Coalitions in Parliamentary Government

Coalitions in Parliamentary Government

Lawrence C. Dodd
Copyright Date: 1976
Pages: 301
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    Coalitions in Parliamentary Government
    Book Description:

    For eighty years, students of parliamentary democracy have argued that durable cabinets require majority party government. Lawrence Dodd challenges this widely held belief and offers in its place a revisionist interpretation based on contemporary game theory. He argues for a fundamental alteration in existing conceptions of the relationship between party systems and parliamentary government.

    The author notes that cabinet durability depends on the coalitional status of the party or parties that form the cabinet. This status is created by the fractionalization, instability, and polarization that characterize the parliamentary party system. Cabinets of minimum winning status are likely to endure; as they depart from minimum winning status, their durability should decrease.

    Hypotheses derived from the author's theory arc examined against the experience of seventeen Western nations from 1918 to 1974. Making extensive use of quantitative analysis, the author compares behavioral patterns in multiparty and majority party parliaments, contrasts interwar and postwar parliaments, and examines the consistency of key behavioral patterns according to country. He concludes that a key to durable government is the minimum winning status of the cabinet, which may be attained in multiparty or majority party parliaments.

    Originally published in 1976.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6807-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Lawrence C. Dodd
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-2)
  7. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-30)

    Democratic politics is plagued by an overriding dilemma: how to secure responsive yet authoritative government. To produce the desired balance, most Western nations have instituted some form of parliamentary government. In a parliamentary system, executive power resides in the prime minister and his cabinet. The cabinet government is selected by a popularly elected representative legislature. The selection process entails negotiation and bargaining among various factions or parties so that the act of cabinet installation ideally serves to authorize and legitimize the direction of public policy. This direction is reflected in the factional or partisan composition of the cabinet.

    The cabinet...

  8. Part I Theory
    • 2 A Theory of Cabinet Formation and Maintenance in Multiparty Parliaments
      (pp. 33-53)

      Nowhere is the mystery of politics more evident than in multiparty parliaments. Leadership must be found amid a variety of parties, none of which possesses a legislative majority. It is these parties that essentially negotiate the formation and decline of cabinet ministries. In the most complicated situations, the negotiation process resembles a game in which parties maneuver like blind men in search of the levers with which to control their nation’s highest office. In less complex circumstances, parliamentary negotiations are more clearly a game of bargaining and coalitions in which party opposes party in a calculated maneuvering for ministerial power.¹...

    • 3 Party Systems and Coalition Processes
      (pp. 54-70)

      According to the thesis developed in Chapter 2, the coalitional status of a cabinet will be a function of the interaction between the generalizeda prioriwillingness of parties to bargain and the certainty of information that exists in the bargaining process. In turn, the durability of a cabinet is a function of the cabinet’s coalitional status. Minimum winning cabinets should be quite durable. Oversized and undersized cabinets should be more transient. A number of procedures can be employed to test the utility of the thesis: case analysis of an individual cabinet formation and maintenance process in a selected parliament;...

  9. Part II Measurement
    • 4 Party System Fractionalization and Stability
      (pp. 73-96)

      Testing the propositions presented in Part I requires operational measures of five relevant variables. Three of the variables relate to the parliamentary party system: fractionalization, stability, and cleavage conflict. Two variables refer to cabinet characteristics: cabinet coalitional status and cabinet durability. The purpose of Part II is to specify the measures employed in rendering these variables operational. This chapter outlines the measures of fractionalization and stability. The following two chapters present measures of cleavage conflict, coalitional status, and cabinet durability. In addition these chapters provide an overview of the party system data gathered for the study.

      Party System Fractionalization refers...

    • 5 The Degree of Cleavage Conflict
      (pp. 97-114)

      Cleavage conflict entails disagreement among parties in the positions they take on the cleavage dimensions salient to a nation’s electorate. In this study, the primary concern is with the degree to which parliamentary parties are concentrated in similar positions on cleavage dimensions that are salient in the elections for a given parliament. A parliament in which parties are highly concentrated is experiencing low cleavage conflict. A parliament in which parties are widely dispersed is experiencing high cleavage conflict. The inference is that the lower the degree of cleavage conflict (the more concentrated the parties are), the more generalized is the...

