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Till death do us part: a comparative study of government instability in 28 European democracies
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science.
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis is rooted in the research tradition known as coalition politics, where governments, political parties and political institutions are the central focus. The main emphasis here is on government instability and the question of why governments in modern parliamentary democracies often come to an end before the next regular election. In five distinct but interrelated papers, the thesis explores the issue of early government termination and how it is affected by public support, economic developments and the functioning of the state apparatus. The studies included in this thesis generally take a quantitative approach and make use of a dataset that contains 640 governments in 29 European democracies. Their joint goal is to improve our understanding of when early termination happens by introducing and testing new explanatory factors as well as by improving how previously identified factors are modelled.

The first paper focuses on Central and Eastern Europe. It shows that the stability of governments in that region is affected by slightly different factors than those that impact on governments in Western Europe. In particular, ideological factors and political institutions are found to be less important in Central and Eastern Europe while the formal power basis of the government and the country’s economic performance matter more. In the second paper, co-authored with Professor Torbjörn Bergman, the state is brought into government stability research. The paper shows that countries with a lower quality of governance and a less efficient public sector have less stable governments. This is mainly because government parties struggle to achieve their policy goals when the state apparatus is inefficient and corrupt.

Paper 3, co-written with Associate Professor Johan Hellström, looks at how different types of governments respond to economic challenges. In particular, this paper demonstrates that the same changes in economic circumstances (e.g. increases in unemployment or inflation) have different effects on cabinet stability depending on which type of government is in charge. Single party governments are better equipped to deal with economic changes, because they are better positioned to devise new policy responses without having to compromise with other parties. Coalition governments, in contrast, become significantly more likely to terminate early when the economy takes a turn for the worse.

Finally, over the course of two papers I first explore new techniques for analysing polling data and then use them to empirically test whether governments sometimes choose termination as a way to cope with bad poll numbers. Most of the existing techniques for pooling polls and forecasting elections were explicitly designed with two party systems in mind. In Paper 4, I test some of these techniques to determine their usefulness in complex, multiparty systems, and I develop some improvements that enable us to take advantage of more of the information in the data. In the final paper, I combine the two themes of polling and government stability by looking at how changes in government popularity affect the likelihood of premature dissolution. I find that governments, particularly single party governments, do, in fact, use terminations as a strategic response to changes in their popularity among the public. When support is high, governments tend to opportunistically call an early election, whereas they tend to abandon or reshuffle the government when support is low.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2017. , p. 71
Series
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2017:2
Keywords [en]
Government instability, early termination, polling, coalition studies, comparative politics, duration modelling, Europe, cabinet turnover, cabinet dissolution, parliamentary democracies
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Research subject
political science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-133482ISBN: 978-91-7601-699-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-133482DiVA, id: diva2:1088290
Public defence
2017-05-12, Hörsal C, Lindellhallen, Samhällsvetarhuset, Umeå, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2017-04-21 Created: 2017-04-12 Last updated: 2018-06-09Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Cabinet survival in Central and Eastern Europe: what do we know after 25 years of democracy?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Cabinet survival in Central and Eastern Europe: what do we know after 25 years of democracy?
2017 (English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-133424 (URN)
Available from: 2017-04-10 Created: 2017-04-10 Last updated: 2018-06-09
2. Government instability and the state
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Government instability and the state
2019 (English)In: Political Science Research and Methods, ISSN 2049-8470, E-ISSN 2049-8489, Vol. 7, no 3, p. 579-594Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Government instability (cabinet duration) is an important feature of parliamentary democracy. Over time, the research on cabinet duration has improved in technical and theoretical sophistication. However, we note that little attention has been paid to the relationship between governments and the state itself. Our main hypothesis is that state capacity, e.g., factors such as state bureaucratic effectiveness and law and order, shape how easy it is for governments to implement the new policy and thus how well they can achieve policy objectives. We also argue that when state capacity is low, the ability to adequately respond to external shocks goes down, and instability increases. When testing this empirically we find that low state capacity does indeed help us predict an increased risk for early termination—in particular, whether the government ends through a replacement (but not by an early election). Using interaction effects, we also demonstrate that the effect of external shocks, such as an increase in unemployment, is conditional on state capacity. An increase in unemployment only has a significant effect on cabinet stability when state capacity is low, suggesting that the cabinet’s (in)ability to address the economic problems is an important factor for understating cabinet durability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge University Press, 2019
National Category
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-133426 (URN)10.1017/psrm.2018.20 (DOI)000472096700011 ()
Funder
Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation
Note

