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You would think that it is more efficient for both the parliamentary election and presidential election to happen at the same time so voters don't become fatigued with politics.

I'm curious if there are any practical reasons for not synchronizing both elections in parliamentary republics?

Examples:

  • Ireland
  • Finland
  • Iceland
  • Lithuania
  • Slovakia

Additionally, how does this arrangement affect voter turnout? Do they experience voter fatigue? Or inversely, does it actually improve democratic participation for some reason?

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Usually, it is because the mechanisms for triggering elections are not the same between the two.

Presidential term is generally a fixed number of years, and unless the incumbent dies/resigns/otherwise leaves office, this fixed cycle is constant.

On the other hand, a Parliamentary term is not as fixed. Generally, the Parliament will have the power to declare non-confidence in the government, which would force an early Parliamentary election. In some democracies, the Prime Minister (or equivalent) also has the ability to set an early election date which is more electorally convenient for them.

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  • 2
    Even with "stable" parliaments, the fixed terms for president and parliament often have different lengths (e.g. it's the case for the first two examples in question, Ireland and Finland) – fqq Oct 11 '20 at 22:26
  • minor note: in parliamentary republics a vote of no confidence in the government does not necessarily trigger new elections (eg the Italian republic has had 66 cabinets but only 18 legislatures) – fqq Oct 11 '20 at 22:30
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    @AzorAhai--hehim It makes sense to me, as an Australian. He's saying that over 18 elections, there have been 66 governments, because the ruling coalitions of parliamentarians have dissolved and reformed with different people/parties in charge without needing to hold an election, or the parties decided to knife their existing leaders in the back and select a new MP to become PM. It's happened several times over the last decade or so down here, as well. – nick012000 Oct 12 '20 at 5:05
  • @AzorAhai--hehim For instance, if you had a legislature of 100 MPs, with 40 of Party A, 40 of Party B, and 20 of Party C, and you start off with a coalition government between Party A and Party C, then at some point Party C might decide to break off the coalition and form a new government with Party B without triggering an election. – nick012000 Oct 12 '20 at 5:09
  • @AzorAhai--hehim I went by the terminology used on Wikipedia. The comments by nick012000 explain it well. Most of the time in Italy a vote of no confidence results in a new government (sometimes with the same PM) without triggering new elections. – fqq Oct 12 '20 at 10:20
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This would profit from a country tag.

In Germany, where I live, parliament and president cannot be elected at the same time because the electoral college ("Bundesversammlung") that elects the president includes all sitting members of the parliament (which means they have to take office before the presidential election can happen).

Or, to put it differently, presidents are not necessarily elected by the public, so voter fatigue might not be an issue (other than in the sense that some people are fatigued by the fact that the public does not have a vote in this).

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  • I think this is a non-answer because I implicitly understood the question as asking about countries where both posts are elected by the general voting public. – Jan Oct 14 '20 at 7:04
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For countries in your list (like Ireland), there are two primary reasons why the elections would be held at different times for the president vs the parliament:

  1. The parliament can generally choose to have elections early should something like a government breakdown, or more favourable elections conditions for government parties occur
  2. To provide some level of independence of president and parliament

The first is already well addressed in the other answers, the second, however is important. If you are always electing your parliament and your president at the same time, it becomes much more likely that an elected president will act in a particularly partisan manner, which is undesirable.

For example, in Ireland, the president has a couple of constitutionally important functions:

  • The power to summon and dissolve the Dáil (Irish Parliament). In particular, the president can refuse to dissolve the Dáil, preventing a parliamentary election and instead forcing the sitting members of the Dáil to form a new government
  • Sign legislation passed by the two houses of parliament, or refuse to sign and choose to refer those bills to the supreme court prior to signing to assess their constitutionality (if the bill is determined to be constitutional, then the president must sign it)
  • Be the supreme commander of the Irish Defence Forces
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In France: to avoid split governments

Since 2001, both Parlement and President are elected every 5 years. The electoral law has been organized in such a way that the Presidential Election predates the Legislastive Election by a few weeks.

The aim of this calendar is to allow the President to get a majority in the Assemblée Nationale that will allow him to develop the policies he favors during five years.

Le double quinquennat, mais aussi la liaison des deux élections, dans un ordre respectueux de la primauté présidentielle, ont ainsi, volens nolens, jusqu’à présent, atteint le but poursuivi : inscrire les deux élections, présidentielle et législatives, dans un rythme quinquennal dégageant au profit du chef de l’État une période de cinq ans pour gouverner, avec l’appui d’une majorité au palais Bourbon, plus ou moins homogène cependant selon les législatures.

(https://www.actu-juridique.fr/constitutionnel/elections-presidentielles-calendrier-electoral-et-rythmes-electoraux-pour-un-approfondissement-de-la-logique-quinquennale/)

Approximative translation:

Linking the two elections with priority for the Presidential one has until today reached its aim: settling the two elections, presidential and legislative, in a quinquennal rhythm ensuring in favor of the head of State a five years period to govern, with the support of a majority in Palais Bourbon (equivalent of Capitole - Evargalo), more or less homogeneous however depending on legislatures.

Indeed, in every election since 2001 (2002, 2007, 2012, 2017), electors have sent a majority of deputies from the party of the newly elected President (Chirac, Sarkozy, Hollande, Macron) to Palais Bourbon. While this outcome is of course not granted by law, the boost the candidates receive from their side's success in the Presidential election has always proven overwhelming.

If elections happened on the same day, there would be much more chance for the outcomes to differ in the two elections, leading to what we called cohabitation - i.e. a split government.

A side effect is the reduced power of the Parlement, sometimes described as been reduced to a mere registration chamber.

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  • France is generally described as a presidential, not a parliamentary system. Furthermore, the dates in France match up while the question asked about mismatched dates. I fail to see the relevance of this answer. – Jan Oct 14 '20 at 7:06
  • France is generally called "mixed", "semi-presidential" or "semi-parlementary" system (although it is a bit more presidential than it used to be since the 2001 evolution I describe). As I (try to) explain in the answer, the dates in France do not match up. For instance, in 2017, the presidential election happened on 23 April and 7 May (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_French_presidential_election) but the legislative elections happened on 11 and 18 June (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_French_legislative_election). – Evargalo Oct 15 '20 at 8:09

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