Prime Minister Powers and Reform Productivity across Western European Countries

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

This paper analyzes the role of prime ministers in policy-making in multiparty governments. We explore the role of constitutional prime minister powers in the reform productivity of governments. In particular, we take into account various prime ministerial powers, including the right to appoint and dismiss ministers, allocate portfolios and assign ministers’ responsibilities, issue binding instructions to their ministers, and control the cabinet agenda. We propose a novel approach to capture the impact of prime ministers on governmental reform productivity, where we investigate the impact of ideological alternation of prime ministers on the number of introduced reforms. We suggest that, if prime ministers are influential, then greater ideological discrepancy between the prime minister party in the current and the previous cabinets should result in greater government reform productivity. We evaluate our theoretical expectations using an original data set of economic reform measures introduced in 11 Western European countries (1985–2005), based on a coding of more than 1,000 periodical country reports issued by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the OECD. Our findings suggest that prime minister parties have greater impact on government reform productivity when the prime minister has more constitutional powers.

Institut für Staatswissenschaft
ÖFOS 2012
506014 Vergleichende Politikwissenschaft
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