Presidents, Parliaments and Democracy - POLI6460

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This module introduces students to central debates about the influence of different executive formats on democratic government. The course examines the differences between and within presidential, parliamentary and semi-presidential constitutions and examines their consequences for the quality of democracy and for policy outcomes. The course initially focuses on identifying the key institutions and processes that shape the behaviour and strategies of politicians in the executive, before moving on to consider the consequences of these for governance, policy-making and democratic stability. Throughout the central focus is on understanding the extent and the ways that formal political institutions may shape how politicians respond to citizen preferences, bargain with each other to resolve political conflict and choose policies. Student will be exposed to different ways of thinking about the impact of political institutions on politics, different ways of conceptualizing and measuring democratic performance and encouraged to think about how a broad range of other factors may interact with constitutional formats to shape outcomes. The approach used will be broadly comparative and will use case-specific and cross-national evidence from both developed and less developed democracies in all regions of the world.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 22

Private study hours: 128

Total study hours: 150

Method of assessment

* Essay 1, 1500 words, 25%
* Essay 2, 1500 words, 25%
* Exam, 2 hours, 50%

Reassessment Instrument: 100% coursework

Indicative reading

* Cheibub, José Antônio. 2007. Presidentialism, parliamentarism, and democracy. Cambridge University Press.

* Clark, William Roberts, Matt Golder, and Sona Nadenichek Golder. 2008. Principles of Comparative Politics. CQ Press.

* Strom, Kaare. 2003. Delegation and accountability in parliamentary democracies. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press.

* Tsebelis, George. 2002. Veto players : how political institutions work. Princeton N.J.: Princeton University Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1: Demonstrate a good knowledge of the theories and literature addressing consequences different executive formats and variation within these formats for democratic government.

2: Demonstrate the ability to critically evaluate the strengths and weakness of these theories with reference both to their theoretical coherence and empirical evidence.

3: draw upon a range of case specific and comparative evidence to support their arguments.

4: Be familiar with key problems in the empirical study of the effects of constitutional design.

5: identify different ways of conceptualizing and measuring different aspects of democratic performance and be able to consider the implications of these measures for our knowledge of the consequences of constitutional design.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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