Harun Yahya

Presidential systems have failed all over the world

As empires and absolute monarchies began coming to an end in the 19th and 20th Centuries, many countries began seeking new forms of government on the path of democracy and freedom. These choices, which may be classified as parliamentary systems, presidential systems and the semi-presidential systems, have not always ended in advanced democracy. Even today it is still impossible to speak of human rights and freedoms in several countries in which democratic institutions are not yet fully enshrined.

Many countries whose names contain the word "democratic", such as the ‘Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea,’ are governed by regimes that have turned into dictatorships and the word has been rendered meaningless. North Korea stands in last place in the world democratic index. Democracy has also been shelved as a result of frequent military and civilian coups in numerous other countries.

Generally speaking, countries governed under presidential or semi-presidential systems are by no means prominent in terms of democracy, human rights or freedom of thought and belief. Many Third World countries that have turned into dictatorial regimes under the guise of a presidential system are still struggling to survive at levels of prosperity well below those of developed countries.

One important fact is that countries that have moved to a presidential system have done so following wars or coups. The first elected presidents have therefore been soldiers with command of the army in their hands.  General de Gaulle in France, Marshal Las Haras in Argentina, General Fonseca in Brazil, Sukarno, who was an independence fighter before becoming president of Indonesia, and General Suharto after him, General Park Chung-hee in South Korea and Marshal Augustin in Mexico: All the military men who have become presidents of their countries, including South Korea, have started out by ruling with dictatorial constitutions and with secret state apparatuses behind them.



Considering the countries which have full presidential systems;                                                             

There are major problems in America, where the greatest efforts are made to implement the presidential system democratically. When the opposition in the U.S. is strong, it often becomes impossible to manage the federal apparatus at all. The federal system stopped working and the government entered a shutdown in 1995 and 2013 as a result of the president and Congress being from different parties and thus unable to work together. http://www.harunyahya.com/en/eserler/196242/Presidential%20systems%20sound%20the%20alarm%20all%20over%20the%20world

Although Obama is currently thought to be in a powerful position, he is unable to enforce any policies because both houses of Congress are in the hands of the Republicans; likewise, the Congressional Republicans are unable to enforce their policies because of President Obama's power of the veto – the Republicans simply do not have the necessary two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.

Nonetheless, America is also the clearest example of the active nature of forces that seek to govern behind the scenes under a presidential system. In fact, it is not so much the president or the Congress who governs America, but a deep-rooted secret state apparatus. Everyone is well-aware that the secret state apparatus has committed numerous illegal activities in order to attain this powerful structure.

China is a communist dictatorship where there is no democracy at all. The president in China is chosen, not by the people, but by the Chinese Communist Party under the name of the National People’s Congress. Not only is social media heavily censored and monitored in China, but also music, films, art, speech, the press… everything.

Iran is one of the most repressive countries in the world. It has one of the worst human rights records.

The histories of Latin American countries are full of coups; of these, Uruguay have full presidential regimes. No civilian regime in Argentina has been able to remain in power for more than six years since the 1930s to the present day; of the 46 presidents since 1819, only two have taken over without coups. Bolivia, Peru and Venezuela have some of the highest numbers of coups in the world. There has never been an investigation into any of the military coups in Brazil. The presidential system in Brazil, which began with a coup in 1889, turned into a complete dictatorship following a failed communist revolution in 1934.

It is clear that, as with the example of Venezuela, presidential systems with the power to veto laws and to directly appoint high-ranking officials have nothing to do with democracy at all.

African countries, whose histories are again full of coups and wars with neighboring countries, such as Zambia are governed under full presidential systems. Hardly a year goes by without a coup somewhere in Africa; those nations which are more-or-less stable are little more than dictatorships. Across the continent as a whole, in which France has been historically highly influential, there have been 87 military coups between 1960 and 2013, and hundreds more failed ones.

Among the Asian countries, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, the Seychelles and Sri Lanka are redolent with military coups that are classic features of Third world countries and appear before us as countries with economic gaps in which democracy has not yet become fully implemented. South Korea is still under the influence of the Cold War between the communist bloc and America; indeed, South Korea is still technically at war with North Korea, albeit operating under a cease-fire. America itself built and expanded the country and the South Korean regime. The presidents of the country have therefore all been under total U.S. influence. This is the form of government that the U.S. certainly wants.

