Heads of state in European politics

Authored by: Robert Elgie

Routledge Handbook of European Politics

Print publication date:  January  2015
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415626750
eBook ISBN: 9781315755830
Adobe ISBN: 9781317628361


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This chapter provides an overview of European heads of state, including basic information on how heads of state are selected, how long they remain in office and how powerful they are. Three main themes recur throughout the chapter. First, whereas monarchs have almost no substantive role in the political process, there is great variation among European presidents in terms of their status as political actors. Second, the power vested in the presidency is a better predictor of the presidential role than how these heads of state are selected. Third, variations in presidential power can be explained by a combination of constitutional powers, party politics and behavioural norms. These themes are based on an analysis of 36 European countries: the 28 members of the European Union, plus five non-EU countries in the Balkans (Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) and three non-EU countries in Western Europe (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland).

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