    • 6 Cabinet Coalitional Status and Cabinet Durability
      (pp. 115-124)

      Of all the concepts requiring operational definition in Part II, the cabinet characteristics have received least prior consideration in the literature of comparative politics. While several studies have employed operational measures of cabinet durability, cabinet coalitional status has largely escaped systematic operational treatment in past comparative studies. The purpose of this short chapter is to specify the operational measures of these two variables employed in this study. The frequency distribution for cabinet durability is presented in Chapter 1. Chapter 7 presents the frequency distribution of coalitional status scores.

      Coalitional status refers to the nature of the partisan composition characterizing a...

  10. Part III Analysis
    • 7 Party Coalitions in Multiparty Parliaments
      (pp. 127-155)

      Multiparty parliaments predominate in Western parliamentary democracies. They constitute over 75 percent of all peacetime parliaments that formed from 1918 to 1974. There is no parliamentary regime that has not experienced multiparty politics. During the first five years of the 1970s, in fact, fourteen of the sixteen nations in this study experienced at least one multiparty parliament, including Great Britain, birthplace of the two-party system.¹ Against this backdrop, it is surprising that so little systematic knowledge exists in regard to multiparty parliaments. As Chapter 1 indicates, the predominant myth is that cabinets by their very nature must be transient in...

    • 8 Party Government and Cabinet Durability: All Peacetime Parliaments
      (pp. 156-181)

      In his early study of governments and parties, Lowell stressed the consequence of a cabinet’s composition for cabinet durability. He argued that “a cabinet which depends for its existence on the votes of the Chamber can pursue a consistent policy with firmness and effect only when it can rely for support on a compact and faithful majority.” Lowell’s conclusion is that “the parliamentary system will give the country strong and efficient government only in case the majority consists of a single party.” His central indicator of strong and efficient government was cabinet durability.¹

      In making these arguments and investigating their...

    • 9 Interwar–Postwar Contrasts
      (pp. 182-204)

      In the foregoing chapters, this study has examined propositions without regard to historical era. Yet evaluating the theory and its utility requires differentiating between eras. First, predictions of the theory may hold well for one era but not for another; if so, contrasts between time periods will force confrontation with this fact and hopefully lead to refinement and improvement in the theory. Second, historical eras may differ in the nature of the bargaining conditions that characterize parliaments and consequently in the patterns of cabinet formation and maintenance relevant to the different time periods. By taking each period separately, therefore, parts...

  11. Part IV Conclusion
    • 10 The Analysis of Parliamentary Coalitions: Problems and Prospects
      (pp. 207-228)

      The significance and underlying thesis of this study is summarized best perhaps by the British parliamentary analyst, W. L. Middleton, writing in 1932:

      No political system can evade the problem of authority. It must be a principle aim of any constitution, even of the most democratic, to produce Governments which shall govern, which shall possess real initiative and command…. If a wide stretch of experience be reviewed it will be found that the power of the Executive … has varied very greatly from one legislature to another…. The explanation of these variations is not far to seek…. A ministry exercises...

    • 11 Party Systems and Democracy
      (pp. 229-244)

      There can be little doubt that durable government is an important element in the success or failure of representative democracy. Under some conditions, the persistence of a specific set of officeholders may be detrimental to democracy. Few would argue that a governing group widely viewed as illegitimate, corrupt, or dictatorial should remain in office for the good of the democratic polity. As a general rule, however, democracy will not be served well by the rapid and persistent overthrow of its elected officials. Democratic governments should be responsive to the citizenry. One element of responsiveness is the ability to remove leaders...

  12. Appendix A
    (pp. 245-246)
  13. Appendix B: The Location of Parliamentary Parties on Salient Cleavage Dimensions
    (pp. 247-256)
  14. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 257-278)
  15. Index
    (pp. 279-283)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 284-284)