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Brazilian Political Science Review (Online)

versão On-line ISSN 1981-3821


MELO, Marcus André. Strong presidents, robust democracies? Separation of powers and rule of law in Latin America. Braz. political sci. rev. (Online) [online]. 2009, vol.4Selected edition, pp. 0-0. ISSN 1981-3821.

The received wisdom on Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s was that countries where presidents enjoyed strong constitutional powers and where multiparty coalitions prevailed would be doomed to instability and institutional crises, while countries boasting weak presidents and strong parties were expected to consolidate democratic rule. After almost two decades, it is now widely acknowledged that this prediction failed. Recent re-conceptualizations of presidentialism have partly corrected the flaws in the established diagnosis but left unexplained the role of checks and balances and of the rule of law in containing presidential abuse and guaranteeing governability. The paper argues that the key to solving the paradox of strong presidents and robust democracies is that democratic stability in Latin American countries is a function of an extended system of checks and balances. These are ultimately generated by power fragmentation at the time of the constitutional choices over their institutional design and political competition sustaining their effective functioning.

Palavras-chave : Checks and balances; Rule of law; Latin America.

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