in Georgia. In: Elgie R., Moestrup S. (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism in the Caucasus and Central Asia, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.119–142.

Nino C. (1992) The Debate Over Constitutional Reform in Latin America. Fordham International Law Journal, vol.16, no.3, pp.635–651.

Nurumov D., Vashchanka V. (2016) Constitutional Development of Independent Kazakhstan. In: Elgie R., Moestrup S. (eds.) Semi-Presidentialism in the Caucasus and Central Asia, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.143–172.

Partlett W. (2012) Separation of Powers Without Checks and Balances: The Failure of Semi-Presidentialism and the Making of the Russian Constitutional System, 1991–1993. In: Borisova T., Simons W. (eds.) The Legal Dimension in Cold-War Interactions: Some Notes from the Field, Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, pp.105–140.

Partlett W. (2016) Centralism and Supervision in Armenia and Ukraine. In: Annual Review of Constitution-Building Processes: 2015, Stockholm: International IDEA, pp.85–98.

Partlett W. (2016) The Elite Threat to Constitutional Transitions. Virginia Journal of International Law, vol.56, no.2, pp.407–457.

Perju V. (2015) The Romanian Double Executive and the 2012 Constitutional Crisis. International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol.13, no.1, pp.246–278.

Ríos-Figueroa J. (2007) Fragmentation of Power and the Emergence of an Effective Judiciary in Mexico, 1994–2002. Latin American Politics & Society, vol.49, no.1, pp.31–57.

Roper S. (2008) From Semi-Presidentialism to Parliamentarism: Regime change and Presidential Power in Moldova. Europe-Asia Studies, vol.60, no.1, pp.113–126.

Rose-Ackerman S., Desierto D., Volosin N. (2011) Hyper-Presidentialism: Separation of Powers without Checks and Balances in Argentina and Philippines. Berkeley Journal of International Law, vol.29, no.1, pp.246–333.

Scheppelle K.L. (2013) The Rule of Law and the Frankenstate: Why Governance Checklists Do Not Work. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions, vol.26, no.4, pp.559–562.

Sharlet R. (1998) Legal Transplants and Political Mutations: The Reception of Constitutional Law in Russia and the Newly Independent States. Eastern European Constitutional Review, vol.7, no.4, pp.59–67.

Shugart M.S., Carey J.M. (1992) Presidents and Assemblies: Constitutional Design and Electoral Dynamics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Skach C. (2007) The Newest Separation of Powers: Semipresidentialism. International Journal of Constitutional Law, vol.5, no.1, pp.93–121.

Topornin  B.N. (ed.) (1997) Konstitutsiya Rossiyskoy Federatsii: Nauchno-prakticheskiy kommentariy [The Constitution of the Russian Federation: Scientific-practical commentary], Moscow. (In Russian).

Tsygankov A.P. (2014) The Strong State in Russia: Development and Crisis, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

Vile M.J.C. (1998) Constitutionalism and the Separation of Power, 2nd ed., Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund.

Issue articles