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Comparison of France and Poland Through The Concept of Semi-Presidentialism: The Main Differences Between These Countries

Introduction

Based on Duverger’s analysis, the concept of semi-presidentialism refers to a regime that effectively constitutes both parliamentary and presidential regimes (Elgie, 249). Notably, semi-presidentialism concept was introduced by Maurice Duverger primarily to outline the government system that was first used in the French Fifth Republic and has since been utilized to define various nations that integrate and use both parliamentary and presidential institutions. It is worth noting that Carey and Shugart improved the concept and specifically focused on the power distribution between the prime minister and the president who are the two crucial executives. In light of this, nations where the prime minister has more significant executive power are referred to as the premier-presidential regimes. Duverger further notes that a semi-presidential regime is characterized by three key features including the election of the president through universal suffrage, a distinct office of the prime minister and the constitutional powers of the president ((Elgie, 250). On the contrary, the nations in which the president has more substantial authority are known as the president parliamentary regimes. Notably, the premier-presidential regimes are more popular type of semi-presidentialism in East Europe. In this regard, the essay compares the France and Poland and in light of semi-presidentialism, citing the leading differences between these countries.

Comparison of France and Poland Through The Concept of Semi-Presidentialism: The Main Differences Between These Countries

It should be noted that both France and Poland are premier-presidential regime type of semi-presidentialism. In examining and comparing semi-presidentialism in these countries, it is worth focusing on the presidential powers within the premier-presidential regimes. Typically, in premier-presidential regime, the president is popularly elected and has various constitutional powers. At the same time, the prime minister is usually subjected to a vote of confidence and is responsible for different executive functions. On the other hand, presidential power is not necessarily legislative. The implication is that the president typically has various non-legislative powers such as formation of the cabinet as well as its dissolution. Nevertheless, the president in this regime does no have the powers unilaterally to dismiss any of the cabinet ministers endowed with the confidence of the parliament.

Notably, the French president has occasionally has exercised substantial and reasonable influence in the entire legislative process, albeit he has significantly few institutional means through which he can influence the legislation due to the regime’s flexibility (Roper, 253). At the same time, the French president’s election as manifested as a de facto presidential regime. On the other hand, the Polish president has much lesser influence on the legislative processes. In this regard, the Polish president has a veto power that calls for an absolute parliamentary majority to override. Also, both Polish and French presidents have authorities to implement various limited decrees. As such, both of them can enact decrees for particular policy areas such as the budget only. Given that French president has limited legislative powers, the implication is that the president’s power is mostly a function of various key non-legislative or different individual’s personal qualities. Also, despite the possessing the legislative powers, presidents like that of France may not utilize such powers. In the same aspect, the French and Polish presidents have absolutely no power to propose any forms of referenda and in case they do, they must get the parliamentary approval. On the contrary, French president can dissolve parliament only when he is responding to the parliament’s inability to pass legislation or to confirm a new government. On the other hand, the Polish president is usually restricted and can only dissolve the parliament by timing or frequency (Roper, 263). The implication is that many constitutions state that the president can only dissolve a parliament once in a calendar year. Similarly, the president can also dissolve the parliament during the particular number of months before the general elections are held. It should also be noted that presidents in both countries appoint the prime ministers who subsequently nominates the cabinet ministers in the government. Again, it is worth noting that only the parliaments in both countries have the legal powers to dismiss various members of the cabinet on various conditions. Besides, the French and Polish presidents can dissolve parliaments without any substantial restrictions.

It should be noted that the premier-presidential regimes are mostly similar in the context of their general operations. Nevertheless, such similarities significantly relate to the constitutional powers and not the executives’ actual powers. Again, the French president has the fewest constitutional power compared to other presidents across Europe.  On the same note, the regime type adopted in these countries significantly contributes to the cabinet instabilities (Roper, 269). The implication here is that premier-presidential regimes that gives more powers to the president like Poland are characterized by more significant cabinet instability compared to the other regimes in which the parliament is more powerful like the case of France. Being parliamentary regime, the French government is characterized by administration members who can also be members of parliament. Also, there is a strong party discipline in the French parliament which is a two-headed executive with the president being the head of state while the premier is the head of government. Besides, being a presidential system, there is no government’s political abrogation by parliament. At the same time, the Polish parliament is marked by weak party disciple wit the president being the head of government and head of state.

Conclusion

Based on the above finalized comparison of France and Poland in terms of the concept of semi-presidential regime, the essay has established various similarities as well as differences in how the two countries operate politically. In this aspect, both Polish and French presidents have authorities to implement various limited decrees. As such, both of them can enact decrees for particular policy areas such as the budget only. Notably, the French president has occasionally has exercised substantial and reasonable influence in the entire legislative process, albeit he has significantly few institutional means through which he can influence the legislation due to the regime’s flexibility. Contrariwise, the Polish president has much lesser influence on the legislative processes. In this regard, the Polish president has a veto power that calls for an absolute parliamentary majority to override. On the contrary, French president can dissolve parliament only when he is responding to the parliament’s inability to pass legislation or to confirm a new government. Comparatively, the Polish president is usually restricted and can only dissolve the parliament by timing or frequency. Also, presidents in both countries appoint the prime ministers who subsequently nominates the cabinet ministers in the government. Again, only the parliaments in both countries have the legal powers to dismiss various members of the cabinet on various conditions. Typically, the French and Polish presidents can dissolve parliaments without any substantial restrictions.

Works Cited
  • Elgie, Robert. “Duverger, semi-presidentialism and the supposed French archetype.” West European Politics 32.2 (2009): 248-267.
  • Roper, Steven D. “Are all semipresidential regimes the same? A comparison of premier-presidential regimes.” Comparative politics (2002): 253-272.

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