Afghanistan is neither a democracy nor even a proper state at all. The country is under occupation and has been at war for decades.


The situation is no different when it comes to countries with semi-presidential systems. Georgia are all countries with a long way to go before achieving a genuine culture of democracy.

Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan are among the ‘not free' countries cited in the Freedom in the World Report concerning 195 countries published by Freedom House in January 2015: China and North Korea appear in the ‘Worst of the Worst’ category. https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FIW2014%20Booklet.pdf


The main distinguishing feature of presidential or semi-presidential systems is that they contain structurally separated states through federations and autonomy within them. The important point here is this; “Countries governed under presidencies have chosen this form of government to bring and hold separate states and federations together. No country has ever moved from being a unitary state to a presidential system by being divided into federations or separate entities.”

Germany, the product of various Germanic tribes coming together, has remained together with a federal perspective for 2100 years. These separate kingdoms were brought together 1,200 years ago by King Charlemagne. The country moved to a federative parliamentary system under the chancellorship of Otto von Bismarck in 1871. The chancellor is the exact equivalent of the prime minister in the Turkish system and the president in Germany has a purely symbolic function. Likewise, the United Kingdom has been governed by a constitutional monarchy since the signing of the Magna Carta, which limited the king’s powers, in 1215. In Italy, after a long struggle, Garibaldi founded the Italian National Union after an agreement with the Venetians in 1886. These three countries, which all had great empires in the past, never wished to have presidential systems.

The Ottoman Empire was not a federative state. All new lands that acceded to the Ottoman Empire, which ruled over a land mass of 24 million sq km at its zenith, took an oath of loyalty to the central administration. The Ottoman Empire became an absolute monarchy by newly added states or principalities combining together as a single state, not as ‘united states.’ (For further information see: http://www.harunyahya.com/en/eserler/197623/The%20“Ottoman%20Administrative%20System”%20was%20not%20a%20presidential%20system)

America, the first instance of a fully presidential system, came about through the joining together of separate states. Of the G20 countries with presidential systems, Argentina consists of 23 states, Mexico of 31, Brazil of 26, Indonesia of 33, Canada of 10, Australia of 6 and the USA of 50. The Russian Federation consists of 85 federal entities. In geographical terms, Indonesia is an archipelago consisting of numerous islands. Throughout its political history the country has consisted of separate kingdoms all in conflict with one another. South Africa is made up of three separate states with three separate capitals. Other countries founded around separate states or provinces also have separate laws, separate legal systems and separate cultures. They have therefore been obliged to adopt presidential systems because they have emerged from different federal government structures.

Federations basically mean disharmony, disagreement and lack of love. Yet the most desirable thing is for all the individuals under the roof of the same state to bind themselves tightly together with love and to be united around close historical and cultural ties. The predominance of policies based on lovelessness, intolerance, selfishness, racism and hatred, however, leads to societies falling apart. Separatist demands can easily appear in an environment where lovelessness predominates, even in those countries with strong democracies and where individual rights are guaranteed. These are the factors that underlie the separatist movements in advanced democracies such as Canada, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Belgium.

The Bretons who arrived in France from England, the Basques on the Spanish border and the Corsicans on the island of Corsica in the south are some of the main separatist movements in France. (http://www.businessinsider.com/map-of-separatist-movements-in-europe-2014-9)  Xenophobia, which has increased enormously in France in recent years, Islamophobia and the increasing strength of the far-right are all worsening tensions in France.

The French-speaking region of Quebec, with its population of eight million, has, from time to time, sought to break away from Canada, with a population of 33 million. Canada has been wrestling with this problem for decades.

When we look at Latin American countries, Brazil has one of the most unjust levels of per capita income between its states. Every state in Mexico has been divided up among drug cartels. Sixty thousand people lost their lives in the war against drugs in the country between 2006-2012. Indonesia produced two figures that overthrew one another in the presidential system and that could not subsequently be removed from the presidency; Sukarno and Suharto.

