ASTK15417U COURSE: Parties in Government

Volume 2017/2018

Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS
Masterlevel: 7,5 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 parties that make up those governments. Which parties get into government and which are excluded? Which governmental offices are they allocated? Under what conditions do incumbent parties influence policy? What kinds of parties are more (and less) durable in government? What happens to these parties after a spell in 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 some workshop-style sessions that provide students with opportunities to develop their knowledge of the sources of data and case-study information available to them, to apply their substantive and methodological knowledge to the topics covered and to develop a basis for their term paper.


This course may be useful for students who aim to work in government at any level, with politicians or political parties, or in sectors that require a good knowledge of government or a capacity analyse domestic politics in parliamentary democracies (e.g., journalism, law, public affairs).


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. Parties and 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.

    Debus, M., 2011. Portfolio Allocation and Policy Compromises: How and Why the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats Formed a Coalition Government. The Political Quarterly, 82 (2), 293–304.


    Part 1: Who gets in?

  2. Government coalitions: who gets in?

    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.

                 When nobody gets in:

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



  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. Workshop session.

    1. An introduction to data on parties and governments

    2. Using data to answer research questions. Theme: Who gets in and who is left out?

    3. 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.

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

      Döring, H., 2016. Mapping established democracies: Integrated data on parties, elections and cabinets. Electoral Studies, 44, pp. 535–543.




      Part 2: Who gets what?


  5. 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.

    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.


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

    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.

    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.


  7. Guest lecture, topic TBC.



  8. Who gets what? Parties and policy.

    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.

    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.

    Moury, C., 2011. Coalition agreement and party mandate: How coalition agreements constrain the ministers. Party Politics, 17 (3), 385 –404.

    Evrard, Aurélien. 2012. Political Parties and Policy Change: Explaining the Impact of French and German Greens on Energy Policy. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice 14(4), pp.275–91.


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

    See esp. Bäck et al. 2009 (above).



    Part 3: How long does it last?


  10. How long do governments last and why do they end?

    Laver, M., 2003. Government Termination. Annual Review of Political Science, 6(1), pp.23–40.

    Mershon, C., 1996. The Costs of Coalition: Coalition Theories and Italian Governments. The American Political Science Review, 90 (3), pp. 534–554.

    Damgaard, E., 2008. Cabinet termination. In: K. Strom, W.C. Müller, and T. Bergman, eds. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 301–326.

    Conrad, C.R. & Golder, S.N., 2010. Measuring government duration and stability in Central Eastern European democracies. European Journal of Political Research, 49(1), pp.119–150.



  11. How long do parties last in government and why do they lose office?

    Maeda, K. & Nishikawa, M., 2006. Duration of Party Control in Parliamentary and Presidential Governments. Comparative Political Studies, 39(3), pp.352–374.

    Crespo-Tenorio, Adriana, Nathan M. Jensen, and Guillermo Rosas. 2014. Political Liabilities Surviving Banking Crises. Comparative Political Studies 47, pp.1047–1074.

    Warwick, P.V., 2012. Dissolvers, disputers, and defectors: the terminators of parliamentary governments. European Political Science Review, 4(02), pp.263–281.

    See also Tavits 2008 (Session 2).



    Postscript: What happens next?

  12. What happens next? Parties and postincumbency elections.

    Narud, H.M. & Valen, H., 2008. Coalition Membership and Electoral Performance. In K. Strom, W. C. Müller, & T. Bergman, eds. Cabinets and Coalition Bargaining: The Democratic Life Cycle in Western Europe. Comparative politics (Oxford University Press). Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 369–402.

    Fortunato, D. and Adams, J., 2015. How voters’ perceptions of junior coalition partners depend on the prime minister’s position. European Journal of Political Research, 54 (3), pp. 601–621.

    Johnson, C. and Middleton, A., 2016. Junior coalition parties in the British context: Explaining the Liberal Democrat collapse at the 2015 general election. Electoral Studies, 43, 63–71.

    See also Warwick 2012 (Session 11) and Tavits 2008 (Session 2).




  13. Workshop session. Themes: How long does it last?/What happens next? Data and cases.



  14. Review and discussion session.


  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
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