Coalition formation and policymaking in parliamentary democracies

Authored by: Lanny W. Martin , Georg Vanberg

Routledge Handbook of Comparative Political Institutions

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415630887
eBook ISBN: 9781315731377
Adobe ISBN: 9781317551799


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The majority of the world’s advanced industrial democracies are parliamentary systems, and in most of those, coalition government is the norm. Thus, it is not surprising that understanding how coalition governments come about, and how they operate, has been a primary focus of comparative scholars. Until recently, most studies in this area focused primarily on the formation and dissolution of multiparty governments, rather than on the behavior of coalition partners between those events. Moreover, they adopted what was, in essence, an “institutions-free” approach to explaining coalition bargaining. Following the advent of “new institutionalism” in the 1980s, researchers began to consider the role of institutions in coalition politics more seriously, particularly with respect to coalition formation. Soon thereafter, scholars turned their attention to the policymaking process between the birth and death of coalitions. In these accounts, institutional structures at the executive and parliamentary levels play a central role. In this chapter, we survey key findings regarding the impact of institutions on coalition politics, focusing on government formation and the subsequent policymaking process.

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