Coalition agreements and governments’ policy-making productivity

Matthew Bergman, Mariyana Angelova, Hanna Bäck, Wolfgang C. Müller

One of the biggest challenges parties in multiparty governments face is making
policies together and overcoming the risk of a policy stalemate. Scholars have
devoted much attention to the study of how various institutions in cabinet
and parliament help coalition parties with conflicting policy preferences to be
efficient in the policy-making process. Coalition agreements are one of many
instruments coalition partners can use to facilitate policy making. However,
many scholars describe such agreements’ actual role as cheap talk, due to
their legally non-enforceable nature. Do coalition agreements make a difference
in the policy-making productivity of multiparty governments? To address this
question, this article focuses on governments’ policy output and investigates
whether coalition agreements increase the policy-making productivity of multiparty cabinets. Its central argument is that written agreements between
coalition partners strengthen the capacity of coalition governments to make
policy reforms, even when there is a high degree of ideological conflict among
partners. To evaluate this argument, the article analyzes data on economic
reform measures adopted by national governments in 11 Western European
countries over a 40-year period (1978–2017), based on a coding of more than
1000 periodical country reports issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)
and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The results show that while coalition agreements foster policy productivity in
minimal winning cabinets, they play a weaker role in minority and surplus
governments. Coalition agreements limit the negative effect of intra-cabinet
ideological conflict on reform productivity, suggesting that such contracts help
parties overcome the risk of policy stalemate.

Department of Government
External organisation(s)
Lund University, Central European University Vienna
European Journal of Political Research
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
506014 Comparative politics
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Political Science and International Relations
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