The Steering Committee of the ECPR Standing Group of Presidential Politics is pleased to award the 2019 “Robert Elgie Prize” to Paul Chaisty (REES/DPIR) and Timothy J. Power, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, for their paper 'What Moves the Needle in Executive-Legislative Relations?' Explaining Interbranch Oscillations in Legislative Authority, presented at the ECPR General Conference in Wroclaw 2019.
What explains shifts in the balance of power between the executive and legislative branches in modern democracies? Drawing on delegation theory and politics of institutional founding and by using expert survey data from V-Dem on legislative-executive relations, Chaisty and Power examine interbranch oscillations in legislative authority over the period 1976-2014 and across parliamentary, semi-presidential and presidential democracies.
Interestingly, their key findings do challenge conventional wisdom. In contrast to longstanding arguments about executive dominance during an economic crisis, their data show no substantive evidence in this direction. Furthermore, and at odds with the principal agent models often used in the study of comparative presidentialism, their findings suggest that mainstream explanations of delegation, commonly used to explain delegation from the assembly to the executive, may work just as well in explaining delegation in the opposite direction, i.e. from the executive to the legislature.
By a set of theoretically sound hypotheses challenging mainstream arguments and by employing a rigorous method design, Chaisty and Power demonstrate academic novelty and significance on a longstanding research field. Their paper provides for a substantial contribution to executive-legislative studies in general, and to the comparative presidentialism literature in particular.