Narratives of Executive Downfall: Recall, Impeachment, or Coup?
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Are recall elections more legitimate than other procedures employed to dismiss elected executives? The first part of this chapter develops a typology of mechanisms employed to remove chief executives from office. This conceptual map includes constitutional mechanisms (recall elections, votes of no-confidence, and impeachments) as well as non-constitutional ones (popular revolts and coups). The typology suggests that recall elections are the constitutional procedure with greater potential for democratic legitimacy, while presidential impeachments are the constitutional procedure with the weakest democratic credentials. As a result, narratives of de-legitimation can be particularly effective when leveraged against impeachments. The second part of the chapter articulates three normative criteria to assess the removal of executives: legality, fairness, and due process. While these criteria occasionally matter for recall referendums and votes of no-confidence, they are crucial to assess the validity of impeachments.
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