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Variations on a Theme

This paper provides a definition of semipresidentialism and identifies the set of semipresidential countries in the world. It aims to isolate the independent impact of semipresidentialism on democratic performance. The conclusion is that countries should avoid highly presidentialised semipresidential systems, whereas semipresidential systems with ceremonial presidents and strong prime ministers have performed well. In semipresidential systems where both the president and the prime minister have significant powers, the situation is more complex. Many such countries have democratized successfully, but only despite the institutional crises caused by this particular form of semipresidentialism. So, a balanced form of semipresidentialism is a risky choice for newly-democratizing regimes.