Parties and policymaking in multiparty governments: The legislative median, ministerial autonomy, and the coalition compromise
©2014, Midwest Political Science Association. In parliamentary democracies, governments are typically composed of multiple political parties working together in a coalition. Such governments must confront a fundamental challenge in policymaking-the preferences of coalition parties often diverge significantly, but the government can adopt only one common policy on any specific issue. This fact raises a critical question that has far-reaching implications for the quality of democratic representation: Whose preferences are ultimately reflected in coalition policy choices? In this study, we explore three competing answers to this question derived from the theoretical literature on multiparty governance and parliamentary institutions. Our findings, based on an analysis of the legislative history of more than 1,000 government bills from three parliamentary democracies, strongly suggest that coalition policies reflect a compromise between government parties rather than the preferences of the ministers proposing them or the preferences of the median party in the legislature.
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