Who Makes Policy? The Impact of Ministers on Reform Productivity in Coalition Governments

Hanna Bäck, Wolfgang C. Müller, Mariyana Angelova, Daniel Strobl

Can ministers in parliamentary democracies influence reform policy? This paper investigates the role of ministerial prerogatives for policy output, and asks under which circumstances the partisanship of the responsible minister influences reform-making in multiparty cabinets. In parliamentary democracies, ministerial posts give coalition partners policy discretion, which they can use to shape government policy in their allocated ministries to their party’s advantage. To evaluate the impact of ministers in coalition policy-making, we start from the general proposition that governing parties will introduce more reforms when the policy status quo is located further away from their ideological position. We thus hypothesize that an increased distance between the party policy position of a minister and the policy status quo leads to higher reform productivity in the policy area controlled by the minister. We also hypothesize that this effect is conditional on the institutional setting, and is stronger in systems with weak legislative institutions. We evaluate our hypotheses using a new data set of important socio-economic reform measures introduced in 11 Western European countries between 1985 and 2005, based on a manual coding of periodical country reports issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Our results reveal that ministers have an impact on reform- making in coalition governments, but mainly when legislative institutions are weak.

Department of Government
External organisation(s)
Lund University
No. of pages
Publication date
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
506014 Comparative politics
Portal url