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Rethinking Crises and the Accretion of Executive Power: The “War on Terror” and Conditionality Evidence From Seven Political Systems


  • John E. Owens,

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    • John E. Owens, FRSA, is Professor of United States Government and Politics at the Centre for the Study of Democracy, University of Westminster.
  • Riccardo Pelizzo

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    • Riccardo Pelizzo is a Political Scientist and a World Bank consultant on legislative affairs. He received his MA and PhD in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. Together, they coedited the 2010 book The “War on Terror” and the Growth of Executive Power? A Comparative Analysis (Routledge Advances in International Relations and Global Politics).


External shocks to democratic systems are likely to threaten the stability of relations between the executive and the representative assembly. This article investigates the impact of the so-called “war on terror” on executive-assembly relations in comparative perspective. We analyze data from seven countries, which varied in terms of form of government, level of democracy, culture, social structure, and geographic location, to evaluate its effects. We find that whereas in some systems the “war on terror” altered the balance of power between the executive and the assembly, in other cases the extant balance of power was preserved. We postulate various conditions under which the constitutionally sanctioned balance of power is most likely to be preserved in times of crisis.