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In Ganghof, 2018, the author argues that Australia and Japan both have a newly classified system of government that he dubbed the 'semi-parliamentary system'. In it, the legislative branch is split into two equally legitimate parts (i.e. they're both directly elected by the people)—one part has the ability to cast no confidence votes and the other does not. The executive is solely comprised of the ministers that are accountable to the one chamber that has the ability to cast no confidence votes.

My question is, how widely accepted is this classification? I know that older literature used the term to refer to Israel 1996-2001, as in it the prime minister was directly elected, but how widely accepted is this new classification? Like, what percentage of political science experts accept it as a legitimate classification?

  • It obviously proposes new terminology and is a recent paper... Google Scholar finds some 19 citations, but some are self-citations in subsequent papers of Ganghof. – SX welcomes ageist gossip Dec 9 '19 at 20:33
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No, as I haven’t heard this typology applied to Australia before.

At first reading it seems strange to me that the Commonwealth of Australia should be described as semi-parliamentary when the Constitution is so focussed on the central if not supreme role of the Parliament. Responsible government (with an executive drawn from both Houses of the Parliament and continuously accountable to it) is a key feature. The Senate and its committees play such a big role in holding the executive to account and many members of the government are also senators. It’s lack of support from a hostile Senate that often leads us to elections. I fail to understand the logic behind downplaying the “parliamentary” nature of the government merely because the Senate is democratically elected and yet can’t directly dismiss the executive government like the House of Representatives can. The contrast with the Israeli Constitution is stark as they have a Parliament but also have an elected executive President - hence “semi-parliamentary“ seems to fit.

Further reading tells me that he uses the term because of a parallel he draws between the Australian system of government and the basis for the term semi-presidential:

...in semi‐parliamentarism both parts of the assembly (most commonly: both houses) are legitimised though direct election, but the prime minister and his or her cabinet are dependent on the confidence of only one of them. Both hybrids establish a partial dependence of the executive on the assembly's confidence: either only a part of the executive is dependent on confidence (semi‐presidentialism), or only a part of the assembly needs to provide this confidence (semi‐parliamentarism).

(Please also refer to his table that is the basis for the typology.) To me this seems a flimsy and illogical basis for the term “semi-parliamentary” as he uses it in his typology. I don’t question the fittingness of the typology itself just use of the term “semi-parliamentary”.

Having executive government only partly in the hands of a president is logically called semi-presidential. But no such logical case can be drawn for semi-parliamentary.

For those reasons I suspect the typology will not be widely used in Australia, or at least its use will not go beyond highly technical academic use, and thus is not “widely accepted” in terms of your question.

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Not widely accepted at all, as both nations are Constitutional Monarchies. Japan's head of State is the Emperor of Japan (note: "Imperial Japan" or "Japanese Empire" strictly refer to the period of the Meiji Restoration (1868?) up until V-J Day (1945), a time period where the Emperor had arguably the most political power at any point in history. In fact, for the vast period of documented history, the Emperor of Japan had very little in the way of actual authority and typically the "head of government" was either a military commander (the Shogunate, The military Occupation under General MacArthur) or the Prime Minister of the Diet (present period).).

The Head of State of Austrailia is Queen Elizabeth II (the same one who is Queen of the UK... as well as Canada, New Zealand, and some small independent island nations that were formally colonies of Great Britain). The day to day functions of the Monarch in all nations that still recognize her as the Head of State are performed by the "Governor General" of that nation, which is determined by each nation's constitution (except New Zealand, which does not have a codified constitution). Most of the formal political powers of Govenor Generals are quite limited and they are not executives at all (in less serious answers, I like to refer to their primary duty as "Keep the Throne Warm for the Queen". Mostly when I'm with citizens of the nation and feel like getting my republican on (not a political party... just opposition to monarchs).

Germany is a Parlimentary Republic in that the elected head of state (President of Germany) has very little in the way of actual political power, much in the way that the Queen of England (and all that other stuff) does... the Germans merely have the ability to put the next one in office before the current one dies.

France is a Semi-Presidential Republic due to the fact that the President of France does have executive powers when his/her party makes the majority in the legislature... but is only Head of State if this is not the case (and it rarely is).

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  • What does being constitutional monarchies (which is not a proper noun, by the way, no need to capitalize it) have to do with whether they're semi-parliamentary or not? There's no requirement for the head of state to be republican in nature in the semi-parliamentary model. What does Germany have to do with anything? It's not mentioned in the question and has nothing to do with the semi-parliamentary model. – Josh Pinto Dec 6 '19 at 16:02
  • Germany is classified as a "Parliamentary System" where as France is "Semi-Presidential". Japan is specifically a parliamentary model, but since it's head of state is a monarch it's a constitutional monarchy. Australia's system is odd ball mix of American Legislature and British Legislature (the lower house operates similar to British parliament while the upper house acts like the American Senate (the difference is the Canadian Senate and House of Lords cannot introduce bills to the legislature. The U.S. and Aussie senates cannot introduce money bills to the legislatures).+ – hszmv Dec 6 '19 at 16:44
  • I'm not familiar with Portugal's model, but considering that Europe favors semi-presidential systems to Presidential Systems favored by the Americas. – hszmv Dec 6 '19 at 16:46
  • I am wondering if semi-parliamentary system you're describing is when Bicameral legislatures have unequal powers between the houses, which may work here but only in so far as a classification of legislatures, where most government classification systems classify the distribution of legislative powers, executive powers among the legislature, head of state, and head of government. – hszmv Dec 6 '19 at 16:53
  • Constitutional monarchy and parliamentary system aren't mutually exclusive. A country can have a parliamentary system but a ceremonial monarch as head of state. I fail to see what the nature of the head of state has to do with whether the semi-parliamentary subtype is widely accepted. – Josh Pinto Dec 6 '19 at 16:56

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