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Making Governments: Parliamentary Democracies

Making Governments: Parliamentary Democracies

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Making Governments: Parliamentary Democracies

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  1. Making Governments: Parliamentary Democracies

  2. Tuesday

  3. Government • A parliamentary democracy is one in which the government depends only on a legislative majority to exist. • The government comprises a prime minister and the cabinet. • The prime minister is the political chief executive and head of the government. • The cabinet is composed of ministers whose job it is to be in the cabinet and head the various government departments. • In a parliamentary democracy, the executive branch and the government are the same thing.

  4. Responsibility • Ministerial responsibility refers to the constitutional doctrine by which cabinet ministers must bear ultimate responsibility for what happens in their ministry. • This might sound boring but is actually pretty awkward…..

  5. Greet Hofmans-Affair

  6. IRT-Affair

  7. Responsibility • Collective cabinet responsibility refers to the doctrine by which ministers must publicly support collective cabinet decisions or resign • This might sound boring but is also awkward….

  8. Sebrenica

  9. Government Formation • New governments form in two circumstances: • Following elections. • In the middle of an interelection period, following the resignation of the current government. • How do governments form in parliamentary democracies?

  10. Government Formation • The key characteristic of the government formation process in a parliamentary democracy is that the government must enjoy the “confidence” of the legislature both to come to power and to stay in power. • All governments need the support of a legislative majority.

  11. Government Formation • We know that a potential government must enjoy the confidence of the legislature to come to power. • If a single party controlled a majority of the legislative seats, we might expect that party to form the government.

  12. But life is not always that easy may-10-2010/clustershag-to-10-downing---hung-parliament

  13. Government Formation • Whether you have majority parties depends on the electoral system, cleavage structures and electoral thresholds • We will discuss this in more detail next week • 251 of the 310 (81%) governments that formed in Western Europe from 1945 to 1998 emerged from political situations in which there was no majority party.

  14. Government Formation • All we know is that the potential government must control a legislative majority. • There are no rules as to who should be in this legislative majority (unwritten constitution). • In practice, though, the tight discipline of the parties in most parliamentary democracies means that the actual business of forming a government is done by a small group of senior politicians in each party (openhanded slaps).

  15. Can Formateur form government? • Consider the following election results from Germany in 1987.

  16. The German Bundestag after the 1987 Elections How do we know what the government will be?

  17. Are all of these potential governments equally plausible? Who will be the formateur?

  18. A Simple Model • The leader of the CDU/CSU (Helmut Kohl) was appointed formateur because he controlled the largest party. • Obviously, Helmut Kohl is not going to form a government that does not include his own party. Thus, we can get rid of potential governments that do not include the CDU/CSU.

  19. A Simple Model • The fact that a government must control a legislative majority to come to power suggests that the government formation process might be easier if the proposed government actually controlled a majority of legislative seats. • As a result, we might think of eliminating potential governments that do not control a legislative majority. • Since the Bundestag had 497 seats, any combination of parties controlling 249 ([497 + 1]/2) or more seats would have a legislative majority.

  20. Seven potential governments remain–which one is most likely to form?

  21. A Simple Model • Office seeking • An office-seeking politician is interested in the intrinsic benefits of office; he wants as many ministerial portfolios as possible. • Policy seeking • A policy-seeking politician wants only to shape policy.

  22. Pure Office-Seeking World • In an office-seeking world, a formateur can get other parties to join the government only by giving them office (ministerial portfolios). • Strong empirical evidence that you have to give large parties more office than small parties. • Gamson’s Law (Proportionality Norm): Cabinet portfolios will be distributed among government parties in strict proportion to the number of seats that each party contributes to the government’s legislative majority.

  23. Allocation of Cabinet Seats in the Netherlands, 1998 Gamson’s Law Note: 150 seats in legislature.

  24. Pure Office-Seeking World • An implication of the office-seeking logic is that you will not want more parties in government than are strictly necessary to obtain a legislative majority. • As a result, you will form a particular type of coalition government called a “minimal winning coalition.” • A minimal winning coalition (MWC) is one in which there are no parties that are not required to control a legislative majority. • A second implication is that you will choose the smallest or “least minimal winning coalition.” • The least MWC is the MWC with the lowest number of surplus seats.

