by Harun Yahya
There is a general misconception that all those countries with presidential systems ‘enjoy a high level of democracy and are rich and powerful.’
The presidential system was first put into effect in America at the end of the 18th Century. Numerous political systems had been tried before that, but none had proved entirely successful. Alternatives such as colonies, confederations and British and French mandates were tried, but unity wasn’t successfully be established on the continent. In the wake of all these experiments, the framers of the US Constitution settled on a presidential system, incorporating a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government, thus giving rise to the United States of America. (1)
Although the presidential system unique to the USA was tried by many other countries in the 19th and 20th Centuries, advanced democracy and stability was never achieved in them. In the general sense, a fully republican presidential system was only installed in America, and a semi-presidential system in France; additionally, however, this system turned into one that is frequently gridlocked and failed to function in both the USA and France. (2), (3)
Almost all experiments with the presidential system in countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia in particular have given rise to ‘dictatorships,’‘antidemocratic practices’ or a ‘history of coups.’ (4)
On the other hand, it is also wrong to conclude that ‘countries governed under presidential systems become rich and powerful.’ (5) A brief look at countries with presidential systems will make this very clear.
COUNTRIES IN AFRICA GOVERNED UNDER PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEMS ARE MIRED IN POVERTY
The African countries of Liberia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, Tanzania, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Chad, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Togo, Benin, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Sudan, Liberia and Malawi are all governed under presidential systems. The common feature of all these countries is that they are some of the poorest in the world. Conflicts, coups and human rights violations in these countries have had a terrible impact on the lives of the citizenry. Sudan was divided into two, but civil war persists. The states of Nigeria are in the hands of different forces, and the country is possibly heading for civil war. The presidential system in Zambia turned into a single party dictatorship. Liberia has seen two major civil wars. Rwanda was the scene of one of the bloodiest episodes of genocide in recent history.
Of those countries in Africa with semi-presidential systems, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Egypt are also wracked by wars, coups, conflict, want and poverty.
The same thing applies to Latin America, once described as a place where “He who gets up earliest in the morning stages a coup.” (6) African history is one of colonels, generals or some previously nameless petty functionary who have declared themselves presidents in the wake of coups. In addition to countless failed attempts, the continent has seen more than 90 coups that have overthrown the existing regime in the last 55 years. For example, Idi Amin,the dictator who seized power in a coup against Milton Obote, and was responsible for the deaths of more than 300,000 people in Uganda, is one such infamous dictator; he was also responsible for a major act of ethnic cleansing, when he expelled the country’s Indian population and expropriated their thriving businesses, handing them over to his less-than-business-minded lackeys. Albeit not so well known as Amin, dictators who seized power through coups in Nigeria, Surinam, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia and Zambia also represented the main obstacle to democracy for many long years.
THE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM HAS NOT BROUGHT FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY TO ASIA
Neither is it possible to speak of freedom, advanced democracy and human rights in Myanmar, the Philippines, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Belarus or Ukraine, countries with full presidential systems in Asia. The 60-year-old presidential system in Indonesia gave rise to two presidents who came to power in coups and never stepped down. There is no end to invasion and civil war in Afghanistan.
It is also not possible to speak of countries in Asia with semi-presidential systems such as Russia, Tajikistan, East Timor, Georgia and Sri Lanka in terms of advanced democracy meeting EU standards. Yemen, with its semi-presidential system, has plunged into civil war and disintegration. South Korea only developed its manufacturing capacity through oppression in the time of military dictatorship. (7)
Asian countries with presidential systems have seen numerous coups.Ferdinand Marcos became dictator and president of the Philippines, but had to flee to Hawaii in the wake of a popular uprising. The Seychelles are another country attempted to be shaped by coups.
‘Presidents for life’ are in charge in Central Asian countries with presidential systems, and the opposition is only allowed to make its voice heard to the extent permitted by the president.
THE PRESIDENTIAL SYSTEM IN LATIN AMERICA HAS BENEFITTED ORGANIZED CRIME
The majority of Latin American countries have presidential systems, such as Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Brazil, Haiti, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic. However, the system applied in these countries has led to narco-states, economic injustice and a grotesquely corrupt legal order on the continent. Organized crime dominates many parts of these countries. Income levels of the majority of the people – other than the extremely wealthy elites – are comparable to African levels. Popular uprisings, looting and revolts are common in these countries, especially in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.
In Argentina, only two of the 46 presidents since 1819 have been able to complete their terms without being overthrown in military coups. No civilian administration since 1930 has lasted longer than six years, and they have invariably been replaced by juntas. The state has declared bankruptcy three times in the last 30 years. (8) Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela have seen the most coups in the world. Brazil was for many years governed by a military junta. Thousands of unsolved killings took place during that time, but there has been no investigation into those crimes. Brazil is also one of the countries with the highest levels of inequality of income. (9)
Venezuela turned into a dictatorship with excessive increases in presidential powers. Thirty thousand people lost their lives during the rule of the junta inBolivia in 1947-50. In Nicaragua, the dictator Anastasio Somoza was finally brought down by a coup in 1979, after which 11,000 people lost their lives by 1985. At least 30,000 people were tortured to death or executed in Peru after 1980. In Chile, 35,000 people lost their lives after the 1973 Pinochet coup against the democratically-elected government of Salavdor Allende, while the number of people killed in Colombia since 1948 is more than 300,000.Uruguay never achieved democracy during the junta regime of 1973-1985.Guatemala witnessed major conflicts between the 1954 coup and the 2000s, in which 100,000 people lost their lives. Colonel Desi Bouterse, who came to power in Surinam in a coup in 1980, quite tenaciously clung to power for many years. The period that began in Haiti with a coup in 1950 and that culminated in the bizarre, 36-year-long dictatorship of Francois Duvalier (succeeded by his son, Jean-Claude) saw the deaths of over 3,000 people, while 70,000 people were murdered in El Salvador, renowned as the ‘murder capital of Latin America,’ after 1979.
Countries such as Mexico, Colombia, Panama, Nicaragua and Brazil are places where human rights are routinely violated and where narco-gangs are themelves state powers. Seventy thousand people have died in the war against the drug gangs in Mexico since 2006 alone, although no siginifant success has thus far been achieved against them. More than 200,000 people are still working for the cartels. (10) Manuel Noriega, the former president of Panama, was imprisoned on charges of drugs smuggling and money laundering following the American invasion of 1989.
When we look at the countries with presidential systems, it is clear that the model is a failed one. States that apply the model clearly have a long way to go before attaining advanced democracy and economic well-being. Indeed, most countries that use the system are dominated by widespread social unease, frequent and devastating economic crises and vast imbalances in income distribution. Serious violations are also to be seen in the legal system and in matters of human rights.
However, what really matters is whether the presidential system will bring with it federation, autonomy or a Swiss-style canton system. All the countries described above have federative or autonomous regions. It is obvious what a move to a federative system will mean for countries like Turkey with communist separatist movements on the ground spreading hostility toward the central government. (11)
For all these reasons, Turkey must absolutely maintain its unitary structure and never allow regional administrations that will lead to the country being broken up. The best system for Turkey, while wars and divisions persist in the Middle East, the Balkans and the Caucasus, is a model that will maintain the indivisibility of the motherland and implement the principles of love, brotherhood, union and unity.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated in 73 languages on politics, religion and science. He may be followed at @Harun_Yahya and www.harunyahya.com