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Presidents with Prime MinistersDo Direct Elections Matter?$
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Margit Tavits

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199553327

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199553327.001.0001

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The Nature of Presidential Elections

The Nature of Presidential Elections

(p.138) 5 The Nature of Presidential Elections
Presidents with Prime Ministers

Margit Tavits (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the effect of the selection mechanisms for heads of state on the nature of elections. Using a variety of methodological approaches—case studies, paired comparisons, a natural experiment, and statistical analyses, this chapter shows that variation in the contentiousness of presidential elections is unrelated to the mode of election. This nonfinding can be explained by the fact that parties have an incentive to compete for the office in both situations. Specifically, this chapter argues that holding the presidential office is an electoral asset for parties: it boosts parties' vote shares in parliamentary elections—an effect that is present in the case of both directly and indirectly elected presidents. The effect of holding the presidency is substantial—presidential parties gain about 6 percentage points more votes than nonpresidential parties. This result in itself is novel and is likely to be of interest to anyone studying electoral politics. The findings in this chapter also indicate that the presence of a popular incumbent president is the most significant factor decreasing the level of contention and polarization in presidential campaigns.

Keywords:   contentious elections, electoral asset, incumbent, polarization, presidential campaigns, presidential elections, presidential parties, vote share

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