A very interesting (and sad) thread has developed here in recent days regarding the degeneration of the political situation in the Solomon Islands since the election results were announced and a prime minister was elected by parliament.
Jonathan Edelstein has an excellent post today that extends the discussion of the violence that has broken out, and concludes with a very good F&V sort of institutional pondering:
I wonder, though, if it might not also be advisable to switch to a presidential or semi-presidential system. In the absence of any real national parties, presidential elections would be a way for the voters to exercise direct influence at the national level, and would establish a chief executive chosen by a national majority (or at least plurality) rather than under-the-table parliamentary bargaining. I have yet to encounter a parliamentary system that works well without strong national parties, and giving the Solomons voters some level of nationwide choice might reduce both the perception and reality of powerlessness. Changing the culture of political violence and ethnic suspicion will take longer, but enfranchisement is a necessary beginning.
The academic proponents of parliamentary systems tend to assume that strong parties follow logically from parliamentarism. The Solomons and Papua New Guinea are two cases that show that the relationship is not necessarily causal. Certainly, parliamentary systems do not work well if strong party systems do not emerge. But would adding a directly elected presidency–of whatever nonceremonial powers–help? That is indeed a question to ponder.