Previously published in thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2017-04-10 Created: 2017-04-10 Last updated: 2019-07-12Bibliographically approved
3. How is Government Stability Affected by the State of the Economy?: Payoff Structures, Government Type and Economic State
Open this publication in new window or tab >>How is Government Stability Affected by the State of the Economy?: Payoff Structures, Government Type and Economic State
2019 (English)In: Government and Opposition, ISSN 0017-257X, E-ISSN 1477-7053, Vol. 54, no 2, p. 280-308Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

To what extent are incumbent governments affected by the state of the economy when it comes to premature dissolution? This article investigates this research question using a data set on parties and governments for 18 West European countries for the period 1945–2013. In addition to investigating the general effect of the state of the economy on government termination, we hypothesize that macroeconomic conditions affect cabinet termination in different ways depending on the type of government that is in power. Using Cox proportional hazards models to estimate how different government types are impacted by the same changes in the economy, our results indicate that economic changes do matter, but that they mainly affect coalition governments. Our results also indicate that there is a difference between minority and majority governments when it comes to the type of termination. Minority coalition governments resolve to early elections, not replacements, presumably because a minority government does not survive defection. Majority coalition governments, in contrast, show sensitivity towards both types of terminations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge University Press, 2019
Keywords
government dissolution, coalitions, economy, cabinet duration, Western Europe
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
political science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-133427 (URN)10.1017/gov.2017.21 (DOI)000459785600004 ()
Projects
Representative Democracy in Europe
Funder
Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, MMW 2011.0030
Note

Originally included in thesis in accepted form with title: How is government termination affected by the state of economy? Payoff structures, type of government and economic changes

Available from: 2017-04-10 Created: 2017-04-10 Last updated: 2019-03-27Bibliographically approved
4. Picking the winner(s): Forecasting elections in multiparty systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Picking the winner(s): Forecasting elections in multiparty systems
2015 (English)In: Electoral Studies, ISSN 0261-3794, E-ISSN 1873-6890, Vol. 40, p. 1-13Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

From the 1970s onwards, a wide range of forecasting techniques have been developed in the literature on electoral forecasting. However, these models have primarily been applied in two-party, presidential democracies, with the US being by far the most popular country to investigate. The question thus arises whether the same techniques that have proved successful in this context can also be applied to the more complex, multiparty democracies in northern Europe. This paper seeks to answer this question and in the process makes two main contributions. Firstly, the popular dynamic linear model (Jackman, 2005) is tried and tested in Germany and Sweden where it is shown that reasonable forecasts can be made despite the complexity of the systems and the emergence of new parties. A novelty is then introduced when cyclical changes in party support are modelled through a seasonal component. This extension of the dynamic linear model helps to significantly lower the error in early forecasts and is thus something that could be useful in future applications of the model.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2015
Keywords
Election forecasting, Multiparty systems, Dynamic linear model, Political polling
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-111529 (URN)10.1016/j.electstud.2015.06.003 (DOI)000367276800001 ()
Projects
Representative Democracy in Europe
Available from: 2015-11-13 Created: 2015-11-13 Last updated: 2018-06-07Bibliographically approved
5. The verdict in the polls: how government stability is affected by popular support
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The verdict in the polls: how government stability is affected by popular support
2019 (English)In: West European Politics, ISSN 0140-2382, E-ISSN 1743-9655, Vol. 42, no 3, p. 593-617Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The idea that the stability of governments is affected by how they are performing in the polls is both intuitive and popular in the literature. When support is low the government might be inclined to replace parties or the prime minister in order to regain support, thus forming a replacement government. Alternatively, a government doing well in the polls might opportunistically try to schedule an early election to capitalise on its favourable prospects. But despite the popularity of the idea, it has thus far not been tested empirically whether government stability is in fact influenced by popular support. This article aims to address this lacuna. Using a relatively new dataset with more than 12,000 unique polls, and recently developed Bayesian models for pooling the polls, it is here shown that government stability is in fact impacted by popular support. Governments display clear signs of electoral opportunism when they are polling well and, conversely, dissolve the government, without calling an election, when polling is bad. The results are strongest when there are few parties in the government, since agreement on the timing for a discretionary termination is easier when fewer players need to agree.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2019
Keywords
Government stability, polling, party behaviour, comparative politics, early elections, Bayesian estimation
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-133428 (URN)10.1080/01402382.2018.1490598 (DOI)000457984400008 ()
Funder
Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, MMW 2011.0030
Note

Early version originally included in thesis in manuscript form.

Available from: 2017-04-10 Created: 2017-04-10 Last updated: 2019-03-18Bibliographically approved

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