ASTK15380U CANCELLED - COURSE: Governments in parliamentary democracies. Who gets in? Who gets what? How lang do they last?

Volume 2015/2016

Bachelor level: 20 ECTS
Master level: 15 ECTS




‘Who gets in?’, ‘Who gets what?’ and ‘How long will it last?’ are some of the key questions in the study of governments in parliamentary democracies (Laver and Schofield 1990). This course examines these questions, focusing on the individuals and parties that make up governments. Who gets into government and who is excluded? Which governmental offices are they allocated? Under what conditions do incumbents influence policy? What kinds of parties and ministers are more (and less) durable in government? What happens to these parties and their ministers after government? The course provides students with an appreciation of the nature of government in parliamentary democracies and the challenges and opportunities encountered by incumbents. It is centred on regular reading and participation in class and it places a strong emphasis on recent research literature. It includes several workshop-style sessions that allow students to develop their knowledge of the sources of data and case-study information available to them and that provide opportunities to apply their substantive and methodological knowledge to the topics covered. 

Preparation for class

You are expected to have read the articles and chapters on this syllabus before coming to each class. Each class (with the exception of workshop sessions, guest speaker sessions, and the first and last classes) will feature a brief summary and discussion of two articles by students, as well as a broader class discussion of the literature.

Before each of these classes (with the exception of the first and last classes), find one or two cases that illustrate the issues under discussion (e.g., an instance of a party entering government, a support party, a defection from government, a ministerial resignation) and be prepared to describe them. You can find information on these events in the media, in the literature, or in the sources of information that I will refer to in class. The course takes a comparative perspective, so please try to go beyond the country that you know best!

In workshop sessions, we will look at data sources, case selection strategies, and individual cases. Please bring a laptop to these sessions if you have one. Workshop sessions will involve preparation and group-work. Details to be announced

Assessment is by written assignment to be submitted in late May. The topic will be chosen by agreement with me. Please email me a proposal for a paper (< 200 words) by the end of week 12 and then arrange to discuss your proposal with me.

Learning Outcome

 By the end of the term, students should be able to: 1. understand some important similarities and differences among parliamentary democracies; 2. source information and data on key aspects of the government lifecycle; 3. make cross-national comparisons of stages in governments’ lifecycles using carefully selected empirical cases; 4. identify determinants of variation in outcomes of legislative and coalition bargaining; 5. identify current research puzzles and unresolved problems in the literature; 6. develop solutions to these puzzles and problems.

1. Introduction. Governments in parliamentary democracies

Strøm, K., 2000. Delegation and accountability in parliamentary democracies. European Journal of Political Research, 37(3), pp.261–289.

Mair, P., 2008. The Challenge to Party Government. West European Politics, 31(1), pp.211–234.

Dalton, R.J., Farrell, D.M. & McAllister, I., 2011. Political parties and democratic linkage: how parties organize democracy, Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press. pp.3–26 and pp.215–234. 3

Part 1: Who gets in?

2. Government coalitions: who gets in?

Laver, M. & Schofield, N., 1990. Multiparty Government: The Politics of Coalition in Europe, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, pp.89–143.

Dumont, P., Winter, L. de & Andeweg, R.B., 2011. From coalition theory to coalition puzzles. In R. W. Andeweg, L. D. Winter, & P. Dumont, eds. Puzzles of Government Formation: Coalition Theory and Deviant Cases. Routledge, pp. 1–23.

Döring, H. & Hellström, J., 2013. Who Gets into Government? Coalition Formation in European Democracies. West European Politics, 36(4), pp.683–703.

Tavits, M., 2008. The Role of Parties’ Past Behavior in Coalition Formation. American Political Science Review, 102(04), pp.495–507.

3. Who is left out? The case of support parties

Strøm, K., 1990. Minority Government and Majority Rule, Cambridge [England]: Cambridge University Press. Chapter 4, pp.93–131.

