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Coalition Formation In Europe Is In Theory Predictable

2578 words - 11 pages

'Coalition formation in Europe is in theory predictable'. Discuss

Why predictable?
Possible coalitions in Europe?
History analysis

1. Germany
2. Sweden, Denmark, Norway
3. Netherlands
4. Belgium
5. Italy
6. Ireland
Although coalition governments are uncommon for Anglo-Saxon countries, in Western Europe coalitions are the only way to understand European political systems.
The processes of government formation and dissolution, the role of the head of state and the working of the cabinet are all likely to be affected by coalitions. The strategies of political parties are likely to be affected by the knowledge that they will be unlikely to win power ...view middle of the document...

Generally speaking, the office-orientated approach argues thatcoalitions will form which control a small (von Neumann and Morgenstern1944, pp. 429– 430) or the smallest (Riker 1962) winning majority inside the respective parliament. A third important office-orientated and policy-blind approach is the bargaining proposition, developed by Leiserson (1966, 1968). He assumed that not the strength of each political party, measured by its seat share in the parliament, but rather the absolute number of parties involved in the coalition formation game is decisive. Coalitions should therefore form that satisfy two conditions: First, the coalition must have a majority and, second, it should include as few parties as possible. Transaction costs should thereby be reduced to a minimum.
Theories that are based on non-cooperative game theory also highlight the strength of parties in the parliament.
Austen-Smith and Banks (1988) stress that the strongest parliamentary party has the best chance of becoming the ‘formateur’. In most cases, the ‘formateur party’ becomes a member of the next government and, furthermore, has a strong bargaining position in the coalition negotiations (see also Baron and Ferejohn 1989; Baron and Diermeier 2001).
If, however, coalition formation is also about ideology, then political parties with similar ideological backgrounds should be more likely to form a coalition government, regardless of the size of this alliance. Axelrod (1970) called this the theory of minimal connected winning coalitions. Such coalitions are characterized by two features: first, the coalition has a majority inside the parliament and, secondly, they are neighbors on a common left-right continuum. De Swaan (1973) assumption was that instead of a simple left-right ordering, it is the ideological distance between the parties that is decisive for the outcome of the coalition game. From De Swaan’s perspective, political actors ‘calculate’ the distance between themselves and the other parties, so that coalition governments should be formed which minimize that distance (see also Grofman 1982; Laver and Shepsle 1990, 1996; Schofield 1995; Warwick 2006). Sened (1995, 1996) combined office- and policy-constraints in his model, so that information on the parties’ different payoff preferences is taken into account.
In a study that analyses government formation in a comparative and multivariate design, Martin and Stevenson (2001) show that office- and policy-related factors are not the only things that matter in coalition formation. They find evidence that government formation is also influenced by institutional and ‘semi-institutional’ factors. Such factors could be, for instance, the requirement of votes of confidence as well as rejections of feasible coalitions. Standard spatial models do not include such institutional or behavioralist constraints (see, e.g., Strّm 1990; Strّm et al. 1994;...

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