The Governments in Europe project began in 2011. It connects ten senior scholars in ten Baltic and East Central Europe countries with Södertörn University for the purpose of conducting cutting edge comparative research on the formation and stability of national governments. The ten countries are Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
In particular, the project examines two aspects that have not yet been the subject of scholarly inquiry within the region. The first of these relates to the specific reasons as to why they are terminated. While there is a body of literature about how long governments typically stay in power, very little is known about the actual termination of governments. Second, the project is interested in how coalition governance impacts on the formation and stability of national governments. Successful research on these topics requires both systematic data-collection and qualitative case studies that are context sensitive. It can only be done with the help of experts with a high degree of insight into the politics of each country.
Today, knowledge of national coalition politics in this region is very scarce, both in the international literature and (according to our country experts) in national literature as well. We are particularly interested in developing an understanding of the conflict-resolution mechanisms that government parties try to use to enforce and maintain their coalitions.
This project is part of an international research collaboration aimed at improving our understanding of what goes on inside European governments and parliaments. In the Södertörn project, we put much time and effort into establishing firm and precise information about governments, political parties and parliaments in the CEE region. In a parallel project, a research team led by Professor Wolfgang C. Müller at the University of Vienna is preparing an in-depth analysis of many other crucial aspects of coalition governance in Central Eastern Europe that remain to be researched. This includes coalition agreements and how coalition management mechanisms are designed and maintained, as well as when and how they actually work. If we are awarded sufficient funds, we also aim to include all of the EU member states in a study of representative democracy in the new Europe.
Similarly, representative democracy in Europe is a focus of the third partner collaboration project, which is housed at Umeå University, Sweden. This project, led by Dr. Johan Hellström, examines the key actors of representative democracy in the 27 EU member states: voters, political parties, parliaments and governments. This project researches citizens’ opinions and those of their political representatives – i.e. political parties, parliaments and governments. The research project is financed by the Marie and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation for the period 2012-2017.
The empirical basis for these national and international collaborations is the European Representative Democracy Data Archive (www.erdda.se), hosted by the current research project at the Södertörn University. On that home page we have published high-quality data on governments, parliaments and institutions. Our current research efforts will further contribute to this data center.
In the Governments in Europe project, our country experts are collecting and coding information on their country of expertise. In the fall, they will use the data to begin writing chapters on their countries. To provide coherence to the planned volume, each chapter will follow a uniform structure. We will take particular care to document national variation within this common structure.
Each country chapter’s uniform structure will feature six thematic sections: (1) An introductory section, (2) a section on the institutional background of coalition politics in the country, (3) a section on government formation, (4) a section on coalition governance, (5) a section on coalition termination, and (6) a section on the electoral costs and benefits of government participation. The themes are systematized with the help of comparative tables. These tables have been developed in an iterative process in which preliminary data from country experts has been structured in tables, which were then used by the experts to further develop and refine the data. More specifically, for each of the ten countries, the project produces new and systematic information organized in 9 tables. Because the research team has discussed and defined each table and each data collection extensively, the data allows for systematic comparison in a way that has not been possible prior to the publication of our research findings.
The project is generally proceeding very much according on schedule. We held a meeting of all project participants in Stockholm during the period June 13-15. At this meeting we discussed problems that had arisen during the initial phases of data collection and we tried to solve them with an eye to completing much of the data collection of the project this fall. The next project meeting is planned for December. At this point we hope to have completed many of the data collection efforts and to circulate and discuss first drafts of the country chapters.