The executive branch has increasingly become the key player in democratic regimes, superseding the legislative branch in the leadership of formulating and proposing policies, while maintaining its role in conducting the day-to-day business of governing (Poguntke and Webb 2006). In some regions of the world, particularly in Latin America, the executive branch has always been considered the main policy maker (Shugart and Carey 1992; Cox and Morgenstern 2001). Mercedes Garcia Montero has shown that the executive branch's bill approval success rate has been higher than the legislative branch's in every Latin American country since 1995 (2009, 91).
Notwithstanding its centrality in politics, there is little comparative research and few case studies on how the executive branch functions, is organized, and influences policy outside of the United States (Edwards, Kessel, and Rockman 1993; Moe 1994; Nelson 1994; Krause 2009) and Western Europe, where studies focus on cabinet formation in parliamentary regimes (Muller and Strom 2000).
Most observers regard the president and the presidency as the center of power within the executive branch. However, there is even less comparative research on the presidency itself than on the executive branch. This special issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly addresses this gap in the literature. Given that the executive branch is a key actor in democratic politics and that the presidency is particularly important within the executive branch, understanding presidencies' internal dynamics, organization, institutional design, and relationship with other powers and agencies is central to uncovering how democracy works.
The purpose of this symposium is to showcase a new but increasingly institutionalized stream of research on the executive branch and the presidency in Latin America. The studies were selected from papers submitted to the Grupo de Estudos do Executivo (GEE; Executive Branch Study Group) in the 2015 meeting of the Asociacion Latinoamericana de Ciencia Politica (Alacip; Latin American Political Science Association). The GEE was created in 2013 and has held sessions in two Alacip meetings and workshops and conferences in Bergen, Norway in 2011; Brasilia, Brazil in 2012; the ECPR Joint Sessions in Mainz, Germany in 2013; and Belo Horizonte in 2014. The articles in this symposium thus reflect the efforts of a group of scholars who have pioneered the comparative study of the presidency in Latin America.