Of the G20 nations which have presidential systems but no democracy, Saudi Arabia is a monarchy and China is ruled by a communist dictatorship. These countries include Great Britain and France, which both had long-lived colonial empires. Therefore, the level of development of the G20 countries has nothing to do with their system of government.

Indeed, looking at the list of countries in order of the GDP, that list seems to have remained almost unchanged for the last 300 years. That means that countries become wealthy, not on the basis of their system of government, but of their geostrategic and geopolitical positions. In addition, of the 20 countries with the highest per capita GDP, only the USA and South Korea have presidential systems. Of the 25 poorest countries, however, 16 have presidential systems and 3 are governed by junta regimes. The state system applies in 11 of the poorest 25.


Among the countries of the EU, which the whole world recognizes as having the highest level of democracy, only Southern Cyprus has a presidential system, while France and Romania have semi-presidential systems. In the other 25 countries, which include Norway, Denmark and Sweden - which lead the democratic indices - all have parliamentary systems.

Four of the 34 members of the OECD have presidential systems (Chile, South Korea, Mexico and the U.S.), while France has a semi-presidential system. The remaining 29 members all have parliamentary systems.

At this point it will be useful to have a particularly close look at France.

The Economist magazine’s ‘Democracy Index’ prepared by Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is one important source of information that shed light on this subject. In this report, which has been published biannually since 2007, countries are divided into four categories, full democracies, flawed democracies, mixed regimes and authoritarian regimes. According to the latest index, only 24 countries were regarded as fully democratic while 52 had authoritarian regimes.      

Only three of the 24 countries regarded as fully democratic by the index have presidential systems. Again according to this index, none of the authoritarian regimes on the index have parliamentary systems.

This classification considers countries electoral processes and plurality, the functionality of their governments, civil freedoms, participation in politics and political cultures. One important point of data given in the index is that France, with its semi-presidential system, is regarded as a “flawed democracy”. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-27310566

France embarked on the passage to democracy after the French Revolution. The country was rocked by a number of military coups and upheavals after that time, entering the Fifth Republic and adopting a semi-presidential system after the 1958 soft coup. The semi-presidential system in France is openly based on the superior position of the head of state; this causes a number of problems for the country. For example, the epoch when the socialist Mitterrand was President and the center-right Chirac was Prime Minister was one of serious conflict. The center-right President Chirac had similar problems with the government of the leftist Lionel Jospin, with moves paralyzing the political process following hard on one another’s heels. http://arama.hurriyet.com.tr/arsivnews.aspx?id=7291247  Every French election has turned into an operation of the secret state apparatus having the President elected.

http://www.radikal.com.tr/haber.php?haberno=212541 The system has always ended up being blocked if the presidents’ own parties fail to obtain majorities in the national assembly. On the other hand, the president’s power to annul the assembly has caused a constant state of upheaval in France. The increasing possibility of the far-right National Front winning the presidency in the next election cycle is also a source of grave concern for national politicians. http://www.mesutkarakoc.com/blog/demokratik-sistemler.html


There are major risks and dangers attendant upon the presidential system, which causes major problems, even for America. Under the presidential system, one individual - the president - has wide-ranging powers, and this can result in a despotic, one-man regime in countries in which democracy is not fully established. The fact that countries in which the system is employed turn into dictatorships shows that the parliamentary system is the most rational option.

One of the main risks attendant upon the presidential system is that it prepares the ground for authoritarian regimes in less developed democracies. Under that system, the president cannot be removed from office before his term expires, apart from under the most exceptional circumstances. That can lead to serious social tensions and unease. The system therefore also facilitates coups. Indeed all countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East which have presidential systems have either turned into outright dictatorships and repressed their own peoples or have collapsed in bloodshed.

On the other hand, by its very nature, the presidential system stands on a federal structure. Governors are elected by the people of the region. These governors, who have the power to call referendums, can establish federative structures. Therefore, federations bring with them the risk of break-ups in societies that have separatist sentiments.

The presidential system is not essential for the development of democracy: It is a change of mentality that will bring about democracy. The essential path to democracy and progress lies in being open to liberty, art and science. Without that, no system, no matter what it may be, will be of any benefit. 

Adnan Oktar's piece on News Rescue:


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