Bale, T. & Bergman, T., 2006. A Taste of Honey Is Worse Than None at All?: Coping with the Generic Challenges of Support Party Status in Sweden and New Zealand. Party Politics, 12(2), pp.189–202.

Juul Christiansen, F. & Damgaard, E., 2008. Parliamentary Opposition under Minority Parliamentarism: Scandinavia. The Journal of Legislative Studies, 14(1-2), pp.46–76.

Thesen, G., 2015. Win some, lose none? Support parties at the polls and in political agenda-setting. Political Studies. Early view.

4. When everyone is left out: non-partisan governments

McDonnell, D. & Valbruzzi, M., 2014. Defining and classifying technocrat-led and technocratic governments. European Journal of Political Research, 53(4), pp. 654–671.

Pastorella, G., 2015. Technocratic Governments in Europe: Getting the Critique Right. Political Studies, n/a–n/a.

Culpepper, P.D., 2014. The Political Economy of Unmediated Democracy: Italian Austerity under Mario Monti. West European Politics, 37 (6), pp. 1264–1281.

5. Workshop session: An introduction to data on parties, ministers, and governments, and to selecting cases for in-depth study

Bäck, H. and Dumont, P., 2007. Combining large-n and small-n strategies: The way forward in coalition research. West European Politics, 30 (3), pp. 467 – 501. 4

Seawright, J. and Gerring, J., 2008. Case Selection Techniques in Case Study Research. Political Research Quarterly, 61 (2), pp. 294 –308.

Lieberman, E.S., 2005. Nested Analysis as a Mixed-Method Strategy for Comparative Research. American Political Science Review, 99 (03), pp. 435–452.

6. Workshop session: Who gets in and who is left out? (Parties). Data and cases.

7. Who gets into ministerial office? Part 1.

Dowding, K.M. & Dumont, P. eds., 2009. The Selection of Ministers in Europe: Hiring and Firing, London: Routledge, pp.1–20.

Kaiser, A. & Fischer, J., 2009. Linkages between Parliamentary and Ministerial Careers in Germany, 1949–2008: The Bundestag as Recruitment Pool. German Politics, 18(2), pp.140–154.

Amorim Neto, O. & Strøm, K., 2006. Breaking the Parliamentary Chain of Delegation: Presidents and Non-partisan Cabinet Members in European Democracies. British Journal of Political Science, 36(04), pp.619–643.

8. Who gets into ministerial office? Part 2. Women’s representation in government

Davis, R.H., 1997. Women and power in parliamentary democracies: cabinet appointments in Western Europe, 1968-1992, U of Nebraska Press. pp.1–28.

Krook, M.L. & O’Brien, D.Z., 2012. All the President’s Men? The Appointment of Female Cabinet Ministers Worldwide. The Journal of Politics, 74(03), pp.840–855.

Buckley, F. & Galligan, Y., 2011. Western Europe. In G. Bauer & M. Tremblay, eds. Women in Executive Power: A Global Overview. Routledge, pp.141–156.

Bego, I., 2014. Accessing Power in New Democracies. The Appointment of Female Ministers in Postcommunist Europe. Political Research Quarterly, 67(2), pp.347–360.

9. Workshop session: Who gets into ministerial office? Data and cases.

Part 2: Who gets what?

10. Who gets what (or how much)? Parties and (quantitative) portfolio allocation

Browne, E.C. and Franklin, M.N., 1973. Aspects of Coalition Payoffs in European Parliamentary Democracies. The American Political Science Review, 67 (2), pp. 453–469.

Warwick, P.V. & Druckman, J.N., 2006. The portfolio allocation paradox: An investigation into the nature of a very strong but puzzling relationship. European Journal of Political Research, 45(4), pp.635–665. 5

Bäck, H., Meier, H.E. & Persson, T., 2009. Party Size and Portfolio Payoffs: The Proportional Allocation of Ministerial Posts in Coalition Governments. The Journal of Legislative Studies, 15(1), pp.10–34.

