Juan Linz and Arturo Valenzuela, The Failure of Presidential Democracy: Comparative perspectives. (1994).

Main Argument: Parliamentary democracies have a superior historical performance to presidential democracies; they are more conducive to stable democracy than the latter. This conclusion applies especially to nations with deep political cleavages and numerous political parties; for such countries, parliamentarism generally offers a better hope of preserving democracy.
Three major points are made by the theoretical chapter: First, an executive and legislative which are elected separately creates a situation of dual democratic legitimacy, and thus, a potentially conflictive relationship between the two bodies. Secondly, the fixed term of office in presidential systems introduces an unhealthy element of institutional rigidity in the system of government, which may undermine regime stability. And thirdly, inherent in presidential systems is a zero-sum game, winner-take-all aspect which tends to foster political polarisation, in already problematic and polarised societies.
Method:  A new institutionalist approach to comparative case studies. This book argues that political institutions and structures matter for democratic stability, for they help to shape and delimit the responses of individuals to crises and external influences.
== Notes ==
– This work is it is implicitly critical of collections like Weaver and Rockman’s (1993) for restricting their attention to a single example of presidentialism, the United States
Linz’s Article: (Theoretical Chapter)
Two features of/problems with presidential democracy:
– A strong claim to democratic, even plebiscitarian, legitimacy;
– A fixed term in office
*However, legislators, especially when they represent cohesive, disciplined parties that offer clear ideological and political alternatives, can also claim democratic legitimacy (competing claims)
Problems with Presidentialism:
Zero-Sum Elections:
– Presidentialism is ineluctably problematic because it operates according to the rule of “winner-take-all -an arrangement that tends to make democratic politics a zero-sum game [56]
– Although parliamentary elections can produce an absolute majority for a single party, they more often give representation to a number of parties
– Danger of president trying to define his policies as reflections of the popular will (populism) [61]
– Power-sharing and coalition-forming are common
– Advantage of choosing leader openly –> accountability
– Linz proposes runoff elections as a solution
Problem of Dual Legitimacy:
– Public prone to think that president has more power than legislature and may be politically mobilized against any adversaries who bar presidential policy
– When they clash, there is no routine democratic means of deciding between their claims
– Prime ministers are much closer to being on an equal footing with their fellow ministers
– Territorial principle of representation, often reinforced by malapportionment or federal institutions like a non-proportional upper legislative chamber, tends to give greater legislative weight to small to towns and rural areas [63]
– Unlike a parliamentary system, premature elections cannot be called to allow the people to decide between the competing claims of president and legislature
– The mechanisms for ousting a bad president are cumbersome
– There is a greater likelihood of conflict between the legislative and executive branches
– When such conflict does occur, it tends to be more frequent and more intense due to the fact that the two branches are separate, and their continuance in office does not depend upon their ability to cooperate with one another or to create a ruling majority
The Time Factor:
– The limited time that is allowed to elapse between elections is probably the greatest guarantee against overweening power and the last hope for those in the minority
– Fixed and definite date of succession that a presidential constitution sets exacerbate the incumbent’s concerns about ambitions of second-rank leaders
An Alternate Solution: Parliamentarism
– Parliamentarism provides a more flexible and adaptable institutional context for the establishment and consolidation of, but not just any sort of parliamentary regime will work [68]
– The best type of parliamentary constitution and its specific institutional features:
– A prime-ministerial office combining power with responsibility, which would in turn require strong, well-disciplined political parties
– Goal should be to foster responsible decision making and stable governments and would encourage genuine party competition without causing undue political fragmentation
*Linz makes sure to note that these points are not deterministic –> breakdown can happen in parliamentary government as well
Other Chapters:
– Draws on his well-known critique of majoritarian based institutional formulae which restrain pluralist democracy
Stepan & Skach:
– See article in World Politics
– Deviates somewhat from the predominant line of argument, warning against the dangers of too tight an argument on the failures of presidentialism and merits of parliamentarism
– He stresses the impact of other institutional and non-institutional variables which must be taken into consideration for an assessment of political systems
– Although Sartori agrees with Linz’s criticisms of presidentialism, he finds that political parties in many Latin American countries are not “parliamentary fit,” by which he means that they have not been sufficiently socialized to behave in a relatively cohesive, disciplined, or responsible manner, the sine qua non for stability in a purely parliamentary system [112]
– Recommends: a French-style, semi-parliamentary system
*The second part of the book offers several case studies on the presidential experience in Latin America
Critique: The authors start from different definitions of parliamentary/presidential democracy. Linz emphasizes the presidential/ parliamentary dichotomy, although like Sartori he acknowledges the existence of pure presidential systems, which are different from mixed ones. Unlike Sartori, however, Linz does not treat them as a separate category. Stepan and Skach are also dichotomous in their approach.
Critique: If there is an institutional explanation for successful democracy, it is to be found not just in presidentialism or parliamentarism, but in the goodness of fit between governmental form and the party system