Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe

By Kaare Strøm, Wolfgang C. Müller & Torbjörn Bergman (eds.)
Oxford University Press 2008 (Paperback 2010)

The project’s final and forthcoming publication brings together our cross-national behavioral data on coalition politics with our institutional data on European parliamentary democracies. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe provides a comprehensive analysis of coalition politics in Western Europe over the post-1945 period. It champions a dynamic approach using bargaining and transaction cost theory to understand the “life cycle” of parliamentary politics. After a review of the literature the theory chapter addresses the roles of bargaining and transaction costs in coalition governance. Eight comparative chapters address the topics of government formation, cabinet membership, coalition agreements, portfolio allocation, conflict management, cabinet termination and duration, and the electoral consequences of coalition politics. The book is based on the most comprehensive data set ever employed in coalition studies, which includes both coalitional and single-party countries and governments. Each chapter provides a comparative overview of its topic and state-of-the art statistical analysis. Conceptually and empirically the study argues for an integrated approach to coalition politics, stressing six clusters of explanatory factors: country-specific and temporal circumstances, ‘structural attributes’, actors’ preferences, institutions, the bargaining environment, and ‘critical events’. While the importance of different causal factors varies between the various phases of the parliamentary life cycle, no facet of coalition politics can be understood without reference to several of these factors.

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