Parliamentary Systems

Parliamentary systems are fused types of governmental authority, with prime ministers or premiers arising out of the majority or coalition having won most seats in the national legislative body. The leader's position of authority is predicated on his/her ability to hold the coalition together, and stability of government may be a somewhat greater problem in parliamentary than in presidential systems. Once the government is formed and embodies a stable interest, however, it is able to achieve legislation on its policy agenda.

The party and electoral systems play a critical role in the stability and efficiency of parliamentary governments. As we have seen in the case of the German Red/Green coalition, governing alliances are stabilized not only by ideological affinities, but by awarding important cabinet ministries to coalition partners. Typically, party discipline is stronger in parliamentary systems since failure of a key piece of legislation can bring down a government. When a parliamentary system is combined with a majority electoral system, as in the British case, coalition governments are uncommon and governments can be even more stable than in presidential systems.

Little comparative research has been done on the impact of presidential versus parliamentary systems on environmental policy outcomes. One such study is David Vogel's 1993 article which treats differences between separation of power and parliamentary systems as related to type of government.21 Rothenberg summarizes these findings:

[P]arliamentary leaders are more likely to be blamed for failing to keep commitments for collective goods such as the environment than those in separation-of-power systems and are better at representing diffuse interests and resisting concentrated ones such as polluting industries while making policy. However, if they do not represent concentrated interests, such interests are not likely to have much political effectiveness. By contrast, presidential systems, given the separation of powers, provide diffuse interests with many places to influence policy. Because there are multiple points at which diffuse interests can try to affect policy, there is a greater likelihood than in parliamentary systems that interest groups ignored by the executive branch can, nevertheless, be influential.22

In general, this suggests that ENGOs will be happier in separation of powers than parliamentary systems.

The research literature gives greater emphasis to "consensual politics," which is unclear as to its institutional causes, and fragmentation and decentralization, which are clear conceptual references to federalism and devolution experiments. Desai does note that "Where the center is strong, environmental policy is likely to have a clearer direction, though not necessarily a pro-environmentalist direction."23

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