  25. Pure Office-Seeking World • If Helmut Kohl was a pure office seeker, we would expect him to form a government between the CDU/CSU and the Greens.

  26. Pure Policy-Seeking World • What if Helmut Kohl was a pure policy seeker? • What would he do? • To answer this question, you need to know something about the policy position of the parties along the salient issue dimensions in West Germany in 1987.

  27. Policy Positions Greens SPD CDU FDP Left Right Seats 42 186 223 46

  28. Pure Policy-Seeking World • In a policy-seeking world, a formateur can get other parties to join the government only by giving them policy concessions. • In other words, the formateur cannot implement policy at his own ideal point. Instead, he has to implement a coalition policy that is somewhere between the ideal points of all his coalition partners. • It is likely that a formateur will have to give more policy concessions to large parties than small parties.

  29. Pure Policy-Seeking World • An implication of the policy-seeking logic is that you will want to form coalitions with parties that are located close to you in the policy space. • As a result, you will form a particular type of coalition government called a “connected coalition.” • A connected coalition is one in which the member parties are located directly next to each other in the policy space. • A second implication is that you will choose the connected least MWC because you do not want to “buy” more legislative seats with policy than you strictly have to.

  30. Hypotheses • Office-seeking world • You would expect to observe least minimal winning coalitions. • In terms of our German example, the prediction would be a coalition between the CDU/CSU and Greens. • Policy-seeking world • You would expect to observe connected least minimal winning coalitions. • In terms of our German example, the prediction would be a coalition between the CDU/CSU and the FDP.

  31. This looks pretty easy, right? • Helmut Kohl actually formed a government between the CDU/CSU and the FDP. • This was the prediction from the policy-seeking model. • Did this mean that policy seeking dominates office seeking in West Germany? • So this is pretty easy is not it? • (1) Why minority coalitions? (2) Why Surplus coalitions? (3)Why does it take so long?

  32. Trade-off • Even if politicians were pure policy seekers or pure office seekers, we believe that the reality of political competition will force them to act as if they cared about both policy and office. • A pure office seeker is unlikely to be able to win election by saying that he does not care about policy. • A pure policy seeker will have to care about winning office because this is the only way he can implement the policy he wants.

  33. Different Types of Government • We know that a government must control an implicit legislative majority to come to power. • Until now, we have assumed that governments must contain enough parties that they control a majority of legislative seats. • This has led us to look at various types of minimal winning coalitions. • However, a quick glance around the world reveals that other types of government often form.

  34. Government Types in Western Europe, 1945-1998

  35. Minority Governments • A minority government is one in which the governmental parties do not together command a majority of legislative seats. • Minority governments may be single-party minority governments or minority coalition governments. • A minority government can exist only as long as the opposition chooses not to bring it down.

  36. Minority Governments • Many people used to see minority governments as undemocratic and as an anomaly. • Strom challenged this accepted wisdom. He argued that minority governments were a normal and democratic outcome of party competition in parliamentary democracies.

  37. Minority Governments • Strom noted that minority governments form quite frequently. • A third of all the governments in Western Europe are minority governments. • Minority governments are particularly frequent in some countries–Denmark (82%), Sweden (81%), Norway (65%).

  38. Minority Governments • Every time we see a minority government, there must be an implicit majority in the legislature that supports it. • Why does this happen?

  39. Parties do not want to be in the cabinet • In some countries, we know who makes up this implicit majority because they publicly state that they will sustain the government against votes to overthrow it but do not want to be in the cabinet. • Maybe they do not want to be identified with policies • No capable governors • Flexibility in the future • Pre-election promises

  40. Minority coalition Watchdog

  41. Right-Wing populist

  42. Establishment has no response……

  43. He knows his party is not able to rule

  44. They do not want to exclude a winning populist

  45. Ad hoc coalitions more efficient • In other countries, the government does not rely on specific “support” parties. Instead, it builds legislative majorities on an ad hoc basis. • Why is this useful?