16 Feb Holger Döring – University of Bremen
INSTITUTIONAL CONSTRAINTS ON CABINET FORMATION: VETO POINTS AND PARTY SYSTEM DYNAMICS
We analyze the impact of political institutions on cabinet formation. Institutional rules may either provide significant leeway or seriously constrain political parties in forming sustainable (coalition) cabinets that are close to their ideal points. Differences in institutional designs can significantly alter the cabinet formation process in parliamentary democracies. Theoretically, we expect that a high number of institutional veto points should considerably constrain policy making. Hence, parties that form coalitions are significantly more likely to form inclusive cabinets such as surplus majority coalitions under restrictive rules. Political parties in parliamentary democracies with fewer institutional constraints on policy making are more likely to form narrower cabinets to gain more flexibility and payoffs in the policy process. More precisely, we hypothesize that the number of veto points interacts with the dynamics of the party system, namely the degree of polarization and fragmentation in parliament. In contrast to previous studies on the nexus between institutions and coalition building based on West European democracies only, this study analyzes the impact of institutional rules and party system attributes on cabinet formation in 33 advanced democracies over the entire post-war era. Using fine grained measures of institutional constraints on coalition building, we find that the institutional rules can have a pronounced effect on the type of cabinet formed. Our results show that fractionalized and polarized political systems with many veto points increase the likelihood of the formation of surplus majority cabinets, while more heterogeneous parliaments with less institutional constraints on cabinet formation tend to result in the formation of minority cabinets.