11. Who gets what? Parties and (qualitative) portfolio allocation

Ecker, A., Meyer, T.M., and Müller, W.C., 2015. The distribution of individual cabinet positions in coalition governments: A sequential approach. European Journal of Political Research, n/a–n/a.

Bäck, H., Debus, M. & Dumont, P., 2011. Who gets what in coalition governments? Predictors of portfolio allocation in parliamentary democracies. European Journal of Political Research, 50(4), pp.441–478.

Budge, I. and Keman, H., 1990. Parties and Democracy: Coalition Formation and Government Functioning in Twenty States. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chapter 4, pp. 89-131.

12. Who gets what? Parties and junior ministerial positions

Thies, M.F., 2001. Keeping Tabs on Partners: The Logic of Delegation in Coalition Governments. American Journal of Political Science, 45 (3), pp. 580–598.

Lipsmeyer, C.S. and Pierce, H.N., 2011. The Eyes that Bind: Junior Ministers as Oversight Mechanisms in Coalition Governments. The Journal of Politics, 73 (04), pp. 1152–1164.

Falcó-Gimeno, A., 2014. The use of control mechanisms in coalition governments The role of preference tangentiality and repeated interactions. Party Politics, 20 (3), pp. 341–356.

13. Who gets what? Parties and policy

See Mair 2008, Session 1.

Häusermann, S., Picot, G. & Geering, D., 2013. Review Article: Rethinking Party Politics and the Welfare State – Recent Advances in the Literature. British Journal of Political Science, 43(01), pp. 221–240.

Costello, R. & Thomson, R., 2008. Election Pledges and their Enactment in Coalition Governments: A Comparative Analysis of Ireland. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties, 18(3), pp.239–256.

Knill, Christoph, Marc Debus, and Stephan Heichel. 2010. Do Parties Matter in Internationalised Policy Areas? The Impact of Political Parties on Environmental Policy Outputs in 18 OECD Countries, 1970-2000. European Journal of Political Research 49 (3), pp.301–336.

Garritzmann, Julian L., and Kilian Seng. 2015. Party Politics and Education Spending: Challenging Some Common Wisdom. Journal of European Public Policy. Early view. 6


14. Who gets what? Ministers and policy

Chabal, P.M., 2003. Do Ministers Matter? The Individual Style of Ministers in Programmed Policy Change. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 69(1), pp.29–49.

Atchison, A. & Down, I., 2009. Women Cabinet Ministers and Female-Friendly Social Policy. Poverty & Public Policy, 1(2), pp.1–23.

Alexiadou, D. Ideologues, Partisans and Loyalists: Cabinet ministers and social welfare reform in parliamentary democracies, Forthcoming in Comparative Political Studies.

van Esch, F. and Swinkels, M., 2015. How Europe’s Political Leaders Made Sense of the Euro Crisis: The Influence of Pressure and Personality. West European Politics, 38 (6), 1203–1225.

15. Workshop session: Who gets what? (Portfolios and policy). Data and cases.

See esp. Bäck et al. 2009, session 10.

16. Who gets what? The politics of patronage

Kopecky, P., Mair, P. & Spirova, M., 2012. Party Patronage and Party Government in European Democracies, Oxford University Press, USA, pp.1–16 and pp.357–374.

Petr Kopecky. 2006. Political Parties and the State in Post-communist Europe: The Nature of Symbiosis. The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, 22:3, pp.251–273.

Jean Blondel. 2002. Party Government, Patronage, and Party Decline in Western Europe. In Richard Gunther et al (eds.), Political Parties: Old Concepts and New Challenges. Oxford University Press, pp.233–256.

The whole list will be in Absalon


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Course Preparation
  • 166
  • Exam
  • 100
  • Exercises
  • 45
  • Preparation
  • 45
  • Total
  • 412
Type of assessment
Written examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner